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Content pipeline and delivery issues hold up UHD rollout

There’s no doubt that the rollout of Ultra HD services has been a lot slower and a lot stickier than the adoption of HD, and Saturday’s conference session on Ultra HD allowed senior figures from Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Netflix, Ericsson and Molinare to air the reasons why.

Sky chief engineer, broadcast strategy, Chris Johns said: “One of the problems is that we were pushed to do Ultra HD by the manufacturers. The screens came on the marketplace, but there wasn’t the content.”

Content is variable in quality and not always made by producers who know how to get the most out of 4K, added Johns. “If you look around, there is some fantastic stuff, but there is also mediocre 4K content made by people who don’t know how to shoot in 4K, and who don’t know the standards. It doesn’t sell the right message to the consumer,” said Johns.

“We have to move forward carefully to make sure that we deliver a prime VIP 4K experience. If we don’t deliver the customer will push back against 4K.”

Richard Wilding, CTO Molinare TV & Film, said: “We are going to have to wait a long time to see the best of 4K. People don’t have enough experience in shooting 4K HDR yet.”

Mark Horton, strategic product manager, encoding portfolio, Ericsson, added that in live events the lack of expertise in 4K production was sometimes an issue.

Despite this, players such as Netflix and Sony Pictures Entertainment have no doubt about the business case for Ultra HD.

Jimmy Fusil, manager, production engineering, Studio Technologies at Netflix, said: “For us our default is to produce in Ultra HD. Our thrust is to satisfy the consumer – we have a growing 4K library and we don’t face the same transmission issues as broadcasters because we don’t face the same delivery problems.”

At Sony Pictures Entertainment, 90-95 per cent of product is acquired in 4K – with some films finished in Ultra HD HDR, said Bill Baggelaar, SVP Technology.

Netflix’s Fusil added: “Consumers are very savvy and they see the quality of the content, even if it’s subliminal. Consumers will always prefer the better quality image.”