High Dynamic Range (HDR) improves video quality by going beyond more pixels to increase the amount of data delivered by each pixel. As a result, HDR video is capable of capturing a larger range of brightness and luminosity to produce an image closer to what can be seen in real life. Show anyone HDR content encoded in 4K resolution, and it’s no surprise that content providers and TV manufacturers are quickly jumping on board to deliver content with HDR. HDR definitely provides the “wow” factor that the market is looking for. But what’s even more promising is the industry’s overwhelmingly positive reaction to it.
Chicken and egg dilemma will be solved
TV giants Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and LG have all launched HDR-capable 4K TVs in the premium price range. However, Vizio get the credit for being the first to break through with low cost UHD HDR TV’s with their P-Series. Available now and starting at just $999, this removes the price objection for all but the most budget conscious consumers. Check out the price chart below referenced in a recent CNET article.
VIZIO P SERIES 2016 TVS
|Model||Size||Price||Dimming zones||Refresh rate||Panel type|
The availability of affordable TV’s is an extremely promising factor that is pushing the market to believe that HDR is here to stay. The fact that HDR sets are starting at such a low price this early in the market development of the technology is a good indicator that the category is going to grow quickly, allowing consumers to experience the enhancement of high dynamic range sooner than is normally possible when new advanced technologies are first introduced. In fact, some are predicting that these prices will fall to “as little as $600 to $700” for a 50-55inch UHD TV with HDR capability, which if true, brings HDR and UHD even closer to the price of current 1080p models.
Now all we need is content
In January 2016, Netflix announced the availability of streaming of Marco Polo series in Dolby Vision and HDR10. At CES 2016, Netflix also showed clips from the Daredevil series in Dolby Vision. Far from being demos only, Daredevil season 2 was released on March 18th and Marco Polo season 2 will be released on July 1st. Thus, it’s safe to say that Netflix sees HDR as “the next generation of TV”.
HDR standards are emerging
Publishing guidelines to ensure compatibility and consistent user experience across the device ecosystem for HDR content and displays, is the next natural and significant step to insure industry adoption of HDR, and on April 18th the UHD Forum announced the, UHD Forum Guidelines. The ITU-R Study Group 6 works on recommendations for HDR and the publication is expected in July 2016.
Surveying the current market, there are several HDR technologies that exist and cover the spectrum of both dual and single layer HDR, with the main ones being Dolby Vision dual and single layer, and a Technicolor-Philips single layer solution, known as HDR10.
What is the difference between dual and single layer HDR workflows? The dual layer approach provides backward compatibility with legacy SDR systems (set-top-boxes, TVs), but requires two decoders for endpoint devices. Single layer is not backwards compatible with SDR systems, but it makes TV sets and set-top-boxes more economical and less complex.
Since there are multiple standards, it presents certain challenges for an industry-wide rollout. Dolby Vision is getting a lot of attention due to its well-recognized name and the Vizio and LG endorsement. At the same time Ultra HD Premium (HDR10) is required by Blu-ray Disc Association. All these competing standards make choosing the appropriate one more challenging. But never fear, there is an encoder in the market today, which is capable of generating Dolby Vision single and dual layer streams, and HDR10 compatible streams or files.
Meet V.265 Beamr’s HDR-optimized encoder
Beamr has been working with Dolby to enable Dolby Vision HDR support for several years now, even jointly presenting a white paper at SMPTE. The V.265 codec is optimized for Dolby Vision and HDR10 and takes into account all requirements for both standards including full support for VUI signaling, SEI messaging, SMPTE ST 2084:2014 and ITU-R BT.2020.
Pesky stuff the industry is addressing
There are many commonalities between HDR technologies, but there are common challenges too. For example SDR to HDR conversion, and conversion between HDR formats can happen in various parts of the distribution chain, causing headaches on the metadata management side. Additionally, peak brightness management across the production chain, and metadata propagation are known challenges too. Metadata propagation from content mastering to distribution is one more area that requires standardization. SMPTE will have a role in solving these and the new IMF format may be a good candidate. Beamr welcomes all these challenges and recognizes that HDR is here to stay. Our engineering teams are well equipped to address them.
If you crave a deeper understanding of HDR I encourage you to read our white paper titled, “An Introduction to High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Its Support within the H.265/HEVC Standard Extensions.” It not only gives a great introduction to HDR, but also explains how the set of extensions approved by MPEG and VCEG in July 2014 provides the tools to support HDR functionality within the HEVC standard.