Cable-Tec Expo: 4K and HDR are Here…But They’re Still Tough

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Philadelphia -- 4K video and High Dynamic Range (HDR) represent what’s next in video quality, but the technology ecosystem required to support them are still in catch-up mode.

While 4K packs about four times the pixels into a picture than what’s seen with HD, HDR expands the color gamut and the luminance of those pixels by going to 10-bit technology and supporting billions of colors, including blacker blacks and whiter whites.

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But both are complex to support with legacy systems, Jeremy Morrison, vice president of solutions engineering at Deluxe OnDemand, said here Monday during a Cable-Tec Expo workshop focused on “Advanced Encoding Meets IP Video Delivery.”

Operators are also faced with competing formats, such as HDR10 and Dolby Vision, he said, labeling this  as the “21st Century Version of VHS vs. Betamax.”

Deluxe OnDemand is helping pay TV providers get around these challenges with a platform that manages those complexities, including elements such as backend scheduling, encoding, content acquisition, ingest, delivery and reporting and management.

In an outline of a case study with an unnamed pay TV operator, Deluxe OnDemand is enabling this with a managed system adapted from the standard- and high-def video world that  delivered 4K content at bit rates ranging from 15 Mbps to 3 Mbps, while also supporting legacy set-top boxes as well as apps running on new OTT platforms.

Arris, meanwhile, is also investigating these issues, with a particularly focus on adaptive bit rate (ABR) technologies in tandem with Big Data and predictive analytics systems.   

ABR isn’t new. Well known in the OTT world, It adapts the video stream in real time with the current network conditions, and switches to a lower or high bit rates based on those conditions. ABR continues to grow in popularity because it’s agile enough to deliver content to mobile devices as well as traditional TV screens, and can support HD and 4K fare as well as lower-resolution video.

However, many of those services run in silos and lack a “unified dashboard,” Sridhar Kunisetty, distinguished engineer at Arris, explained, noting that his company has been working on a platform that can work across devices and show a combined view to the operator that reduces costs and enables them to better manage the network.

Arris is also focused on an approach it calls Cloud-Assisted ABR, which takes the decision from the ABR client on a smartphone, for example, and manages that in the cloud. ABR clients are “greedy” in that they want to consume as much bandwidth as it can.  A cloud-assisted approach, he said, is a fairer way to distribute content and works well with an MSO’s managed network environment.

Arris is also working on Multicast-Assisted ABR approaches that are more bandwidth-efficient than unicast streaming platforms because it allows for more than one person to share a stream. In concert with real-time usage data, it’s possible for an operator to identify the 20 to 30 channels that consumers use most, making them good candidates for which content to deliver in a multicast setting, Kunisetty noted.