One of the hot topics of NAB was High Dynamic Range (HDR). Where 4K promises better pictures by adding pixels, HDR provides more brightness, contrast and richer colours, a benefit which many think will be more readily appreciated by consumers.

The current 8-bit video standard for TV allows for a maximum of 256 ‘shades’ of any one colour to be displayed and fully saturated colours, under the currently used Rec. 709 colour standards, are well within the spectrum that the human eye can see.

Compare and contrast the Rec. 2020 standard for colour, which is the maximum colour space proposed for the new 4K Ultra HD standard and HDR – which offers vastly more depth and shades of colour. 

The result is a more realistic, immersive cinematic experience with greater depth, richer colors and more details in both the shadows and highlights.

Little wonder then that following CES in January, where many TV manufacturers were demonstrating HDR features, at NAB manufacturers were rushing to incorporate HDR capability into editing and grading products.

HDR front-runner Dolby has licenced its Dolby Vision HDR technology to TV manufacturer Vizio in the US, while Warner Bros has announced HDR content through OTT service Vudu.

Technicolor announced a new high dynamic range (HDR) grading service for movies, TV shows and commercials plus an HDR plugin for broadcasters and producers to create their own HDR content.

The Technicolor Intelligent Tone Management plugin can be licensed to colour grading platforms including Autodesk’s Lustre and Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve.

SGO Mistika now enables the handling of HDR material in real time, using the newly integrated Mistika Precision Panel.

Hanno Basse, CTO at 20th Century Fox and president of the studio and manufacturer coalition UHD Alliance said at NAB that he “fully expected that every release we make now will have an HDR grade”.

While Hollywood is convinced, the signs are that the early running will be made by the OTT players such as Amazon and Netflix, whose CTO thinks that HDR is more important than 4K when it comes to creating a better quality image.

Amazon will launch an HDR service this year, with Netflix also fast tracking the technology.

It’s a new process for post houses to think about, with HDR content needing a different post production process to HD post– the goal being to preserve more of what the camera originally captured.

But hurdles to HDR adoption still remain, with standards being a rate determining step; there is as yet no standard for HDR TV manufacture.

Consensus over what is the right level of brightness for HDR is still needed, with the brighter versions of HDR over 1,000 nits likely to fall foul of TV energy consumption rules.


David Wood

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