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BBC R&D extends UHD trials for Commonwealth Games

See the Games in UHD at Glasgow's Science Centre
BBC R&D is extending its trial of Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV and inviting viewers to come and see the sharper pictures for themselves during the Commonwealth Games.

The special R&D production will be shown live in the Glasgow Science Centre throughout the Games, in a move that the BBC hopes will "give people a unique opportunity to see the very first live UHD broadcast of a Commonwealth Games, which offers up to four times as much detail as standard HD."

These demonstrations will be available from 10am-5pm in the Glasgow Science Centre’s Clyde Suite, forming part of the wider "BBC at the Quay" festivities coinciding with the Games.

BBC R&D has been trialling the distribution and broadcast of a UHD stream using digital terrestrial television (DTT) and the internet. The trials were originally announced to be for the duration of the FIFA World Cup only. So far, the trials remain officially closed to the public.

Last week, viewers in the Granada TV region spotted test audio streams associated with the UHD trial from the Winter Hill transmitter. It was subsequently confirmed that the test signals are also being broadcast from the Crystal Palace transmitter in London and the Black Hill transmitter, which serves most of Central Scotland, including Glasgow. 

There is no Freeview HD consumer equipment on the market that can decode the test transmissions, which would require the receiver to be able to decode terrestrially broadcast video using the HEVC format, but some Linux PC users have been able to obtain glimpses of the BBC UHD test broadcasts, which will include live coverage of selected FIFA World Cup matches.

HEVC, albeit used with regular HD, is due to be rolled out on German terrestrial TV later this decade. Broadcasters, Ofcom and other stakeholders are considering future technical options for the DTT platform in the UK, which may or may not involve HEVC. Receivers with HEVC compatibility that support Freeview HD transmissions are expected to become more commonplace in the shops over the coming years. 
·     Closed trial for World Cup with live broadcasts on: 28/06/2014 between 1930-0020; 04/07/2014 1530-2020 and 13/07/2014 1730-0020 (all times BST).

·     Public demonstration in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games.

·     Is being broadcast terrestrially from three transmitters using DVB-T2/HEVC standards:
Black Hill (Central Scotland) via UHF channel 35.

Crystal Palace (London) via UHF channel 35.

Winter Hill (Manchester/Liverpool) via UHF channel 37.

·     Uses multiplex “COM8”, which is earmarked for future HD services on Freeview.

·     There are no known Freeview HD TVs that can deal with terrestrial HEVC transmissions, although some Freeview HD TVs may recognise the test audio services.

·     The Commonwealth Games UHD broadcast will be the first major live event to be produced and distributed entirely over Internet Protocol (IP) networks.

Whether or not UHD (or 4k) TV becomes more commonplace on terrestrial TV remains to be seen. Currently, using the latest HEVC encoders, only UHD channel can fit on a digital TV multiplex using the DVB-T2 Freeview HD standard. In comparison, 5 or 6 HD channels can be broadcast in the same space. Mobile network operators are eyeing up further chunks of current TV spectrum, which could make bandwidth hungry UHD channels over terrestrial TV non-viable, which is why the trial is also exploring a future terrestrial TV/internet hybrid solution.

In another broadcasting first, the BBC's Commonwealth Games UHD broadcast will be the first major live event to be produced and distributed entirely over Internet Protocol (IP) networks, in what the BBC calls "a major milestone as broadcast and IT technologies converge".  According to the broadcaster,  "this will be delivered using an initial version of BBC R&D’s vision for a new broadcasting system, which aims to take advantage of the increasing speed and ubiquity of internet networks and IT technology. "

Matthew Postgate, Controller, BBC R&D, said: “We may well look back at this trial as a watershed moment in the history of broadcasting. By proving for the first time that complex events can be created and delivered completely over IP technology, we’re opening up a world of possibilities to programme makers and the wider industry. Not only could BBC R&D’s vision for a new broadcasting system help producers create programmes more efficiently and cost-effectively, but it allows them to take advantage of data like never before, offering new editorial options and ways of improving the experience for audiences.”


  1. UHD over internet? My broadband isn't even fast enough for HD at the moment.


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