Demonstrating the Future

Technical displays at the EBU booth highlighted big trends at IBC

Anyone looking for a quick
tour of the key technical issues
facing European broadcasters
at IBC2011 should have stopped by the
booth of the European Broadcasting Union.
As usual, the EBU demonstrated a variety
of technologies that were top of mind for
broadcasters cruising through the convention
halls in Amsterdam.

“The whole purpose of our demonstrations
each year at IBC is to show recent innovations
that our EBU members would be interested
in and create some useful demonstrations
that can impact the industry and our
members by providing some technical direction,”
says Hans Hoffman, head of media
fundamentals and production technology at
the EBU Technical Department and engineering
VP at the Society of Motion Picture and
Television Engineers (SMPTE).

This year’s demos explored such issues as
upcoming advances in HDTV; specifications
for improving digital work " ows and creating
more interoperable IT infrastructures; developments
in interactive TV; comparisons of
Web-based video encoding formats; and issues
relating to 3D, spectrum and loudness.

IBC_pg1.jpgOne of the biggest demos involved signal
delivery in the hi-def 1080p at 50 frames per
second format from Frankfurt, Germany, to
EBU headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland,
and then the EBU booth in Amsterdam.

The use of 1080p/50—or in the case of the
U.S., where 1080p at 60 frames per second is the highest resolution in the current
standard—is not new technology. But the EBU demonstration was notable because
it was designed to show broadcasters that are interested in the next developments in
HD that technology for the use of 1080p/50 is now coming of age.

The demonstration found visitors to the EBU booth comparing two signals, a
1080p/50 and a 1080i/25 transmission.

In Frankfurt, a Grass Valley LDK8000 camera captured a signal at 1080p/50 and
a Snell Alchemist Ph.C-HD cross-coded the output signal to create a 1080i/25 signal
typically used by broadcasters today.

Both the 1080p/50 and 1080i/25 signals were coded by the Fujitsu IP9100
AVC/H.264 encoders and sent to Geneva via fiber, where they were uplinked to a
Eutelsat satellite and sent to Amsterdam.

There they were re-encoded and the 1080p/
50 signal was transmitted at 12 megabytes
per second—the same bit rate and bandwidth
needed for a normal 1080i/25 transmission—
to a prototype Broadcom set-top box capable
of handling the 1080p/50 signal. It was then
displayed next to the 1080i/25 signal, allowing
for the side-by-side comparison.

The test showed that equipment is available
for broadcasters to achieve the bene! ts
of the higher resolution offered by 1080p/50
while transmitting the signal over the same
bandwidth needed for today’s HD content,
Hoffman says.

In the U.S., ESPN has built a 1080p/60
infrastructure for its Los Angeles facility.
Hoffman says that “there are already a few
broadcasters in Europe that are interested in
changing their production environment so it
is 3gig-capable [to handle 1080p/50]. As we
go slowly through the investment cycles, more
broadcasters will continue to explore this format
and see its benefits.”

Another major demonstration at the EBU
booth involved its work on developing tools
for better interoperability of digital work flows
and service oriented architectures (SOA).This
work is particularly important for European
and other broadcasters that are increasingly
creating content for more multiple platforms including TV, online and radio.

While the need to streamline these work flows has pushed broadcasters further
toward IT-based equipment and infrastructures, integration between different vendors
has often been difficult, Hoffman says.

To help solve that problem, EBU has been working with the Advanced Media Work- flow Association (AMWA) on a project called Framework for Interoperable Media Services
(FIMS) and has developed a speci! cation that they hope to turn into a standard.

“The service oriented architecture provides an interoperability layer…so that you
can change vendors and manufacturers relatively easily and still maintain your existing
work flows,” Hoffman adds.

Given the importance of the issue, the EBU and AMWA are currently talking with
SMPTE about turning this specification into a standard.

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