Thoughts after IBC and IFA

I’m writing this editorial in the plane on the way back from the Munich Digital Signage conference after spending 14 of the last 15 days at industry events. Add an extra day for travel and attending the pre-IBC SES event and it gets to 15 out of 16 days. In that time, I have had dozens of conversations, interviews and discussions. It has been, mostly, fun. What have I learned?

First, I’ve learned that TV image quality is really going to radically shift over the next two to three years. After years of most TV sets in stores looking pretty similar in image quality – a consequence of the use of the same panel technologies and chips, there should be a period of real differentiation between the best and the worst. I suspect that content will be available in a wide range of qualities from YouTube, to SD, to HD and UltraHD with high dynamic range, wide colour gamut and high frame rates driving really compelling video experiences. The top level of quality will need content that is mastered for this high performance display pipeline and, at the moment, if I was a gambling man (which I’m not!), I’d put my money on Dolby Vision to carve itself a chunk of the market for premium content and probably to dominate it.

I suspect that broadcasters will set UltraHD Phase 2 a bit below the Dolby level, allowing the company some clear air between the best broadcasts and its own system, which really needs optimised content. The Dolby system also offers a solution to some of the content mastering questions that content producers currently struggle with, so Dolby has a good chance to do what it wants in driving its system. It may be that no traditional broadcasters adopt Dolby (although I wouldn’t bet heavily against someone like Sky adopting it for some ultra-premium movie channels) and that most content comes via either a new Blu-ray, or, more likely OTT suppliers.

I’ve also learned that the HEVC codec is going to be widely adopted, not just for new UltraHD services, but to power DTT and even online content. The codec is already producing significant savings in bit rates and with further encoder developments, will probably get to the 50% of H.264 bit rate (and 25% of MPEG-2) requirement that was the promise of the technology. That will allow HD in just 4Mbits or so, so broadband-based HDTV becomes relatively easy. For terrestrial broadcasters, DVB-T2 combined with HEVC is really attractive and looks as though it will be adopted in 2016 in Germany.

I’ve learned that OLED remains in trouble as a TV display technology and my contention (Display Monitor Vol 17 No 22) that OLED will be the flat panel equivalent of Sony’s Trinitron CRT technology, a better performing, but small, premium segment of the TV market remains my position.

I attended two films at IBC, “The Life of Pi” and “Dawn of Planet of the Apes”, both shown in 14fl (48 cd/m