NCTA: Elemental, Rights Holders Planning to Offer Ultra HD Coverage of FIFA World Cup

The company delivers Ultra HD using HEVC compression -- and is already working toward support for high dynamic range imagery.

Video processing software developer Elemental Technologies is working with FIFA right holders on a plan to deliver live Ultra HD coverage of this summer’s soccer World Cup.

FIFA, in collaboration with Sony, is set to produce three matches including the final in Ultra HD, which is also called 4K as it offers four times the number of pixels as HD. But while FIFA said that these productions would be available to rights holders who want to broadcast it live, it has not yet announced any takers though the tournament is scheduled to start on June 12.

But speaking with The Hollywood Reporter this week at the National Cable & Telecommunications conference in Los Angeles, Elemental CEO and co-founder Sam Blackman confirmed that his company and select rights holder are indeed devising a plan to deliver these 4K productions live. Currently, the stakeholders intend to place Ultra HDTVs at select pubs and other viewing areas in the given countries of the rights holders, enabling consumers to watch the matches live in the format. Elemental’s video processing software would be used to deliver the matches using HEVC (High Efficiency Video Coding, also know as H.265), a fairly new compression standard estimated to be about 40 percent more efficient that what is commonly used today and capable of accommodating 4K.

OTT services such as Netflix are already starting to offer Ultra HD content using HEVC. Blackman predicted that 4K cable and satellite services would roll out during the second half of the year.

Elemental is working with numerous stakeholders, and was involved in a test at the recent Sochi Olympics, which involved live Ultra HD delivery using HEVC compression, via Russian satellite TV service NTV Plus.

“You really need HEVC to deploy Ultra HD services,” asserted Wade Wan, director of Broadcom’s broadband technologies group, during an NCTA panel about the technical considerations of Ultra HD.

“But Ultra HD is about more than more pixels,” he warned, pointed out that in addition to upping the resolution, those working in the format are looking to add more bit-depth and a higher frame rate.

“Increasing all of these could add up to “a significant amount of data,” potentially 10 times more data than used today if the imagery is uncompressed, he told the audience. “HEVC helps, but it doesn’t buy you everything.”

On the NCTA exhibition floor, Elemental was demonstrating its video processing software's ability to display Ultra HD content at varying bit-depths, and Ultra HD at varying frame rates including 60 frames per second.

The Ultra HD panel didn’t delve into high dynamic range, but this is another feature that involves more data and is generating growing interest in Hollywood.

Talking with THR, Elemental’s Blackman said, “HDR is a dramatic enhancement, especially to the film experience. … We are working with partners like Dolby (which is developing an HDR format called Dolby Vision) to support that when it’s available.”


Twitter: @CGinLA