NEW YORK – London 2012 Olympics has offered an epic event – great athletes, thrilling games and the record number of viewers. Unfortunately, though, it has done nothing – absolutely nothing, when it comes to generating buzz on new broadcast technologies.
For broadcasters, the London Olympics is the first to feature extensive 3-D coverage (NBC has been broadcasting 12 hours of 3-D programming every day!), while testing-ultra HDTV (also known as 8K). And yet, the U.S. market has seen virtually no uptick in 3-D TV sales. Similarly, UHDTV is drawing scant media attention. Thus, no consumers seem inclined to ask what on earth UHDTV is.
Most U.S. consumers today have already got a big-screen HDTV at home. Nobody wants any more new TV sets. Besides, a big-screen flat panel TV isn’t the only screen they are looking at for the Olympic Games. There are iPads and there are smartphones.
For the industry, London may have proved that depending on the Olympics as a launch-pad for new broadcast technologies has become a thing of the past. In that light, let’s take a closer look at what has just happened with UHDTV and 3-D TV at London 2012.
Here comes Ultra HDTV
Some events in London Olympics have been shot in Ultra HDTV for the first time in history. Broadcast engineering teams from NHK and BBC have been working together in London to shoot the Games with 32-Megapixel images, with a 24 (or 22.2) channel sound system. According to NHK, UHDTV offers images that are 16 times current HD quality.
During London Olympics, two UHDTV cameras were used at set positions. Uncompressed signals are sent over dedicated optical fibers to the BBC Television Center, West London, which are then recorded and edited daily into short programs at BBC. These are then compressed and sent to public viewing theaters around the world at a data rate of 280 Mbit/s video coding rate using eight H.264 AVC encoders working in parallel. Once 24-channel sound is added and put into IP packets, the total bit rate becomes about 350 Mbit/s for the demonstration.
UHDTV’s public viewings are, however, rather limited. Demonstrations are set up in cities including Bradford, Liverpool, London, Tokyo, and Fukushima. In the United States, UHDTV demo has been held at Comcast-NBC Universal’s office in Washington, D.C.
Considering that UHDTV won’t become a commercial reality until 2020 (estimated by NHK), the almost non-existent public awareness of UHDTV is understandable.
But then again, in the high-tech world where everyone eats up – ad nauseam – every rumor about an upcoming iPhone 5 or iPad mini, it’s surprising to see no hype built around this broadcast technological feat at the Olympics.
At press time, I found -- in the entire twitter universe -- exactly two tweets about UHDTV. One was posted by the Geneva-based European Broadcast Union, understandably touting the UHDTV broadcast from London as a “Giant leap (for television technology) at the Olympic Games.” Another tweet was from a multimedia visual artist: “I can't wait. My computers are nowhere near ready to handle editing and fx in 8k. It'll take 16x to do anything with 16x the pixels.”
Seriously, though, only two tweets? Come on, people!
I am so happy to find, finally, among our readers, someone who actually had 3-D TV Olympic experience!
Judging from what you posted here, it's one thing for NBC to brag about their 12-hours a day 3-D TV Olympic coverage, there was a lot to be desired in terms of translating that into an actual consumer experience.
First, I had no idea that they stopped 3D coverage at 7:30p.m. (why?); second, I had no idea Verizon did not transmit the format code!
Once again, thanks for sharing your experience.
My take on the TV: what manufacturers really need to work on is:
1) The ablility to mirror any screen on any device within a reasonable range on the TV, with an attractive and simple user interface.
2) 3D without glasses....
3) SIRI for TV :-)
Unless we enter the sci-fi scenario where the wall of a room turns into a TV at a command, UHDTV sets will only be bought if they are priced HDTV set rates.
When marketing a new technology , you need to convince a certain groups of people who like to try new things, are generally more techno savvy, and are trusted by their friends to recommend such things.
