SportTech UK: Sony’s Mark Grinyer on a roadmap for 4K

Opening up April 24’s SVG-organised SportTech event at the Chelsea FC home ground in London, Mark Grinyer – head of sports business development at Sony Professional Europe – offered a revealing insight into current thinking as Sony participates in the mission to “bring 4K into the living room”.

Grinyer was careful not to overstate 4K’s present position. There is pressure, he noted, to bring 4K-related “technologies and capabilities” into live sports, but the industry is “not ready yet… This is the year of identifying where the holes are and hopefully plugging them.”

4K cameras and TV sets are starting to become available, but the key problem in the consumer world is “how to deliver 4K to the viewer. ‘How do I see it, and how do I experience it?’ So one of the areas being worked on is 4K server technology and then a distribution platform that is not unlike the cinema distribution platform.”

As he indicated, 4K has hit the ground running when it comes to cinema. Movie classics such as Bridge Over the River Kwai are being 4K remastered for Blu-ray, while approximately 15,000 Sony 4K projectors are now in cinemas worldwide. Plenty of movie theatres are ready to take 4K, “prompting Hollywood to produce more and more content, predominantly with F55s in native.”

But the message for those engaged in broadcast must be that 4K is “not just for cinema. We need to think about how we can use some of the advantages, such as colour resolution, for TV. The business model is different from that for cinema, so we need to have a look at creating new value through 4K [for TV].”

The development of technical standards and the definition of the XAVC format will help to get the cost of 4K production down, said Grinyer. But the issue of “what do with this quality image” still warranted further exploration.

For its own part, Sony is enjoying a “huge uptake” for its F55 camera, which has shipped 2,000 units – 700 of them in the UK – since it was launched in February. The manufacturer is also working on an HD/4K multicamera live OB truck for Telegenic, as well as on hardware acceleration for PC manufacturers that will help “to drive adoption and times of production”.

Flexibility of moving between HD and 4K will be crucial in advancing the trend: “The reality is that people will need to be able to shoot in HD one day and then 4K the next until the whole market becomes 4K.”

Although cognisant of the challenges, Grinyer is optimistic about 4K. “There are holes in the workflows and it is early days,” he admitted, “but I think the message from cinema is that 4K can take off very quickly, and we hope this will happen here [for broadcasting and sports] too.”

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