Television has come a long way since video formats such as NTSC, PAL, VHS and Betamax – the transition of digital video from standard definition (SD) to high definition (HD), and now most recently Ultra HD or 4K.
What is 4K and what does it mean for professional broadcasters?
With quadruple the resolution of HD (1920 x 1080 pixels), the first noticeable benefit of 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) is the improved picture sharpness. However, this brings new challenges to the broadcast workflow such as increased storage capacity, processing power, delivery bandwidth, and rendering time. Broadcast and production companies are on the hunt for solutions to seamlessly transition from HD to 4K. For the 4K dream to become a reality, an industry-wide shift in consumer, manufacturer, and content creator habits has to happen.
The Great Expectations
In order to keep production and broadcast systems cost-effective, there needs to be a balancing act between performance and capacity. Proxy files are often used; the lightweight, lower resolution version of the same video, audio, and time code content are typically used during preview & editing. This is because HD proxy transfers are roughly ten times faster while occupying a fraction of disc space. This enables speedier, more convenient data operations for offline browsing and editing. All the same, original material is still required in order to conform the final edit where 4K output is necessary.
We are now seeing a number of content creation companies starting to adopt 4K cameras, ingesting and sometimes editing to a 4K master, even if the subsequent content delivery is still limited to HD resolution. This is helping to build up a catalogue of premium content for future re-purposing, and opens the possibility of delivering 4K via IP delivery whilst maintaining HD for broadcast delivery. Also, just like the introduction of HD (when only SD distribution existed), it improves the final quality of the content when down-sampled from 4K to HD.
Dual Delivery Platform
To create the perfect environment for a dedicated 4K channel, SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation built a dual system—a production system to create and edit 4K programming—and a playout system for broadcasting the 4K content.
The Japanese broadcaster is proud to be an early adopter of 4K broadcasting technology, but admits dealing with data growth and storage has been a major challenge. The choice to deploy EMC Isilon was a no-brainer. Go Ishiguro, Assistant Manager, Broadcasting & Production Engineering Department at SKY Perfect JSAT says, “4K content generates large volumes of data, which means the archive storage facility is exponentially more important than its HD predecessor. The core reason for choosing EMC Isilon was its performance during the proof-of-concept phase in demonstrating the scalability of the NAS architecture and ease of supporting 4K data.”
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Data at Your Fingertips
Toei Animation, one of Japan’s most respected animation studios is known for its full-feature 3D animated films. The company sees a bright future for 4K animations. That commitment calls for high performance, scalable storage. The deployment of cluster, combined with , , and features makes for a well-balanced storage infrastructure in terms of performance, availability, and ease of management.
Kosuke Yamashita, System Administrator at Toei Animation says, “We’re confident that the EMC Isilon X-Series is well-equipped to cope with the arrival of 4K video, and greater data and performance demands. As a scale-out NAS platform, it is a simple process to add capacity,” he says.
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Bringing 4K to you
Ultimately, all that effort to produce 4K content is for the sake of consumers. Through online content distribution, a disc-based physical format, or good old broadcast television, production companies are experimenting with various ways to deliver 4K content to viewers. In this fast paced world where consumers are exposed to multiple sources of content, how do media producers compete for audiences with an increasing amount of alternative sources of TV and online content?
The solution? Be a whole lot more agile than competitors and embrace new technology trends.
Jirun Pienrakkarn, Head of Editing at Exact, a popular television production company in Thailand, recognized the need for an improvement in collaboration during the post-production process. With multiple users able to access the same content for editing and graphic design, TV programs are created faster and at 4K broadcasting quality. He explains, “In deploying Isilon, our teams can complete tasks at the same time, improving the efficiency of our workflow, which gets our content out to audiences more quickly. ONE Channel is positioning itself as an alternative to traditional channels, and we can support this move by providing high-quality shows.”
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