Ultra HD rocks: SES marks first TV milestone broadcasting a live concert in UHD

12 Ultra HD cameras, 50 frames per seconds, 12 Gbits data rate, 8 million pixels. Modern technology is definitely ready for Ultra High Definition.

An almost-live experience for the viewers

On November 19, Linkin Park took the stage in the O₂ Arena in Berlin. But on that day it was no ordinary concert: in addition to the thousands of fans at the venue, people with a Samsung Ultra HD television were able to enjoy the show as well, thanks to a partnership by SES and Samsung.

Broadcast at Astra 19.2 degrees East, the rock concert was transmitted exclusively on the Astra Ultra HD demo channel, displaying magnificent picture quality and extravagant light shows with plenty of action.

But the objective of this live production was not just picture definition, it was also to play with focus depth and spatial perception, working with stage lighting, lens shakers, flashlight and effect filters to artistically enhance the viewing experience and create an almost-live feeling.

Ultra HD: From stage to living-room in seconds

To produce this unprecedented home-viewing experience, 12 Ultra HD cameras were deployed to capture the band’s dynamic stage show and the spectacular light effects.

Gerd F. Schultze, Director and producer for Music-Delight Productions GmbH, explained that these cameras were tasked with “capturing the action, from a range of distances and using close-ups, detailed shots and figure shots, and lending the mood, emotions and music a natural feel.”

Next, the camera signals were transmitted to the TopVision production truck at a rate of 50 frames per second, where they were mixed live and simultaneously recorded on three servers.

The TV signal was then transferred via a special glass fiber cable, with a data rate of 12 Gbits, to the SES playout centre in Munich. The data encoding was taken care of by the SES Platform Services team who used a Rhode & Schwarz live encoder, based on the HEVC algorithm (High Efficiency Video Codec). Seconds later and with a data rate of 35 Mbits, the signal was sent to the Astra satellite for TV broadcast.

Just eight seconds after the cameras had captured the action in Berlin, Linkin Park could be heard and seen in ultra-high resolution throughout the living rooms of Europe.

A milestone for the technology

Since 2010, SES has been developing the path for Ultra HD: broadcast of two demo-channels, demonstration at IBC, and lastly live transmission of 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Live broadcast of a concert was a premiere, and it brought substantial challenges. For Gerd F. Schultze, the main one was to deal with show and effect lighting, LED screens, video clips, but also constant variation of the light shining on the musicians “while still guaranteeing action up on the stage during the performance”.
For SES, the most complex part was the encoding in real time. “It’s just very demanding to take the approximately 12 Gbit/s signal that leaves the production truck and to create a 25 or 35 Mbit/s signal for broadcast in the best-possible picture quality, and all in real time.” explained Stefan Vollmer, Project Manager at Astra.

The live broadcast of this rock concert in Ultra HD definitely marked another major step forward for SES.

Growing demand for Ultra HD TV

According to research specialist GfK, Ultra HD televisions seem to largely gain enthusiasm among the public in many European countries (UK, Spain, France, Germany, and Italy), especially for large screen units. Ultra HD is definitely on the future’s technology landscape, and live broadcasts and events are the next steps.