The Power of Color: HDR and WCG @ Cable Tec 2016

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Dr. Sean McCarthy, ARRIS Fellow

Video quality is easily recognizable to the trained eye, but equating a number with quality is often more problematic. Without consistent video-quality metrics, cable operators cannot make informed decisions when setting bitrate and video-quality performance targets, nor when choosing technology partners for High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Wide Color Gamut (WCG) services.

A recent scientific study with professional-quality Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) and HDR videos found that viewers prefer HDR over SDR by a large margin – largely due to the fact that it’s the closest thing to reality that’s available on TV. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. HDR and WCG are doing an excellent job of bringing TV picture quality in line with what we see through our own eyes. The experience, according to many consumers, is “like looking out of a window.” That’s because HDR and WCG create a more convincing and compelling sense of light than previously was possible.

At this year’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016, Dr. Sean McCarthy, ARRIS Fellow, will present new research and techniques designed to help answer the pressing questions facing cable providers when it comes to setting video quality and performance targets for HDR and WCG video services including:

  • What happens to a viewer’s quality of experience when pristine, high-quality HDR content is compressed for distribution?
  • What happens when HDR WCG content is converted to SDR content to support legacy displays and consumer set-tops?
  • Do distortions and compression artifacts become more noticeable in HDR? Or does processed HDR lose some of its sparkle and become less discernible from ordinary SDR?

Dr. Sean McCarthy is an expert in content distribution, video compression, signal processing and the neurobiology of human vision. He currently leads advancements in state-of-the-art of video processing, compression and practical vision science at ARRIS.

Learn more about “The Power of Color” workshop on Thursday, September 29 from 12:45 – 1:45 p.m., which will be moderated by Bill Warga, VP Technology, Liberty Global.

The UHD dream is becoming reality

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Sean McCarthy Ph.D., Fellow at ARRIS

A few year ago, Ultra High Definition (UHD) was just an idea and today it’s on the verge of widespread adoption, says Sean McCarthy Ph.D., Fellow at ARRIS.

Equipment is emerging, content is in development and consumers are expectant. The stage is set for another TV evolution.

UHD changes the game by offering more pixels and therefore more detail for bigger screens. Add in High Dynamic Range (HDR) and there’s an even more impressive array of colors, contrast and depth.

Many service providers are already making their future intentions clear. With UHD TVs already commonplace in retail stores, an appetite for content is building. With this in mind, the likes of Sky, Virgin Media, NOS, DirectTV and BeIN have all announced or launched UHD services. Some 78% of video service providers say they will have launched 4K UHD content by 2018, according to an SNL Kagan Irdeto report.

HDR is part of the wider UHD growth trajectory. And although it’s still an emerging technology, some providers are already rolling out compliant set-tops. HDR TV shipments are only going to increase and OTT players are already raising the bar in terms of content. Netflix and Vudu are among those leading the field. 

Format war?

There are actually different forms of HDR in existence that deliver content to customers in slightly different ways. They all transfer linear light from the picture captured by the source camera. It’s then delivered to the TV display through a process of compression, encoding, decoding and rendering. But because this can be done in different ways, there are concerns of a format war. The truth is that because of the emergence of streaming media, the differing HDR transfer functions can coexist because there are advantages for each.

For example, the Perceptual Quantizer (PQ) formats – HDR10, Dolby Vision and Technicolor Philips – are ideal for controlled environments. This includes non-live studios and cinematic content where post production can enhance the picture. The Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) format, however, is at its best in live studios and outdoor events. 

The good news is that the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has announced a standard that allows us to convert between the two. We can now gain the advantages of both. And the flexibility for studios, operators and consumer electronics manufacturers will benefit the industry.

Defining quality

With all the content providers, formats and equipment companies how exactly do you measure UHD quality? It’s a question that still doesn’t have a comprehensive answer but it’s one that researchers are looking into. The UHD Alliance has galvanized the major TV players such as Sony and Panasonic and this will help inform consumers. But the best academic means of measuring quality is still up for debate.

Various tools such as peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) and the structural similarity (SSIM) index already exist. But the tools that work well with SD and HD formats don’t always capture the nuances of HDR. Studies are looking at new metrics and they’re making progress but the goal should be simplicity. They should aim to develop UHD HDR video quality metrics that are easy to calculate and provide information that companies can act on.

What UHD is really about

UHD isn’t about impressing consumers with bulging spec sheets. The reason the technology will gain ground is because it enables creatives to tell better stories. And for the viewer, it’s about offering them a better experience that’s even more compelling than HD. With that comes a fantastic opportunity for providers to offer a premium service.

As technology providers, we’re helping to get the infrastructure in place that will enable the growth of UHD and the evolution of home entertainment.

For more information on ARRIS’s UHD solutions, click here or come to our stand at IBC 2016, Hall 1, B19 

The Three Biggest Trends Behind Tomorrow’s TV

TVThe Future of TV was one of the hottest topics of discussion at CES last week. But while newer, bigger, thinner displays; virtual reality goggles; and LED and HDR innovations may have gotten most of the headlines, the underlying technology that enables those innovations was the focus of meetings in and around the show with the world’s leading service providers.

In fact, it really boils down to three incredibly important developments that are quietly transforming TV and the way that service providers will deliver it:

Multi-gigabit Services: This is the biggest development powering the future of TV.

