20th Century Fox & ATEME Develop Technology to Distribute 4K with HDR

– Initial Use: Downloads from M-GO to Western Digital’s My Passport Cinema NTB
– Which Are Already Sold out at Western Digital & Amazon
– Can Also Be Used in OTT, 4K Blu-ray, Post-Production & Archiving

Evidence continues to pile up indicating that not only is 4K here to stay but that it will become as widespread as HD.

In the end, OTT services won’t be the only source of 4K content but they are also likely to continue to dominate the 4K market for the same reason they are booming in the SD/HD market: low cost, the convenience, quickness and ease of purchasing, instant delivery, the lack of commercials and you can watch them anytime, anywhere.

French technology company ATEME and Twentieth Century Fox studios have worked together to enhance ATEME’s TITAN Software Transcoder to enable the first ever distribution of 4K content with HDR (High Dynamic Range) for viewing movies and TV shows in the home in all their glorious 4K splendor.

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WD’s My Passport Cinema: includes 8 pre-loaded UHD 4K films

 

Its initial use is to download 4K films with HDR to a new 4K-purpose-built Western Digital 1 TB net-top box called My Passport Cinema that comes with eight UHD films including two that are free.

More 4K films will be available from some OTT download services such as M-GO.

My Passport Cinema also has Netflix’s 4K app. However, all the UHD TVs that are currently compatible with the My Passport Cinema box already have Netflix’s 4K app.

The TITAN transcoder is multi-codec, format video transcoding software for use with live, OTT, mezzanine file, VoD, post-production, playout and archive applications.

The trade body Entertainment Merchant Association (EMA) defines a mezzanine file as “a digital master that is used to create copies of video for streaming or download. Online video services obtain the mezzanine file from the content producer and then individually manipulate it for streaming or downloading through their service.” EMA has defined a mezzanine file standard that all content makers and OTT services can use. Netflix, Rovi, YouTube and others have accepted the EMA standard for mezzanine files.

ATEME says that UHD with HDR will change the future of entertainment and that the new ATEME transcoding technology enables “stunning picture quality and true-to-life colors.”

Hanno Basse, who is CTO of Twentieth Century Fox and the president of the UHD Alliance, said, “Twentieth Century Fox has worked closely with ATEME to fine-tune the TITAN transcoder and add custom features. As the specifications and standards evolve ATEME’s flexibility in modifying and implementing new features, combined with TITAN’s high video quality, enabled Fox to be the first to market with a new viewing experience.”

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment said it had released on July 18, the films “The Maze Runner” and Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” in UHD with HDR. It has said its policy is to finish all future theatrical releases in Ultra HD, a major commitment to a new video format that indicates its research shows that 4K is the future.

 

The Vidity Factor

A check of 20th Century Fox’s online home entertainment store and a phone call to its online store, which sells movies on DVDs and Blu-ray discs, did not turn up the 4K version of either “The Maze Runner” or “Exodus: Gods and Kings” or any other films in UHD with HDR. Further research showed that the studio has preloaded two films in UHD with HDR Western Digital’s (WD) new $90 My Passport Cinema 4K Ultra HD movie drive and, at least initially, those will be playable in UHD only on some of Samsung’s 2014 and 2015 UHD TVs.

The WD device is built to specifications developed by Vidity, a consortium that’s backed by 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros, Sandisk and WD. Users can download additional 4K titles from Vidity-compliant retailers such as M-Go.

When played on non-Vidity-compliant UHD TVs, the movies play in HD rather than 4K. See here for the list of Vidity compatible UHD TVs.

Consumers that buy the Western Digital movie drive get free access to preloaded copies of “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “The Maze Runner.”

Once a user has authorized the purchase of a title, the My Passport Cinema Drive does not need to be connected to the Net when viewing the title. That means users can use the drive on any Vidity-compatible UHD TV, at home or elsewhere.

M-Go typically charges about $30 for a new release in 4K UHD.

The other six UHD movies on the WD drive must be purchased before they can be viewed. They are currently “X-Men: Days of the Future Past,” “The Wolverine,” “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Let’s Be Cops” and “The Other Woman.”

WD said it will add more UHD content and support more UHD TVs in the future. It also said the My Passport Cinema drive “delivers true 4K quality directly to your Vidity-enabled viewing device – no Internet-based video streaming.”

4K films that are downloaded rather than streamed should look better – although there might be a slight delay as the download builds a cache before playing starts.

The WD My Passport Cinema UHD movie storage drive has a 1-terabyte capacity and a list price of $89.99. Until June 30, 2016, Samsung will include it with the purchase of its top of the line, pricey UHD TVs: JS9000, JS9100 or JS9500 SUHD TV.

WD’s Web site said on August 5th, “Out of stock. Notify me when back in stock.” Amazon said the same but, unlike WD, Amazon allowed purchasers to order now for delivery when it gets some from WD – which we did.

 

Fostering the UHD Ecosystem

Danny Kaye, EVP of global research and technology strategy for Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, said, “20th Century Fox remains committed to trying to foster the UHD ecosystem, given the opportunity to sell digital copies at a premium price. “The quality of the content as the demand for 4K Ultra HD content continues to increase and evolve, but also the ease of content acquisition and playback on next-generation TVs and other devices.”

 

‘A New Standard for Premium Video Quality’

Calling the ATEME technology “a new standard for premium video quality,” ATEME CEO Michel Artieres said, “Continuous investment in video compression research is in ATEME’s DNA. Our commitment to standardization bodies, as well as tight cooperation with our ecosystem partners, has positioned us as a trusted technology advisor to Fox Home Entertainment.”

Samsung used this year’s CES to announce the formation of an industry association called the UHD Alliance that will help establish standards for 4K content, terminology and how it’s delivered to the home. Media companies Disney, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Netflix and DirecTV have joined as have UHD setmakers Sony, LG and Panasonic  — in addition to Samsung. Technology companies Dolby and Technicolor are also members. Joining Samsung at the announcement were Mike Dunn, president of Fox Worldwide Home Entertainment and Ron Sanders, president of Warner Bros.

The UHD Alliance said its aim is “to create a unified criterion for premium UHD platforms, from devices to content including next generation features such as 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range [HDR], Wide Color Gamut, High Frame Rate and Immersive Audio.” All of those are significant enhancements that will serve to make 4K the dominant video standard for the next generation or two of viewers and their TV sets. The more that 4K is enhanced with such features…

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