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World Cup 2018: BBC iPlayer to stream matches in 4K HDR

The BBC is to stream dozens of World Cup matches live in 4K resolution and high dynamic range colour (HDR) to UK-based audiences in June and July.
It will mark the first time iPlayer has covered one of the major sporting events in such quality. However, it will limit the number of screens with access, and will do so on a first-come first-served basis.

The BBC also plans a separate virtual reality experience. One expert said the news had been highly anticipated. “There had been a couple of earlier trials that had not been highly publicized, but now everyone who has compatible equipment should be able to see some of the best picture quality made available via a terrestrial broadcast,” commented Andy Madden, content editor at What Hi-Fi? magazine.

“They should see a marked improvement in detail and a brighter, punchier picture than they had previously.”

The term 4K – which is sometimes referred to as being ultra-high definition (UHD) – refers to the fact that an image contains four times as many pixels as a 1080p high definition picture. This can reveal details that would otherwise be obscure – including the notes written on a yellow or red card, or the time on a referee’s watch.

The bigger the screen and/or the closer its audience is, the more obvious the enhancement provided. Many people, however, have found that it is HDR that provides the biggest “wow factor”.

The technology takes advantage of the fact modern TVs can go brighter and/or darker than they used to, providing a greater dynamic range. As result, the shadows of an image can be made less murky while the highlights – including glints of light reflected off metal or water – can be given more impact.

HDR is also accompanied by the adoption of a “wider color space”, meaning millions more colors can be displayed than had been the case before.  As an added benefit, footage will be played at 50 frames per second rather than the normal 25fps.

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