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T he Ultra HD Forum was founded in 2015 amid a rush of anticipation around new, higher-resolution formats. Video in 4K is so much a part of every piece of the video workflow – everyone expects their phones to be able to shoot 4K video – that it’s hard to remember how, less than ten years ago, this was still cutting-edge stuff. At the time, though, the only place someone could reliably find 4K video was on YouTube; the question of how to bring UHD into the mainstream was a challenge. There were many competing standards and the definition of UHD itself was up for debate. The Ultra HD Forum came together for the purpose of creating some order out of the chaos by pooling market leaders from around the industry, including broadcasters, service providers, consumer electronics and technology vendors, to collaborate on solving the challenges of Ultra HD development and deployment. Among the Forum’s founding members were Comcast, Dolby, Harmonic and LG. The membership today includes many broadcast tech companies of note, as well as broadcasters such as PBS and the BBC and industry organisations like DTG, EBU and NAB. “We didn’t set out to be a standards body,” says Ultra HD Forum’s Ben Schwarz, “because if anything, this industry suffers from too many standards, not too few.” There were a number of standards available at the time, including UHDTV1 (with a resolution of 3840x2160) and UHDTV2 (a resolution of 7680x4320), and there was confusion about the difference between 4K and Ultra HD, with many assuming they were identical – a problem which continues among consumers to this day. Rather than getting into debates about which formats were preferable, the Ultra HD Forum provided concrete experience about what worked and what didn’t work. “In the early days, we actually spent a lot of time asking ‘what is UHD?’” says Schwarz. “It seems really obvious today, but back then it wasn’t.” Getting the language right – not to mention getting everyone to agree on it – is essential for making progress in tech. The Forum eventually decided that the acronym UHD would essentially be a synonym for 4K, and the full expression Ultra HD would refer to the whole range of next- generation entertainment services defined not only by increased resolution, but high dynamic range (HDR), wide colour gamut, next-generation audio and high frame rate. “If you have a 4K service, we’ll call that an Ultra HD service. But if you have an HDR service, even if it’s not 4K, we’ll call that an Ultra HD service too.” Sustainability is always about people and how best to serve their needs in the long term. The Ultra HD Forum’s aim is to enable a higher- quality experience for audiences, as well as a more comprehensive palette for storytellers.

Sustainability is about quality, and quality is where intelligent engineering combines with customer care. The Ultra HD Forum wouldn’t think of itself as a sustainability organisation, but joining the practical with the needs of customers is where sustainability can really get traction. Most viewers assume that improved technology will give them a more realistic experience, but of course, there is no such thing as a realistic viewing experience – aesthetic decisions are made even on the most basic YouTube video. Secondly, they assume that they prefer a more realistic experience over a less realistic one. Ultra HD Forum’s Schwarz explains that this is just not the case: “People say the more realistic the better, but a few years ago, we did a golf broadcast demo at NAB we were incredibly proud of. We had a 4K version and it was like looking out a window. You could really see the grass and the earth. “Next to it we had another squashed-down version of it which looked like the traditional unreal grass colour you would see in the cinema – bright green. Almost everyone preferred the bright green grass; that had nothing to do with reality, it’s just what they were used to.” Sports broadcasters still routinely adjust camera settings so that sports fields register as bright green, even though if you saw that colour in real life, you might assume your drink had been spiked. “It was a surprise to realise that we thought Ultra HD would be fantastic because of the extra realism. It’s still a powerful tool for sportscasters because it gives them more and deeper colours to work, but they are still trying to reproduce what they’ve been doing for the last few decades.” The Ultra HD palette of tools can be extremely powerful for broadcasters – and for audiences – but creators need to be holding the audience in mind as the priority. Give sports fans realistic grass before they’re ready and they’re likely to start complaining about some very, very lucrative content – and no one wants to be on the end of that phone call. Give them a beautiful piece of art that only works if viewed in perfect HDR conditions and you get The Long Night episode of Game of Thrones . WHO’S GOT THE POWER? One of the central sustainability issues for Ultra HD content – in all its iterations – is the increase in energy consumption it brings. HDR monitors consume substantially more energy than standard dynamic range monitors for example, and the files required for a 4K workflow and delivery consume more energy at every step along the chain than the same workflow would in HD – and this has become more or less the default. 4K capture is generally the standard, even if everyone involved knows the final result will never show at anything higher than HD. High frame rates, which are part of the whole Ultra HD package, also mean a lot more data storage requirements and throughput. A 4K


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