Somewhere down the latency river


Ben Hawker TV-Bay Magazine
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Some people have been, understandably, getting fairly excited over the prospect of being able to deploy wireless cameras to capture and transmit 4K UHD. Manufacturers and developers are closing in on the ability to deliver systems that will offer up almost endless creative options at the highest – to date – possible picture quality.

But they’re not there yet. There is one pesky hurdle to overcome and, oddly, although it’s a low one, it’s not low enough…and may be the toughest to surmount.

Latency.

Latency is the last remaining barrier to making 4K over RF a widely deployable option. Although manufacturers and developers are investing a lot of effort and resources into reducing latency and are making considerable progress - it’s not yet where it needs to be, but I have no doubt they will continue to drive latency down

And that’s because, for live television, latency is a major issue. You can get away with a certain amount of latency in a sub-4K world. It’s done every day by simply introducing a certain amount of audio delay. Broadcasters can cope with that, but it still makes wireless HD and especially 4K UHD over RF a significant challenge. Sure. It can and is being done, but it still requires a trade-off, and it’s a fairly major one. Viewers, particularly the exploding demographic of those taking advantage of streaming services, are turning away from the annoyance of buffering, delays, and poor quality, all of which are largely down to latency issues.

The current consensus is that the lowest latency that can be consistently achieved is around 100ms. As I said, broadcasters can deal with that without too much of a problem. But to my knowledge no one has really hit the mark to get the delay down to where it’s truly usable for everyday live action.

One company claims to have achieved 75ms, but in order to get it down that far, further compromises have to be made. A lot of picture information has to be thrown out, and in my view, that’s “too much information”.

The throw out factor – for want of a better term - is usually down to the encoding. To speed up encoding, you have to sacrifice quality, which for live action at higher resolutions is unacceptable, as is the inherent delay.

I’ve experimented with the wireless transmitter options on offer to date. They all use the same chipset. Early versions had a delay of more than 1.2 seconds, which is not particularly useful for anything other than, for example, beauty shots from a helicopter that can just be cut into a programme. In applications such as that it works well and delivers acceptable pictures, but it’s not far off what you could already do with older SD radio cameras. In terms of cutting in live shots, the delay can be slightly noticeable but only if you’re a professional deliberately looking for it.

But in higher resolutions it’s just not good enough. One UK broadcaster did a test at a professional football ground with original chipset encoders. On a monitor we watched a footballer strike a ball, then suddenly saw the ball careening toward the opposite goal - and nothing in between, not even the pitch.

That’s clearly too much delay, even for a novice.

New techniques, improved chipsets, and clever encoding algorithms will no doubt continue to reduce latency. There are limits to what existing chipsets can handle, but newer chipsets are always being developed, although perhaps not as rapidly as in the recent past.

RF equipment manufacturers and, for that matter, hire companies, are always pushing for those encoding and latency improvements, but to achieve those goals, the conundrum of sacrificing information and, therefore, quality, for speed still remains. It just comes down to what individual manufacturers can come up with in their codecs, and what portions of emerging professional standards they choose to embrace or discard.

Another question is, I suppose, somewhat subjective. At what point do viewers notice the delay or quality drop? Does ultra-high quality matter? And which judges are more important? The 60 or so people in a truck or studio, or the 60 million sitting at home, on a train, on a bus – pretty much anywhere these days? Where do you draw the line? What, in the end, is the low-latency limit?

Before I get too hypothetical, let’s take a step back and get practical for a moment. Basically, I think the quality versus speed question is almost moot when it comes to UHD 4K, at least at the moment.

When I talk to various customers today, what they want in wireless RF has nothing to do with 4K, progressive video, or anything like that. What they want more than anything are creative options.

