Adtec Digital Technology Produces Commercial Application of Live 4K Theatre Broadcast

Using technology produced by Adtec Digital, Links Broadcast delivered the world’s first 4K live theatre presentation of the National Theatre’s (NT) War Horse via satellite into a digital cinema on February 27, 2014. The unique, technical solution for the delivery of this event was achieved in coordination with Links Broadcast’s technical partners Advent and the satellite operator SES Astra.

Links Broadcast has worked for many years with the National Theatre’s production partner Creative Broadcast Solutions (CBS) to provide the HD delivery of their productions in to the digital cinemas around the world, so they were approached by CBS at an early stage of the planning process to produce a 4K version of the world premiere of War Horse from the New London Theatre into a digital cinema. The major challenge facing Links Broadcast was how to cost effectively and reliably deliver a 4K signal via satellite.

Links Broadcast immediately initiated confidential discussions with possible technical partners to work with on the event. After careful evaluation, Adtec Digital was selected as their partner for this unique 4K encoding and transmission project. Adtec develops technology for the synchronized playback of multiple digital video servers. Having created technology that has allowed Adtec customers to synchronize approximately 100 of their digital video server devices, it was reasonable to assume that similar technology could be used to synchronize multiple encoded streams emanating from Adtec’s low latency contribution class encoders so as to provide a 4K encoding solution that could be used by Links Broadcast.

Working in conjunction with Adtec’s technical support representatives, Links Broadcast personnel implemented a solution to provide the satellite uplink and downlink facilities to enable the delivery of the War Horse 4K signal from the New London Theatre in to the Curzon Cinema in Chelsea, London. Extensive testing of the solution was undertaken in coordination with the OB Operator, NEP Visions as well as Sony as the 4K projection partner, with ‘glass-to-glass’ tests being completed well before the event. Further ‘live’ testing was undertaken from the theatre venue and involving the complete transmission chain prior to the event.

At the event, simultaneous HD and 4K signals were delivered by NEP Visions into two separate Links Broadcast uplink vehicles at the theatre. The Links Broadcast 4K uplink vehicle operated alongside its HD uplink facility which delivered the HD content in to cinemas worldwide. The 4K uplink vehicle encoded the incoming 4K content using four synchronous Adtec EN-100 encoders which combined the incoming signal into a single transport stream via an Adtec DTA-3050 multiplexor for onward transmission via a 1.5m antenna on Links Broadcast’s 4K uplink vehicle.

“The thing that we offered with the 4K transmission was a proven solution,” says Brian Adair, Key Account Manager – US East, Adtec Digital. “We took our technology from years and years ago to be able to sync these encoders to make sure they are delivered frame-accurate to the destination, to the broadcast center so it can be broadcast.”

The 4K signal was uplinked onto SES Astra’s 3B satellite using 36Mhz of capacity in order to achieve the maximum possible video data rate within the modulated 4K transport stream.

The incoming signal was downlinked at the Curzon cinema in Chelsea via a 1.8m Links Broadcast receive antenna which was fed into Adtec RD-70 receiver decoders and delivered to Sony’s 4K cinema facility for the projection.

The decoded 4K pictures were fed directly to Curzon Chelsea’s Sony projector, achieving a presentation with four times the detail of the conventional HD pictures and bringing the audience unmatched levels of immersive detail and realism.

In addition to the 4K transmission into the Curzon Chelsea the HD feed of War Horse was distributed to in excess of 1,000 cinemas worldwide, with around 520 cinemas in the UK taking it live, plus 100 in Europe, 150 time-delayed in Canada and 300 throughout the rest of the world.

The UK’s National Theatre has been at the forefront of the distribution of its theatrical content to a wider public audience for a number of years. Via its brand National Theatre Live it has broadcast live performances onto cinema screens around the world and since its first season in June 2009, over 1.8 million people have experienced the work of National Theatre Live in 700 cinemas in 25 countries, with over 300 venues in the UK.

Adtec’s and Links Broadcast method for delivery of a 4K production to a cinema, to a paying audience, represents the first commercial application of a 4K transmission of a live theatre presentation, and it establishes a model that can be developed and built upon for the future of 4K and the enhancement of this new broadcasting standard for the future.

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