At CES, Harmonic technology powered “several ground-breaking demonstrations of real-world Ultra HD, showing how HEVC delivery of Ultra HD content can easily be achieved to enhance the quality of video content on a wide range of consumer devices,” according to Thierry Fautier, Harmonic’s vice president, solutions marketing.
These included the first 4K Ultra HD 120Hz broadcast workflow, powered by Harmonic’s ProMedia Xpress (its high-performance file-based transcoding software), where transcoded UHD 24/30/60fps content was played back on Sigma Designs' 120Hz Ultra HD Platform. Sigma's Ultra HD TV Chipset uses just two chips, the new SX6 UHD TV Application Processor and a FRCX Video Processor, to build a high performance and cost effective 120Hz Ultra HD TV.
The HiDTV PRO-SX6 delivers high CPU and GPU performance based on dual-core ARM Cortex A9 CPU and an ARM Mali 400 GPU. The chip produces true 4K without the need to downscale the video to Full HD first and then upscale to UHD to overcome performance limitations. “Unlike many products that claim to have Ultra HD resolution support, the SX6 does not compromise on video resolution in any way to meet the technical requirements of Ultra HD,” said Mustafa Ozgen, Sigma Designs’ VP and general manager, home multimedia.
The FRCX, a single chip Ultra HD chip (which does motion estimation/motion compensation frame rate conversion, 3D processing, judder removal and Ultra HD upscaling) combines the functionality of as many as five devices in a single chip.
Sigma also launched a new SMP8750 range using 10-bit HEVC compression that will be suitable for a wide range of applications, from IPTV to PVRs, and will include a powerful ARM A9 and an ARM Mali GPU. “The SMP8756 is specifically designed to bring HEVC into client and multi-room DVR set top boxes at an affordable cost,” said Ozgen.
Harmonic’s ProMedia Xpress also powered the first standards-compliant live 4K Ultra HD 30Hz broadcast workflow, decoded by Broadcom's latest BCM7445-based video decoder system-on-a-chip using HEVC (which is claimed to be “the world's first Ultra HD TV video decoder” on the market). Broadcom also launched two chipsets – the BCM7364 and the BCM7399 – that support 10-bit HEVC in STBs for satellite TV services at 60fps.
However, there are other codecs suitable for UHD besides HEVC, such as Google’s VP9 royalty-free codec, which is claimed to be as efficient as HEVC. Google subsidiary YouTube showed off 4K streaming at CES using VP9, and a Broadcom statement said that: “Broadcom believes both technologies can live with some level of harmony, but we’re not predicting if one or the other will win out. Our customers will decide which they want to implement and we’ll respond accordingly.”
For those that want to test out or demonstrate 4K systems, Harmonic has worked with videographers Jacob and Katie Schwarz of Mystery Box Film (http://mysteryboxfilm.com) to produce 4K Ultra HD content at locations around the world. This content is being licensed by Harmonic for use by third parties, and test clips (such as the clown clip pictured) can be found at free4kfootage.com.