PBS Relies on Video Clarity ClearView 4K Analyzer to Determine Best 4K Delivery Scenarios
by Renard T. Jenkins, Senior Director of Production and Distribution Operations, PBS
With more than 350 member stations, PBS offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content. For the 2013-’14 season, PBS had the fifth largest primetime household rating among all broadcast and cable networks and in 2014 alone, Americans viewed more than 4.5 billion videos across all PBS digital platforms. Ours is a massive broadcast and content distribution operation, with much of the content being produced by independent entities and member stations. The goal is to give all of our member stations a solid product at the origin so that they, in turn, can provide a top-notch experience for their viewers.
In order to meet that goal, we must protect our product from downstream degradation as it goes through processing and distribution. We’re looking at advanced formats, such as – but not limited to – 4K and testing those new technologies in an exploratory setting to determine which combination of products, codecs, and methodologies will yield the best quality for the lowest bandwidth.
A big part of our testing involves new compression standards such as HEVC. We need to test HEVC alongside codecs such as H.264, J2K, and VP9 to determine our best approach to 4K and UHD delivery. There are many directions we could go, which makes testing all the more critical.
Currently, we are using Video Clarity’s ClearView 4K analyzer in PBS’ Advanced Formats Center at NPR — a collaboration with our public media partner where we have created a test environment that contains a mini ecosystem of advanced formats and production and distribution methods. ClearView 4K allows us to test the quality of 4K video when processed with different encoding technologies. Besides being the first analyzer out of the gate to deal with 4K and other advanced formats, ClearView 4K lets us do several things that we were hard-pressed to do before employing their technology.
First, the A-B split screen allows us to do side-by-side comparisons of different compression codecs — and even different “flavors” of the HEVC codec. We can make quality measurements throughout the processing chain, from origination through delivery, using different encoding methods at various bit rates, frame rates, and other variables. Thanks to ClearView 4K’s complete set of full-reference tests, we can test any given scenario from top to bottom with confidence that we’ll get quality results that will help us justify a given solution.
ClearView 4K is also one of the only analyzers on the market that can test 4K UHD content at high frame rates, such as 60 frames per second and beyond.
ClearView 4K gives us a proven set of audio tools that lets us analyze how 4K and UHD codecs affect the audio — a critical part of the viewer experience.
ClearView 4K further saves us time and money by doubling as a remote testing solution. Not only do we use it in our Advanced Format Center, but our distribution team can access the box anytime via VPN to perform remote tests of their own.
The results of our tests with ClearView 4K are helping us to develop and recommend production techniques that our independent production partners can follow for 4K origination. They’re also helping us understand the effects of 4K encoding technologies on program delivery so that we can continue to refine the audience quality of experience.
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About the Author
Renard T. Jenkins’ career in the broadcast industry spans 28 years. He has been with PBS in Arlington, Virginia, for four and a half years. He has also worked for TV One, Discovery Communications and spent more than 16 years at CNN in Atlanta.
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