By collecting the people, technology, insight and innovations that help the media & entertainment industry move forward, NAB Show continues to be the highlight of the year for creative professionals across the industry. As an illustration of what that collection of expertise looks like, Joe Kane is set to showcase his insights at NAB Show during the Displays – Bigger, Better, Cheap – What is the Reality? session, where he’ll tell attendees what’s real and affordable, but also provide a glimpse into the direction of consumers.
As the President at Joe Kane Productions, Mr. Kane has a keen understanding of how the video landscape has changed over the last few years, and how those changes impact what we’ll see in the near-future. Joe Kane Productions supplies test materials to help answer issues in 3D and provide a source signal quality much better than specification and test materials for UHD. Ultimately, the goal is to UHD come up with a revised version that will completely replace HDTV.
We connected with Mr. Kane to explore what he’s set to talk through at his NAB Show session but also talked about the changes he’s witnessed in the media landscape. We asked him about the revised version of UHD that will completely replace HDTV, how consumer exceptions around TV sets and displays have changed, what he’s looking forward to being part of at NAB Show 2019 and plenty more.
To learn more about or register for NAB Show taking place April 6-11 in Las Vegas, click here.
ProVideo Coalition: Tell us a little bit about how you’ve seen the media landscape change over the years, and about your efforts to keep up with those changes.
Joe Kane: From a video standards point of view we’ve gone from strict rules about how we build video, based on how it looks on a well-defined reference display, to what to me feels like a free for all. In discussing signal processing I often use the example of editing systems built by computer companies who know little about video. They often feel they can do what they want with it and use anything available as a ‘reference’ monitor. They claim to have a large enough following to create their own universe. What they are doing is now so pervasive we have to accommodate. When I designed a professional grade 1080p projector I included a capability of switching between what I call Video and PC systems.
In displays I was of the mind they had to do exactly what system standards demanded of them. Today displays and video processing capability are so diverse I feel the signal driving displays has to be flexible enough to accommodate whatever the display wants. In the future, we’ll describe a master in terms of ‘display referred’. In other words, this is what the display (canvas) looked like when I created my artistic intent. I need to be able to get to any other display capability and produce a picture that represents my artistic intent.
What can you tell us about your efforts in assisting in coming up with a revised version of UHD that will completely replace HDTV?
The most important direction I’m taking is supporting the idea of a single master for content. The idea is the display tells the source what it is capable of doing. With a mutual handshake, the most compatible version of the content comes out. The single master source signal is not formatted for HDR but contains enough bit depth to get there. In part what this says is a set with only a 750 nit peak light output capability will have the HDR signal formatted for 750 nits. This eliminates the tone mapping these sets are currently required to do.
It also allows for formats that are friendlier to the display’s capability. PQ based HDR is not friendly to any of the commonly available display technologies. We are currently introducing a 300 nit extended dynamic range (EDR) gamma based capability. It was initially created to show the single master can do things not anticipated, but in the process we discovered, given the limitations of display capability, the EDR picture actually looks better than the HDR signal. The output of the single master can also compensate for viewing conditions. Not only will the handshake convey what the set is capable of doing but could also tell us about the intensity of the light behind and in front of the set. In your home, you could have multiple displays of the same type but in different environments, the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom. In reality, each set would want its own version of the program.
In theaters today exhibitors often run multiple types of displays. Currently, each one has to have its own master. If there are only a few of a particular type of display, the Dolby projector or a direct LED wall as examples, the distributor may not want to provide a special version for so few of these displays. The single master approach would solve this issue.
What aspect or element of high definition technology do you most often see professionals get confused about?
In discussing this it would be helpful to define high definition. If UHD is included the answer might require a time stamp. In part what I see in confusion is where they are on the timeline of learning about UHD and HDR. Questions and or confusion often center on something new to them.
If there are general, on-going topics I’d pick display and signal path issues. The professional world is often dependent on consumer devices to display content. They are needed as there aren’t a lot of choices in ‘professional’ monitors large enough to begin to see what is going on in the signal. As recent as October 2017, I ran across a major TV set manufacturer that didn’t have a 601, 709 or 2020 Y Cr Cb decoder built into their UHD TV sets. The pictures couldn’t be made to be correct and it took some effort to figure out why.
If we look at HD as well as UHD, when we went to digital there was a general loss of knowledge on how to do a proof of performance. In the analog world, there were test signals at the head of every program. Someone went through the entire video chain to make sure they were coming out right. Today I’m still hearing ‘its digital, what could possibly go wrong?’ With the myriad of options that could be set it is as important today to check the signal path than it ever was. The number of options is getting much larger as we begin to produce many versions of UHD content. It’s also a combination of PC versus Video levels, as well as resolutions. We’re delivering 4096 by 2160 as well as 3840 by 2160. What do consumer TV sets do with 4096 when they can only display 3840?