Service providers are upgrading to multi-gigabit pipelines, because today’s TV services sip bandwidth compared to the waterfall of bandwidth that tomorrow’s applications—from 360-degree entertainment, to holographic video and virtual reality—are destined to use.

4K Video over Wi-Fi: 4K is here, but it needs faster Wi-Fi to be everywhere.

The 100 Mbps it takes to stream 4K content to a single device is sorely lacking from most Wi-Fi networks. Given our current appetite for HD content, the inevitability of ubiquitous 4K makes the case for upgrading the content delivery pipeline not only to the home, but throughout it. The answer: gigabit Wi-Fi access points and extenders in the home.

Over the Top (OTT) Set-tops: All of the world’s content is coming to a single screen.

We watch traditional TV, and we watch OTT TV. For most of us, they’re two separate experiences, but soon we’ll be able to enjoy both over a single user experience on our TV, because OTT capabilities are coming to set-tops. Service providers are preparing to deploy these new devices so that we easily can watch anything we want, on the best screen available.

As the hottest technology starts making its way into our local stores and shopping lists, these three trends will be making it all work in millions of homes around the world.

Tomorrow’s Top Technology, Explained – 10 New ARRIS Whitepapers

AWe just published 10 new whitepapers on some of the most important technology and business models making their way to the entertainment and communications industry.

In them, you’ll find insights from the top minds at ARRIS on how to deliver the future of nDVR, UltraHD, IP Video, gigabit speeds, and more. Take a look below:

  1. Creating the Value Proposition for MSO and Consumer Alike in the More Connected Home
  2. Practical Methods to Validate Ultra HD 4k Content
  3. Operational Challenges of 85MHZ Deployment
  4. Lessons From Telco & Wireless Providers: Extending The Life Of The HFC Plant With New Technologies
  5. The Edge Resource Center: Leveraging NFV and SDN for High Availability/High Performance Network Functions
  6. Streamlined Systematic Approach to Video Quality and Bit Rate Planning
  7. The Yin and The Yang of a Move to All Fiber: Transforming HFC to an All Fiber Network While Leveraging the Deployed HFC Assets
  8. High Dynamic Range, Visual Adaptation, & Consumer Perception
  9. Estimating Downstream Performance and DOCSIS 3.1 Capacity In CAA And DAA Systems
  10. Measurement – Based EOL Performance and Stochastic Analysis and DOCSIS 3.1 Spectral Gain

Ultra HD – The future is clear, but why can’t I see it?

Sean McCarthy, Ph.D., Fellow, ARRIS

The landscape is shifting in the world of entertainment, content and delivery. The last few years have seen the world’s biggest brands touting their latest and greatest TVs, most of which boast some form of Ultra HD (UHD) capability. But how many people actually know what this technology is. And for those who have already purchased it, why doesn’t their favorite TV show look wildly better?

Within our industry, UHD, 4K, HDR, 8K, etc. are all common, well-known terms, but we recognize that the majority of consumers out there are unfamiliar with the next generation of HD technologies. So, this year, we would like to take a step back and work to set the stage for what new standards for TV are coming very soon (and are already here).

For those early adopters who already own a UHD TV, you might be frustrated that the UHD content currently available is so limited and difficult to stream. Right now, your smart TV uses several third party apps/monthly services to provide this content, but most of us are wondering the same thing – when will my service provider start programming sports and other content in the resolution my TV is able to deliver?

This is where ARRIS can help. ARRIS is working with programmers and content distributors to develop efficient, reliable, high-quality infrastructure to make UHD a reality. Building out this infrastructure enables a UHD “workflow” to evolve that will get UHD pictures to your living room.

The network matters because workflow matters. How will those who create and deliver content be able to provide these experiences at the highest possible quality, in an efficient way, allowing the service to be affordable for everyone? If the workflow is too complicated, it will drive costs up and even hinder quality. ARRIS is ahead of the curve on this front. We have developed several new technologies that simplify these processes, making them more efficient, and enable cable, IPTV, satellite, and OTT providers to deliver better and richer UHD experiences to customers.

Needless to say, the way we see content on our TVs and smart devices is in the midst of a massive transformation. Over the coming months, we will break down these elements to their core truths to give you a clear picture of what’s to come, how you can prepare, when you should upgrade devices, and much more. So, stay tuned and be sure to send us any questions below.

We’ll also be at the NAB show next week in Vegas, so drop by our booth SU7121 to hear more.

Educating Educators: ARRIS Hosts Teacher Development Day in Philly

Recently, ARRIS brought in teachers from all over the Philadelphia School District for a full-day IMG_0980survey course on tomorrow’s entertainment and communications technology.

We opened up our Horsham Customer Experience Center to host the Spring 2015 Philadelphia School Teacher Professional Development Day—giving local teachers a glimpse of how we help service providers bring new technology and experiences—like 4K, multiscreen, and high-speed broadband—to homes in the Philadelphia metro area.

Our own Global Services manager, Kim Andrews, volunteered the ARRIS Horsham campus for the event as a way to bring community educators up to speed on how a local technology leader is collaborating with its customers to Invent the Future for millions of people around the world—while offering some inspiration as to the kinds of  jobs, innovation, and experiences that await local students.

“Our presentations included recommendations to energize the ‘conversations between teachers and students,’ ” said Kim. “And hopefully, they’ll jumpstart interest from students in the local tech industry.”

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