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Cable Technology Feature Article

April 21, 2014

4K UltraHD Reference Tool Looks to Accelerate HEVC Rollout

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

4K UltraHD—which quadruples the resolution of today’s 1080p HD television format—has created a buzz over the last year, ever since LG, Samsung and others took the wraps off UltraHD TV sets at CES (News - Alert) in January. But challenges to actually delivering 4K remain, considering that it takes eight times the bandwidth of HD to deliver. Media processing specialist ViXS Systems is tackling some of the hurdles, with the launch of the UltraHD 4K Golden Reference Decoder tool to test, validate and debug 4K UltraHD content and deployment plans for the broadcast industry.

Luckily, new tools like high efficiency video coding (HEVC) compression can alleviate some of the delivery overhead for pay-TV providers by significantly lowering bandwidth requirements for 4K. Still, content creators, service operator technologists, encoder manufacturers and HEVC promoters will need to have a cohesive way to decode and display files from storage or from IP networks using that standard. Thus, the requirement for a standardized reference tool becomes a necessity so that everyone along the distribution chain can speak the same language, as it were.

The Golden Reference tool aims to fill that gap, to allow users to verify stream compliance, encoder quality parameters, transport multiplexing parameters, video output quality and to compare 8-bit vs. 10-bit streams; all key metrics required to upgrade broadcast systems to support 4Kp60 HEVC 10-bit video across all networks.

The company said that meanwhile, it has 10 Tier-1 encoder and streaming technology companies using the ViXS UDH 4K decoder. “The industry response to the ViXS XCode decoder has been enormous and validates our leadership position regarding advanced video processing capabilities," said John Pomeroy, vice president of sales, infrastructure and networking at VIXS. "Our XCode 6400 product, embodied in the UHD Golden Reference Decoder, uniquely enables operators, encoder manufacturers and others to test their networks using the same technology that will soon be deployed in their customer's homes."

The mass-market deployment of 4K is really a case of when and not if, according to Futuresource Consulting, which predicts that 4K sets will grow from shipping just 780,000 in 2013 to 22 million units in 2017. Getting there requires operator and broadcaster investment in infrastructure and, of course, content—a costly endeavor but something the ecosystem is finally swinging into action to encourage.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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