BBC Previews 4K Support For iPlayer Streaming Video

BBC PlayerBy James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

As time goes on, we’re going to see more streaming in 4K. Netflix blazed the trail two years ago, followed by Amazon Prime, YouTube (in a way, and more recently added HDR) and many others. But now, across the pond, the BBC is offering a free preview of the ultra high definition capability of the new iPlayer, and they’re bringing along high dynamic range for the ride.

“We want to use this as a trigger to work with manufacturers to get their products updated so there’s a pathway there for future on-demand BBC content,” explained Phil Layton, head of broadcast and connected systems at BBC Research & Development.

If pay close attention to what Phil Layton of the BBC is saying in the statement above, you see that the BBC understands there is a tipping point between offering 4K and HDR content, and the creation of technologies to support it. There will always be the early adopters who will pay the premium to drive the development of a technology, but after a while, the pricing has to drop to the point where market saturation gets triggered. And that only happens when there’s enough content to trigger it.

So the BBC is starting to do its part by offering 4K versions of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth II documentary series on iPlayer. There isn’t a lot just yet, but what is there looks to be pretty stunning in its depiction of ultra high definition out in the wild.

“One of the clips is a frog on a leaf with lots of rain, and the reason this is so interesting is that the redness of the frog is a really deep, Ferrari red that you would never get in broadcast television at the moment,” Layton said.

Behind the scenes, the technical specs of the stream are sparse, but include the use of Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), which has been developed by NHK as a defacto HDR format for UHD phase 1. To date, the BBC says that only reference monitors like the Sony BVM X300 or Panasonic’s HDR 4K LCDs will be able to deliver on the new HLG format.

HLG works hand-in-hand with Dolby PQ, but even the BBC admits that unless users have a Dolby Vision certified monitor, that much of HLG’s benefit will be lost on the viewer, but the increase in resolution and color gamut will certainly be noticeable.

But sooner, rather than later, it is hoped that as more content is delivered, that more manufacturers will warm to HLG and begin to support it in succeeding generations of 4K TVs.

“Although recent models from other manufacturers can also be updated to add the facility,” the ‘Beeb’ said in a statement on the technology, “it is unclear whether the firms will do so.”

The standard here in the US is divided between Ultra HD Premium and HDR10, with some monitors supporting both standards. You can bet that next month at CES in Las Vegas, HDR is going to be the new buzz word like Ultra HD was before it, and we’ll likely see more offerings of what may be on the horizon in time for the TV buying season next year. Estimates are that market saturation in the U.S. will reach up to 14% for 4K HDR TVs by the end of 2017. And then we’ll likely start hearing more about 8K in 2018.

It never ends.

If you’re living in the UK, you can check it out here.

Hat Tip: Red Shark News

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Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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