I Think that among this group, many use p2p networks to get content or use streaming video services. since 1080p is relatively bandwidth intensive and harder to get, they have less demand for 1080p and no reason to seek UHDTV, an no basis to recommend it.
I have a 3D TV. NBC's coverage stopped at 7:30PM, before I generally watch TV. Verizon did not transmit the format code, so I had to set up the TV manually each time. Neither of these is conducive to generating viewers.
I have watched sports on ESPN's 3D channel and the experience is worth the hassle of the funny glasses.
I am reminded of an old but rather good Phillips ad:
Idiot Customer: "Morning, I want a new video recorder."
Suave Salesman: "Well Sir, this is our new model, one touch recording, on screen display, ultra simple operation...."
IC: "Naaah, it hasn't got enough knobs on it. How about this one over here?"
SS: "That's a Washing Machine...."
Most customers wouldn't know the difference between UHDTV and HDTV, and in fact I'm sure I wouldn't unless it was on a screen as big as a shop window. But make something into a status "must have" and people will buy it.
HDTV, at present price points is highly desirable. The difference in quality over SDTV is readily available to almost anyone with a reasonably sized television at a reasonable viewing difference.
UHDTV will not offer the same difference in quality. It is simply a matter of diminishing returns. Sure it may be 8 times higher resolution, but the benefits will only be evident in specialized viewing conditions such as a movie theater.
3DTV is similar. I love 3D and don't even mind polarized based 3D glasses for viewing. I just don't want to do it all the time. Sure for watching a movie or full attention watching of sporting great. However, for me, television is often one of several activities that are engaging me. I.e. like right now where I am typing and watching some cheesy sci-fi movie. I cannot be wearing glasses while doing this.
That said, sure 3DTV and even UHDTV will become ubiquitous ... just like HDTV. It's all a matter of price. The features these technologies provide is not sufficient to drive a large enough market at a large enough premium to drive development and costs down quickly. That said, technology will advance and over time these items will become "standard".
I think UHDTV and beyond is wonderful. The expanded standards would enhance the world in many innovative products. I worked on a seven second UHDTV video with about 151 7680 by 4320 images. My 1 and half year old computer with the assistance of Adobe Premier was able to produce an AVI video file. I could not play it because I do not have a UHDTV monitor, which I want, to test the output on. I uploaded the video to youtube though they converted only to 1080p format and below.
Honestly, I'm not sure we need UHDTV (nor HDTV). At least for TV I mean. I was quite happy with the old analog TV when I was a kid, and is the quality of pictures increased I cannot tell the same about the quality of content. But anyhow, I think there it is much more interesting to develop those technologies for industrial or medical applications.
I heard recently that a robot to perform surgical operation was about to be approved by FDA. In such an application I think that having the highest resolution is a very very good thing. Such a system need high resolution cam, high speed data transfer and high resolution screen, no?
Maybe in the next year pure TV broadcast won't be enough to drive development, and we'll start to see such applications....
BTW, I totally agree that wearing 3D glasses while having dinner is not an option. Furthermore, I'm already wearing real glasses, and having those 3D glasses on top is not comfortable at all. If at least you could choose the glasses design....
And there's actually more to this, Yunko, from an EE's point of view at least.
Color TV is clever. It provides the chrominance separately from luminance. Given that humans don't need as much chrominance as they need luminance, to discern a sharp image, color TV, both analog and digital, saves a lot of bandwidth that way.
Digital TV is really clever. It depends on MPEG compression, which saves on bandwidth by not transmitting the static parts of an image as often as the rest. And it uses the same trick of sending fewer chrominance bits as luminance bits.
But there's nothing at all clever about the way 3DTV is being transmitted, at least so far. I think it was rushed to market. The existing standards require a total duplication of every image. So even from this aesthetic standpoint, I'll pass. (Although there are more clever ways that could be adopted, in principle, to transmit 3DTV, where the two images are reconstructed from a main image and a difference signal, conceptually similar to stereo FM radio.)
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