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BT Sport shows UK’s first public live 8K HDR sports broadcast

By 28th February 2020 One Comment

BT Sport tests live 8K HDR and says it will roll it out to BT Sport Ultimate this year

BT Sport last night screened the UK’s first public live 8K HDR sports broadcast, showing the second leg UEFA Europa League clash between Arsenal v Olympiacos on a Samsung 82” QLED 8K TV at the Emirates stadium.

8K provides an image four times the resolution of 4K, creating a total of 33 million pixels. The HDR aspect provides an added depth and realism to the image so the combination of 8K and HDR offers “picture perfection that makes viewers feel as though they are really part of the action,” says BT Sport.

The proof of concept test at the Emirates showcased the fact it’s possible – and, it’s true to say the images were phenomenal with the level of detail appearing even greater than what you could see at the stadium – and BT Sport will now fast track the ability to get 8K images to the home. BT Sport COO Jamie Hindhaugh says the broadcaster is aiming to have 8K broadcasts ready for the beginning of the next football season.

“With BT Sport Ultimate, you’re automatically served the best quality images, depending on what device you’re on, your subscription, and what connectivity you have. This is the first time we’ve broadcast 8K HDR live and it isn’t just a proof of concept – if you’re a BT Ultimate subscriber and you’ve got an 8K TV, you’ll be able to watch Premier League and Champions League in 8K next season,” says Hindhaugh.

Broadcast Sport was invited for an exclusive tour of BT Sport’s bespoke outside broadcast for the 8K HDR broadcast, which was part of a series of tests this week.

This began on Tuesday night at Stanford Bridge where the broadcaster screened live in 8K SDR (as it did with a rugby game at IBC2019). Throughout all the tests, the 8K images are captured using a Sony UHC-8300 8K system camera and Fujinon 8K lenses, providing a wide view of the pitch.

The other cameras capture in 4K and were up-converted to 8K using Sony converters. The Sony 8K camera slots into the same HDR workflow as the 4K cameras, and share the same colour properties, so cutting between the 8K and 4K HDR images ensures an exact match in terms of the colours. BT Sport created specific 8K graphics for the event.

Talking about the distribution side of the workflow to get 8K images to the home, BT Sport chief engineer Andy Beale told Broadcast Sport: “We’re taking the finished programme and putting it through a pre-release distribution encoder, then it goes to the cloud and back for playout to the Samsung 8K TV. At the moment, it’s a roundtrip of around 45 seconds, but over time we should be able to get this whole process down to around 10 seconds.

“It’s very easy to add services to the BT Sport app, so adding 8K isn’t a problem,” he adds. “And getting 8K to the home isn’t as cumbersome as you might think. As fibre connectivity and 5G increases, it becomes possible. Once it’s been through the Beamr 5 8K HEVC encoder and distributed via the CDM, it’s down to around a 60-80mb/sec video stream. These are early prototypes of encoders, so six months down the line, I’m sure the requirements will be down 20-25%, which then makes it possible for this to be a reality at home.

“At CES, it was clear all TV manufacturers are making 8K panels, and many are now saying they are ceasing manufacture of 4K TVs over 75”, which will now all be 8K. The images are astonishing, and while you won’t notice any real difference on a 45-50” display, screens 65” and upwards are where you start to see a big difference. The 82” Samsung TV here is a great size to truly see the impact of 8K.”

Rob Thorne, live production business development support engineer at Sony Professional Solutions Europe, added: “This has been six months in the making and it’s great to see 8K in Europe. It’s the same camera NHK is using in Japan and the demo here shows we have the infrastructure here to do 8K. The pictures speak for themselves. It’s the same impact as when you see 4K for the first time. The clarity and realism is incredible, especially when coupled with the depth you get from HDR. It’s challenging as there’s lots of data – the 8K we’re capturing for each football match creates more than 1TB of data.”

Arsenal legend Jens Lehmann (pictured) was at the event, and when viewing the images on the Samsung display, he said: “It’s a technological revolution and it looks fantastic and probably better than the stadium.”

The 8K kit list for the event
• Fujinon (8K lenses (HP7.5×8.5 & HP11x22.5) and BT Sport preferred 4K lens partner)
• Socionext (s8-c21 Quad HDMI 2.0 to HDMI 2.1a converter)
• BlackMagic Design (Quad 12GB SDI to HDMI Converter)
• Leader (Leader 8K LV5900 Waveform Monitor)
• Beamr (Beamr 5 8K HEVC Encoder)
• Telegenic (BT Sport OB Partner)
• Timeline TV (BT Sport OB Partner)
• Sony Professional Solutions Europe (HDC-8300 8K HDR Camera, PWS-4500 8K recording Servers and HDRC-4000 HDR converters)