Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Telairity Dives Deep Into 4K Technology – Part 4

The value of UHD over HD is that it allows us to get closer to screens of the same size, or view
bigger screens at the same distance, with no change in visual quality. In either case, the screen
will appear bigger to us, i.e., occupy more or our total viewing area. And that, we said, means
UHD enables a more immersive or higher quality viewing experience.

This improvement, however, is not free. Its cost is quadrupling the number of pixels per
display, from about 2 million to about 8 million. What are the implications of multiplying
pixels?

Digitally speaking, every pixel is a number, specifically a binary number that represents a
specific color shade. For each pixel, the display reads its number, and generates the colored
block appropriate for that number in the location appropriate for that pixel in a size
appropriate to the resolution format for a display of the given dimensions.

The pixel numbering standard in common use today for broadcast television is so-called “8-
bit” color, which generates a binary number 24 bits long for each pixel, sufficient to enable a
total palette of over 16 million colors.1 Since 16 million is more color shades than even the
most discerning human eye can distinguish, 8-bit color (24 bits/pixel) is sometimes called
“true color”, as the first and simplest digital color scheme to enable everything the human
eye can see (and more).2

The problem created by digital imagery in general, and HD and UHD television in particular,
isn’t that digital technology is inferior to older analog technology, or that it is inadequate to
express the full range of our senses. It is simply that digital technology able to provide a high
quality experience takes a lot of bits, and improvements in quality take even more bits.

Specifically, an HD picture composed of 2 million pixels, each corresponding to a 24-bit
number, requires 48 million bits to express. And that is just for a single frame. Full HD plays
out at 30 frames a second, meaning a total bit rate of nearly 1.5 billion bits every second.

This is not just a large number; it is an overwhelming number. It is impractical to store 1.5
billion bits for every second of HD video captured, let alone transmit bits at that rate.
Fortunately, there is a powerful remedy for the proliferation of bits required by digital
rendering technology, namely digital compression technology. Compression technology is
especially powerful for video, where standards like H.264 allow the elimination of 299 bits
out of every 300, reducing 1.5 billion bits a second to a much more manageable 5 million bits
a second.

But what happens to data rates when the television industry shifts from HD to UHD? In the
next part of this series, we will look at the dark underside of the move to UHD display
technology.

Telairity has made a name for itself as the industry’s leading video processing solutions provider. Please write in to us at sales@telairity.com to learn more about our products and to collaborate with our team.


1.Why are pixels 24 bits long described as “8-bit color”? It’s because “8-bit color” refers not to pixel length, but
rather to “channel” length, or the number of bits used to encode each of the 3 primary colors (Red-Green-Blue)
that make up a pixel. Adding the 3 8-bit primary color “channels” together gives the overall total of 3 x 8 or 24
bits/pixel. There are 256 8-bit binary numbers (possible combinations of 1s and 0s between 00000000 and
11111111). Thus, an 8-bit channel provides 256 distinct shades each of Red, Green, and Blue, or 256 x 256 x 256
= 16,777,216 “mixed” colors.]

2.Although the long strings of 1s and 0s that comprise binary numbers can seem quite daunting on first encounter, understanding binary numbering is really very easy. The basic rule is just that every bit added to a binary number doubles the number of possible combinations supported. This can be seen most readily by starting at the beginning, with 1 bit, which has only 2 possible values (0, 1). Adding a second bit allows 4 possible values (00, 01, 10, 11). And so on: 3 bits have 8 possible values (000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110, 111), 4 bits have 16 possible values, 5 bits 32 possible values, etc. By the time you reach the 8-bit values used in “true color” RGB encoding, this doubling algorithm has passed by 64 (6 bits) and 128 (7 bits) to reach 256 possible combinations. The doubling rule itself is most readily understood by the fact that adding a bit simply allows us to write all the numbers of the previous set twice over, the first time tacking a 0 on to the front of all the previous numbers, the second time tacking on a 1 (e.g., compare the 8 3-bit values with the 4 2-bit values shown above). 8 bits is regarded as “true color” since it is the first channel value safely past the outer limits of human color perception. That is to say, if you build up a color bar out of 256 strips, each with an adjacent shade of, for example, red—running from a strip of pure red on one end to a strip of pure black (no color) on the other—this color bar will not appear to the eye as 256 distinct stripes, but rather as a single continuous gradient, shading from red to black by insensible steps. Which is to say, when a color is divided into as many as 256 distinct steps, we have moved below the threshold of noticeable differences between adjacent steps—in other words, no one can tell shade 1 from shade 2, shade 2 from shade 3, and so on down the row of 256 shades. In fact, for most people, the same would be true of a color bar built up from 128 strips (7-bit channels), but the very keenest eyes under ideal conditions might be able to distinguish very faint stripes in this bar. So 7-bit color channels (128 x 128 x 128 = 2,097,152 mixed colors) are not quite past the limits of human perception. But 8-bit color channels, which multiply the number of mixed colors by 8 (= 2 x 2 x 2), are easily sufficient to include not only all the colors anyone might ever be able to distinguish under any circumstances, but many millions more besides that no one can tell apart from their neighbors.]

