August 26, 2014 9:00am PT by Carolyn Giardina
How New Processing Technology Might Make Ultra HD and HDR Broadcasting A Reality
During the transition to HDTV, Yves Faroudja won three Emmys for processing technology that remains in use today. And now the award-winning engineer is using his experience to take aim at new formats including Ultra HD, or 4K, which is four times the resolution of HD.
"Bandwidth requirements for video are clogging the Internet, and we need to reduce the bit rate on the video system," he told The Hollywood Reporter, noting that today it commonly involves use of a 4K-capable compression scheme known as HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding, or H.265). "But that doesn't work. It doesn't [keep up with] the increased popularity of video transmission, which is doubling every 2 to 3 years."
Faroudja — who came out of retirement to address this issue — is not aiming to create a new compression system, but rather to bring some additional power to HEVC or whatever compression scheme is adopted by the industry. His plan is to effectively pre-process the content before compression and decode it after the decompression at the receiving/display end of the chain (i.e. a TV or mobile device). With his process, he believes he can cut in half the bandwidth requirements for video — not only enabling more video to be used, but also potentially opening up the promise of Ultra HD, as well as high frame rates (HFR) and high dynamic range (HDR) imagery. "Whatever [compression scheme] is popular, we can give them a ratio of two in bandwidth reduction, which I think is going to eventually be required," he said.
This technology was developed under the company name Faroudja Enterprises, and a prototype is currently being tested to move 4K in real time, Faroudja said. The company is now working to take it to the market, either by licensing the technology or selling it as software. Faroudja also filed for eight patents in conjunction with the development, four of which have already been granted.
Faroudja shared some of his personal views on imaging with THR. "For a long time, I hesitated about 4K," Faroudja admitted. "Before I work on something, I want to be sure it's real. I want to be sure it's not engineers looking for new activities.
"HD, even when it was difficult to implement, appeared to be a necessity. … The question now is do I see a difference between HD and 4K. And my answer is yes. I'm not skeptical now, I believe it has value, but not as much as (standard definition) to HDTV.
Alongside Ultra HD, he said, "4K needs more HDR. It has to be improved." This effectively means widening the range between the brightest whites and darkest blacks that a display can reproduce — and this is something that companies including Dolby and Technicolor are already aiming to bring to the market.
What doesn't interest Faroudja? "What bothered me was 3D," he said. "It was maybe a good idea for certain movies, but it was a bad idea for television. The screen is too small. I never had the feeling of depth." He added that producing content for 3D is "difficult to do when it's well done, and when it's poorly done, it's a catastrophe."
And high frame rates? "To be honest. I'm disturbed by high frame rates," he added, saying that while 60 frames per second can bring more fluid movement to action such as sports, he's "satisfied with 24fps for traditional movies.
"I feel HFRs is disturbing to the artistic experience," he said. "The directors are taking advantage of the fact that they can pan or zoom (more) quickly, and it makes me dizzy."