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Super Hi Vision TV Screenings

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Tim Plyming | 11:10 UK time, Monday, 16 July 2012

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Hi. I’m Tim Plyming and I’m the project lead for the BBC’s Super Hi-Vision trials taking place during the London 2012 Olympics.

As I spoke about in the video above, I’ve just finished a fantastic week of Super Hi-Vision filming in London with a crew made up of staff from Japanese broadcaster NHK and the BBC. Given this and the fact we’re now 11 days before the start of the Games, I thought this would be a great opportunity to tell you a bit more about the BBC’s Super Hi Vision trials.

So, what is Super Hi-Vision?

Developed by NHK, Super Hi-Vision is an Ultra High Definition television format combining images 16 times the resolution of High Definition television with a 22.2 multichannel surround sound. Experienced on a big screen, the effect is of feeling like actually being at an event.

The London 2012 Olympics will be the first time this ground-breaking technology will be used to deliver exceptional quality content in the UK, so I’m extremely excited that you will be able to experience it for the very first time.

Building up to Games Time

As mentioned earlier, we’ve been filming at a range of iconic London landmarks over the last couple of weeks for a special film which will play ahead of the start of the Olympic Games. It was particularly exciting to capture what I think will be one of the iconic Olympic images of Tower Bridge, dressing with the Olympic rings, in Super Hi-Vision.

We have been using a brand new Super Hi-Vision camera and microphone and a specially adapted outside broadcast truck which have all been shipped from Japan to the UK.

At the same time in our R&D test studio (TC0) at BBC Television Centre in west London, a talented group of colleagues from the BBC’s Research & Development have been working with NHK to build the first Olympic Super Hi-Vision production studio.

A history of innovative partnerships

Our Super Hi-Vision trials build on the BBC’s history of innovation – experimenting with new broadcasting technologies and looking at new ways to bring quality BBC content to audiences in the future.

The Olympics has always been one of those moments where the BBC showcases new broadcast technology - due to the size and scale of this momentous event. Looking back at past Games:

  • First TV broadcast - at the last Olympic Games in London in 1948, the BBC used specially built outside broadcast trucks and cameras to bring all the excitement of an Olympic Games to audiences at home on TV for the first time.
  • First live colour transmission - in 1968 the Olympic Games was transmitted live in colour for the first time across the Pacific ocean to audiences in the United States
  • First HD broadcast - in 1984 experimental High Definition cameras were used for the first time to capture an Olympic Games

The London 2012 Olympic Games will be the first to be captured in Super Hi-Vision – using the only Super Hi-Vision equipment in the world.

Three cameras will capture sporting action from the Olympic Stadium, Aquatic Centre, Velodrome and Basketball Arena. Alongside highlight packages, we will be showing live coverage of the opening and closing ceremonies, the 100m final live as well as a whole day of action from the Aquatic Centre.

Working with over ten global partners, the Super Hi-Vision signal is being sent around the world. In the UK we are working in partnership with the JANET high bandwidth academic network to bring Olympic content to our audiences at our public viewing venues.

Where can you experience Super Hi Vision?

Working with teams at three venues across the UK, we are also building special public viewing theatres which will present Super Hi-Vision on giant screens with special speaker rigs to recreate the 22.2. multichannel sound.

Our viewing theatres are:

  1. London: BBC Broadcasting House
  2. Glasgow: BBC Pacific Quay
  3. Bradford: National Media Museum

Regular screenings take place Monday 23rd July – Sunday 12th August. We’ve also just released tickets for another six sessions to come and see (and hear) this amazing technology for yourself – but be quick as they sell out fast.

Screenings in London and Glasgow can be booked through the BBC ticketing website at bbc.co.uk/showsandtours/events/. Screenings in Bradford can be booked through nationalmediamuseum.org.uk.

Viewing theatres are also being set up in Tokyo and Fukushima in Japan and Washington DC in the United States.

I really hope you get the chance to experience Super Hi-Vision for yourself and look forward to hearing about your experience or what you think of our plans.

We’ll keep you updated in the build up to the Games – and look forward to sharing our learnings with you from this exciting trial.

Tim Plyming is the project executive for digital services, Editor Live Sites and leading the partnership between BBC, NHK and OBS to capture the Olympic Games in Super Hi-Vision.


  • Comment number 1.

    We have applied for tickets, it would be very interesting to see this new technology at work and i'm even more interested in how the 22.2 Surround will sound

  • Comment number 2.

    Keeping up with technology is important but there is a limit. It must be a long way off before a delivery system is available that would allow the benefits of SHV to be delivered to the home viewer.

    What I cannot believe will ever happen is the granting of production budgets that allow this to proceed. Most TV is made unbelievably cheaply (by poorly paid junior staff) with reasonable budgets for a few flagship projects (made by grown-ups).

    Hardly any UK TV production can afford 5.1 surround audio so how will they manage with 22.1?

  • Comment number 3.