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Telairity Dives Deep Into 4K Technology – Part 3

In a nutshell, here is the whole technical difference between an HD display and a UHD display:
since UHD formats cram 4X the number of pixels onto a screen as HD, for screens of the same
size, UHD pixels are ¼ the size of HD pixels; conversely, for pixels of the same size, UHD
screens have 4X the viewing area of HD screens.


The Difference Between HD and UHD for a Viewer


In simplest terms, then, the whole viewing difference between an HD display and a UHD
display comes down to just one point: bigger screens with no loss of visual quality—where
“visual quality” is measured by the single metric of apparent pixel size. It makes no difference
whether you replace your old display with a new UHD display of the same size and move
closer to it; or keep the same viewing distance, but replace your old display with a bigger UHD
display. In both cases, the effect is exactly the same: the screen looms larger in your visual
space.


UHD Provides a More Immersive Viewing Experience


The ability to increase apparent screen size with no loss of visual quality is not everything, but
it is not nothing, either. The apparent size of a screen in our viewing area is a key factor in
what is generally called viewing immersion; indeed, the illusions of virtual reality are created
largely by covering our entire viewing space with a screen.

By this analysis, then, the advantage of UHD over HD is primarily its ability to create a more
immersive viewing experience, by allowing us to get closer to screens of the same size, and
view larger screens at the same distances, with no loss in visual quality. This is presumably a
good thing, at least when we want to be more immersed in what we are viewing. But, like
many good things, UHD has its own trade-offs.

The Cost of the UHD Experience


The most obvious trade-off for UHD is simply the cost quadrupling the number of pixels per
video frame, from about 2 million to about 8 million. As a viewer, you might think that doesn’t
matter, as long as advancing display technology makes new 8-million pixel UHD screens
available in the same price range formerly paid for comparable 2-million pixel HD screens.
Like an iceberg, however, the implications of multiplying pixelsrun far deeper than the visible
surface of a UHD screen. We will turn to that topic in the next part of this series.

Telairity has made a name for itself as the industry’s leading video processing solutions provider. Please write in to us at sales@telairity.com to learn more about our products and to collaborate with our team

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Telairity Dives Deep Into 4K Technology – Part 2

Continuing the discussion of resolution standards for television displays we began in Part 1,
the important point about digital bitmap formats like HD and UHD is that they fix the number
of pixels a display has, independent of screen size. Every “full HD” screen is an array of 1920
x 1080 pixels, whether the screen measures 30” or 70” or some other number. Similarly, every
UHD screen is an array of 3840 x 2160 pixels, regardless of how large or small the UHD screen.

Pixels Size and PPI


Obviously, with a fixed number of pixels—roughly, 2M in a 2x1 “2K” HD bitmap, 8M in a 4x2
“4K” UHD bitmap—what must happen as an HD or UHD screen gets larger or smaller is that
the individual pixels in the array must grow or shrink in size accordingly. This brings us to yet
another critical metric for displays, known as ppi or pixels-per-inch. Although an old idea
(familiar to anyone who has ever bought a raster printer as dpi or dots-per-inch), this metric
was first popularized for displays by Apple, with the term “retina display”, meaning a display
where the pixels are too small to be individually distinguished by the human eye, even on
close scrutiny. In ppi terms, pixels get too small to be seen (by all but the most eagle-eyed)
somewhere just short of the number 300, so a “retina display” is any screen with a ppi number
of 300 or greater.

The Importance of “Recommended Viewing Distance”


The notion of ppi, in turn, brings us to our final critical metric for this discussion, viewing
distance. Even the largest pixels can be made too small to be individually distinguished by the
human eye, by the simple expedient of moving the eye further away from the display. This is
the principle behind “Jumbotron” displays, which have pixels the size of playing cards (or
bigger), but are designed to be viewed from hundreds of feet away.

If TV screens were built to retina display standards, intended to withstand close scrutiny from
a few inches away, they would be disappointingly small. An HD screen built to the “retina
display” threshold of 300 ppi would be smaller than 7 x 4 inches (about the size of many
current smartphone screens). Even an UHD “retina display” would be less than 13 x 8 inches.

