BBC to trial UHD over IP network at Commonwealth Games

The BBC will trial ultra-high definition broadcasts and IP network content delivery at a showcase during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

The BBC’s R&D department will broadcast certain elements of the upcoming Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in ultra-high definition (UHD) to a public showcase at the Glasgow Science Centre.

The demonstration, which will form part of BBC Scotland’s BBC at the Quay event, is designed to give the public an opportunity to get a flavour of how UHD sports broadcasting could look in the future. The format offers levels of detail up to four times higher than current HD broadcasts.

At the same time, the BBC is planning to make the UHD broadcasts the first major live event to be produced and distributed entirely over an IP network.

To run its experiments, the BBC has teamed up with a number of research partners, including Virgin Media Business – which earlier this year collaborated with the broadcaster to stream outside broadcasts from local elections in west London across the Public Services Network (PSN) – and will provide high-speed fibre-optic connectivity between the stadiums and facilities in Glasgow and Salford.

Meanwhile, the Jisc network, JANET, will provide a Cisco-based production network from R&D facilities to an IP production gallery at the Glasgow Science Centre.

From the production gallery, content will be delivered via superfast broadband infrastructure within the Glasgow Science Centre, as well as over digital terrestrial television (DTT) in an extension to an existing trial of hybrid DTT/IP broadcasting.

The BBC said producing and distributing its UHD broadcast across an IP network was a major milestone in the convergence of broadcast and IT technologies.

Besides the capability to stream more data more quickly, using IP networks could also facilitate more flexible ways of working at the BBC, such as centralised production of outside broadcasts and associated cost benefits, or the development of new technical services such as augmented video, which could be used to provide on-demand player statistics or trivia during football matches, for example.

The experiment will provide the BBC with valuable data to help it determine the future needs of its live TV production teams using an IP network-based model, looking at factors such as high bit-rate streaming, timing and synchronisation, distributed configuration and control, and flexible reuse of processing, among other things.

BBC R&D controller Matthew Postgate said: “By proving for the first time that complex events can be created and delivered completely over IP technology, we are opening up a world of possibilities to programme makers and the wider industry.

“Not only could BBC R&D’s vision for a new broadcasting system help producers create programmes more efficiently and cost-effectively, but it allows them to take advantage of data like never before, offering new editorial options and ways of improving the experience for audiences."

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