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BBC is bringing 4K HDR World Cup football to the lucky few

WITH LESS than a month to go to the quadrennial celebration of feetball prowess that is the FIFA World Cup, Aunty Beeb has played its hand.

We’ve already seen tests of 4K technology from the BBC with Blue Planet II which was made available on iPlayer immediately after the main series finished. It’s thought that the crisp views of plastic bags may have been a catalyst for the current debate. Or something. 

What we’ve not seen up to now is how they’ll handle live sport – one of the reasons everyone is trying to sell us new tellies right now. And the answer is… cautiously.

The World Cup is going to be a testbed for 4K/UHD broadcast and as such, it’ll be only a select few of us that will see each match in its full glory.

First, you’ll need to be watching via iPlayer. It’s not entirely clear if that includes iPlayer apps on set-top boxes, but we’d venture that Sky Q might get a look in.

Second, you’ll need to be one of the limited number (somewhere in the five-figure range but not specified) to log on for each match. After that, you’ll be downscaled to 1080p.

The logic is pretty clear – this isn’t a full rollout and as part of the test, BBC R&D will need to offer the best experience it can before scaling up the loads.

4K broadcasts in the UK are still quite limited, with no dedicated channels as yet. Eurosport has teamed up with Virgin Media to show ATP Tennis, which itself is moving to Amazon next year.

Sky Q has a range of live football in 4K, but this is a “red button” option rather than a dedicated channel. It also has a limited range of films and box sets.

BT Sport was first to the punch with live sport but neither uses the newest standard known as ‘high dynamic range colour’ or HDR.

The BBC will be testing a full HDR picture to compatible sets using technology from Japanese broadcaster NHK, called hybrid-log gamma.

Remember though that just because you have a 4K/UHD television doesn’t mean you have HDR – they’re two separate technologies. Don’t get us started on that. You’ll also need also

Elsewhere if you want to get even closer to the action, there’s also going to be experiments in VR streaming, with 33 matches made available for iOS and Android devices, Gear VR, Oculus Go and PlayStation VR.

They’ll include the option to switch to a ‘private box’ overlooking the goal.

This is all largely a gimmick – we’re less convinced that we’ll be seeing VR in future tournaments – it wasn’t that long ago we were being sold 3D football as the future of television.

But 4K HDR is a logical investment for the often cash-strapped BBC who took a bit of flack for not showing the recent Winter Olympics in Ultra-High Definition, despite being offered the feed.

More alarming still, four years on from the last feetball cuppage, we’re still in a trial phase – three 4K matches were shown back then, before anyone had a ruddy 4K telly. 

Elsewhere, there is still no resolution to the fact that the BBC’s HD (1080p) channels cannot currently show regional variations. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have national opt-outs, but English regions have to suffer the “red screen of doom”.

Sport has always been at the heart of the BBCs innovations in new technology (partly because it doesn’t show porn). First seen in 1999, the red button service gave us interactive tennis at Wimbledon at a time when it was the stuff of a mad man’s dream. µ 

Source : Inquirer

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