    Kit, this is all about future proofing the footage. The LA games were the first to be filmed in Super-HD, which until recently has not been able to be watched in a domestic situation. Given that The Hobbit has been filmed on 5k cameras and these operate at 8K you can imagine how pristine the footage captured will be. Technology will never stop developing so to complain that it is going too far is ridiculous. Look how cheap you can buy a 1080p TV set now, as opposed to how expensive they were initially, the same will eventually come to pass for this technology. Firstly though you need these kind of prototypes capturing landmark events for the technology to develop.
    This footage will be viewable in amazing quality for many decades to come I for one applaud the efforts being made to utilise this.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    There are people in the licence fee BBC who are allowed to live in a comfortable world of their own. I would love super TV! (or just workable) Aerial reception rubbish where I reside (esp now only digital) Can only watch online when it works-I am aware of the variety of vald excuses-but come on spending dosh on super hd to watch the "super" olympics-improve basic online delivery!!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Spending money and resources on Super Hi Vision just for prestige is a disgrace at a time when the BBC is cutting back. Even worse is that this is being done for the benifit of the Japaneese and not UK licence payers. The BBC only has 2 HD channels with low resolution 1440x1080 pictures. Still all the news output is in fuzzy SD and the is no regional HD at all. As for programing we are seeing a considerable increase in repeats and even more low budget trashy programs.

    I do wonder if the BBC will ever be able to start a Super Hi Def service. It is true that it will become cheaper over the years but the recession is likely to last at least another 10 years. The big issue will be the high bitrates that will be required. The BBC cannot even afford to transmit 2 HD channels with reasonable bitrates. There will be developments in codecs and digital transmisson systems but costs are likely to be very high for some time.

    The money spent on Super Hi Def would have been better spent on more 3D Olympic output which could be seen on over 500,000 3D sets in peoples homes. Even the relativly small Eurosport channel is putting out over 100 hours of live 3D for the Olympics.

    It has become clear to me that the Licence Tax is no longer a viable way to finance the BBC in it's current form.

  • Comment number 7.

    agree to an extent with Trev while it moves us away from the specific of Super Hi Vi it all comes under the umbrella (has to be big this year!) of the whole Licence question which really then means should we have the Beeb at all?

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Thank you for commenting.

    I think the discussion of the pros and con of the project are relevant, but if a comment "moves us away from the specific[s] of Super Hi Vi" then it's off-topic.

    More off-topic comments will be removed.



  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Ian,

    I'm really chuffed to have got tickets for Broadcasting House on the day of the Opening Ceremony. Could you shed any light on whether the screening is actually of the Opening Ceremony in Super Hi-Vision or whether it's something else...?



  • Comment number 11.

    Although I am going to one of the screenings, is UHDTV really the future of home viewing? To get the benefit you would need a screen the size of an entire wall of the average living room - say 15ft x 8.5ft. Then you would need to sit at the opposite side of the room to take it all in. Only practical for the rich/fortunate few who have dedicated screening rooms.

    Having said that, these screening should be jaw-dropping.

  • Comment number 12.

    Seems to me a total waste of the license fee, so much for the bbc cutting back.
    This technology is hardly going to end up in the home, and from what I have read is one of many formats, so this may not even see the light of day
    So why would the bbc be trialling it. I think there a lot better areas to be spending the money, like programming and better reception, which even down our southern area still suffers badly with poor freeview hd reception after the switchover, luckily i have sky.

  • Comment number 13.

    The Super Hi-Vision experience sounds amazing... I assume the intention is to roll these out to many more locations in the future? Definitely times like these when I miss being in the UK!

  • Comment number 14.

    This trial does seem a waste of money given how few can benefit.

    More sensible spending might include trying to get a universal UK fibre optic grid so that everyone can receive normal HD TV by cables. Same cables of course can also carry files sent and received in the daytime by businesses who need cloud computing, video calls, etc.

    This area can't receive decent TV pictures from Freeview since the switchover, and satellite dishes look ghastly so we moved to the internet for everything. TV pictures even at 2-4 Mbps are better than they ever were from an aerial and it convinces us that this is the future. Why bother with TV, why not just stream video into our homes onto large computer screens?

    The Freeview spectrum will never allow much HD TV and would be better reallocated to other services, with any revenue spent on fibre-optic. But of course that would need strategic UK long term planning, wouldn't it?

  • Comment number 15.

    More R&D needs to be put in Super Hi-Def. Id prefer a 4K TV and broadcasts than a 3D set up.

  • Comment number 16.

    Where are you going to get the bandwidth to broadcast Super Hi-Def?

    (By the way what bandwidth is required?)

    Where are you going to get the funds to buy the bandwidth?

    You can shoot all you want but if there is no reasonable expectation of ever being able to broadcast the result what is the point?

  • Comment number 17.


    However, that's not true. It matches the upper limit of human vision when screen fills 37 degrees of viewers field of view (or less), horizontally. For 9 ft distance from TV, TV would have to be 6 ft wide, which is not science fiction to pull off.

    If you care about the math behind this, let me know.

  • Comment number 18.

