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BBC’s summer of sport Ultra HD trial receives over 1.6 million requests

Broadcaster describes trial as an "important step forward"

The BBC’s trial of Ultra HD during both the World Cup and Wimbledon received 1.6 million requests on iPlayer.

Phil Layton, head of broadcast and connected systems, BBC R&D described the trial as an “important step forward, showing for the first time that Ultra HD and High Dynamic Range (HDR) can be delivered live and ‘free-to-air’ over the Internet.”

“We wanted to demonstrate live end-to-end Ultra HD, but we have always felt that Ultra HD needed to be more than just extra pixels,” said Layton in a blog post. “So we also wanted to demonstrate a wide colour gamut and the Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) that the BBC and NHK have standardised. This is essential to improving the visual experience irrespective of the viewer’s screen size. Finally, we wanted to do this free-to-air, streamed to BBC iPlayer, at a scale never seen before in the UK.”

The most popular days were:

  1. Sat 7 July – 60.3k – Sweden v England QF / Wimbledon Day 6
  2. Tues 10 July – 48.1k – France v Belgium QF / Wimbledon Day 8
  3. Sun 15 July – 44.3k – France v Croatia Final / Wimbledon Men’s Singles Final
  4. Fri 6 July – 41.6K – Brazil v Belgium QF / Wimbledon Day 5
  5. Mon 2 July – 37.3K – Belgium v Japan last 16 / Wimbledon Day 1

In the blog, Layton described how May’s Royal Wedding and Wimbledon both helped with the BBC understanding how HLG works in a live outside broadcast. 

“We have found some minor camera and camera control issues that we will work with the manufacturers to resolve,” he said. “We have found areas where potentially the extra colour gamut is going to have to make us and audiences re-think what the correct colour of grass is! We have shown that we can simultaneously produce an SDR and HDR variant. We think that moving to a HDR based production with possible automatic conversion to provide a SDR variant for HD is entirely possible.”

Layton said the trial has left the BBC with the “ongoing capability to receive an incoming Ultra HD contribution, and to encode, package and distribute via commercial CDNs. Over time we will add our own CDN to this. We’ve worked with the production community to build knowledge of producing HDR content. Whilst not quite business-as-usual, the BBC now has the capability for streaming live Ultra HD content into BBC iPlayer on compatible devices.”