Skip to main content (Press Enter)

Pope sanctification captured and transmitted live in 4K Ultra HD

In a major live Outside Broadcast, the ceremony in Rome in April 2014, during which Pope Francis raised Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII to sainthood, was transmitted live in HD, 3D and in 4K Ultra HD.

DBW Communication and Sony partner CTV

Centro Televisivo Vaticano (Vatican Television Center; CTV), with facilities partners DBW Communication and Sony, produced the two hour April 27 broadcast from St. Peter's Square, Rome, in a first of its kind parallel production. The event was also shown on Sky Italia.

The 4K piece of the production proved another valuable demonstration of the power of Sony’s 4K live workflow. Feeds from six PMW-F55 cameras with CA-4000 optical fibre back-ends and two wireless HD camcorders up-converted to 4K, were encoded and distributed as four 3G HD-SDI signals by Globecast from DBW Communication’s production truck to a Eutelsat satellite. It was then beamed back to the Vatican's Paolo VI suite for viewing on a super-size 4K Bravia TV set.

As well as the F55s and HD camcorders, the MVX-7000X video switcher in 4K configuration, a 30-inch professional PVM-X300 LCD 4K monitor system and the PWS-4400 4K server were used to record this historical moment.

CTV pioneers cutting-edge technology

This is not the first time that CTV has worked in 4K in-conjunction with Sony. The last General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI on February 27, 2013 was also captured in 4K, as was the first Mass of Pope Francis, celebrated on March 19, 2013, though they were not aired live in 4K. Discussions are on-going with CTV to organise a later event for the remote 4K projection of the canonization ceremony.

Established by Pope John Paul II in 1983, CTV films the activities of the Holy Father and Holy See – the central government of the Roman Catholic Church – and produces its own programmes, provides footage for other broadcasters and keeps an extensive archive for future use.

It has made considerable investment in Sony technology. This includes the 24 camera OB16 with 3G infrastructure primed for 4K action; a fully tapeless control facility which rests on Sony's Media Backbone asset management platform, and the digitisation of a 10,000 hour archive from tape onto Sony’s Optical Disc Archive storage solution.

Rome-based DBW Communication has also invested in six F55 live chains using the CA-4000 and BPU-4000.

Archiving in 4K on Optical Disc Archive

“The Vatican's goal is to develop productions that enhance the involvement of people and to provide wider archive formats,” explained CTV Technical Director, Stefano D’Agostini. “Ultra HD gives incredible detail and a real emotive quality. We are looking at 4K as the highest quality to store material in future.”

Key in this regard was the mastering of the canonization at 4K resolution on Optical Disc Archive. 4K footage was recorded live on to the PWS-4400 4K server in XAVC format (4:2:2 10-bit) and then transferred for archiving on to Optical Disc Archive, with DBW Communication taking care of the visual files for archive.

“Sony technology will make watching this historic event closer to reality for hundreds of millions of viewers,” commented David Bush, Sony Europe's director of marketing.

Parallel HD, 3D and 4K productions

A key goal of the event was to further explore how different production scenarios work in practice by integrating different formats. The three directors for the 3D, 4K and HD productions were able to access feeds from one another. HD could be up-converted to 4K, and the 4K could be offered as a down-conversion to HD. The 4K image could also be 'cut out' [zoomed into] and offered to the HD production since a 4K master offers a better quality HD image.

The ceremony itself was also unique in that it represented the first time two Pontiffs had been canonized at once; also the first time two living Pontiffs had presided over a canonization (Emeritus Benedict, who bowed down from the office last year attended the mass). Up to a million pilgrims swelled Rome to try and get a glimpse of the event, with half a million crowded into St Peter's Square.

Find out more about Broadcast Products