THE EMERGING HDR FORMAT WAR
Unlike the 3D feature that turned out to be superfluous on TVs, HDR (High Dynamic Range) is proving to be a useful technology.
If you haven’t heard of HDR before, no sweat. The feature enhances a TV’s or projector's colour and contrast range significantly and one that can be seen and appreciated easily.
HDR, it’s fair to say was Las Vegas' 2018 CES biggest buzzword. Just about every TV brand on display was loudly touting its version of HDR. And the look on showgoers faces told you why.
Once its demonstrated, most new TV buyers are hooked.
But hold on. There’s a sting in HDR’s tail. And it could prove to be expensive with four major HDR standards in the offing.
Philips is backing a version called Technicolor HDR. The TV prototype it was showing at CES is a harbinger of Philips TVs for 2019.
The technology is good, and clearly, it works a treat. The only problem is, the major equipment manufacturers can’t agree on a single standard.
But this could change for the better following the next-generation ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard approved by the US’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last November.
Since the US is a huge TV market, there’s little doubt that most TV brands that sell in the American market will heed and adhere to the new standard.
The point is, manufacturers can adhere to the FCC standard but still have the option of choosing one of four HDR formats.
Philips is backing Technicolor HDR because it believes broadcasters will take it up because it conserves bandwidth by sending HDR and SDR content via a single stream.
The Philips format would also assist broadcasters to handle multiple HDR formats. And multiple format compatibility is the reason TV buyers won’t have to face an HDR format war.
In reality, we are likely to see new TVs supporting several HDR standards, and there are four major ones they’ll have to cover.
A very open standard HDR10 is backed by Samsung and Sony and was developed so as not to pay Dolby fees for using Dolby Vision.
HDR10 is the default standard for 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray discs and is used by Sony and Microsoft for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One S gaming consoles.
The main rival for HDR10, Dolby Vision is a format that unlike HDR10 demands TVs and media devices to be specifically designed with a Dolby Vision hardware chip.
The good news is that Dolby Vision videos should work on HDR10 compatible TVs and the format has been taken up by major brands. Sony, who had backed HDR10 now ranges Dolby Vision enabled TVs.
Dolby Vision is said to be more future proofed than HDR10 because content it’s used to master exceed the level of brightness and colour gamut generated by today’s best TVs.
It’s also considered the best HDR format because it can calibrate picture quality for specific TV hardware.
Hybrid-Log Gamma is new and divergent from Dolby Vision and HDR. The format was designed by the BBC and NHK broadcasting Networks as their HDR format for live video.
HLG is compatible with older standard dynamic range images, which is great for TV sets that are not HLG compatible.
Compared to the other three, Advanced HDR is newer and far less supported. The format attracts little fanfare, and its use is for broadcast media and the upscaling of SDR video to HDR.
A plus point is this format’s compatibility with a lot of HDR hardware a feature that enables TV brands to support.
While there is unlikely to be a HDR format war on the scale of the past VHS versus Beta stoush that occurred decades ago, TV buyers should at least factor in the differing HDR formats before they splash their case.
Further reading: Televisions Discussion Forum
One of the veterans of the Australian HiFi industry, Peter was formerly the Audio-Video Editor of the Herald Sun for over two decades. One of the most-respected audio journalists in Australia, Peter brings his unparalleled experience and a unique story-telling ability to StereoNET.
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