BSkyB has begun testing the technical aspects of ultra-high-definition broadcasts as momentum builds in the industry for a 4K production standard.
The broadcaster conducted its first significant 4K test using cameras from Sony and Canon at The Emirates during Arsenal’s Champions League tie with Olympiakos last week.
Sky director of operations Darren Long said: “We’re constantly working with manufacturers to test new products so that we have a good understanding of their capabilities once they become available.
“It’s too early for us to talk about whether or not 4K may form part of our future roadmap, but we are keen to learn more about its potential ahead of next-generation TV sets coming to market.”
One implication for broadcasters would be the need to build and supply set-top boxes that are capable of receiving the compression scheme HEVC (Higher Efficiency Video Codec), which makes ultra-high-definition possible.
The Emirates tests paired two Sony F65 cameras in a picture stitching application alongside a Canon C500 4K camera.
Long said the pictures looked “stunning” but he wanted to see 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) images captured at higher frame rates.
“The key to us is to ensure quality and when showing footballers running, it was clear that there was too much camera blur; we feel 120 frames a second is the right speed. We’re liaising with standards bodies and working with manufacturers to understand the camera’s capabilities and to improve the technology.”
The entire infrastructure for live production would also have to be upgraded to support 4K, and outside broadcasters are already gearing up for this.
Brian Clark, commercial and technical projects director at NEP Visions, which facilitates Premier League productions for Sky Sports, said: “4K is very much on our radar.
“Manufacturers are moving 4K forward and we speak to companies to see how the timescales could be accelerated.
“In the next three years, I believe there will be live multi-camera acquisition.”
Other broadcasters expressing interest in the format include Brazil’s TV Globo, France Télévisions and Sky Deutschland.
Meanwhile, the BBC and NHK conducted tests of live 8K (Super Hi-Vision) transmissions during the London 2012 Olympics.