UHD production: What do I need to know?

The key aspects of UHD (sometimes called 4K) production for commissioners, editors and producers including filming, editing, storage, HDR and WCG.

Why do I need to know about UHD?

Ultra-high definition (UHD) with brighter whites and darker blacks is said to be the biggest change in television since the move from black-and-white to colour.

Manufacturers of 4K TV sets are fueling the demand for UHD. So are online streaming companies like Netflix and Amazon. The BBC is investing in a UHD future. Its first experiments were the Queen’s Christmas broadcast in 2014 and Planet Earth II in 2016, leading to Blue Planet II in 2017.

This guide is an introduction for anyone who wants to know what's involved in making programmes in UHD.

What makes UHD better than HD?

UHD means millions more pixels than HD. But there's far more to it than that. The BBC Blue Room's Colin Warhurst explains what makes UHD ground-breaking.

UHD means millions more pixels than HD. But there's far more to it than that. The BBC Blue Room's Colin Warhurst explains what makes UHD ground-breaking.

What do the terms mean?

  • UHD WCG

    UHD means more pixels. UHD has four times as many pixels as HD. HD has 1920 x 1080 pixels (2,073,600) whereas UHD has 3840 x 2160 pixels (8,294,400).

  • 4K

    4K means more pixels. The terms 4K and UHD are often used interchangeably but they have different aspect ratios (1.9:1 for 4K, 16:9 for UHD). 4K is the cinema standard.

  • UHD HDR

    HDR (higher dynamic range) means more contrast. In UHD HDR, the dark is darker and the light is lighter. HDR creates an almost 3D effect for the viewer.

  • UHD WCG

    WCG( wider colour gamut) means better colour. UHD WCG is made with a colour space that can replicate almost all the colours seen by the human eye.

What's end-to-end UHD?

To experience UHD in all its glory, everything from capture to screens needs to be compatible. Click on the infographic below to learn what needs to happen at each stage for UHD to be experienced at home.

End to end Infographic

What's end-to-end UHD?

Capture

Wow

Edit

Internet

Signal

Screen

How do I film in UHD?

The BBC's specific technical delivery standards and the European Broadcast Union's guidance on tiering of cameras for use in television production (EBU R118) can be found in Step 7.

How do I film in HD video

How much storage is needed?

Storage of UHD content needs to be planned

The time it takes to transfer and store footage depends on what's been captured - the number of pixels, the colour scheme, the depth of contrast and the frame rate.

How to manage your storage challenges

  • Calculate what storage you will need before embarking on a production
  • Use drives with a write speed of at least 100Mb/s
  • Prepare well so you can reduce the shooting ratio
  • Use linear tape open as an alternative to a drive. It's more secure than a disc and more efficient
  • Consider applying a mezzanine compression but be careful not to significantly compromise quality
  • Aim to create UHD with HDR and WCR but don't attempt the higher frame rate for now

Examples of UHD transfer times

Where next?