Finepoint discusses the fine points of 12G and what it means for sports broadcasters

12G is a talking point for the sports broadcast industry, not least because it is the data rate needed to capture UHD in its uncompressed form, but also because UHD is the ‘now’ and the future for sports broadcasting. Here, we talk to Finepoint’s new equipment sales manager, Richard Baker, about why those in sports media should be paying attention to 12G.
Why is 12G important for the sports broadcast industry? What can it offer today?
12G, or 12 gigabits per second, is the data rate required to capture uncompressed UHD. Production companies specialising in sports were among the first to appreciate the advantages of 1080-line HD television when the transition from SD to HD broadcasting began around the year 2000. Nearly 20 years on, TV display manufacturers are now able to offer UHD displays with four times the resolution of HD sets at very affordable prices.
Where is the sports industry, such as OBs, at in terms of implementation of 12G today?
OB companies are increasingly investing in 12G infrastructure to capture the cleanest possible source UHD. Some companies see UHD as a logical progression when their HD equipment needs replacement. Others are more bullish, recognising the advantages of keeping up to date with the latest standards. 12G is also potentially useful in an HD production because it allows a producer to crop HD video selectively from a UHD source.
What are the downsides to 12G implementation and usage?
UHD at source involves seriously large amounts of data. Specifically, four times the 3Gbps data rate of one uncompressed HD channel. 12G can be handled in two ways: as a serial feed along a single cable (12G-SDI); or a four 3G-SDI parallel feeds, so-called ‘quad-link’. Running 12G along a single cable limits the safe length that can be used without adding a reclocker. Quad-link feeds can be run over significantly longer distances but introduce a different downside; the need to check the relative phase accuracy of the four cables.
Is 12G something that will only be implemented by a few in a position to make that upgrade today, such as those who are creating new OBs, infrastructures from scratch, or to replace redundant systems?  Will the others be waiting for …. The other next big thing?
The transition from SD to HD was largely price-driven, as manufacturers geared to offer HD products at prices previously associated with SD equipment. We anticipate the 3G HD to 12G UHD transition following the same pattern, powered by the accelerating public demand for UHD content from online content providers. There is obviously a big advantage in shooting new content in UHD rather than HD to maximise its future value.
How will 12G shape up going forward? It is the future for sports broadcast, or will it be overtaken by something else? What might that be?
We have identified quite a large amount of high quality 12G UHD production equipment on the market today at very competitive prices. Whether it replaces HD as a spectrum-efficient digital and satellite transmission standard has yet to be proved. In the meantime, one potential candidate is 8K Super Hi-Vision, which is four times greater in resolution than UHD. Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, is gearing to deliver regular Super Hi-Vision transitions in time for the 2020 Summer Olympics. This again will depend on manufacturers being able to offer each element of the video capture, post-production, playout and display chain at market-attractive prices.
What alternatives are there to 12G, thinking practically for sports broadcast, today?
On alternative to keep in mind for the future is virtual reality which has obvious potential for sports viewers as it offers them the freedom to vary their viewing angle as though they were watching from an actual arena.
In the nearer term, we anticipate the next advance being into high dynamic range broadcasting in HD and, sooner or later, UHD. The combination of HDR UHD and OLED screen technology is nothing short of astounding.

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