BBC makes first live UHD, HDR broadcast on iPlayer

The BBC has streamed its first live event in Ultra High Definition (UHD) and High Dynamic Range (HDR) on BBC iPlayer Beta.

The broadcast took place at the weekend and was a live-stream of a Rugby League match between the York City Knights and Catalans Dragons.

“It’s the first time we’ve streamed a live event in such high quality,” said Phil Layton, head of broadcast and connected systems at BBC Research & Development.

The BBC, used Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) for the broadcast, a type of HDR that was developed by BBC R&D and Japanese broadcaster NHK.

“The BBC chooses to use HLG for BBC iPlayer because it fits very well and reliably into existing live production workflows,” said Layton. “It also provides a great picture not only to HDR devices, but to standard dynamic range (SDR) devices that support the BT.2020 wide colour gamut as well.”

Until last weekend, all the BBC’s UHD efforts have focused around on-demand content. The BBC’s last experiment saw it broadcast the whole series of Blue Planet II on BBC iPlayer in UHD HDR.

“Making the move from on-demand UHD programmes to live UHD footage presents significant engineering challenges for our teams,” said Layton.

“High quality real-time HEVC encoding of UHD is still in its infancy and is much more demanding for live programmes than for on-demand. That means we need to use higher distribution bitrates, and that people’s TVs will need to work harder to show the best picture.”

“We’re always looking to provide our audiences with the best possible viewing experience, and live UHD could be the next step in that journey.”


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