Some broadcasters argue that quality has to adhere to the highest accepted standards of established broadcasters, then quite happily settle for less, sometimes without even realising it. I’ve seen entire programmes broadcast that originated from camera feeds several MBs below a minimum acceptable standard, and no one knew the difference. So, if few, if any, notice the difference, is a push for lower latency by sacrificing quality worth pursuing?

Yes.

As I said earlier, consumers are becoming more savvy, and decidedly less tolerant. If they don’t like the channel or platform they’re using due to poor quality or incessant delays, they simply go to one of thousands of other options. Yes, they may not get the content they were seeking, but chances are they’ll find something else that interests them just as much, if not more. Another pair of eyeballs lost, quite often for good. So it’s in everyone’s interests to chase the low-latency/high quality dragon – as long as it makes sense to pursue it. Improvements will no doubt arrive in a combination of improved chipsets, advanced codecs, and new standards in due course, but I would posit that once you get to a certain level, you’re sawing sawdust.

Miniaturisation, on the other hand - already pretty well-established and improving all the time – is what really hits the sweet spot with cameramen and producers, so long as acceptable quality can be maintained. As I said earlier, they want creative options, and reliable, miniaturised transmitters give them exactly that, and more.

The ability to attach a camera transmitter to a helmet, hat, chest, or even strapped to the back of an eagle or whale opens up brave new worlds. A 4K transmitter, in and of itself, is not necessarily a selling point. Users are far more interested in something that’s compact, reliable, and with the lowest latency possible, so they take viewers places they’ve never been before.

So, lower latency with improved miniaturisation is a winning combination that is already delivering exciting new options for HD productions. When it becomes viable for live 4K UHD productions, who knows what we might see next. But for now, it’s more about where you’re going than what it’s going to look like when you get there.

However, if you can couple ultra-low, unnoticeable latency with high quality, that’s the Holy Grail, and it’s what will make the journey worthwhile.

We’re just not there, yet.