Have consumer exceptions around TV sets and displays similarly changed?
I sometimes tell stories of human behavior research where we find attention delivered in a positive way gets a positive response. UHD is consumer product manufacturer driven. What’s in it, HDR and color space in particular, are fairly easy to promote, even if TV set manufacturers don’t get it right.
In my mind, consumers know little about UHD beyond what they are spoon-fed in product promotion. I’ve introduced high-quality video to a number of people in their mid to late 20’s who have gone out in the world and made a living promoting better audio and video quality than most consumers have ever seen. Are there enough of them to matter? The best I can say is I’m not giving up on trying to provide an experience representing what the system can do.
The systems have been flawed for some time. Interlaced should have never been a part of HD. It took UHD to get rid of it. Y Cr Cb should never have been 4:2:0 or 8 bit. Shortly after standards were set for HD DVD the people I was working with had the time to figure out it should have been a 10 bit 4:2:2 format, as I had wanted from the beginning. As we get into the single master we recognize we need to be delivering 16 bit 4:4:4. Picture size is important to resolution and with brighter pictures comes an ability to recognize Y Cr Cb issues.
What consumers get out of this is partially based on what is shown to them. I ruined so many people for watching interlace video on a CRT set by showing them what it really looked like. In HD 720p looked much better than 1080i. Initially, Fox was going to be content with 480p as they felt it looked better than 1080i.
In what way have you seen changes with high definition technology play out at NAB?
In answering that I’d have to include the PC world in their part of HD. They were into progressive high-resolution imaging long before it came to TV. (The short RGB cable between the computer and the display was on their side.) It seems every year some new computer-based company has a display the size RCA or Grass Valley would have had back in 1978 when I first started going to NAB. The show floor has gotten to a point for me where I have to pick technologies on which to focus. Prior to last year, I thought we were at the end of film scanners only to have them immerge as a new important technology.
Computing horsepower has been a game changer. Virtual reality and artificial intelligence are new focus points for me. After presentations at the HPA Tech Retreat, I’m ready for virtual performances of people long dead. Seeing it in Star Wars is just the beginning. I suspect in the near future there will be as many stages in Las Vegas dedicated to virtual reality performances as Cirque du Soleil currently occupies. Maybe Gracie Allen will finally be able to join George Burns in 3D on stage in La Vegas.
What do you want people to know about your NAB Show 2019 session, “Displays – Bigger, Better, Cheap – What is the Reality?“
Moore’s Law seems to be holding true in a loose definition of what displays can do. Their ever-increasing capabilities are driving how we produce content. Going forward we are looking at More, Better, Faster pixels of which UHD is the introduction. The time between transitions gets shorter. We may be approaching a time of seemingly continuous change.
In preparing for this presentation I looked back at the history of major transitions in the video industry. I was initially going to point out how each transition seemed difficult at the time for one reason or another but compromise(s) were offered to make each new system workable … only to have the issues come up again at the next transition. Among the things I want to suggest is some of the ‘new’ issues we are facing today aren’t all that different from the 1953 NTSC transition to color.
What type of person is going to get the most out of your session?
I feel someone who wants to know about long-term goals will get a lot out of this session. The current transition, and the issues involved in being able to see the new picture, is a starting point in understanding where we might be going. I’d like to believe as much as we might be tempted to narrow our focus to today we’ll do a better job if we are open to what might follow this transition. The real goal is the future. There will be steps to get there but let’s have the future in mind.
What’s next for high definition technology?
In my mind, the most important next step will be the single master concept. As an industry, we’ve been working in real 4K (4096) since 1993, yet when it (3840 by 2160) came to the consumer market in 2012 we essentially had nothing to offer. Let’s not get caught short again.
Is there something specific you’re looking forward to seeing or being part of at NAB Show 2019?
I’ve mentioned my newly found interest in virtual reality combined with artificial intelligence. Beyond that I see the direct LED display having a great deal of potential as the next best display device.
More than anything else, what makes NAB Show an event that’s so distinct and important for creative professionals?
What qualifies as being interesting to people in our industry is diverse beyond anything I would have imagined just a few years ago. I’ve certainly gotten to a point where the show is all about meeting people who can fill me in on the things I will not know on my own. The individual pieces are so many I don’t want to think about having to learn them all. What I want to get out of the show is to know where the pieces might fit into what I want to create and who to call upon for help in making it happen.
To learn more about or register for NAB Show taking place April 6-11 in Las Vegas, click here.