CBS Sports Back in 4K Swing at PGA Championship; AT&T/DirecTV Explores 1080p HDR Streaming
Holes 16-18 will be in 4K HDR; DirecTV will send 1080p HDR feed to LABC for live-stream test
For the second consecutive PGA Championship and for the fourth time in 2017, CBS Sports and AT&T/DirecTV are teaming up to produce live 4K coverage from Quail Hollow Club.
The scope of this weekend’s coverage, however, is well beyond the 2016 PGA Championship 4K production, which featured coverage of just one hole (Baltusrol Golf Club’s signature No. 4) and a test HDR feed available only onsite inside the production compound. This year, not only will CBS Sports be covering three holes (16-18 for DirecTV’s Green Mile Channel) in 4K, but CBS will also be producing the 4K feed in HDR. From that feed, DirecTV will derive a 1080p HDR signal, which it will send to its Los Angeles Broadcast Center (LABC) in El Segundo, CA, for a live-streaming test by its engineering group.
“I think we are taking a big step forward with 4K and HDR this year [at Quail Hollow],” says Ken Aagaard, EVP, new technology and innovation, CBS Sports. “We have done a lot of 4K at this point, and we feel pretty comfortable with it. The HDR is still a little bit of the Wild West, as we figure out how we’re going to make that work. We haven’t figured out how to get it to the home. We are still trying to make sure we have all the settings right, so that we’re able to create the HDR picture without disturbing the downconverted HD feed. That is what we’ve been working on over the last year. I’m not going tell you we’re home, but we’re probably at third base.”
Inside the 4K HDR Production at Holes 16-18
The 4K HDR production from Quail Hollow’s last three holes will run out of F&F Productions’ new GTX-18 4K HDR truck. This feed is being downconverted to HD to serve DirecTV’s Mosaic coverage of the same holes.
“The F&F truck has a dual purpose so that it’s all one feed, which makes things a lot easier,” says Aagaard. “We’re just taking 4K feed and downconverting it to HD to send to [DirecTV] for the Mosaic.”
The three-hole production will feature five 4K cameras — four Sony HDC-4300’s and a Sony HDC-P43 POV — with Fujinon 4K lenses.
“We’re trying not to mix in any of the non-4K HD cameras because we want to get a true 4K production,” says Aagaard. “So all of the 4300’s are shooting in 4K and then being downconverted for the HD feed.”
The production team also has five EVS XT4K replay servers at its disposal. GTX-18 is built around a Grass Valley K-Frame Kayenne Elite production switcher (192 inputs/96 outputs and 9M/E) and features a 4K monitor wall with 18 31-in. custom Boland 4K monitors. Routing is baseband, via an Evertz 560-input/1,134-output router and an Evertz EMR audio router (192×192 AES/48×96 stereo analog).
The key for CBS Sports this year was creating a model in which a single truck could serve both the DirecTV Mosaic and 4K productions.
“This all shadows what we did when we were moving from SD to HD and even what we did with 3D,” says Aagaard. “When we first [deploy] these new technologies, we end up doing side-by-side trucks, and then, eventually, we find a way to be able to do it in the highest-quality medium and downconvert it for the lower [resolution]. It’s always about the feature set and being able to make sure that everything can come along with it in terms of replays, graphics, and so on. We’re getting much closer to being able to do that in the 4K world. In essence, we have a lot of the tools that we need, but we don’t have everything quite yet.”
1080p HDR Enters the Fold for DirecTV
As for the HDR portion of the production, CBS Sports will produce a 4K HDR feed from GTX-18, and then DirecTV will send a 1080p/HDR signal to its LABC for a live-streaming test. DirecTV will use its encoders to deliver the stream via the AT&T fiber network at 200 Mbps. In addition, the 4K SDR encode will be delivered for normal distribution to DirecTV’s customer base on its 4K Channel 106.
“Our thought is to be able to broadcast 1080p/HDR signals first since more trucks have that capability now,” says John Ward, SVP, content operations, AT&T Entertainment Group. “We believe HDR to be the unique visual difference. As 4K technology evolves, we will want 4K HDR.”
The 4K SDR show will be backhauled via DirecTV’s own encoding scheme over IP at roughly 80 Mbps over its AT&T fiber network. Meanwhile, the 4K HDR test will be encoded via HEVC and shipped for evaluation by AT&T’s engineering teams for streaming first, then eventually over linear broadcast.
“[HDR] really doesn’t add [many new challenges],” notes Ward. “The additional bandwidth is not a huge impact, and our vendor has worked hard to ensure that their encoders are HDR-ready. Our vendors have been working with us on the transcoding functions and HDR support that will allow us to deliver this signal to our customers at the highest quality. Each show adds a little more to the puzzle.”