Tags: iss129 | latency | 4k | wireless | rf | presteigne | Ben Hawker
Submitted by Ben Hawker Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
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Submitted by Mark Harrison Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Looking back at IBC 2017
Duncan Payne IBC feels like a bit of a dim and damp memory now, but a few over-riding memories do remain however, not least of which was the Arri party to celebrate its 100th year. It was like an old-school manufacturers IBC/NAB party, back when manufacturers had marketing budgets, and lots of sales people. It got IBC off to a great start; thanks Arri.
Tags: iss128 | ibc | arri | red | panasonic | adamantean | sony | eva | nokia | ozo | Duncan Payne
Submitted by Duncan Payne Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
How the Cloud can be enabled as traditional broadcast workflows evolve
David Schleifer The Cloud itself is fairly simple, but for broadcasters it can be difficult to leverage. It isnt technically complex but broadcast still overlaps requirements that need real time, high resolution and quick turnaround solutions. Plus, this is coupled with the need to connect with dispersed geographic locations, reduce costs and access multi-format assets. As a result, broadcasters have moved away from asking the basic question what can I do in the cloud? to trialling projects and implementations are now underway or under evaluation.
Tags: iss128 | ott | primestream | David Schleifer
Submitted by David Schleifer Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Supporting broadcast quality control
Alan Wheable With the ever-increasing number of program channels and range of different program distribution formats, the process of ensuring program quality has become a complex one for contribution/capture, production, post production, server ingest and content distribution.
Tags: iss128 | omnitek | wcg | hdr | test and measurement | smpte 2110 | smpte 2022-6 | Alan Wheable
Submitted by Alan Wheable Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Reunion on Kingsman ensures efficient workflow for sequel
KitPlus Both on and off camera, there are some collaborations that are built to last. Armed with the success of their work on the first film adaptation of the Kingsman comic book (Kingsman: The Secret Service), director Matthew Vaughan reunited with cinematographer George Richmond, DIT Joshua Callis-Smith and colorist Rob Pizzey, to deliver Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the upcoming second installment in the spy comedy series.
Tags: iss128 | kingsman | blackmagic | goldcrest | davinci | arri | dit | KitPlus
Submitted by KitPlus Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
The Transition to a full end to end IP video solution
Brian Olson Most video professionals will agree that the future is IP. The question is, when and how do they make this transition? With manufacturers just introducing new IP products, many people are observing and waiting. However, the reality is that the move to IP is already rapidly taking place and is more transformational than the move from analogue to digital, SD to HD, or HD to UHD/HDR. IP will change the way that people interact with video, making it more flexible, more accessible, more scalable and will provide more opportunities for content delivery
Tags: iss128 | newtek | ptz | ip | uhd | streamstar | xsplit | vmix | ndi | Brian Olson
Submitted by Brian Olson Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
IP or not IP, that is the question
Brian Larter There can be a one size fits all approach to prompting, but with the many forms of production in todays broadcasting world - from a major sporting event, to the biggest Saturday night entertainment show, to a 24-hour news operation or prompting on location - it is unlikely that a single system will suit every circumstance. The equipment needs to be designed for purpose, interchangeable and adaptable, since prompting, like other areas of the broadcast workflow, does not stand still.
Tags: iss128 | cuescript | prompting | prompter | ptz | ip | Brian Larter
Submitted by Brian Larter Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
When a lens is more than just a lens
KitPlus Matching shots between different cameras can be tricky at the best of times. But how do you match lens characteristics between a live action shoot and a CGI composition? The CP.3 XD lenses from Zeiss offer an efficient solution to this with their frame accurate meta-data.
Tags: iss128 | zeiss | lenses | lens | prime | cp.3 | cgi | vfx | KitPlus
Submitted by KitPlus Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Production Communications in a Shrinking World
Gary Rosen Communications today is a critical issueno matter if you are producing broadcast television, doing a live festival or rock concert outdoors, setting up a musical on the West End, or producing a local school play. Over the last few years, the proliferation of cell phones and other wireless devices has made it clear that most people prefer to communicate untethered.
Tags: iss127 | pliant | comms | intercom | duplex | Gary Rosen
Submitted by Gary Rosen Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
The party is not over until the video is online
Paul Scurrell When we were introduced to the team behind Sensation dance events in Amsterdam they had one big question for Timecode Systems: could our SyncBac VR wireless sync and control solution theoretically make it possible for a high quality, professional 360-degree video of a live dance music event to be edited in the time it takes the DJ to fly to his or her next gig? Intrigued by what our solution could help them achieve, in July they invited us to film at one of their iconic dance music events. Billed as The Final it was a sell-out farewell party to mark the last Sensation event in Amsterdam.
Tags: iss127 | syncbac | vr | 360-degree | pro7 | 360rize | gopro | dj | timecode systems | Paul Scurrell
Submitted by Paul Scurrell Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
TV Futures - Running around for clients
