Sky Sports has chosen NTT contribution encoders and decoders in its bid to be the first to market with end-to-end HEVC UHD delivery on its sports platform. Sky is using products from the HC11000 and HC10000 NTT ranges, a set-up that allows the company to support HEVC UHD encoding and decoding over IP.
The broadcaster is using the products in its three primary UHD contribution vehicles supporting Premier League football on Sky Q, its latest set-top box offering. Sky is also using the NTT platforms for primary contribution of its coverage of the 20 race Grand Prix calendar in 2017, which started in Australia in March and ends in Abu Dhabi in late November. Garland Partners, which helps media companies meet their system requirements, worked closely with Sky on this deployment.
HEVC UHD video compression capabilities are an evolution from H.264, the latter requiring the use of multiple encoders. Using HEVC instead of H.264 enables Sky to decide whether to improve quality or reduce expensive satellite bandwidth costs, whilst also saving on rack space.
Sky Sports is noted for its commitment to the quality of its sports coverage and was looking for ways to acquire its Premier League football and Formula 1 video coverage more efficiently while further improving video quality. Project aims included saving on bandwidth and optimising power and space in its workflow. “We knew the answer was in the latest NTT line of UHD solutions,” says Malcolm Harland, Managing Director for Garland.
“Sports viewers are among the most discerning when it comes to the quality of video,” notes Gordon Roxburgh, Technical Manager at Sky. “We want to continue to be the leader in providing this audience with the highest calibre coverage. Garland was able to provide us with a solution that not only improves the quality, but is more efficient.”
The latest version of NTT’s UHD products can deliver up to 160Mbps transport stream, with 120 milliseconds of end-to-end delay, and support Dolby E pass through (SMPTE-302M). The same box also supports H.264 encoding, as well as HD and SD resolutions for even greater flexibility, while also supporting simultaneous IP and DVB-ASI outputs.