Video and television on mobile devices are pushing into the consumer market, but putting a television in every pocket won't happen overnight. A panel of industry experts examined the complexities at the iHollywood Forum during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2006 conference earlier this week in Las Vegas.
Issues range from content size and audio quality to video depth for full-length movies and digital rights management (DRM). Don't forget about variations in phones built on opposing standards, MediaFLO and DVB-H. The cellular phone handsets require chips that enable carriers to deliver multicast TV signals, rather than point to point. The content designed for large high-definition screen differs from that required on a mobile phone. Even if it's the same movie or video game, on HDTV the camera shots are wide. Handsets require tighter angles.
But problems aren't limited to size and shots, said Bob Zitter, HBO executive vice president and chief technology officer. "HBO programming has a wide range of dark to light images, and that doesn't translate well to a portable environment," he said. "We ran a test version of 'Deadwood' on a cell phone, a scene where everyone was sitting around a campfire. All you could see is a little flicker of light."
Audio presents challenges, too. Naysayers believe audio, rather than video, will drive cellular phone content. "Music videos will work because music is secondary and audio is primary," said Saul Berman, partner at Global and Americas Business Strategy leader, IBM Business Consulting Services, in an internet with TechWeb. "Sports highlights, not the game, will work because if I can get the play-by-play that's probably enough."
HBO runs a dynamic range of sound, which doesn't play-out well on cellular phone, panelist agreed. Resolving the problem could lie in redesigning the handset. The lively discussion prompted Zitter to turn toward Nokia's Bob Shallow sitting next to him to offer advice. "It's not good to have the video coming out the front and audio out the back of the handset," Zitter said. Shallow, Nokia's North America head of music and rich media business unit, laughed and said, "We'll have that fixed before the end of the conference."