BT Sport live 4k UHD HDR TV broadcasts about to kick off

posted on Tuesday, 30th April 2019 by Steve May

4K  HDR  Broadcast 

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When it comes to broadcast 4k HDR, it seems there's light at the end of the tunnel.

BT Sport has begun a consumer promotion for HDR, as it continues to take the initiative in live 4k TV broadcasting. The telecoms giant has started running promos for its upcoming HDR service, and promoting its innovating position on 5G.

It’s shouldn’t surprise that BT will lead the way with broadcast HDR. The company has consistently set the pace, being the first to launch live 4k sports coverage in 2015, then adding live Dolby Atmos to the mix in 2016.

The road to HDR, though, has been long and complicated.

The DVB steering board approved technical specifications for Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) HDR in 2016, along with a Phase 2 specification for High Frame Rate (HFR) broadcasting above the current 50/60 Hz standard, and Next Generation Audio (NGA). BT first broadcast a UEFA Champions League match in HDR, back in March 2018, and trialled HDR to screens for a private audience. While HDR and NGA are still some way off, HLG HDR is now on a fast track for public launch.

The challenge for broadcasters is to ensure HLG improves, and doesn’t degrade, the viewing experience. While premium 4k UHD screens have the capability to display true High Dynamic Range images, the majority of lower-cost, lower-brightness HDR-ready 4k screens do not. In some cases, HDR can make the image worse, not better, as the display darkens in order to tone map highlights. This can make an HDR 4k screen uncomfortable to watch in even modestly lit ambient light conditions.

HLG provides backwards compatibility in this regard.

First 4k Sports Crop

Inside CI has repeatedly seen the unintended consequences of poor HDR handling on projectors, which don’t have the ability to apply local dimming to an HDR source. In many case, switching HDR support off on a projector can provide a better picture than leaving it on.

BT Sport COO Jamie Hindhaugh, speaking at the launch of the new BT Sport app for Apple TV, Samsung Smart TVs and Xbox, earlier this year, commented: “4k is important to BT Sport, as is HDR and object-based audio broadcasting. There’s more to come.”

Arch rival Sky has made no announcements on HDR, but given the two broadcast operations tend to mirror each other, it’s fair to assume that Sky Sports will also be closing in on a launch date for its own HDR 4k service.

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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