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Pre-NAB 2018 thoughts and questions

Although my first NAB was over 15 years ago, I’m still keen to get out to Vegas this year - OK not for Vegas the place, which gives me the creeps, but to catch up with the people, the trends and the tech. It remains one of my favorite conferences despite its gargantuan scale. Here are some of the questions I'll be looking to shed light on this year.

UHD

When I can get time off the Ultra HD Forum booth that I’ll be busy on, I’ll be looking into how the first generation of mature UHD technologies are doing. The debate as to whether 4K resolution was needed for a true UHD experience was all the rage just after the trailblazers were deploying UHD around 2014. Now that the paint has dried on the static metadata-based HDR solutions (HDR10/PQ and HLG), the battle seems over. Proponents of 1080p/HDR are grinning and claim they have won this round: we are already seeing some such content appearing on Netflix… For me the jury is still out, but I’ll be nosing around on people’s true intentions here.

But what’s next for UHD? I’ll be gaging the readiness of the next set of technologies, and as my friend Ian Nock says, how they might be deployed without breaking what’s already there. In the dynamic metadata space, Dolby Vision is already out there. Does there have to be a winner and a loser with HDR10+ or is there room in the market for both? As an audiophile I’ll be keen to find Next Gen Audio demos and here again fathom whether the existence of several standards (Dolby Atmos, MPEG-H, DTS:X, …) is holding things back.

Encoding

If one of my friends from the encoding space is kind enough to explain to me what's going on, I'll try to catch up on the encoding wars which have confused me with too many competing stakeholders to understand on my own. HEVC was supposed to be represent smooth transition from H264, now I don't know who to believe. The moving parts range from imploding patent pools, to Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft without forgetting the streaming people like DASH, H26x, disruptive start-ups, etc. Thierry, help! Decode it for me, tell me what's going on.

VR360

Having just published an eBook on VR360, that doesn’t predict 2018 is the year of lift-off but does explain why it’s the year to get involved, I’ll be eagerly looking how much we got right and if the hype has finally hit bottom, so we can now start to start to do business … I’ll do my best to get to the VR-IF masterclass on day 1 and if I'm lucky get an update from Rob Koenen.

Streaming Delay

I’ve been commissioned to do some work on OTT streaming delay, under the assumption that operators really care about reducing It. I’ve been very surprised that in my investigations so far, this is not the case. Sure, they’d like to reduce delay, but it’s low down their priority list. It’s got me wondering, as OTT streaming becomes more prevalent if the “norm” might, quite a few years from now become a 10-20s delay, where whatever broadcast is left, gets delayed so as to be synced with the crowd … probably science fiction but I’ll test out the idea.

Driven by Data, at last?

When I joined France Telecom (now Orange) in 2001, I remember a meeting where it was explained to me that our unique access to amazing data on subscribers and what they did, meant we would become the kings of data driven UX, data-driven decision making and data-driven just about everything … That vision of analytics was spot on, just too early and focussed on the wrong kind of operator. The Silicon Valley giants now dominate the world with Data and AI (which we didn’t see coming back then). So, have we truly entered the data era where other operators can get some of the pie? The recent Facebook/election scandals seem to say so. I’ll be looking around at vendors in the ecosystem are on the holy data grail. Is the market taking off for real or is it still vendor fantasy?