EBU Leans Towards a New Enhanced 1080p Format Over 4K Broadcasting

by Hugh Brownstone8 Comments

Having lived in Europe for three years, I’m happy to acknowledge that Europeans do nuance better than we do in the States.

Case in point: The European Broadcast Union (EBU) Policy Statement on Ultra High Definition Television.

The EBU asserts that 4K resolution alone “…is unsatisfactory and will be of limited success in broadcasting.” Instead, the EBU emphasizes the value of wider dynamic range, wider color gamut, higher frame rate and better sound in creating a better experience for TV viewers.

They even propose to focus on these parameters instead of resolution, and do so within our current 1080p framework.

I’m not in a position to evaluate their assertion about market acceptance, but I’m loving the quality I’m seeing from 4K down-res’d to 1080p.

With this written, I’m not looking forward to full 4K workflow – nor the workload it will place on my editing system.

But I certainly look forward to the day when sequences of the sky or images in the dark on my HDTV don’t look so much like concentric rings in a tree’s cross-section.

If that can happen within 1080p, I’m jiggy with it.

How about you?

EBU Policy Statement on Ultra High Definition Television

Via EBU:

This document contains an important and fairly complex statement.

It may only be reproduced and distributed in its entirety.
Partial quotation is strictly forbidden.

This instruction must accompany the document at all times.


The EBU notes the growing interest throughout the world in Ultra High Definition Television (UHDTV). The technical parameter values of such systems may include higher image resolution, higher image frame rate (HFR), higher image dynamic range (HDR), wider colour gamut (WCG) and advanced sound system technologies. Together these enhancements will give a more “immersive” and better experience for viewers.

This document is intended to guide strategic decisions in regard to UHDTV and future TV services. It is addressed at Senior Management of EBU Members and other broadcasters and at anyone who is a stakeholder in the audiovisual content industries.

The issues

At the time of publication (July 2014) the issues confronting broadcasters are:

  • Televisions advertised as “4K Ultra-HD” entered the market in 2013.
  • These displays provide four times (3840 x 2160 pixels) the resolution of HDTV. It is predicted that in excess of 12% of worldwide television sales will be ‘4K Ultra-HD’ TVs in 2015.
  • The UHDTV standard, however, provides several other additional enhancements over HDTV parameters. These are higher frame rates, more contrast in images (dynamic range), better colours and immersive audio. The intent of a suitable combination of all these enhanced parameters is to provide an “immersive” and better experience for the viewer (“better pixels”).
  • The EBU Technical Committee believes that the current focus of the CE industry to provide only an increased resolution (“4k”) and ignoring other enhancements is not a sufficiently large step for the introduction of successful new broadcasting services.
  • New broadband services, such as YouTube, Netflix and Amazon’s, and disruptive technologies, such as Dolby Vision, are capable of delivering these extended options as Over-The-Top or enhanced services.
  • In Japan, the Administration, together with NHK, has a roadmap to deliver a UHDTV service called “Super Hi-Vision” (“8k”) in time for the 2020 Olympics. The impact of this on the rest of the world is unclear at present


UHDTV in production:

In the short term, some broadcasters and producers of high value programmes are already taking advantage of the latest “4k” equipment in the market to provide greater production headroom and to future-proof their content for the archive.

In the same way that HD production technologies have improved the image quality of SD services over the last decade, improved cameras and production equipment will enhance the technical quality of current HD services. “4k” capture technologies will also enable innovative creative possibilities to create HD programmes (e.g. extracting HD frames from a “4k” image). The ITU-R has already recommended “the use of UHDTV image systems for capturing, editing, finishing and archiving high-quality HDTV programmes”. It should be noted, however, that mainstream production infrastructures for “4k” and UHDTV are still in development.

UHDTV in distribution:

The DVB Project has specified that a Phase 1 UHDTV broadcast format shall only include the higher resolution and does not take into account other enhanced parameters for “better pixels”. The parameters (or a combination of them) that provide a more immersive viewing experience, such as frame rate, dynamic range, colour gamut and enhanced audio are to be considered for a DVB Phase 2 UHDTV broadcast format.

An enhanced, 1080p-based, HD service that includes a certain combination of UHDTV parameters except for the resolution increase (e.g. higher frame rate, higher dynamic range, wider colorimetry and advanced sound system audio) is not yet standardized. Such a 1080p-based HD format could be an appealing option for some broadcasters and should be taken into account in the standardization and investigation process. The EBU proposes that an enhanced 1080p format be developed for broadcasting.


The TC believes that the current ‘4K Ultra-HD’ approach of the consumer electronics industry is unsatisfactory and will be of limited success in broadcasting.

  • It will lead to significant public confusion by associating the term UHDTV only with an increase of resolution (“4k”).
  • Many different combinations of parameters are currently under discussion and key interoperability standards are still missing.
  • A UHDTV roadmap for Europe is still not defined.

The TC has therefore asked its technical groups to investigate and interpret the available data, to work on ‘future-proof’ standards and the collection and creation of objective information, so that Members can make well informed strategic decisions.

EBU Members will continue to lobby for a satisfactory (i.e. a “DVB Phase 2”) service.

Download the EBU Policy Statement on Ultra High Definition Television HERE

(cover photo credit: snap from Cinescopophilia)


  1. I am all about more dynamic range for 1080p. I’m not really an advocate for 4K. I think we should focus on making 1080p better and wait until the market and technology catches up.

  2. sleepinghouse Agreed.  But I wonder why Canon cannot make a sharper 1080p image now?  Does one HAVE to move to 4K to make it sharp?

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  5. I don’t think they’re leaning towards 1080p over 4k. They (like many of us) are concerned that current “4k” products aren’t adhering to the rec 2020 standard established for UHD broadcast, instead the manufacturers are just providing rec 709 (HD broadcast standard) with double resolution and calling it “4k ready” but to actually meet rec 2020 standards requires far more bandwidth and processing than just pushing the current rec 709 standard up to 4k resolution, which already requires 4x more power to push it. The TV makers are ignoring rec 2020 so the broadcasters might have no reason for it, the EBU propose a compromise asking for rec 2020 HD products in the meantime (or something close to it) which is smart because it will educate the users and ensure rec2020 becomes real. If I remember correctly rec 2020 had cool stuff like 10bit over 8bit and a gamut near “ProPhoto” rather than sRGB. I hope they succeed.

  6. HughBrownstone sleepinghouse My 5Dmkii is sharp. I heard it is sharper than the 5Dmkiii, which apparently is supposed to be sharpened in post. I haven’t actually seen 4K on a 4K monitor. I mean when would I? I have a 720 macbook pro. I have nothing to compare it to which I actually like.

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