    If it wasn't for the visionaries in broadcasting and video technology we would still be watching 405 line black and white television. Colour, stereo, widescreen, HDTV and BBC Online would not have happened without their efforts and, in the case of the BBC, without some licence-payers cash invested in the future, despite the inevitable criticisms.

    As Terry Wogan used to say ' its your BBC' and I'm more than happy for 'my' BBC to carry on with this research.

  • Comment number 19.

    I remember seeing bits of Wimbledon in TVC foyer in what was expected to be the accepted HD standard about 17 years ago. It was about 4 times as good as what we have been fobbed off with now. Super HD sounds as if it might be worth buying a new TV for though.

  • Comment number 20.

    Although I was critical of, and am still disappointed by, the technical quality of the BBC's HD channels I feel the BBC must maintain a presence in the technological development of TV. I am perfectly happy for the licence fee to be used for these purposes, even if the BBC is prevented by accountants, 4G networks and HMG from actually broadcasting using new techniques.

    If the anti-LF brigade get their way UK TV will degenerate into the trashy, low-grade, advertisment-infested rubbish some other western countries broadcast. A US colleague told me the Olympic opening ceremony was so badly interrupted with adverts he couldn't actually watch it!

  • Comment number 21.

    I believe this is exactly what the licence fee is for; research and testing of technology for the future improvement of broadcasting quality and experience.

    I'd much rather the licence money be spent on the testing and showcasing of such technology than on purile trash such as Strictly Come Dancing and sending people to Argentina to jump over some red inflatable balls on sticks in a swimming pool for Total Wipeout.

    The BBC is renowned the world over for innovation in new technology and filming techniques for it's documentaries such as Planet Earth and EarthFlight - long my that reputation continue.

  • Comment number 22.

    Couldn't give a toss about the finances/politics of the UltraHD screenings. I'll stick to offering my opinions as an interested observer.

    I went to a brief expo at BBC Broadcasting House having heard about it on the radio a week or so before. I've followed developments in TV/Audio for a very long time and have usually jumped on the prevailing bandwagon and spent some cash on the necessary gear and media. So I was intrigued by the idea of 16xHD video and 22.2 sound.

    I found the sound thoroughly immersive if not particularly visceral (maybe the volume and lower frequencies were toned down to accommodate a potential audience of grannies and two-year-olds).

    The picture was close to having the detail required to create the impression of 'being there', but the presentation I saw threw up some problems;
    The Olympics footage was compiled out of very wide, and mostly static shots. I think the idea is that the level of detail on offer should mean you can allow the viewer to choose what to look at. Fine principle if you're presenting real world spectator events like sports or concerts, but you have to make sure that everything in the frame is in sharp focus for that idea to work. The examples I saw didn't pass that test, peripheral parts of the image were blurred and didn't reward attention. I'm sure the blur was gloriously hi-def, but it was still a blur. Maybe better/smarter cameras can fix that. If that can't be resolved then you have to abandon the idea of wide static shots as a mainstay altogether.

    Similarly, in panning shots where the camera was centred on racers going round a track, background detail became blurred - much less so that in a movie (Super hi Def has a faster frame rate?) - but still, if your eye wanders around the 80% of the picture that isn't the immediate subject during a panning shot it's not 'like being there'.

    What I saw was very impressive nonetheless - please carry on pushing the boundaries, but also please remember that technical excellence in sound and picture will never compensate for a lack of direction. In future test screenings it would be great to see how this brilliant medium would shape up in the hands of a creative dramatist rather than more sport, the proms, etc... (though I suppose it'll be launched commercially with a new Attenborough)

  • Comment number 23.

    There are a lot of negative comments appearing in this thread. I think it is admirable that the BBC is assisting in developing new technology. Historically the Olympics has been the starting point of many different broadcast developents - seeing the first live broadcasts into the home, the first colour broadcasts, the first HD broadcasts. Things do not stay the same thankfully - can you imagine a stagnant world where nothing moves on?

    If people had objected to the trials of colour TV (and were listened to) when the opening ceremony was first broadcast by live satellite in 1964 then we would still be watching low def, black and white!

    Having been lucky enough to attend a ultra high def screening. Can I just say that it was amazing. Totally immersive wih the 22.2 surround sound and the picture was amazing; just like a window. There was highlights from the opening ceremony; the rings being forged, the Queen's opening of the Games and fireworks. Highlights from the athletics and cycling.

    You could really feel the emotions of the crowd and it was surprisingly moving; goosebumps at parts; heart in mouth at others. Fantastic that this will now be preserved in this future poofed format for enjoyment in future years and by other generations.

    Well done BBC and thanks for the chance to be part of this historic moment.

  • Comment number 24.

    To all the people saying where us the babndwith coming from to support this from. Can we please bear in mind that this is future technology at least 10-15 years away. How fast was your broadband (sorry dial-up) onnection then.

    Increasingly broadband is becoming a backbone if society. By the time we have his new technology broadband speeds will be very much faster. Virginmeia has already doubled their customers speed this year.


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