Standards: Ultra HD Forum announces watermarking API, updates specs

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The Ultra HD Forum has updated its technical specifications and by year-end will be releasing a generic watermarking API to standardize interaction between video transcoders and watermarking processors to produce A/B variant adaptive bit-rate streams.

Ultra HD is mainstream

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The Ultra HD Forum is currently tracking nearly 200 commercially available consumer-facing and business Ultra HD service offerings with more than three billion subscriptions worldwide, and offers a service tracker where interested parties and members can learn about these services.

There’s no longer any question that Ultra HD video is in the mainstream, as top broadcasters, pay TV and streaming providers  scale up worldwide; and as technology providers refine their implementations of UHD attributes like high frame rate, wide color gamut, high dynamic range, and of course 4k resolution.

What else is new?

Version 2.4 of the specification includes substantial additions and minor updates, which include:

  • Objective measurement and analysis of the quality of HDR Tone Mapping
  • UHD live event distribution via OTT
  • New and updated Annexes

Free download of the Guidelines is available at

Read the Ultra HD Forum press release

Why it matters

The Ultra HD Forum’s forthcoming watermarking API reflects a maturation of watermarking as an anti-piracy process, which began 20 years ago with the watermarking of movies distributed to movie reviewers via physical media.

A/B variant watermarking is one of two techniques used to identify content distributed in streaming applications; the other being client-side or client-composited watermarking.  While A/B watermarking produces two sets of streams, and therefore, potentially, double the storage requirements, it requires no processing at the receiving (client) end.

Client-side watermarking is the inverse: no stream duplication at the headend or in the CDN, but the receiving device must be able to accommodate software to do the embedding.  Both techniques are used to embed session-specific information in a stream so the content can be recognized later if it is suspected of re-distribution by pirates.

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