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World Cup transmitted in 4K HEVC

The World Cup Final was transmitted to cinemagoers in London in Ultra HD using the High Efficiency Video Coding compression format, the third match from Brazil 2014 to be shot in 4K.

The World Cup Final was transmitted to cinemagoers in London in Ultra HD using the High Efficiency Video Coding compression format, the third match from Brazil 2014 to be shot in 4K.

The presentation, at the Vue Westfield cinema in west London, was open to the public (who were able to get free tickets online), and was a collaboration between Sony, which did the 4K production at Rio’s Maracana stadium, and Vue Entertainment, which has fitted all of its cinemas with Sony’s 4K digital projectors.

They also worked with technical partners Eutelsat, which did the uplink from Rio, DSAT Cinema (a joint-venture between Eutelsat and dcinex that serves more than 8,000 digital screens across Europe) and IDC (International Datacasting, which provided the 4K HEVC decoders).

Sony had previously run one match from Rio as a technical trial for its own engineers, before showing the Germany-France quarter final match to journalists (including the Beyond HD newsletter) and broadcasters at Vue. The matches involved a multipoint transmission, as they also went to Eutelsat and DSAT Cinema test facilities, and to broadcasters, such as the BBC, who used the images for their own UHD testing.

Eutelsat received the signal from Brazil at its teleport near Paris, re-encoded it in Ultra HD HEVC at 60fps, and retransmitted it via the Eutelsat 5 West A satellite for direct distribution to the cinema. Being able to shoot and display at 60p meant that the action looked crisper and less blurred, and meant no standards conversion.

IDC provided the 4K UHD HEVC video decoder and professional satellite receiver installed in the cinema, receiving the 4K satellite feed and delivering the video and audio signal to the Sony theatre projector and audio system respectively. IDC is developing a 4K UHD system as part of a joint development programme with the European Space Agency, the goal of which is to enable the cost-effective delivery of live broadcasts via satellite to home and cinema screens using HEVC.

The images were displayed using Sony’s SRX-R320 4K digital cinema projection system, which were fitted with new input cards for the occasion.

The use of HEVC “wasn’t without some risks, as we’re still using prototype technology. IDC did a fabulous job in getting that technology to a maturity that made us feel confident that we could use it for today,” said David Bush, marketing director, Sony Professional Solutions Europe (pictured speaking to guests in front of the 4K projection). It was felt that it was an achievable milestone, and one they should aim for.

There were some problems during set up, specifically with making sure the sound was in sync, as it was going through a long chain of different equipment, some of which were prototypes. These were overcome in time for the Germany-France match, where the only oddity, from a cinema-going perspective, was the shape of the screen, which being 16:9 looked too tall on the big screen, where you’d be more accustomed to a wider view. Although, it did look great on the Sony TV sets, productions intended for cinema might be better shot at the digital cinema 4K standard to make the most of the cinematic potential.

FIFA TV is producing an Official 2014 FIFA World Cup Film in 4K, which will include match footage from each of the three games captured shot with the F55s, and will be distributed online by FIFA via 4K content distribution services. Sony is also showing World Cup highlights in some of its stores across Europe, on its UHD TV sets, such as the 95-inch Bravia X95, which was demonstrated in the Vue lobby during the events.

There were about 45 people dedicated to the 4K production, including Sony staff, its long-term 4K collaborators Telegenic (who also worked on the Confederations Cup trial last year), and personnel from Brazil’s Globosat, which recently built its first 4K production vehicle.

The matches were shot as a parallel production in UHD, using 12 F55 4K cameras, plus one F65 camera, which was used for 2x (120fps) slow-motion shots. This high-speed update to the F65 was shown for the first time at NAB and has only recently started being used for real productions.

Sony was also responsible for the provision of all HD facilities in each of the 12 venues across Brazil, including systems integration, equipment and staff for all 32 matches.