Keep an eye out for HDR TV’s — coming soon

It been a while since the last update here, but after returning from NAB this year I’ve seen a very exciting development that I think goes way beyond the image quality improvement going from SD to HD — and it has nothing to do with more resolution or “more pixels”. I’m not talking about UHD/4K. (And not 3D, either).

It’s called large gamut, high dynamic range, or “HDR” for short. First, I’ll try and describe the basics of what this is without going into the technical details. Television today, even the highest quality Blu-ray displayed on the best, most expensive TV essentially looks like staring out a window through wax paper. The contrast is limited, details in low lit areas are all uniformly dark-grey, while highlight areas such as a campfire all all uniformly red (or white), and limited in brightness. Watching HDR video is literally like staring out a window and experiencing the visuals in real-life. It’s that stunning.

One doesn’t need to even see a conventional TV next to an HDR TV to appreciate the difference — just seeing an HDR display by itself is enough to convince anyone, even the most jaded consumer, that what they’re looking at is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. I’m thoroughly convinced that once everyday consumers see this in action, they will want it immediately. If Best Buy puts an HDR set next to a conventional one, it will fly off the shelves if the price is right and content is available. Period.

How does this relate to UHD/4K? It doesn’t — at least not directly. A lot of the display and camera technology developed in the last few years for UHD/4K has made HDR workflows feasible as well. However, it’s one thing to have HDR video, but you need a way to transmit it, and display it. UHD and new technology like Dolby Vision solve the transmission problem.

What’s new is that the major Consumer Electronics concerns have a solution to the display problem now. The two on display at NAB were OLED (Organic LED) and Quantum Dot LED. These pixel types have infinite contrast ratio (for example the blackest black is completely, 100% dark, no photons at all) and have very high maximum luminance output 1000-4000 nits. Conventional displays have a contrast ratio of at most practically 5000:1 and a typical luminance of 100 nits. Suffice it to say that with the right content, displaying images on these types of displays is like the difference between misty twilight and broad daylight in their impact.

Depicting reality requires a large range of luminance (nits) as shown below:

flower_nits

So what’s really going on here?

First, conventional TVs at best only display 33% of the colors that the Human Visual System can actually perceive. As seen below, the new HDR display and transmission standards make this closer to fully 66%:

rec2020_chromaticity

Even more importantly, the new standards allow for much greater range of brightness (up to 40 times brighter as mentioned before) and at least 2,000,000 contrast ratio (with some display technologies, infinite contrast ratio).

Since you’re reading this post on (most likely) a conventional monitor or display, showing the impact here is like trying to draw a 4-dimensional object on a 2-D piece of paper, but Dolby did a good job of at least simulating the difference one sees in person when confronted with a Dolby Vision enabled display:

hdr_fire

It’s actually more impactful than the photo above implies.

You can check out more about Dolby Vision and HDR here.

So how real is this and how much is vaporware?

Displays: Visio will be shipping a 65″ and 120″ (yes, a 120″ TV) with Dolby Vision support this year. Sony seems to be far along in this regard as well.

Distribution: Walmart’s VUDU service has announced that they will support HDR content as soon as the first sets from Visio hit the market. Also, the latest Bluray spec supports the new color space specification.

Content: Three HDR movies have already been announced for VUDU, with undoubtedly many more to follow.

So, keep an eye out for HDR. You wouldn’t be able to miss it, if you saw it, however.

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~ by opticalflow on April 24, 2015.

3 Responses to “Keep an eye out for HDR TV’s — coming soon”

  1. I am somewhat perplexed by the author’s failure to mention the open HDR standard based on the SMPTE proposal (ST 2084 and ST 2086). It will be mandatory in the recently finalized new Ultra HD Blu-ray specification where the Dolby Vision HDR is optional.

  2. I agree that the UHD Blu-ray specification will play an important part of eventual adoption; however my intent with my article was to comment on solutions that I actually saw at NAB — no UHD Blueray or ST 2084/2086 solutions were on offer or display (although Sony was showing DCI P3 workflow all the way from camera to grading to display, which is a major step forward).

  3. Nice article – thx!!

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