Guest post by Keith Wymbs, VP of marketing, Elemental
4K and Ultra HD stole this show at CES 2014 as consumer electronics manufacturers, chip makers and content providers exerted a full-court press for the latest high-resolution format. CES gave Elemental the opportunity to successfully put its 4K video processing software to the test on an incredibly large, global stage. The show also provided unprecedented opportunity to explore key issues around 4K, Ultra HD, HEVC and multiscreen trends. We’d like to share some of these with you as we dive into 2014 and all it holds for the evolution of video over the next few years.
1.Is the creation of 4K Ultra HD content gaining momentum?
While most of the demos on the show floor are optimized to show off the “glass”, the answer is yes. To put a finer point on it, at Elemental we’re already selling 4K and HEVC processing solutions to customers.
As 4K content, services, chips and STBs become more available and consumer demand ramps, content creators are beginning to future proof productions in the 4K format. Netflix and Amazon have both announced original series shot in 4K and at CES, even GoPro featured 4K content displayed in its full immersive glory (much of which was encoded with Elemental video processing software). When consumers are able to produce stunning content like this from a camera mounted on their head or bike or skateboard, there clearly is a bit of momentum in play.
2. Are consumer electronics capable of native HEVC display available or coming soon?
Yes. Plenty of devices were on hand at CES capable of HEVC decoding and display. In fact, there were a number of firsts including TV sets, tablets and media players decoding in HEVC for the first time. Elemental proved HEVC interoperability with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processor last year at IBC and is working with a number of chipset suppliers at the show, including Broadcom and STMicroelectronics, to demonstrate the same capability.
We even saw the content that we captured in November on display in Samsung’s booth being decoded by the latest TV set itself. We also showed 4K HEVC video processing and playback via set-top box in our suite at the Venetian Hotel during the exhibition. The industry is coming together from an end-to-end ecosystems perspective very quickly.
3. Might CDNs be the first to deliver 4K video to consumers?
We tend to think that this could be the case. Most 4K delivery demonstrations to date have taken place in labs or in controlled show environments. Elemental achieved several 4K milestones in the latter part of 2013, including the first demonstration of real-time 4Kp30 HEVC video processing at the Osaka Marathon and real-time 4Kp60 HEVC video processing at a special event in London. However, the design of these workflows allowed for controlled distribution of content over Ethernet. At CES, Elemental worked in partnership with Akamai to demonstrate encoding and distribution of 4K HEVC content over a global delivery network. And in the MPEG-DASH format no less! This demonstration was seen in Qualcomm’s booth being decoded by a tablet and rendered on a 4K Sony TV. It is a good indicator that IP-based 4K content delivery will be a reality in 2014.
4. Will 4K go the way of 3D?
We think not. At CES we saw a breadth of support for 4K with required hardware and software components rapidly coming into place to support a viable ecosystem for Ultra HD creation, delivery and viewing. The immersive nature of the 4K Ultra HD viewing experience holds broad appeal and the industry is poised to make even the most compelling devices affordable to consumers. But the bottom line for Elemental is that even if 4K doesn’t happen, all the investments that our customers make in our solution would be completely reusable for other applications. This is the power of our software-based architecture. Change happens, and we have the flexibility to adjust. Just the same, we believe 4K is one of multiple consumer trends that will emerge over the next five years.
5. Is the pace of change in the industry coming to a steady state?
No. For all the reasons noted above, the video industry continues to rapidly evolve to fulfill the promise of ubiquitous content available anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Video processing will continue to play an increasingly vital role as multiscreen video becomes a standard service offering for pay TV operators, content programmers and broadcasters.
At Elemental, we believe the future of video relies on software capable of scaling on powerful general purpose processors. It allows for the flexibility and future-proofing to make multiscreen video a reality for all content. We hold tremendous optimism about the coming year in video.