Guest blog written by Ken Dumont, Business Development Manager, Cisco Service Provider Video Software & Solutions
Maybe you saw this, maybe not: Just before Christmas, LA Lakers fans were met with the unsettling news that their high-scoring hero, Kobe Bryant, would be benched, for tired legs. However, that same night something else earth shattering was going on. (It’s LA I had to throw in an earth quake reference) In the background, cable broadcast history was being made: The proof-of-concept transmission of the game, played against the Golden State Warriors, in UltraHD.
And not “just” UltraHD: the game was broadcast in 4K .60p.10-bit which translates to 4 times the resolution of normal HD, 60 frames per second with 10-bit color sampling. Here’s what happened: The scene was downtown LA, it was the night before Christmas Eve, 2014, at the Staples Center where Cisco, and several other industry partners, worked with Time Warner Cable SportsNet and Time Warner Cable to shoot, produce, encode, transport and decode the 4K broadcast of the game. And what a game! ESPN reporter Baxter Holmes declared it “one of the most stunning upsets in NBA history,” with the Lakers winning, 115-105.
And then there was the 4K part of the story — equally stunning, in a different way.
Cisco’s part of the trial involved our AnyRes Live Encoder, and G10 set-top box. Here’s how it came together: The AnyRes Live software encoder running on our UCS platform ingested four baseband, 3 Gbps SDI streams that were produced by Sony’s F55 4K cameras. Using our internally developed HEVC codec in the AnyRes Live software we encoded the four SDI streams into a single, 19 MB service, which Time Warner Cable transported over its network to the G10 set-top box. (That is 12 Gbps of video and audio data compressed down to only19 Mbps – this represents a compression ratio of over 630:1)
At that point the HEVC stream was decoded and passed to a 55-inch Sony Ultra HD monitor, via a HDMI 2.0 cable. (The display could do 60 fps, but not 10-bit — and that’s normal with most 4K TVs, the vast majority of 4K TV sets on the market can only process 8-bit color)
We had the presence of mind to locate the 4K monitor outside of the Staples Center, near the production trucks. At any given point in time during the game, there appeared to be at least 20 people looking on, in real amazement; not of the score or the players, but at the unbelievably great picture quality. It is so good it is something that you just have to see to believe it!
Here is a network diagram of how the 4K technology trial was architected.
The goal of the proof-of-concept was for all involved to better understand the unique characteristics and requirements, as it relates to UltraHD/4k video formats, and their impact on production and distribution systems. From my perspective, this was one of the most impressive trials I’ve ever had the opportunity to work on. Everything came together perfectly at show time, it was a spectacular game, the people were great, and we got to participate in what is clearly the next big thing in video production. Many thanks to all involved.
We will be showcasing a demo of this, featuring Cisco’s 4K AnyRes Live software encoder, at the Cisco booth during NAB, North Hall #N802. Come check it out!
Find us at NAB 2015 & tweet us questions or comments @CiscoSP360.