goHDR was a finalist in the DTG Innovation Awards, and had a presence on the DTG stand at IBC 2015. This is the first time that I have seen the light as far as HDR is concerned. Up until now I have not seen any good reason as to why HDR should be advertised as a ‘product’, rather than a technology ‘feature’ or ‘option’ for the TV industry. Desperate times needs desperate measures I suppose, especially in a market where 3D flopped and 4K is being chased by 8K. At the IBC 2015 show all the furor was around HDR offering brighter, better pictures, however I finally saw a real and very good practical use for the technology being demonstrated by goHDR a spin-off from the University of Warwick, England.
goHDR was able to show how HDR technology can be used to enhance ‘segments’ of the screen or ‘items’ in the shot. i.e. in difficult lighting conditions (e.g. outside broadcasting) at, let’s say, St Andrews, you could highlight a golf ball and track it in a cloudy sky enhancing its visibility as a unique enhanced HDR object … and there were many other examples of other use-cases. In simple terms goHDR could be described as the video version of Dolby Atmos, with its manageable ‘sound-objects’…For those who are not familiar with Atmos, you are now able to manipulate sound objects to create an immersive multi-dimensional environment in a theatre. Imagine hearing a helicopter that is flying from behind you, over your head and then enters the screen, or an arrow shot towards you flashes past your left ear and you hear it fly past … OK, OK it’s got to be heard to be believed. It is truly amazing. However in this story HDR was invented for video and designed to enhance the picture quality of a TV in both HD and UltraHD. Without the technobabble, HDR is simply all about high contrast at the pixel level that creates depth and dimension and makes colors seem punchier…however it is applied to the whole picture on the TV, not objects in the scene as shown by goHDR.
The technology that goHDR demonstrated has to be fully analysed for its relevance to TV and whether or not it really does what it says on the tin, however, the basic understanding is that it really has taken HDR to a new place and, by the way, it works very well on handheld devices. Suffice to say I saw its relevance in Surveillance i.e. HD & UltraHD CCTV, also for Military, Scientific, Broadcasting, Medical and many other areas where you might want to manipulate a segment or item in a video using HDR for optimum effect. I feel that I have seen the light and can now be more positive about this technology. But hey! Don’t let me tell you the story, let the wonderfully ebullient Professor Alan Chalmers explain it to you at goHDR explained his enthusiasm is uplifting.
Once upon a time we switched on the TV and watched a programme or two, in the evening after we had tea, when the kids were in bed and it was time to settle down to relax. TV Time was limited as the TV signal would shut down at night and eight-year-old Carole Hersee would appear (in the UK at least). We had a choice amongst Light Entertainment and Drama, Documentaries, News and Sport all chosen for us and delivered when somebody else thought best.
Life is a little different now because:
Today we want TV at Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere and we want to watch What We Want, When We Want, Where We Want. We want to watch Live TV, with the use of Pause and Rewind Live TV. And if we miss missed the beginning of something we need Start Over TV so that we can go back to the beginning of the programme that we have joined late. We need Catch-Up TV for shows we have missed. We need to Store Live TV programmes for later viewing on a Hard Drive (Personal Video Recorder) or a Removable Storage device with the possibility of using Series Recording for Binge Watching. We also want to be able to Side Load content onto a Companion Device to consume later when in the garden, or perhaps travelling on a bus or train. We want a Whole Home PVR system or Network PVR so that we can have Follow Me TV that allows us to start watching in one room and then take the content into another room and join it from where we left off in the other room. We want Companion Screen driven TV Everywhere so we can Throw and Fetch programmes from those devices to different screens in the home. We want Over The Top TV so we can have non-Linear content and not be restricted to a Schedule. We want Interactive TV with Applications that allow us access to Weather, or Horoscope or Games and a lot of other stuff all delivered over the Cloud and Home Network. We want to be able to Search for, and Recommend content to other people on Social Media. We don’t want this on a STB or CPE we want all of this on a Smart or Connected TV, in 3D or Ultra HD 4K or perhaps Super Ultra HD 8K. We need it in High Dynamic Range, so that we get the best quality on a Curved OLED, millimetre thick, Flatscreen TV: 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week, 365 Days of the Year completely uninterrupted.
TV Content has however NOT broken the boundaries that technology has. Geo-Blocking, Distribution Rights, Landing Rights, Syndication, Franchising and all that shenanigans is hindering and hampering not helping, other than to further slow the transformation of TV – Perhaps that is a good thing?
The marriage of many parties in the Interactive TV systems has always been the Achilles heel for a fully integrated homogenous interactive environment. We have had other pre-2nd screen (i.e. 2nd-Window) systems since the 1990s that have suffered from the same issues described in this rather oldish article: (considering Zeebox has already walked into the sunset) http://edit.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/zeebox-s-anthony-rose-people-589252 – However it is worth some reflection:
Programme/TV Show/Film producers (Pre-Production and Post Production) are still unable to have a “write-once” for a “read-anywhere” business plan due to competing (proprietary/standardised) technologies that are all designed for the same job of Value Added Services. There were and still are proprietary and standardised CMS systems available but that still did not answer the age old problem of incompatibility across broadcasters, operators selection of technology in the global TV eco-systems. The DVB Consortium made something that tried to answer this early on with something called DVB-PCF (Transcoding across different VAS systems) which the BBC worked heavily on. It never saw the light of day.
Therefore creating and franchising a show using a SocialTV / Companion Screen technology and single back-office system is seen as a pre-requisite in the conquering of this Value Added Service arena. The Show the Voice in Holland was successful using Social TV but this cannot be sold as a package into Belgium for example for techno-political-business reasons.
2nd Screen technology technology fragmentation is the same issue as in ALL previous Interactive TV middleware issues. Then add to this new Non-TV technologies (i.e. designed for the Internet all trying to latch on to the TV eco-system). Fit-For-Purpose is an issue that also dogs the TV eco-system. Different Social TV and Companion Screen offerings now numbers in their 30s with Civolution, Egonocast, Shazam, WyWy etc. integrating on-screen, 2nd-window, off-programme and full dual-screen synchronisation.
There are lots of other things that are around in the new world of TV Tech – the failed 3DTV and now UHDTV and 4K etc. that are at least keeping us occupied.
Another new Screen technology has arrived follwed by a huge wave of pessimistic, down-beat commentry on this that and the other. UltraHD if you have never seen it is FANTASTIC and has as much WOW FACTOR as did HD when it came about in full HD resolution. I never thought I would say this but it is definitely a step forward in viewing experience.
It does seems that we have a penchant for being pessimistic in our industry especially if a new product defies the beliefs of the tech soothsayers. 4K is moving faster than everyone has expected. As prices tumble and content catches up the gap is filled by the early adopters, those that like new shiny toys and people who believe. I am definitely going to buy a new 4K UltraHD TV as I did a 50″ Plasma when they came out. In fact I picked up an old plasma (50″) the other day for 300CHF and attached it to an XBox 360 in my son’s bedroom. He has a serious gaming station and he can still watch TV on it. What is the relevance here? Screen size!
The fact is that the bigger the screen the better the TV/Gaming experience because the more immersive it becomes and ironically, I have observed, the less likely are you to be distracted by Facebook and other Social Media shenanigans with this type of environment.
As I predicted all those years ago 3D is dead but this time I want to say long live 4K UltraHD.
Having seen the superb 4K Ultra HD UI Experience from Nagra the answer is YES, YES, YES! It was quite spectacular and what I would want in my home. Wow!