SCSA Readies Formal Launch Of 4K UHD Download Service
The SCSA launch team at the 2015 International CES: Chris Sato, SCSA marketing senior VP; David Huerta, SCSA executive director/GM; and Clayton Biele, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment global technology strategy associate director.
In what may have been the best kept secret at International CES, 4K Ultra HDTV enthusiasts are about to get another big boost in the availability of native 4K content through a pending formal launch of a secure download service developed by a coalition of electronics manufacturers and Hollywood studios.
Called the Secure Content Storage Association (SCSA), the body of consumer electronics and Hollywood movers and shakers has developed a similarly named system due for a mid-year sendoff. It is designed to simply and easily download native 4K Ultra HD movies, videos and TV programs to large capacity storage products, such as Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices, media players, flash storage devices and even some mobile devices to playback rich, high-quality 4K content that is purchased or rented online.
More on the SCSA’s members, products and rollout plans after the break:
The SCSA, which has maintained a “low-key” profile as it readies a formal launch, was founded by 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros., Western Digital, SanDisk and Cryptography Research, who were quickly joined by: Samsung, LG, Comcast, Cisco, ARM Holdings, Seagate Technology, MediaTek, Akamai, Marvell, Dolby, DTS, Inside Secure, Discretix Technologies, Saffron Digital, Irdeto, Walmart (Vudu), Sprint, Toshiba, Broadcom, Pace, MStar Semiconductor, DivX, BluFocus, ST Micro, Kaleidescape and international contributors Chili TV, Strefa TV and Wuaki TV.
Cognizant that a new 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc system is in the works, the SCSA pointed out that its service will provide similar high-quality pictures and sound, while avoiding the hassle of collecting and storing hundreds of movies on individual Blu-ray Discs or DVDs.
Content files will be secured against illicit copying or use, while devices will employ today’s latest HDMI and HDCP content protection gateways on input/output connections.
At the same time the goal was to make usage flexible, so the SCSA is providing multi-device playback rights, with a focus on playback in the home on large-volume storage devices equipped with hard discs, flash drives or SD cards. Some limited streaming is also possible, but because the group anticipates 4K Ultra HD playback as the key purchase driver, the group believes that playback from already downloaded files is the most robust way to go, so that the user isn’t “held hostage” by insufficient Internet connections.
Content pricing, bit-rates and other variables will be left to participating studios to determine – a formal announcement with the details and launch titles is planned in the next few weeks.
Each movie or TV program will be delivered as “a pack” – the organization’s name for a collection of digital files comprised of different resolution versions for play back on the most appropriate display.
The pack will contain a title in each of the following – an SD version, an HD version, XHD version (FullHD at Blu-ray equivalent bit rates), and a 4K Ultra HD version. Each version can be digitally “peeled off” of the pack and sent to another device for playback, or the entire pack can be sent in one lump, the SCSA explained.
The SCSA is planning three different delivery modules for its content packs – a trial version available in a limited way today as a test for 4K playback through the M-GO over-the-top (OTT) service on Samsung’s 4K Video Pack media player; a full-feature set that will be delivered at launch in the next few weeks and a third will provide content to a special 4K portable tablet from Qualcomm, for mobile playback.
Although 4K UHD content is stored on an associated device, viewers will be able to immediately view a downloading title via streaming at a lower resolution level while the higher 4K version downloads.
The SCSA system assigns a “digital right” along with each download giving the purchaser the ability to share a title, like you might share a Blu-ray Disc or DVD with a friend. Each studio will specify the minimum number of copies that can be made to enable backups and transferring to other devices. Similarly, each studio will determine the bit rate at which it will offer each 4K Ultra HD title.
A spokesman for 20th Century Fox – a key player in the SCSA – said the studio will go with bit rates of 30 to 40 Mbps, but the spec is expected to support up to 100Mbps.
Each pack download will take about five hours to complete at average broadband speeds, but the SCSA representatives said they are studying the possibility of pushing some titles out for caching on a drive at a user’s discretion. That way a title can be simply unlocked whenever you’re ready to view it.
Compatible SCSA storage and playback devices, such as a Western Digital NAS device or a Samsung 4K Video Pack media player, will be clearly marked with a forthcoming SCSA logo to assure purchasers that the device will work with the video download system. When the device is ready, a firmware update is pushed out to the device adding a new “shelf” of title selections for purchase and download. The graphical user interface shelf is continuously updated with selections for download or playback.
The SCSA said the system will be expandable to evolving standards of picture and sound quality – perhaps including new data for high dynamic range and expanded color gamut. But that’s all being determined by another multi-company alliance.
By Greg Tarr
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