BBC iplayer 4K live stream­ing

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

Though 4K TVS may have been around as long as in­ter­net memes, live 4K broadcasts are still com­par­a­tively novel. While UK pay-tv providers – Sky, BT and Eurosport – have been in the game for a few years, broad­cast­ing Pre­mier League matches, Mo­togp, For­mula 1, Aviva Pre­mier­ship rugby and ten­nis be­tween them via satel­lite, this year marks the first time the BBC has of­fered live free-to-air con­tent in 4K and HLG HDR.

Fol­low­ing its iplayer-hosted Planet Earth II and Blue Planet II on-de­mand tri­als in 2016 and 2017, the BBC has live streamed the FA Cup fi­nal, a rugby league fix­ture, the 2018 Wim­ble­don ten­nis and the FIFA World Cup on its iplayer plat­form. It also worked with Sky to broad­cast the Royal Wed­ding in 4K.

These were all tri­als. As Phil Lay­ton (head of broad­cast and con­nected sys­tems in BBC’S R&D) is keen to stress, it’s still a learn­ing process. “We’re still learn­ing about UHD pro­duc­tion and how you make good HDR pic­tures. Each event has dif­fer­ent work­flows,” he says.

But the over­all suc­cess of the tri­als, and the fu­ture it promises for 4K con­tent for li­cence pay­ers, is a gi­ant step for­ward. In the lead up to the World Cup, the BBC promised ‘tens of thou­sands’ of view­ers would be able to ac­cess each UHD stream on a first-come, first-served ba­sis – and it de­liv­ered. Ac­cord­ing to the BBC, the peak au­di­ence was 60,300 on 7th July, for the Swe­den v Eng­land quar­ter-fi­nal and day six of Wim­ble­don com­bined. The BBC also worked on im­prov­ing some of the is­sues that were flagged up dur­ing the trial, lead­ing to an im­proved per­for­mance. By the tour­na­ment’s end, la­tency was re­duced by 20 sec­onds, for ex­am­ple, low­er­ing the risk of hear­ing a goal scored on your neigh­bour’s TV be­fore it ap­peared on yours.

A per­ma­nent ser­vice is not yet guar­an­teed for the fu­ture, but the suc­cess and ap­petite for the pro­gram­ming of­fered by BBC this year can only help make it more likely. “The big events will drive this. The work­flows and tech­nol­ogy only get worked out on big events. You have to do it for real. We’ve taken big steps for­ward in work­flows this year, but we have to keep do­ing it,” says Lay­ton.

The BBC also re­vealed it will run some High Frame Rate tri­als, at 120 frames per sec­ond (Wim­ble­don streams were 50fps). And those hop­ing to fill the sur­round channels of their speaker pack­age may also soon be in luck.

“Most of the sound is­sues were not at our end, they were with the re­ceivers,” says Lay­ton. “But we didn’t have time to work through them with re­ceiver man­u­fac­tur­ers. We’d like to be of­fer­ing 5.1, we’d like to be think­ing about next-gen au­dio, and us­ing some com­plex func­tion­al­ity in peo­ple’s tele­vi­sions, which is all part of de­liv­er­ing the ser­vice,” he adds.

More than a de­cent start, it feels now as if the jour­ney to­ward 4K HDR live stream­ing – as well as the po­ten­tial for 5.1 sur­round sound – is gath­er­ing real pace. For that, BBC un­doubt­edly de­serves this year’s Award for in­no­va­tion.

The BBC has taken big steps for­ward in 2018 with its 4K trial broadcasts


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.