It looks like the Olympics won’t be getting 4K broadcasts

by on February 6, 2016

Stephan Jukic – February 6, 2016

According to a recent declaration from the Chief Technology Officer of the Olympic Broadcast Services arm of the IOC, we have confirmation that there will be no 4K ultra HD transmissions from the upcoming Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Olympic Broadcast Services CTO Sotiris Salamouris has explained that he and his team of staff and technicians have been working on plans for their coverage of the 2016 (5th to 21st of August) Rio Summer Olympic Games since 2009 and that even that far back, 4K was a technology on the distant horizon of potential broadcast mediums.

However, it was not defined by formal standards. Now however, while standards for 4K have arrived to a certain degree (at least for content and devices), most national broadcasters still do not have the technical facilities to support even simple down-conversion from 4K, let alone broadcast the Games in the resolution to wide public audiences.

Salamouris made these and other comments recently in a talk with trade magazine TVB Europe and journalists for the magazine have also revealed that OBS will however be supplying 8K “Super Hi-Vision” transmissions of the Games to Japan’s state broadcaster NHK for test purposes and for down-conversion to much smaller 4K video feeds. However, even in this highly advanced ultra HD broadcast testing experiment, the video delivered by OBS to NHK will only come to the broadcaster a day later than the Rio Games events themselves.

NHK will however be getting 8K Super Hi-Vision feeds from the Olympic games.

NHK will however be getting 8K Super Hi-Vision feeds from the Olympic games.

Unusually, Salamouris also stated that “4K is not there today and we have some doubts about whether it will happen in the next few years”. However he added that 8K was a different story and that there has been more time to develop equipment and workflow for the even larger resolution properly.

Overall, the decision by the OBS branch of the IOC is not only disappointing for a number of reasons, it also seems to show a lack of foresight and perspective on how the 4K transmission market is developing. Currently, while 4K content predominates in online streaming media it is starting to take off among broadcasters, at least through transmissions via IP channels and satellite transmissions. As of recently, broadcasters in North America have already given live public offerings of 4K NBA Games and Hockey matches from the NHL in Canada and the U.S in UHD as well. Thus, it’s surprising indeed to hear that the CTO of Olympic Broadcast Services claims 4K as not something which is really there for the “next few years.”

Furthermore, while workflow for 8K is indeed something being heavily developed by NHK of Japan, 4K is generally considerably more advanced and easier to facilitate for most other broadcast workflow scenarios.

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