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The BBC Just Tested Live 4K HDR Footage for the First Time

By Tom Pritchard on at

The BBC isn't one to shy away from experimenting with different ways of broadcasting. It's played with all sorts of live broadcasts, and while some of them fail to pan out those experiments still happen. Now the Beeb has gone and performed its first live stream of 4K HDR video in the form of a rugby match.

This isn't the first time the BBC has played around with 4K/UHD content, since a 4K HDR version of Blue Planet II was available to stream last year. That said, the BBC says this is the first time it's done some sort of live broadcast of something in 4K and HDR. Well not broadcast, but you know what I mean. The match took place on Sunday, between the York  City Knights and Catalans Dragons, and was streamed on BBC iPlayer Beta.

The HDR in question was Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG), which the BBC had previous developed in conjunction with Japanese broadcaster NHK. The idea behind it was to get the richest and most colours possible while still being able to use the same bitstream as SDR broadcasts - while still producing excellent image quality on both SDR and HDR displays. The BBC noted, however, that encoding UHD content in real time is a much bigger challenge, with high-quality real-time HEVC UHD encoding still in its early stages - meaning the process is a lot more demanding than HDR or lower resolutions.

While the BBC is far from the first British broadcaster to deal with 4K content (Sky and BT have been at it for quite some time), the fact that it's still experimenting with this is a good thing. Who knows, maybe it won't be long before it launches a UHD-centric channel on iPlayer, so people with lots of resolution can enjoy a livestream of 4K TV without having to subscribe to anything first. [BBC]