Where’s high-end 4K scaling and processing, not at ISE
Walking through the halls, or picking up a copy of the show daily at the Infocomm and Cedia backed Integrated Systems Europe show held in Amsterdam this past week, 4K60P was everywhere, but things aren’t always what they seem, what actually is this 4K60P they are promoting…
So, I asked processing and distribution vendor Zigen, that announced a new card for its modular matrix with support for 4K at sixty frames per second With HDCP2.2 communication. Bluntly and direct; do your processors support 4K60P at, at least 4:2:2 chromasubsampling and 10 Bits (per subpixel)? The answer was NO. “All of our processors support 4K 60P, but we, like everyone else, are limited by the processor at 300 Mhz. This is what everyone means when they speak of 4K60P, the company rep said as he stepped aside to pick up his binder with specsheets, it listed “4K, 60 frames per second, 24 bpp, at 4:2:0. Anything higher will require a more powerful processor, there is one very expensive chip from SiliconOptix that can do that. 300 Mhz and 4:2:0 at 8 bits is state of the art, and we are still seeing limited demand for 4K”. He was expecting or better hoping for some other chips to come online, but coudn’t provide any specifics.
Calibre, the UK based vendor that has been making high(er) end scalers for the past twenty-seven years, sees traditional chipvendors, such as SiliconOptix, Gennum and Genesis, withdrawing from the commercial market, focussing on cheap mass market chips for consumer electronics, as developing new ASIC platforms costs ten of millions. It went ahead and launched its FPGA based platform , using its own set of algorithmes, for 4K.
“Not yet, June, Infocomm time”, promised Chairman Tim Brooksbank, when asked if his new 4K processorplatform supports 10 Bits 4:2:2 at 60FPS, unwilling to discuss any further details about the upcoming product range.
Crestron was all out with ads on the back of the catalog and the Daily for its all new 4K60 DM 3.0 platform, with a huge stand directly at the enterance. ISE is clearly a salesshow, where large companies like Crestron’s first question is; ‘which territory are you from’, and you go, I want some-one who knows about your highly promoted scaler, what do I care if he or she is Dutch or not. I was met by two guys from the support department, in the hospitality area, but the scaler launched at the show was so new that they were only ‘briefed by engineering’ on the absolute basics.
So it is a ‘software programmed scaler’ but no details on FPGA, DSP, or? Nor the capabilities of the processor itself. I was assured that there was room for functional expansion in the processor, but to what extend remains unclear. According to the online productpage I was shown, the limit is currently at 4K 60P, 4:2:0. without mention of the bitrate per(sub)pixel. Engineering should get back to me on this, but untill they tell me it is 10 Bits, I presume it to be bog down standard 4:2:0 at 8 bits per subpixel, like every-one else seems to offer, so no deep colour support.
“The 60P 4:2:0 is due to HDMI”, Andreas Ströbele, support engineer at Crestron Germany, explained. Adding: “You really need HDMI 2.0 at the full bandwidth to support 4K at 60 frames in 4:4:4”.
The DM-RMC-4K-SCALER-C, RMC stands for Room Controller, only has a single HDMI output, no HDMI input, as shown in the pictures below, so it seems one can not use it as a stand alone scaler for 3D to 2D downconversion, 4K to 1080P downconversion, 24/25/30 to 60 upscaling or 60P to 30P downscaling. “The scaler is the end point of HDBaseT distribution, the RX, the roombox, has the scaler built-in”, Kenneth Noyens, Senior support Engineer at Crestron in Belgium, explains.
No specific info on how the box takes care of the scaling, was available. It lists at € 1890,- excluding VAT, unless one wants 7.1 multichannel audio downconversion to stereo, then it costs € 2310,-.
Is high end 4K scaling and processing scarse at the show, HDBaseT and distribution of 4K over it was everywhere, with Aurora Multimedia www.auroramm.com launching its IPX-TC1 transceiver, that can send and receive 4K 60P, 4:4:4 without compression or latency over 10Gigabit/s fiber. In addition to HDCP routing and videowallcontroller. Atlona introduced three UHD-EX HDMI enxtenders with HDCP 2.2 Passthrough offering 4K 60P transport over 100 or 70 meters.
Planar, known in the HT world as the owners of Runco, wich hasn’t had a pressence at the show for the past two years, has a 1RU videowall processor that can output two 4K 30P signals to two seperate displays over Displayport outputs. Thomas Guillot from the vendor’s French R+D center and factory claims these can be combined to display 60P on one display, but he didn’t sound very shure of this. All of this is at only 8 bits though.
The box requires an accompanying workstation and control software, so the total package runs to somewhere between €7K and €10K. And still doesn’t offer the functionality one is looking for High-end 4K Home Theater.
Analog Way, launched the smaller version of its ascender swithcer platform, the 16. The only difference between the versions is the number of picture-in-picture layers, the 16 Ascender offers only two layers, but who cares. With 12 inputs and 4 outputs, but only at 30P for now. 4K in itself is an option.
The Barco box that Peter always toutes, wasn’t at the show, as Barco showed only 2K, blended displays excluded. Nice S-shaped screen above its booth to show of the warping and blending capabilities of its FLEX 30, 30,000 lumens Xenon projetcor, and upgrade to 20 and 24 K lumens rental and staging projectors. In the High-end Residential demo room there was a three 16:9 Orion projector blend, that had a pixel size comparable to 4K, without the need for 4K projectors or processing. Blending was PC-based if I understood correctly.
This leaves the pc/server based systems like that of AV Stumpfl, an extension of the Wings blending and presentation software, or Coolux Media Systems, acquired by Christie last December. That offer 4K/8K play-out. But can be mapped on an even greater number of pixels, for a giant blended or multiscreen display. But with anything beyond Coolux’ Pandorabox’ commodity Digital Signage box, turning complicated and confusing quickly, like the pricing structure, that allows for great flexibility, and limited clarity. How many 2500,- euro licenses does one need for 4K, one or four…
Making my way to the Dolby Atmos demo my eye caught a small booth on the wall, having a sign 4K60 on the headboard, when I entered there were two Sony VW1000s sitting next to each other on a table. What where they doing there… David Fung Managing Director at Prime Quality Company Ltd. told me “most vendors use an extender for 4K, but this leads to image quality degradation”. He therefore offers HDMI cables that can distribute 4K HDMI signals over upto twenty meters. That Sony projector had a big roll of cable next to it, that was the Chinese 10 meter long HDMI cable, sold in the US under the Golden Sound USA brand, according to the ‘older’ product brochure I was handed.
Fung told me: “with the advent of HDCP 2.2 at the end of this year our cables will do 60P 4K at 4:2:2, 10 bits, and higher”, so there is life left in HDMI. Once the full bandwidth HDMI and HDCP handshaking chipset finally hit the market.