Sky Sports collaborates with SIS, Ericsson and Telegenic on Ultra HD satellite backhaul test

Sky Sports this past weekend offered up an Ultra HD first, successfully transmitting a 4K production of the Premier League match between West Ham and Stoke City at Upton Park, London to the Sky Sports Broadcast centre in Osterley. The proof-of-concept test involved Telegenic, which provided the OB unit; SIS, which provided the satellite transmission facilities; and Ericsson, which provided the encoders.

“We were keen to do a test to see what Ultra HD would look like if we delivered it via satellite as this can be more challenging than if we delivered via fibre , Ericsson were happy to provide the encoders and decoders for this test with the coordination of satellite space and uplink facilities from SiS” explains Keith Lane, Sky Sports, Director of Operations. “

The UHD Quad Full HD programme output was delivered to four Ericsson HD encoders which were locked together to synchronise the quad HD signals within the 103Mbs video bandwidth (25.75 Mbps H.264 per quadrant). The transmitted signals were then synchronously decoded and passed through the existing 3Gbps infrastructure at the Sky Sports Broadcast centre. It was then reassembled to create a seamless 4K image on an 84” UHD display and recorded locally in one of the Sky Sports studios.

The production was shot using four Sony F55 cameras with fibre back ends through the Sony MVS-8000 vision switcher with EVS replay servers and Vizrt graphics. Two Sony SR1000 HDCAM decks were used to record the output so that the on board material could be compared to the satellite transmission.

“We’re pretty pleased with the results but there are still improvements to be made,” adds Lane of an encoding process that ultimately will benefit from a one-box solution. Next-generation developments like improved HDMI standards, display improvements and even the use of high-efficiency video codecs will also make a difference.

“The technology in place is a good starting point but there are still issues around how you create a multicamera OB production at the level we and our customers are used to,” says Lane. “We don’t have every bell and whistle available to us yet so the event needs to be cut accordingly. Although better than initially anticipated, the focus and depth of field concerns are an operating challenge for the production team and camera operators.”

The Ultra HD test comes less than two weeks away from IBC in Amsterdam, the major industry technology trade show that will be sure to have its share of 4K interest from attendee and manufacturer alike. From his perspective Lane is hoping to see improvements from encoding manufacturers as well as camera and lens makers.

“It will be interesting to see the improvements Sony makes with its next generation of kit and to see if some of the other manufacturers will start introducing hardware now interest in 4K and Ultra HD is growing,” he adds.

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