UltraHD Alliance Wants to Bring Order to the “Wild Wild West”

The UltraHD Alliance had a meeting room at IBC to introduce itself to the European business. There was a feeling that there was a feeling of the “Wild Wild West”. A group of companies came together to develop an Alliance that would try to ensure that some of the problems that afflicted 3D so the group decided to set up a logo and compliance programme to ensure that sets and experiences reach a minimum level of quality and performance. The group is keen to be clear that it is staying away from issues of standards and interoperability, where it collaborates with the UHD Forum.

We met with Hanno Basse, from Fox and President and Board Chair of the Alliance and Victor Matsuda from Sony who is also the Sony representative on the Blu-ray Disk Association.

The Alliance has 26 members including set and chip makers as well as some broadcasters and OTT suppliers, but with good support from the major Hollywood studios and Basse and Matsuda acknowledged that there has been a bias in favour of ensuring that movies go from “end to end” with high quality, with broadcast as a secondary target in terms of time.

The group is currently doing consumer testing and working with its members to finalise its minimum performance requirements for brightness, bit depth, wide colour gamut and contrast. Frame rates are being looked at and immersive audio is also part of the scope. Clearly, there are real challenges to setting these requirements (we can only imagine the contributions from LG & Panasonic supporting OLED, while Samsung pushes LCD! – Man. Ed.) The final specifications should be set “shortly”, with a target of an announcement and demonstrations at CES in January.

In parallel, the compliance programme is well under way. Hollywood content is typically shot in 4K or 6K and often uses 16 bit processing, so high quality content is not in short supply and again there is an aim to get content with UHD Alliance logos by CES.

Basse and Matsuda admitted that the Alliance is better placed in terms of certifying movie content than for live and broadcast content. However, it has members that are pure broadcasters (DirecTV) or have broadcast interests (Disney has ABC & ESPN). Standards are still in a state of flux for broadcast, but the segment will be addressed next year.