Comcast/NBCU Provides Ultra-HD Olympic Experience


Comcast/NBCU on Wednesday held the first of  a series of planned D.C. demonstrations of NHK-developed Ultra-HD (Super Hi-Vision), the next generation, or perhaps the one after that, of high-definition TV.

Comcast teamed with the BBC and NHK of Japan to demo the technology, which has 16 times the resolution of current HD pictures -- 33 million pixels vs. about 2 million.

The demo, at Comcast/NBCU headquarters on Capitol Hill, featured a compilation of Olympic footage, primarily from the opening ceremonies but also including American Allison Schmitt's silver medal performance from the swimming venue. It was displayed on an 85-inch LCD screen and multichannel sound system. Greg DePriest, VP of technology policy for NBCU, said footage from synchronized swimming, track and field, cycling and basketball would be added from this week's action for a second demo on Monday, Aug. 6.

Washington is one of only seven venues providing the Olympic footage in the experimental format, with three in Britain and another three in Japan. There will be public viewings in London and Bradford, England; Glasgow, Scotland; Shibuya, Akihabara, and Fukushima, Japan; and invitation-only viewings in Washington, D.C.

Comcast/NBCU's screening was invitation-only because it was a technology demonstration with experimental equipment that it wanted in a secure location where it could test it -- it was not Comcast/NBCU equipment -- according to a company spokesperson. The company also had to run fiber to its headquarters to complete the fiber loop.

The footage was not NBC coverage, but a feed of BBC edited and produced footage captured by SHV (Super Hi-Vision) cameras.

Don't look for Ultra-HD to start replacing all those just-bought, big-screen sets anytime soon. DePriest said the technology is at least eight years away, with the Japanese targeting 2020 for a commercial rollout there.

Comcast/NBCU Washington president Kyle McSlarrow said the test took nine months of prep and that the company committed to it without ever having seen the picture. He was not disappointed, he said. McSlarrow said he was not prepared for how immersive and 3D-like the images were.