IBC Q&A: David Bush, Sony Professional Europe
2013 has been a momentous year for Sony and 4K. How do you assess the overall progress made in your 4K tests so far?
2013 is proving to be the year that the broadcast community is recognising the readiness of 4K for the living room. Consumer-electronics manufacturers have demonstrated fantastic new televisions that are starting to become available at affordable prices. HEVC promises a breakthrough in transmission efficiency for satellite-platform providers, and production workflow for both recorded and live programming is maturing rapidly. The stage is truly set for 4K broadcast services to begin in the near future.
What, for example, was the main issue thrown up in the F55/Confederations Cup trial, and what’s the next step going to be in addressing it?
The Confederations Cup proved that it is possible, even with prototype equipment, to create compelling 4K coverage. Technically, there was a very high degree of satisfaction with the quality achieved. This allowed the directors and producers to focus on the creative challenge of how to use the increased resolution of 4K to create a unique and original home viewing experience. If 4K is simply produced as a re-versioning of a HD shoot, the benefit to the consumer will be limited. During the matches at Belo Horizonte, [Brazil,] we worked hard to create a “4K look,” which enabled the viewer to see and benefit from the increase in resolution. As the F55 matures, in Live mode, it will also be possible to explore further its greater colour gamut and low-light performance to create specific visual experiences.
Much of the focus to date in our live-production trials has been centred on the camera chains. However, the tests also demonstrated the need to further consider the entire workflow. Video switching, routing, and recording (for both instant replay and mastering) which can support operation at 4xHD at 50/60p are equally critical elements.
The Wimbledon trial was similarly significant. What was the response to the demo from the AELTC, and when, realistically, do you think we might see a 4K Wimbledon?
The question of when Wimbledon will be broadcast live in 4K is obviously a matter for the AELTC together with its media-rights partners. However, what we can say is that live 4K production is becoming a practical reality and we are delighted with the 4K pictures shot at Wimbledon on a combination of our F55 and FS700 camcorders. Over 1,000 visitors a day came through our on-site 4K Experience showroom, and the response was tremendous.
In what ways do you think the message to consumers about 4K could — and should — differ from that for 3D? And to what extent will that message be driven by sports?
As always, seeing is believing. The moment you experience 4K programming on a 4K display, you recognise that it really does offer a significant new step in the viewing experience.
As with 3D, however, the experience will be as good as the quality of the source content allows. It will take time to create large libraries of 4K content across many genres. One learning point from the launch of HD and 3D is that consumer expectations need to be carefully managed in terms of what can be expected when they arrive home with a new 4K TV. In the case of HD, some consumers were surprised to find that not all content on their new sets was displayed in HD and that it actually depended on the source content. There is a risk of this situation being repeated with 4K, and so, as an industry, education and support of consumer expectations needs to be managed effectively.
There are many genres that will benefit from 4K, but, in terms of premium content, sports programming was always likely to be high on the agenda in terms of audience interest. So it is proving.
Away from 4K, what is the other “story” of Sony and sports broadcast in 2013?
Sony has been focussing heavily in pioneering new developments in sports production for many years. Alongside new 4K and 3D technologies, Hawk-Eye and Pulse have also been developing new services that add to the drama and enjoyment of both live and armchair sports viewers. We’re also beginning to realise exciting new synergies between Sony’s hardware expertise and the applications expertise of the Hawk-Eye and Pulse teams. The Intelligent Production system — a dynamic automated, low-cost variant of a full production system for secondary-event programming — is one of the examples. This was deployed very successfully at Wimbledon, and we hope to see it expanding to many sports applications in the near future as a complement to mainstream programming.
What can you tell us about your plans for IBC2013?
Sports programming and, in particular, live 4K sports programming is going to feature heavily in the new developments we are showcasing. We’ll be demonstrating the results of the FIFA Confederations Cup 4K trial over the summer and showing the tools that we’re developing that have underpinned this and other live 4K productions on which we’ve worked recently with a range of production partners.