LOS ANGELES — Ultra High Definition was the talk of the annual CEA Industry Forum, held here in October. Mike Dunn, president of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, made his pitch for a combination Ultra High-Definition Blu-ray deck with a multi-TB hard drive and a separate Ultra HD server for the home in his keynote, while a panel of hardware and industry experts discussed the new video format.
Dunn pushed in his keynote that the entertainment industry is “linked to your [CE] business. We need to work together to succeed.”
He emphasized the idea of a “Digital Bridge … which could be a multi-TB drive in a Blu-ray player and a stand-alone TB drive with the same type of storage that would be put in the family room, could be easy to log onto, and download [content] to Ultra HD TVs.”
He added that these devices could send 2D content to local devices within the home via Wi-Fi and the web.
Dunn, alluding to a presentation just prior to his talk about future technologies, said, “All I’m asking for is an Ultra HD Blu-ray player with a hard drive. After hearing about driverless cars, how tough is that?”
He did say that Hollywood “and the CE industry [are] in discussions about this with the Blu-ray Disc Association. I’m here to give it a little push.”
When asked when we might expect to see such products reach the market, Dunn guessed, “I expect Christmas 2015 for these types of devices. We want a strong presentation with plenty of ‘sauce’ if you are going to really sell the experience. We want to load these products up to deliver big, fat files that give consumers fully flavored, deep experiences. That’s what we want.”
And there is plenty of content available and demand to be met. Dunn said that Americans watch 4.5 hours of TV a day, and when it comes to Internet video, 60 percent of it is in long form — movies or TV shows.
“By 2015 there will be plenty more choices. And our content is everywhere — at retail, online, in packaged media, streamed — on devices of all types.”
To get more Ultra HD content available, the 20th Century Fox Innovation Lab will be launched in 2014 “for us to work together.” Fox wants to “discuss and create the technology at the same time with the CE industry.”
Dunn added, “We have a passion about the real estate under the TV — it is a valuable 4-foot area under TVs worldwide that provide content. Many industries would love that kind of space. We want [devices] developed that are integrated and a no-brainer for consumers — an innovation that we can growth with for the next 10 years.”
The Ultra HD panel was moderated by Brian Markwalter, research and standards senior VP for CEA. He was joined by Nick Colsey, business development VP of Sony Electronics; Henry Derovanessian, consumer premises hardware senior VP, DirecTV Engineering; Dan Schinasi, senior marketing manager, Samsung Electronics America; and Clyde Smith, senior VP of new technology, Fox Network Center.
Smith of Fox said on the programming side that the network has recorded 100 NFL, Major League Baseball and NASCAR events in Ultra HD that have not been shown on air, yet “Superzoom has been used on replays so far, and what you can’t see in 2K replays you can see in [down-converted] 4K [replays], so consumers are seeing benefits [from the technology] already.”
There are challenges remaining for Ultra HD in sports programming, Smith said, and more work will have to be done until it is ready for prime time.
Colsey said that Sony believes 4K is “equally important as the introduction of HDTV” and that consumers are already experiencing it because “if they go to the movies, it is usually 4K equipment. Consumers expect and are ready for … [4K’s] attributes. They will be apparent.”
Derovanessian of DirecTV emphasized the advantages satellite downloads of Ultra HD has over other systems. “Satellite is a fat pipe, and we can deliver the best picture quality in the industry. Sharpness and the clarity of picture is what consumers can relate to.”
DirecTV can “leverage smart TVs and devices in the home” by delivering compressed content and “let the display do the decoding and present the best picture quality.”
Fellow panel members Sony and Samsung can do that with standard HD, and Derovanessian said with TVs from those manufacturers, “we don’t need a set-top box to deliver it for 2K, and we can deliver it the same way with 4K programming.”
Colsey of Sony said that the five 4K models are being sold in 3,000 locations nationwide right now. “We have a 4K server in every store we offer our TVs” to demonstrate the format properly.
Smith, when questioned if Ultra HD can be appreciated only up close, noted, “You can sit back further and the programming can be quite compelling. The only problem is when the quality of the content is not truly 4K.”
Or, as Schinasi of Samsung noted, if 4K content is not produced or uploaded properly, “it could look like 3D” without wearing the proper glasses.
For more on the Ultra HD Conference at CES Unveiled in New York on Nov. 12, visit TWICE.com.