Mark Francisco on Capturing a Glimpse of Television's 4K Future in Sochi

We caught up with Comcast technology fellow Mark Francisco on the eve of the Sochi Games to discuss the exciting future ahead for 4K television.

What does the Comcast Samsung partnership entail and what does it mean for the advancement of 4K?

Mark Francisco: The partnership between Comcast and Samsung has allowed the delivery of Comcast UltraHD (UHD) content directly to Samsung’s newest UHDTVs. The engineering teams from both companies are working together to innovate the delivery of UHD content through a streaming application available on the television Smart Hub.

Can you talk more about what Comcast will be doing around 4K with the winter games?

Mark Francisco: Comcast is working closely with NBC Sports to get a glimpse of the future of television by capturing some of the excitement of the Games in UHD format. Each day, new UHD footage of the games and surroundings will be delivered to the United States for viewing at signature events in Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Philadelphia.

How is the Comcast network equipped to deliver 4K programming?

Mark Francisco: Comcast has ample capacity to deliver UHD programming through its state of the art Hybrid Fiber-Coax network. By using the latest delivery technologies such as CCAP and DOCSIS3, UHD fits well within the existing channel and broadband capacities of the network. In fact, using the advanced HEVC video compression, this content with four times the definition of HD requires no more bandwidth to transmit.

How do you manage 4K experiences on other devices like tablets, smartphones or laptops?

Mark Francisco: UHD capable PCs and laptops are starting to reach the market and tablets are anticipated in the future. As these devices become popular, Comcast is looking at ways to extend the content and applications to these devices using the capability of our broadband and WiFi networks.

How dependent is the quality of 4K on the delivery network?

Mark Francisco: To enjoy a continuously optimal experience with UHD content, it is important to have a reliable network and sufficient broadband capacity. UHD may require 15-20 Mbps continuous capacity to maintain such an experience. Comcast continuously upgrades its networks to ensure such capacity exists now and in the future.

Can Comcast deliver 4K content from partners like Netflix and Amazon?

Mark Francisco: The ability to deliver UHD content from providers such as Netflix and Amazon is dependent upon several factors outside of Comcast’s network. Once on Comcast’s network, a customer has full capacity of their broadband connection to enjoy these services.

How far behind are technologies like 8K?

Mark Francisco: 8K is very exciting. Offering 16 times the resolution of HD, it may just be the ultimate limit of resolution. Comcast participated in pioneering broadcasts of 8k (also known as UHDTV2) during the London Summer Olympics in 2012. The images were extraordinary but the technology has a lot of development before being practical for home use. The television used was one of only a few in existence. The cameras and broadcasting equipment handcrafted. The broadband connection exceeded several hundred megabits per second to handle this extreme resolution. Many standards bodies feel 8k is technology for 2020 and later.

HD is really good so what are the differences between HD and 4k?

Mark Francisco: HD is beautiful. UHD offers more stunning details and may offer deeper color and expanded light ranges. As our customers enjoy larger televisions, the increased resolution of UHD can increase the realism and immersive nature of television viewing.

Would you like to add anything else?

Mark Francisco: UHD is very close to the native resolution of modern movie camera capture, which is often called 4K. It has the opportunity to provide a truly cinematic experience in the home. The potential limits of what UHD can bring to the home are just beginning to be explored as the technology becomes more familiar to content creators, distributors and equipment producers.

(Athlete Photo: AP Images)