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April 29, 2022

Synamedia Stoked About 8K Future

Video software provider Synamedia was one of the key partners in the recent BT Sport trial broadcast of the Saracens vs. Bristol Bears Gallagher Premiership Rugby match on March 26, 2022, in 8K resolution – a first for the UK. Their Vivid compression software stack running on AMD Epyc processors encoded this content for distribution. A brief conversation with the company made it clear that Synamedia is quite optimistic about the near-term future of 8K.

According to Fernando Amendola, Head of Marketing & Strategy at Synamedia, the recent broadcast with BT Sport should not be characterized as a demo but as a trial broadcast. “A demo implies testing the technology, but a trial broadcast implies a stronger commitment to starting a service,” explained Amendola. However, he quickly pointed out that BT Sport has not announced any plans to offer an 8K service. If BT Sport proceeds, I am sure we will know about it at the appropriate time.

Amendola then said that, according to their research, 8K TV sales have been stronger than expected, so they are very encouraged that the market is now ready to support an 8K streaming service.

Synamedia announced their Vivid compression solution with the AMD EPYC 7763 processor last October (see Synamedia’s New Solutions Can Encode Live 8K). These server-class CPU processors feature 64 cores and 128 threads operating at 2.45 GHz with a boost to 3.5 GHz. Synamedia’s solution does not require dedicated GPU memory or other hardware acceleration. This streamlined approach eliminates issues with memory communication and throughput and local video quality variations.

For live 8K HDR video compression, HEVC is the codec used with a data rate of around 80 Mbps and a latency in the 3-second range. The match was broadcast over 5G, BT broadband, and Starlink satellite transport mechanisms. BT did not say which transport method was for 8K, but most likely, it was broadband-only.

Partners for the trial were:

  • BT Media & Broadcast provided contribution links from Tottenham to Stratford
  • Sony Image Products and Solutions Europe provided two UHC-8300 cameras and a PWS-4500 server to record the output
  • Samsung Electronics UK provided its QN800 Neo QLED 8K Televisions to BT Sport’s Stratford Studios
  • EMG UK provided the 8K truck and onsite facilities
  • Fujinon provided a 22:1 wide-angle and 86:1 box lens
  • Appear provided 8K contribution encoders and decoders integrated into the Vena network
  • Synamedia provided the 8K distribution/streaming encoder and origin server

Synamedia explained that AI technologies are built into the encoding stack. They mainly focused on grass, which can be very difficult to encode with high fidelity, especially at 8K resolution. They also can identify text and logos, so they get treated differently in encoding than the video elements. In general, AI increases the video quality or reduces the video bitrate. And this is a live encoding environment, so any AI use must be quite fast.

Finally, the company says it has developed objective quality assessment metrics that include PSNR, SSIM, and VMAF that correlate well with subjective testing. We asked if these tools had been validated for 8K, to which they said “yes”. We may follow up on this to learn more at a later date.

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