The reason TV screens of 50” and more are common is simply that TVs are not designed for
close up “retina display” viewing. As screens (pixels) are made bigger, the adjustment made
by display manufacturers is simply to increase the recommended viewing distance (thereby
maintaining a constant apparent pixel size in the eye of the viewer). Conversely, as screens
(pixels) get smaller, viewers are allowed to gradually move closer, following recommended
viewing distance guidelines, again with no change in the apparent pixel size.

It’s taken awhile, but we are now ready to explain the impact of the shift from HD to the new
UHD resolution standard … in the next part of this series.

Telairity has made a name for itself as the industry’s leading video processing solutions provider. Please write in to us at sales@telairity.com to learn more about our products and to collaborate with our team.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Telairity Dives Deep into 4K Technology – Part 1

The world of resolutions is multifaceted, and confusing, to say the least! Just when we thought
that so-called “Full HD” resolution (or “2K”) was the absolute cutting edge, “Ultra-High
Definition” (UHD or “4K”) made an appearance and changed the equation. Actually UHD/4K
technology has been in the news since 2010, but 2015 saw a steep drop in the prices of
devices supporting UHD and, judging by the latest adoption figures, the market has warmed
considerably to the new resolution standard.

What is 4K Technology?


In the old analog world of CRT display screens, screens were measured by the number of scan
linesthey supported. A standard SD screen had either 480 or 540 visible scan lines(depending
on which standard, NTSC or PAL, was used in your region). The shift to HD, with its much
higher resolutions, precipitated a shift in the underlying technology, from analog to digital.

In the new digital world of TV technology, display screens are no longer measured by the
number of scan lines they support, but rather by the number of pixels they display. Digitally
speaking, the highest resolution SD screens are now pixel arrays 720 wide x 480 or 540 high.
Full HD screens are pixel arrays 1920 wide x 1080 high. Rounded off, HD resolution is about
2000 x 1000, which gets shortened to “2K” in digital-speak. UHD or 4K simply doubles each of
these HD (2K) dimensions, to about 4000 x 2000 (or, more precisely, to exactly 3840 x 2160).
In round numbers, then, HD is about 2 million pixels/screen, while UHD is about 8 million
pixels/screen, or 4X the resolution of HD.

Pixels Not the Only Issue


It is easy to get confused here, because pixel number is only one aspect of the technology
used to manufacture displays. Another critical aspect is the technology used to render pixels
(whatever their number). This is where you encounter terms like LCD (Liquid Crystal Display),
LED (Light Emitting Diode), OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode), etc. Rendering technology
controls the maximum darkness and lightness of a screen (its contrast ratio), as well as how
bright and vivid colors appear. Yet another issue has to do with screen shape (curved or flat),
and the effect this has on the viewing experience.

Obviously, if you change multiple aspects of a display at once, the impact of a new display can
be far greater than the impact that would be produced by any one change in isolation. No
doubt, shifting from a flat LCD HD display to a curved OLED UHD display will dramatically
transform one’s viewing experience. But what part of this transformation is specifically
contributed by the change in pixel count, i.e., the shift from HD to UHD? And what by the
other new technologies for displays now coming into commercial use? We will continue this
discussion in the next part of this series.

Telairity has made a name for itself as one of the industry’s leading providers of video encoding solutions. Please write in to us at sales@telairity.com to learn more about our products and to collaborate with our team.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Telairity is Celebrating 15 years Serving the Broadcast Industry

In 2016, Telairity is celebrating its 15th anniversary as a market leader in the broadcast industry.  Since 2001, we have been designing, manufacturing and marketing video processing solutions for broadcast and professional video applications.  We produce next generation encoding solutions made in Silicon Valley, USA, and used around the world.  Our experience and history of providing solutions for video processing over these last 15 years is a big part of the advantage that we bring to each new project.



The broadcast industry has undergone massive changes over the last 15 years, moving from analog to all-digital technology, from SD to HD and UHD, from 2D to 3D, from CRT displays to flat panel displays, from time-bound to on-demand viewing, from large fixed screens in living rooms and bedrooms to small on-the-go mobile screens—to name just some of the more notable shifts. Telairity has continually produced innovative products and solutions to meet broadcaster’s demands within rapidly changing technologies.  The advanced video compression systems we provide uniquely fast start-up times and combine low latency with low bitrates during operation.  This makes them an ideal choice for both remote and field broadcast applications, which require top-of-the-line real-time performance, and for IPTV and other applications, that require the lowest achievable bitrates.

