bbc iplayer planet earth

BBC trialling UHD content on iPlayer with Planet Earth clip

The BBC is trialling ultra-high definition (UHD) content on its iPlayer service and is currently offering teaser footage of Planet Earth II to those with compatible televisions.

The BBC said the aim of the test, which will send a notification to BBC iPlayer users with UHD-compatible TVs to watch the four-minute clip from the show, is to test streaming higher visual quality content on the service and to gauge customer reaction.

The footage, which includes a jaguar stalking prey and rainfall in the jungle, also uses a technology called Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) that provides better quality pixels in images, improving the range of colours that can be seen on-screen.

As a result, the clip contains footage of a frog in a shade of red the BBC says has never been seen before on TV and will be available to view from Wednesday until “early next year”.

The head of BBC iPlayer, Dan Taylor-Watt, said the test was important in planning for the platform’s future.

The extra quality HLG brings to Ultra HD needs to be seen to be believed. Its still early days for the technology, but this experiment puts us in the best possible position once audience demand is there, he said.

This year weve brought live events like the Euros and Olympics to iPlayer, introduced new personalised features and now were giving people a glimpse of what the future may hold.

Other streaming services, including Netflix and Amazon, have already begun to offer some programs in Ultra HD to those with compatible devices.

The BBC itself began trialling the technology back in 2014 when it transmitted by satellite UHD footage of the tournament to a number of compatible consumer UHD TV sets in selected R&D facilities. 

Phil Layton, head of broadcast and connected systems at the BBCs research and development department, said: Increasing the dynamic range of TV images makes a huge difference to how real the images appear to viewers - its closer to looking through a window than watching a standard TV set.

Crucially, HLG works with existing TV technology and workflows making it ideal for broadcasters, and audiences, all over the world.

The BBC has been modernising its iPlayer offering and made viewers require a TV Licence in order to access the catch-up service from September 1 2016. 

Reports circulated, which were promptly denied by the broadcaster, that they would be using Wi-Fi ‘packet-sniffing’ technology to crack down on those watching iPlayer without a valid TV licence. 

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