FutureSport 2014 User Case Study: Sky Ultra HD 4K trials at the 2014 Ryder Cup

At SVG Europe’s forward-looking FutureSport event at Lord’s in London on 2 December, a high-level Sky team of Technical Manager Robin Broomfield, Chief Engineer Chris Johns and Director of Operations Keith Lane will present a unique keynote case study on Ultra HD live 4K trials at the 2014 Ryder Cup.

The Sky team took the opportunity of the giant scale and fortuitous timing (just after IBC) of the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles late September to undertake extensive trials of 4K UHD technology in a live environment across the broadcast chain. It was a chance for the Sky team to test as much equipment as possible in one place allowing direct non-competitive comparisons across cameras, lenses, slomos, replays and contribution codecs. The output was fed both to the UHD display Sky Experience on-site at Gleneagles and also to Sky Studios in London for further testing.

In this first-of-a-kind 4K session, key participants will take us through lessons learned at the Ryder Cup and further challenges presented by this trial for the UHD future roadmap.

On-site at the Ryder Cup during the September trials Keith Lane told SVG Europe, “the idea is a technology trial, if you like, to bring the different manufacturers together in an open space where we’re not trying to play one against the other — rather trying to help and assist each other through the process.

“What this test challenges is sheer distances, and trying to break from SMPTE into single mode fibre and back again – and actually keeping them working as the data is so high. We’re trying to maintain integrity: fibre is supposed to be utopia but it can also be your nemesis if it doesn’t behave. So we’re pushing that,” he said.

Sky chief engineer Chris Johns said at the Ryder Cup, “we’re testing the bit rates from 140 Mbps all the way down to 80. We don’t know what are the best bit rates, as they’re all based on the same quad that everyone is doing at the moment.

“We’ve got a great opportunity, over three days, to test as much kit as possible. And we’re doing a whole lot of tests back at base as well, of which encoding is just one. We don’t know which bit rate we’re going to use tomorrow yet, as we haven’t finished testing today! We’ve never seen the action in golf before, how much motion is involved or anything like that. We’re very much feeling our way.

“My guess is each of the encoders will have a slightly different set of parameters and a different set of needs as well. It’s a real learning experience. NTT, Ateme and Ericsson – and that’s literally because we couldn’t fit any more in the truck to test.

“It’s a chance to test, test, test,” said Johns. “At IBC everyone was talking about the small shoots they’ve done. This is just one big event where we can test as much of the kit as possible in one place allowing direct comparisons – cameras, slomos, replays and contribution codecs. It’s a perfect opportunity.”

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