Contentbridge COO, Doug Reinart (pictured here) shares his insight on the 4K trend, along with products he sees might help consumers.

ContentBridge on 4K
What 4K products do you think will help make 4K a bit easier to use?
The production pipeline will greatly benefit from broader 4K codec support across non-linear editing software. Another big help will come from higher capacity, faster storage media capable of handling the enormous data volumes coming off of today’s 4K (and higher resolution) cameras. While not a product per se, the Academy Color Encoding System (ACES), which attempts to preserve as much information as possible during a production while removing dependency on specific capture and display formats, will have a major impact on 4K and higher content availability. Lastly, creatives need monitors that can faithfully reproduce the images and sound.

For consumers, 4K just needs to work seamlessly. CE manufacturers have to continue to innovate, while removing concerns over technical obsolescence. That will continue to be a problem as long as ‘4K’ TVs and monitors are sold without 10-bit color support, or support for HDR.
We see the cons you find in 4K, but what do you believe are the pros?
The terms ‘4K’ (for 4096 X 2160 resolutions) and ‘Ultra high definition’ (UHD – for 3840 X 2160 resolutions) are often used interchangeably, even if doing so invites the wrath of video professionals.

4K is another step toward delivering a more engaging viewing experience. For some, it may not be quite the leap from HD that HD represented from standard definition. We sometimes forget that the HD difference was accentuated by the advent of flat screens and the conversion from 4:3 to 16:9 aspect ratios. Prior to HD we were all looking at bulky CRTs. With 4K the difference is primarily resolution (although other changes are on the horizon).

4K or UHD resolutions are a noticeable improvement over HD – particularly on screen sizes above 50 inches – leading to a more immersive, theater-like experience. For instance, if you were viewing a 50” monitor, you would have to be sitting just under 7 feet from the screen to fill your field of view the way a properly configured theater would (based on a 30 degree minimum viewing angle recommended by SMPTE for movie theaters). But at that screen size, we can clearly detect resolution differences between UHD and good quality HD (1080p) out to 20 feet.

Larger screens really highlight the advantage of higher resolution. 4K would yield clearly perceptible improvements on a 70” display out to viewing distances of more than 31 feet. A theater-like 30 degree viewing angle for a monitor of that size would be just under 10 feet – a somewhat more practical distance for living room viewing. Clearly, the resolution difference alone from 4K enables a more immersive viewing experience.
Where do you see the future of 4K headed?
4K is clearly not going to fall victim to the same hype cycle as 3D. Our displays are on an inexorable march toward higher resolutions and quality. We see this particularly in the mobile device space, where screen resolutions continue to be a differentiating feature. This is despite the fact that we have probably already reached the meaningful limit of human acuity at 5” to 10” screen sizes. Apple pitched the original retina display based on the argument that 300 pixels per inch represented the limit of our ability to perceive pixels (on a 4” screen at least). Yet actual 4K displays (packing nearly 800 pixels per inch on mobile screens) are around the corner. Samsung’s latest offerings come equipped with a 4K video camera, and many camcorders and DSLRs now feature 4K capture.

Mobile devices and over-the-top video services like Netflix will drive consumer expectations toward 4K. Traditional television delivery infrastructure will lag this time around, but most point to 2018 for mainstream/broad penetration of 4K (just in time for 8K…).

A number of key enablers for broader 4K adoption are advancing, including standardization around the Main 10 (higher-quality 10-bit) profile already adopted by Netflix, as well as HDMI 2.0 (necessary for 4K 60 fps).

Perhaps the biggest impact will come from High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, which is something creatives are putting more value in than resolution improvements. With HDR, content will have a much wider contrast range, which also enables finer gradations of color to be represented on the screen. When this is paired with the much wider color gamut afforded by Rec. 2020 (which supports 10-bit color, versus the 8-bit pallets within HD’s Rec. 709 specification supported by all widely-available displays today) this should really help give the sense of approaching photo-realism and a 3D effect.

Another significant development will be high-resolution audio (HRA) involving 24 bit/96 kHz or 24 bit/192 kHz sampling that should bring audio quality to the level of the 4K/HDR/wider color enhanced video we will be enjoying.

As with 3D, availability of true 4K content will also be a limitation. While 4K deliverables are becoming more common for film and TV productions, most distribution servicing masters are 2K resolutions color graded to Rec. 709 for HD. Content owners would need to return to original source materials (often film or tape media), re-transfer to the higher resolutions, wider color space, and expanded contrast range – and utilize pipelines that preserve the massive data through distribution deliverables creation. This will not be inexpensive, and that is before addressing the cost of distributing content with a much higher information load. More likely, we are going to be consuming a lot of up-scaled HD content on our UHD monitors for quite a while.
What trends in the industry (besides 4K) have you noticed?
Media and entertainment is such a fascinating industry because it is undergoing tremendous change in a very public way. It’s hard to think about one aspect of the business that won’t look completely different in five years’ time. The accelerating pace of change in information technology now has a major impact on the M&E industry. By 2018, Cisco predicts that nearly 80% of global Internet traffic (which itself will reach 1.6 billion terabytes per year) will be devoted to video. IP delivery will dominate how we access TV and video content, and transitions to new display resolutions in the future could become as easy as swapping out our mobile phones today.

At ContentBridge, we focus more on the digital distribution side of the business. There, we are beginning to see a shift toward “package handling” of larger mezzanine deliverables. In particular, several consumer video services are hoping to take delivery of Interoperable Master Format (IMF)-compliant packages, which have genealogical ties to digital cinema packages (DCPs) normally reserved for theatrical distribution. It’s all in the name of simplifying the supply chain and collapsing the huge variety of digital file types being stored and distributed. Content owners will have some serious challenges supporting IMF as it demands a high level of organization and “service readiness” of content libraries.

We are at a bit of a crossroads now that digital technologies have become so dominant. We maybe assumed that, like the Internet itself, we would benefit from ever-expanding content selections and access options. Independent creators would have near frictionless access to their audiences. Of course, that is not how all of this may be evolving, and momentum seems to be building for consolidation – particularly around the distribution of content. We see this directly in our distribution business – particularly with some of the smaller content owners trying to place their content with the larger digital retail platforms. Regardless of where you come out on the pros and cons of the various pending M&A deals, we should probably all hope for continued emergence of new businesses and new technologies to shake things up.
Can you tell us a little bit about ContentBridge?
ContentBridge Systems is a digital media supply chain company that improves the ability of content owners like major studios, broadcasters, and independent distributors to deliver their content. We automate the delivery process to digital retailers like iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and dozens more.

ContentBridge has implemented custom supply chain solutions within major studio environments. We operate our own digital distribution platform through a software-as-a-service (SaaS), and we even provide a managed service for clients that want us to handle all of their digital delivery work.

Our focus today is expanding our “push button” delivery network globally. We are also working hard to optimize our support for IMF packages, including the ability to dynamically localize mezzanine files for international distribution.