Today, Telairity systems are deployed in over 50 countries around the world for tasks that include electronic news gathering, in-stadium replay, remote learning, outreach programs, event streaming, and more—wherever video must be moved reliably, economically, and efficiently in real time.  As one of the few companies that controls all its key technologies, from video processor development through system enclosure design, Telairity is also uniquely able to customize systems to meet specific needs.  Whether it’s simply a new combination of existing capabilities, or a requirement for capabilities not yet offered on any standard product, we will work with you to find the right solution to your encoding needs.


Over our 15 years, Telairity has designed and manufactured numerous products that have met the new technology needs of the broadcasting industry.  Due to our investment in technology, we offer encoding platforms that are powerful, fast and reliable and are always working to meet the latest demands of the industry.  It has been a pleasure to serve our customers over the last 15 years, and we look forward to providing next-generation encoding solutions for our customers for years to come.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Acquisitions Help the Industry Grow

Business acquisitions happen every day. But every so often, one happens that makes an industry sit up and notice. With the purchase of Elemental Technologies, Amazon has done just this. Once merely a helpful website for last-minute holiday shopping from the comfort of your living room, Amazon is now the leading lifestyle website. On top of what they started with, they have diversified into mobile phones, e-readers, content programming, and much more. With this latest purchase, Amazon is extending itself even further.

What Does Elemental Technologies Bring to the Table?


Elemental is a company that specializes in processing and delivering video feed, for customers ranging from broadcast television, to Major League Baseball, to ESPN, and even NASA. It is not solely concentrated on broadcasting though, and has been a pioneer in developing software for multi-screen content delivery. This includes:

  •  Multi-format content that works on televisions, tablets, smartphones, and other formats.
  •  App-delivered video offerings.
  •  4K TV service
  •  Internet device support partner for the 2012 Summer Olympics

Elemental has regularly been named amongst the best technology companies year in and year out and is also known for being innovative, always on the cutting edge of digital media.

How Does This Affect Us at Telairity?


As the leading providers of SD and HD Broadcast Encoders, acquisitions such as this give us hope for continuing growth in the industry, which equates to continuing growth for us as a business. While Elemental brings the software to the multi-screen world, both Amazon and Elemental need hardware providers to handle the demanding up-front task of real-time encoding. This is where Telairity looks to come in, by using our expertise in providing real-time hardware encoding solutions to capitalize in this growing field. After all, if Amazon is looking to invest in the multi-screen field, there are sure to be others not too far behind.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Telairity Introduces Multi-Channel Encoder Capable of Supporting Both SD and HD

With the resolutions war raging in full earnest and new devices hitting the market every month, encoding has turned into a complicated issue. Telairity has ruled the H.264/AVC video processing domain for quite some time now, and our latest product, the multichannel BE8700 distribution encoder only strengthens our claim to be the best in the business.

What is the BE8700?

The BE8700 is a 1 to 4 channel encoder offering state-of-the-art 4:2:0 H.264/AVC (MPEG-4) video compression for all HD and SD television formats. In its 4-channel configuration, it can accept different HD and SD feeds on every channel, auto-configuring by input type from 4 HD and 0 SD all the way to 0 HD and 4 SD channels, including any 3/1, 2/2, or 1/3 HD/SD combination in between. Or, it can take in a single HD or SD feed, and simultaneously provide 4 different primary encodes of that feed at different bitrates and resolutions. Based on the latest generation of Telairity’s distinctive TVP technology, it is a forward-looking product, capable of accommodating emerging HEVC and UHD specifications.

Completing the New Next-Generation Encoding Family from Telairity

The multi-channel BE8700 distribution encoder is the final member of a complete next-generation family of H.264/AVC encoders from Telairity, all based on new TVP technology. The other members of this family are the BE8600 single-channel contribution encoder, supporting both 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 formats in a convenient half-width “go anywhere” package, and the blade-based SES3200, with provides up to 32 HD/SD channels in a telco-grade ATCA chassis designed for non-stop reliability with automatic fail-over, multiple power supplies, extensive monitoring and alarm functions, and hot-swap upgradeability.


The Right Solution for Tumultuous Times

The new BE8700 together with the other members of Telairity’s next-generation encoding family are expressly designed to provide an oasis of calm in a tumultuous video processing market. Based on new TVP technology, the BE8700, the BE8600, and the SES3200 provide the breadth of capabilities needed to address any current HD and/or SD real-time encoding need at the highest possible level, while at the same time providing the headroom needed to tackle the still more demanding requirements of a video future bright with the promise of higher resolutions, higher bandwidths, new types of displays, more devices, and an increasingly mobile audience.

If you would like to know more about what the BE8700 or any of Telairity’s other next-generation encoders can accomplish for you, please get in touch with us at sales@telairity.com