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Encoding Races Toward a 4K Future

Greater efficiency means more features, flexibility

By Bob Kovacs

With some program providers now streaming content in 4K/UHD resolution, and over-the-air broadcasting trials of the next generation of ATSC transmission including 4K demos, you might think that encoders to make UHD magic happen are signed, sealed and delivered. Not so fast, however—it’s complicated and a lack of approved standards is making the trip to the clarity of 4K a little murky.

These products are coming though, particularly since rapid evolution in the area of consumer 4K displays has put the 4K viewing end of the chicken-and-egg scenario into homes across the U.S. Viewers have shown that they are not chicken when it comes to shelling out for the latest high-resolution displays, and they are now waiting for program producers to lay the golden eggs of 4K content and delivery.

Those producers need the right encoders to process that content, and that’s where this story begins.

Last fall, NASA partnered with Harmonic to launch the NASA TV UHD channel.

Last fall, NASA partnered with Harmonic to launch the NASA TV UHD channel.

“The 4K/UHD bandwagon has been steadily gaining momentum, led by consumer purchases of UHD televisions and content providers’ broad production in 4K [enabled by cost-effective 4K cameras],” said Peter Alexander, chief marketing officer for San Jose, Calif.-based Harmonic. “There has been growing demand from both sides for the services to connect the two, enabling broadcast delivery of UHD, but the technical and commercial viability models are not yet proven. Our partnership with NASA allows for the delivery of 4K content over a new UHD delivery workflow and on a new type of ‘ambient’ channel that does not compete with the broadcasters.” (Alexander is referring to last fall’s launch of the NASA TV UHD channel. NASA uses an end-to-end video delivery system from Harmonic to deliver linear 2160p60 video content.)


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