Joseph Long My second year at the University of Portsmouth seemingly began in a familiar fashion to the previous year. We sat in a large lecture theatre and listened intently to our course leader, who gave an outline as to what students on the BSc Television and Broadcasting course should be expect experience-wise from the up-and-coming year....
Tags: iss127 | ccitv | tvfutres | training | portsmouth | university | Joseph Long
Submitted by Joseph Long Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Boradcast playout on-site and in the cloud
Don Ash Broadcasters come in many shapes and sizes, each with their own unique set of ambitions and their own preferred route to success. Some are happy to innovate, particularly if it increases staff efficiency or reduces operating costs. Others prefer to let their competitors do the innovating and then follow whatever path appears to work best. Thus the industry has advanced from dedicated hardware to more flexible and cost-efficient software running on 'enterprise-platform' comput-ers, and more recently to virtual devices.
Tags: iss127 | playbox | playout | cloud | edgebox | airbox | neo | cloudair | Don Ash
Submitted by Don Ash Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Back to Basics with IP Video Production
Michael Waidson Its difficult to attend an industry tradeshow or read a publication without seeing discussions about the technological changes that will impact the broadcast market in upcoming years. These changes include 4K/UHDTV, High Dynamic Range and High Frame Rate video but the transition to an all IP video workflow is regarded as a disruptive technology change that will demand new skill sets and infrastructure.
Tags: iss127 | tek | tektronix | ip | test | Michael Waidson
Submitted by Michael Waidson Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
A bluffers guide to image stabilisation
Mike Colyer One of the greatest challenges I face when designing a Special Camera system is how to minimise such vibrations, be they the very passive such as vibrations from a human wearing a camera system (10 20Hz), or more pronounced (try strapping a camera to a race car!).
Tags: iss127 | stabilisation | eis | ois | Mike Colyer
Submitted by Mike Colyer Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Immersive Audio
Jon Schorah - new In 2012, the Oculus Rift Kickstarter campaign burst onto the scene, initiating a new wave of public interest in sense-enveloping immersive experiences. 5 years later, the consumer reality is mixed with some very public let-downs like Google Glass (which is coincidentally enjoying a re-birth at the time of writing, now as a technical tool in the workplace), and other technologies such as Dolby Atmos® becoming almost commonplace experiences. What does this mean for the audio professional and how is the near future shaping up in 2018?
Tags: iss127 | immersive audio | dolby atmos | dts-s | auro-3d | oculus rift | nugen | Jon Schorah - new
Submitted by Jon Schorah - new Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Peace of mind in a complicated world
Alan Wheable For many in the broadcast industry these are challenging times. With competition coming from all angles and different technological camps advocating different approaches to infrastructure and the way forwards. With the number of different variables increasing, the choices of whether to use SDI or IP infrastructures, and the choices around HDR and WCG let alone the on-going distraction of UHD / 4K.
Tags: iss127 | omnitek | smpte 2110 | ip | ultra tq | 2022-6 | Alan Wheable
Submitted by Alan Wheable Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Supporting creativity and driving better workflows
Rod Aaron Gammons For decades videographers and filmmakers have been pushing the boundaries when it comes to creativity all with the aim of delivering a visually spectacular and engaging experience to viewers. For the most part they rely on artistic vision and innate skill, but over the last few years technology has been playing more of a role in enabling that creativity, like cameras, sound and lighting.
Tags: iss127 | rotolight | led lighting | aeos | Rod Aaron Gammons
Submitted by Rod Aaron Gammons Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Plan to be smart at IBC
Peter Savage 2 While chatting with a good friend last week, he told me he was full of foreboding about the coming IBC. It needs no introduction: this conference/exhibition is the largest gathering of broadcast professionals in Europe, and the second largest in the world, and everyone in our world knows about it. Ill give you some statistics later but, for now, lets look at why my friend was dreading it.
Tags: iss127 | azule | finance | ibc | planning | Peter Savage 2
Submitted by Peter Savage 2 Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Power linking just got better
Yasushi Wada Sometimes batteries can be interesting and this year with IDX is one of those years with not only improvements in the V-Lock range there are significant changes within the 7.2volt area. Firstly and for the very first time in Europe the updated Power Link battery system the IPL range will be shown on the IDX stand at IBC
Tags: iss127 | idx | battery | power | v-lock | vl-2000s | ipl-150 | ipl-95 | Yasushi Wada
Submitted by Yasushi Wada Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
The importance of storage
Jonathan Smith In recent years, viewing habits have shifted dramatically; online video is becoming the preferred option for the younger generation. But its not just millennials who are cutting the cord with broadcasters and traditional platforms increasing numbers of people from all age groups are abandoning cable and instead enjoying TV online. In response to this growing trend, platforms such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer are rushing to invest in fresh digital content, in a bid to satisfy their ever-increasing audiences.
Tags: iss127 | limelight networks | cdn | pops | Jonathan Smith
Submitted by Jonathan Smith Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine