ATSC 3.0 Announcements at CES 2019

With the ATSC 3.0 standard essentially finished last year, the casual observer might have expected to see new product at this year’s CES Show in Las Vegas.

Indeed, while there were a few 3.0 TVs scattered about – including at invitation-only showings by well-known TV manufacturers at suites and hotels – they were only early prototypes, since we shouldn’t expect to see real product announcements until the 2020 show – which just happens to be when broadcasters have said they will crank up transmissions using the new standard.

Echoing this at the show was the VP of Communications at LG, John Taylor, who said, “We expect that the launch pad is really 2020,” which is consistent with the typical 18 to 24 month silicon design cycle for chips to follow a new standard.

ATSC 3.0 Software Stack

ATSC 3.0 is, of course, the latest version of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) standard. It will support several advances including mobile viewing, 3D television, 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD), high dynamic range (HDR), high frame rate (HFR), and wide color gamut (WCG) picture quality, as well as immersive audio and interactivity.

Until we see those new products emerge, the news we’re more likely to see will be from broadcasters.


Industry Leaders Collaborate to Launch ATSC 3.0 Chip for Broadcast and Mobile Applications

ONE Media LLC, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group, and India’s Saankhya Labs, together with VeriSilicon and Samsung Foundry, announced at CES the successful launch of an advanced multi-standard demodulator System-on-a-Chip (SoC) supporting the ATSC 3.0 standard.

The universal demodulator chip is based on Saankhya’s patented Software Defined Radio Platform, and supports 12 DTV standards including ATSC 3.0, DVB-T2, ISDB-T, and satellite and cable standards for TV, set-top boxes, and home gateways, as well for automotive and mobile applications.

This announcement follows Sinclair Broadcast Group’s recent commitment to a nationwide roll-out of ATSC 3.0 service and its past announcement to fund millions of chipset giveaways for wireless operators.

Two variants of the chip were announced: a “Demod-only” variant, SL3000, is designed for TV applications such as in HDTV sets, Set-top Boxes (STB) and home gateways. A “Demod-plus” Tuner variant, SL4000, is designed for mobile and portable devices, possibly making it the world’s first mobile-ready ATSC 3.0 chip. The mobile device is targeted to accelerate the adoption of the ATSC 3.0 standard across markets with both Direct-To-Mobile TV capabilities and Broadcast/Broadband convergence solutions.

The demodulator SoC was designed and developed by Saankhya Labs with ASIC turnkey design and manufacturing services from VeriSilicon, using Samsung Foundry’s state-of-the-art 28FDS (Fully Depleted SOI) process technology), chosen for its low-power capabilities.

Mark Aitken, President of ONE Media 3.0, said,

These mobile 3.0 chips validate the ‘sea change’ in over-the-air distribution of not only television, but all digital data. Broadcasters are doing their part by deploying the NextGen transmission facilities, and now there will be devices enabled to receive that data, personalized and in mobile form. This chip is the key to that disruptive future in a 5G world.”


Broadcasters and Mobile Operators Partner to Deploy ATSC 3.0 – Harman Separately Partnering in Mobile Applications

SK Telecom and Sinclair Broadcast Group announced in Las Vegas that the companies signed a joint venture agreement to lead next-generation broadcasting solutions market in the U.S. and globally. The two companies will jointly fund and manage a joint venture company within the first quarter of this year. The joint venture company will develop innovative broadcasting solutions based on ATSC 3.0.

The commercialization of broadcasting solutions based on ATSC 3.0 – which enables data communications in broadcasting bands – will give rise to new services such as personalized advertisement and in-vehicle terrestrial TV broadcasting and map updates. It will also support two-way communication between broadcasting companies and user’s smartphone/vehicle/TV by recognizing user’s personal IP address.

SK Telecom and Sinclair anticipate all television broadcasting stations throughout the U.S. will adopt broadcasting solutions based on ATSC 3.0 within the next decade. Through the joint venture company, the two companies plan to actively provide ATSC 3.0 standards-based solutions to all U.S. broadcasting companies and seek other opportunities globally. The joint venture agreement follows last year’s memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between SK Telecom and Sinclair at CES 2018 to jointly develop leading technology for ATSC 3.0 broadcasting.

Separately, the two companies also announced at the 2019 CES Show that they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Harman International, a subsidiary of Samsung, to jointly develop and commercialize digital broadcasting network-based automotive electronics technology for global markets.

The companies intend to unveil their automotive platform and related equipment and services for the first time at the 2019 National Association of Broadcasters Show (NAB Show) in Las Vegas in April 2019.

— agc

Why You Should Run Out and See “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Again

The landmark film is being re-released in select U.S. theaters this month, to mark the 50th anniversary of Stanley Kubrick’s science fiction blockbuster.

You should go see it, either again, or for the first time.

First of all, it’s an artistic masterpiece that stands up well, even after five decades of cinema technology advancement.  And the story, at the very least, is thought-provoking.  Never mind that the allegory is at times radical, to say the least.

But there’s a technical reason to go see it in a theater: if you’ve only seen it on a video display in your home, you’re missing out on the way Kubrick captured the images.  This is because the film was shot in Super Panavision 70, which uses a 65 mm negative, and spherical lenses, to create an aspect ratio of 2.20:1.

Since your “puny” HDTV at home has an aspect ratio of 16:9 (1.78:1), this means that every electronic reproduction of the film has either been heavily cropped (at the sides), or has been  letterboxed.  The former means you’ve lost parts of the image, and the latter means you’ve lost resolution.

Plus, seeing it on a large screen in a theater completely outperforms seeing it on a little screen in your home.  And the distribution is in a clean, unretouched 70mm print.

Go see it!  In New York City, it’s playing at the Village East, May 18 – May 24.  Check your favorite website for other cities.

— agc

ATSC 3.0 Featured Prominently at 2018 NAB Conference

“The Road to ATSC 3.0: Powered by ATSC 3.0” Ribbon Cutting CeremonyDeployment of ATSC 3.0 is off and running, with a strong showing this month at this year’s NAB Conference in Las Vegas. More than 40 exhibitors and 22 technology-and-business sessions demonstrated the level of interest in the new Next Generation Broadcast TV standard, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony kicking off the activities.

ATSC President Mark Richer underscored the level of 3.0 presence at the show, saying “That’s how we know it’s real, and that’s how we know it’s happening,” and Sam Metheny, EVP/CTO at NAB, said that while ATSC is now “moving to the implementation phase,” it is a “living standard that will continue to evolve over time.” Mike Bergman, ‎Senior Director, Technology & Standards at the Consumer Technology Association, anticipates “broad deployment, and a breathtakingly immersive viewing experience,” which should complement the growing momentum of 4K TV sales.

Now that the ATSC 3.0 standard has been approved, broadcasters can develop two-way, IP-based connections with their viewers and deliver TV experiences on par with other digital media. Looking to the future, conference panelists addressed key Next Gen TV capabilities, including enhanced audience insights, addressable advertising, interactivity, and personalization, along with plans to generate incremental revenue and audience engagement.

Broadcasters are used to slow change, but now need to change faster, even on a monthly basis. The world is changing faster, and consumer demands are changing, with OTA viewership growing, and OTT services and usage growing. Mobile viewing continues to increase, a cord cutting / shaving / nevers are changing TV marketplace dynamics. On-demand viewing is an assumed feature, and digital advertising is increasingly powerful, so targeted advertising is now essential.

Chart courtesy of NAB Pilot Program

SFNs (single-frequency networks, a broadcast technology comparable to mobile cellular networks) will enable all of these new services, and data analytics will drive the opportunities. The WiFi/mobile broadband return channel defined by ATSC 3.0 means that even simple receivers need a back channel.

While MVPDs (Multichannel video programming distributors, i.e. cable and satellite) have long provided a revenue stream to broadcasters through retransmission-consent agreements, this could be one key area of the change in business model made possible by ATSC 3.0, which is not mandated by the FCC, other than at the transmission layer, and whose carriage is not currently subject to retrans obligations.

Broadcasters are interested in gathering viewership data from mobile devices and doing dynamic ad insertion. Reaching individuals will be attractive to advertisers, and broadcasters can now put movies into home boxes for Netflix, bypassing MVPDs. ATSC 3.0 is thus poised as a medium to test new business models, and broadcasters can partner with other spectrum owners and mobile carriers to supplement the “traditional” mobile spectrum.

The Phoenix Model Market project is the first collaborative single-market effort to plan for and implement a transition to next-generation over-the-air television broadcasting. Twelve stations in the Phoenix market are participating, with service testing expected to start Q2’18, and consumer service testing in Q4’18. In addition to business model testing, consumer testing will extend into 2019.

Among the consumer-facing business models to be tested are program guide & hybrid TV, personalization, and emergency alerts. On the broadcaster side, content protection, data & measurement, advanced advertising, and transition models will be evaluated.

— agc

A Few Thoughts About 4K Resolution

Ultra-HD and 4K TVs are quickly coming down in price, and manufacturers are pushing them as “the next big thing.”  Is it worth upgrading?  A central issue here is, can the typical consumer notice the difference?  It all has to do with how far you set from the display, as this will limit one’s ability to perceive small detail.

800px-Snellen_chart.svgSo what is the practical viewing distance for a display? People with “20/20” vision have a visual acuity that can resolve 60 features per degree, or 30 cycles per degree. From this, we can calculate that the “optimum” distance from which to observe a 1080-line display is about 3.2 times the picture height, where the vertical viewing angle is 18 degrees. Further than that, and a person with 20/20 corrected vision can’t resolve the smallest displayed details; closer than that, and you’ll start to see individual pixels.

Stated in screen diagonals, this works out to 1.55 times the diagonal measure of a 1920×1080 display.  For a 1080-line display with 42” diagonal, the optimum viewing distance works out to be about five-and-a-half feet.

But at 4K resolution, in order to resolve 30 cycles per degree, the optimum distance becomes about 1.5 picture heights, or about 0.75 screen diagonals. For an 84” set, that means sitting at about 5.3 feet from the screen — a truly immersive experience, as the horizontal angle subtended by the display would be about 60 degrees, or about half of the normal binocular range of human vision.

Funny enough (or is it?), the 84-inch Sony Bravia is said to have a viewing angle of just that: 60 degrees. But at a smaller screen size, like 42″, the optimum distance is just 32 inches, which is not at all practical, unless you plan to use that as an ultra-large computer monitor.

These calculations assume that there are no other limiting conditions; in reality, factors based on Kell factor, interlace, the inter-pixel grid, contrast and the sharp edges of image details must all be taken into account. Also, because most people view their TV from a larger distance of about 9 feet (the so-called “Lechner distance,” named after RCA researcher Bernie Lechner), the required optimum screen size grows proportionally.

NHK researchers wrote in a 2008 paper that test subjects could distinguish between images with effective resolutions of 78 and 156 cycles per degree. This suggests that some people can tell the difference between a display with 1080 lines and one with 2160 lines, when viewed within the practical confines of a living room.

Of course, 4K sets come bundled with other features that exceed the capability of HD sets, like 60 fps (or higher), and 10-bit color – with 12-bit on the way.  Just emerging, too, are sets with High Dynamic Range (HDR), which provides an improvement in perception of reality that, in many cases, can exceed that of 4K alone.

Time to get a bigger house?

–agc

Industry Analysis

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