ATSC 3.0 Test For HDR Deemed `Immense Success’
Tests of broadcast transmissions carrying upconverted High Dynamic Range (HDR) information over the new ATSC 3.0 television broadcasting platform conducted in an urban Cleveland testbed two weeks ago were deemed an “immense success” by engineers engaged in the project.
According to a report posted Thursday on the Technicolor website, the field test was conducted by a multi-industry engineering team with oversight by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) May 14th-16th to see how ATSC 3.0 signals transmitting upconverted HDR images will enhance both the economic and technological performance of existing digital TV broadcasting systems.
“The test was an immense success. We assembled a commercial system to show ATSC 3.0’s ability to support enhanced over-the-air services in challenging urban environments,” Alan Stein, Vice President of Technology Development and Standards at Technicolor said in the posting. “The field test confirmed the ability to deliver upconverted high dynamic range (HDR) video services in a densely populated metropolitan area under a variety of challenging environments.”
The tests, which included a combination of professional and consumer equipment, were run using an experimental TV station sponsored by NAB and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). It was located at Tribune-owned WJW (Fox 8) in Cleveland.
The testbed was established to trial proofs of concept for various ATSC 3.0 elements and to act as an incubator for new products and services based on ATSC 3.0.
For the latest test, the team placed a receiver in an office building that was situated in a densely developed neighborhood where signals reflect off nearby structures. This condition is known to produce significant multipath interference that can freeze some ATSC 1.0 signals.
Despite the conditions, the group said signal reception was successful.
According to Technicolor, test content was encoded with Technicolor SL-HDR1 – also known as the Technicolor HDR profile. It also included MPEG scalable HEVC — also known as SHVC.
Other tested elements in the signal included: Layer Division Multiplexing (LDM) technology from ETRI — the Korean technology research institute.
Equipment used in the test included: a professional ATSC 3.0 receiver provided by ETRI; a professional HEVC and scalable HEVC and SL-HDR1 decoder provided by Kai Media – a Korean technology provider; and
a consumer OLED 4K/UHD/HDR TV provided by LG.
Interestingly, Technicolor Intelligent Tone Management (ITM) technology was used to convert source content from SDR to HDR using equipment provided by Technicolor partner Cobalt Digital.
“The field test was another positive validation of how ATSC 3.0 will bring new value to viewers and a more effective platform to broadcasters,” said Kelly Williams, Senior Director of Engineering and Technology Policy of NAB. “The ability to deliver multiple broadcasts of enhanced video – in this case content encoded with Technicolor SL-HDR1 – on a single channel will help to transform the economics of the broadcast industry, and meet the high expectations that consumers have today.”
Last year, the Cleveland test facility in cooperation with NBC and SES was used to transmit a 4K UHDTV satellite feed of the Winter Olympics in Korea that was decoded at the Cleveland station, re-encoded in ATSC 3.0 format, broadcast from the test station and successfully received on Korean ATSC 3.0 TV sets adapted for the U.S. market.
That test showed how the ATSC 3.0 standard facilitates tailoring service applications throughout a major metropolitan area.
Broadcasters across the United States are currently evaluating the abilities of ATSC 3.0 to determine which aspects and features to implement in their current broadcast stations. The upgrade, which is voluntary on the part of broadcasters, will entail significant investments. Local market demand is a critical element in how and when each broadcaster will proceed.
Each station will be required to continue broadcasting their current ATSC 1.0 signals simultaneously with the new ATSC 3.0, which will likely involve spectrum sharing with other broadcasters in any given market.
One issue right now is the fact that no consumer television sets are being sold with built-in ATSC 3.0 tuners. That is expected to change next year. But legacy equipment is expected to be able to add on external tuner dongles and set-top boxes.
Technicolor Advanced HDR is one of a handful of competing HDR profiles vying for broadcaster consideration. Currently, only LG’s better 4K Ultra HDTVs have built-in support for the Technicolor Advanced HDR profile.
Among the benefits of some implementations of the Technicolor Advanced HDR format is lower upgrade cost to broadcasters, although in some implementations it could impose added cost to television set manufactures and eventually consumers.
High dynamic range is an important enhancement because it adds immediately noticeable changes to both brightness and dark black areas of a picture at the same time. This also helps to improve color richness and shading. However, broadcasters will not be mandated to add either 4K Ultra HD resolution or HDR if they don’t feel the costs justify the viewer benefit and demand.
These decisions are being made now. Stay tuned.
By Greg Tarr
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