The Weather Channel is Aiming for 4K in 4 years for its Broadcasts

by on September 23, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – September 23, 2014

It seems that the slogan of the well-known and well liked Weather Channel is “4K in 4 years” these days. The major climate reporting broadcaster’s team of technical specialists has plans in the air to full convert to 4K content acquisition, production and distribution by as early as 2018.

And apparently, the slogan isn’t just a load of media hungry hype; The Weather Channel has already put its money where its mouth is by buying Sony’s professional PXW Z100 4K production recorders for ENG use and have already field tested the cameras at the recent Sochi Olympics in Russia.

Furthermore, since May, five of the cameras have been incorporated into the company’s NextGEN ENG 4K field kits for use by weathermen with more extreme assignments that lead to some excellent video, such as chasing tornados.

According to Philip Grossman, senior director of media technology and strategy for the Weather Channel in Atlanta, “Even though the Weather Channel is over 30 years old, we see ourselves as a young, scrappy network focused on standing out from the pack.”

He also added that the network sees 4K as the next big thing in video display technology and wants to become a leader among other pioneering networks in getting started with the technology for the sake of attracting 4K TV owners in particular since their numbers are expected to grow dramatically.

Tornado Chasers will be some of the first Weather Channel field staff to use 4K video recording.

Tornado Chasers will be some of the first Weather Channel field staff to use 4K video recording.

The Weather Channel is definitely making what could be called a fairly bold move in the direction of 4K. They’re aiming for a complete end-to-end strategy of Ultra HD implementation and that will cost money, time and resources. Given that 4K is still perceived by many to be something with an uncertain future, it could be argued that the network’s venture is risky indeed.

Furthermore, in order to move over to 4K broadcasting and filming fully, the network is also going to be upgrading to 60 frames per second filming and moving from 8 bit color to 10 bit color in its transmissions. The addition of two bits may seem small, but it means several hundred million more colors being introduced into video feeds of their broadcasts.

The company’s aim, as stated by the Weather Channel itself, is to immerse its viewers more fully than ever before possible into the weather reports they’re watching, bringing the raw power of nature into audiences’ homes in a way not previously possible coming from a TV screen.

“To achieve this goal, we see ourselves upgrading every single element of our production facility” According to Grossman.

The media director also elaborated that while the switch to 4K cameras was an easy task, other parts of the conversion to 4K will be much costlier and more time consuming. These include switching to new Macs, new high end 4K ready PCs and to a whole array of new 4K screens for editing and revision. Furthermore, the issues of storage and transmission of the much larger 4K Ultra HD media format broadcast video will be a complex issue to resolve in the next 4 years.

More than anything else, the Weather Channel is banking on using the web to stream its broadcasts to 4K capable TVs. They estimate that their particular signals will need connectivity of at least 15 Mbps and justify their investment in 4K technology by claiming that many of their existing viewers’ ISPs are already delivering that kind of bandwidth with plans to soon upgrade to even higher velocities of 20 Mbps or more.

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