The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) continues to advance the delivery of next-generation broadcast services by defining how to support mobile television, 3D television, 4K ultra-high definition (UHD), high dynamic range (HDR), high frame rate (HFR), and wide color gamut (WCG) video capabilities.
We sat down with Alan Stein, Technicolor’s Vice President for Technology Development and Standards, to discussATSC 3.0, the standards process, and how the SL-HDR1 solution creates new options for broadcasters who are integrating HDR into their broadcast strategy.
Stein: ATSC 3.0 has standardized a number of HDR technologies in the A341 video standard. Those include HDR 10 and hybrid-log gamma (HLG). Additionally, ATSC has brought some technologies forward to Candidate Standard status. Some of those technologies include full range extensions, the ICTCP color primaries, the Dolby-based ST 2094-10 dynamic metadata solution, and the SL-HDR1 solution, which is also known as Technicolor HDR.
Stein: ATSC invented candidate standard to publicly announce strong interest on the part of the ATSC community in standardizing technology so that broadcasters and equipment manufacturers can bring promising technology to a state of maturity where it can be fully evaluated and validated.
Stein: The broadcasting community is preparing itself to address the full implications of HDR, on both the production side, as well as the distribution and transmission side of their operations.
On the production side, HDR is being integrated into cameras and into production switching equipment, as well as master control equipment, and the entire production work flow.
However, once you’re able to do a live production in HDR, the question becomes, how do you best distribute this content to all the receivers that are in the market?
Very few homes today have HDR televisions. Most have SDR, or standard dynamic range. So, for the foreseeable future, broadcasters will have to address a market that consists of a mix of SDR and HDR TVs and mobile devices.
The challenge that ATSC faces revolves around how to best ensure that everyone gets a consistent, high-quality and noticeably better picture from what is broadcasted today.
Stein: SL-HDR1 is a unique solution in that it takes HDR video and converts it into a format that can be viewed on legacy HD televisions. However, the content can be converted back to HDR for newer devices so that one can address both the legacy market and the new television market within a single stream.
SL-HDR1 can convert HDR to SDR – a process known as tone mapping. This is very interesting to broadcasters who are starting to do live productions in HDR, but deliver on their legacy networks in SDR.
This is critically important for broadcasters because they want to send one stream (not simulcast). While over-the-top (OTT) providers can easily send multiple streams to consumers (SDR to SDR devices and HDR to HDR devices), broadcasters and -- to some extent – cable providers, would be burdened quite significantly if they had to simulcast multiple streams.
Technicolor has successfully tested this capability several times over the past two years. Most recently, at the end of July, Technicolor worked with Spectrum SportsNet in Los Angeles to broadcast two Los Angeles Dodgers - San Francisco Giants games, using SL-HDR1’s tone mapping to convert the HDR production to SDR for nationwide distribution.
Our technology was used at the back end of an HDR production process to create the SDR version automatically with no operator assistance. The content then went into Spectrum SportsNet’s legacy distribution system. This is the first time that automated HDR to SDR conversion technology was actually put into a live, very high-profile sports environment. Spectrum was extremely pleased with the results, reporting that the SDR quality was extremely high and they were completely satisfied with that conversion quality.
The decision to add Technicolor HDR into the ATSC 3.0 toolkit encourages the technology’s implementation into the next generation of television sets and other consumer electronics products.
Stein: Within ATSC, the process will continue. The next step after Candidate Standard is Proposed Standard, and after that it is the Standard.
Outside of the standardization process, we have been working with a number of broadcasters who are going to start to do ATSC 3.0 trials in major cities – including Baltimore, Cincinnati and others. We will be supporting those broadcasters’ efforts to validate the entirety of ATSC 3.0.
U.S. broadcasters plan to have large-scale trials in 2017 and early 2018 with commercial services possible later in 2018 and early 2019.
In Korea, ATSC 3.0 is already on the air, although not necessarily with HDR yet. They’re ramping towards getting the rest of the system in place as the HDR standards mature. We hope to work with our colleagues in Korea, as well as the broadcasters in the U.S., to make SL-HDR1 a part of the story.