Euro 2024 broadcast in HDR: a one-off operation or a real trend?


M6 chooses to broadcast Euro matches in HDR on DTT. Is this a one-off operation or an underlying trend? Our broadcast expert Tania Pouli offers her analysis.

The broadcasting of a European event such as the Euro football competition in HDR: in your opinion, a one-off operation or a real underlying trend?

Today, the broadcasting of this type of event in HDR remains anecdotal (at least in France), even if its production is increasingly done in HDR. This is simply due to the relatively small number of TV channels with an HDR-compatible infrastructure, from production to broadcast. As more and more TV channels switch to HDR, the broadcasting of these types of events in HDR will also increase.

What interest do TV channels have in producing and broadcasting their content in HDR or converting it to HDR rather than exploiting UHD?

The UHD format offers several image quality enhancements. The main ones are higher resolution, frame rate, and the switch to HDR. Although higher resolution was the first feature adopted by UHD, we now realize that it does not necessarily offer the most significant gain in visual quality, especially when considering the associated costs in storage, bandwidth, and energy.

Switching from SDR to HDR, whether through native HDR production or conversions, offers a far greater gain in terms of quality of experience, with a minimal increase in resources required. In fact, in recent productions and tests, a common observation is that the benefits of HDR are already visible in HD resolution, with minimal gain when moving to UHD resolution.

With this in mind, content producers and broadcasters can aim for HDR broadcasting to offer their viewers a superior experience without bearing the costs of a complete UHD transition.

Can we already see such operations in fields other than sports?

Live sports and major cultural events (e.g. music festivals) have traditionally served as the first tests for the transition to new formats and technologies: digital production, the transition from SD to HD, and so on. I'm thinking in particular of the 2018 Football World Cup and the 2018 Winter Olympics, where a transition was made to UHD-HDR formats.

Cinematic content (films, TV series) is already offered in HDR on many streaming platforms, with SDR and HDR versions in production. The film industry is getting in on the act too: at the recent Cannes Film Festival, for example, we witnessed sessions showing films produced in HDR.

As the adoption of HDR workflows becomes more widespread, the transition for smaller productions will become easier and more cost-effective. For some types of content, the visual gain of HDR will be less significant (talk shows, for example). However, in all cases, in addition to the potential improvements in quality, HDR also offers greater freedom in production, as there are fewer constraints in lighting, and more subtle variations in color and contrast can be represented.

What about the user experience?

One of the main criteria for this transition is the quality of the end-user experience. The current challenge for TV broadcasters is to determine the combination of features that offers a significant improvement in quality of experience while minimizing costs and increased energy consumption.

One way of achieving this is through new compression standards that deliver the same visual quality at a significantly lower bit rate, driving the growing adoption of HDR technology, which has a key role to play in this equation, as it can enable end-users to benefit from improved image quality. Of course, it must be equipped with an HDR-compatible television to benefit from it.