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A closer look at the new “Ultra HD Premium” standard of the UHD Alliance

by on January 23, 2016
 

Stephan Jukic – January 23, 2016

Despite the fact that 4K UHD is still a minor part of the overall home entertainment and video display technology industry, A powerful group of major players in the business is looking to 4K’s much larger potential future in a big way by setting up a concrete base of standards on which all future ultra HD entertainment should ideally be based.

We’re referring of course to the UHD Alliance, an industry working group which has come together to not only promote 4K but also standardize its ongoing development with the highest possible quality standards related technologies allow.

The new overall standard, called UHD Premium, is something we’ve already covered previously and has been in the works for months and was recently unveiled at CES 2016 in the beginning of January. Here is a closer look at what it means.

In essence, the UHD Alliance consists of leading content producers, distributors and device manufacturers, and they have come together to define the “Ultra HD Premium” brand of standards which requires certain minimum specifications and technological benchmarks that have to be met for content development, production, streaming content, replay and of course, 4K display devices themselves. Devices and services which fulfill these standards get to sport the UHD Premium logo and can proudly claim that they offer support for technologies such as ultra HD resolution, high dynamic range, peak luminance, deep black levels and wider color gamut among other standards.

Furthermore, these UHD Alliance specs offer standards include recommendations for immersive audio and highly specific levels of peak brightness and darkest possible black levels.

What this means for consumers is that those devices and services which display the UHD Premium logo are capable of replicating the highest possible standardized levels of image, audio and overall video quality, for a viewing experience which goes beyond mere UHD pixel counts.

Even camera manufacturers are being pushed in the direction of UHD Premium orientation with pressure to offer higher quality 10-bit 4K capture, distribution and playback. The current norm for most 4K cameras, even many professional models, is 8-bit 4K, with attendant losses in dynamic range and color grade.

According to UHD Alliance President Hanno Basse, “The diverse group of UHDA companies agreed that to realize the full potential of Ultra HD, the specs need to go beyond resolution and address enhancements like HDR, expanded color and ultimately even immersive audio. Consumer testing confirmed this.”

He also explained that, “The criteria established by this broad cross section of the Ultra HD ecosystem enables the delivery of a a revolutionary in-home experience, and the Ultra HD Premium logo gives consumers a single identifying mark to seek out so they can purchase with confidence.”

The UHD Alliance is also establishing multiple independent testing centers which will ensure that products labeled with the UHD Premium logo fully conform to the new standards. A wide range of companies whose products and services relate to the technologies and standards of 4K UHD video will work directly with these testing contractors for testing of their own devices and platforms. The testing centers will be located around the globe.

The UHD Alliance was founded in January of 2015 in response to the growing popularity of 4K in streaming, VOD, hard media content and physical display device production. Currently, the organization represents more than 35 companies in two different membership categories –one for the Board of Directing parties and the second for Contributors. In 2016, a third category will also be added, called Adopter, for those who want to license the Ultra HD Premium specs and their logo.

Some of the key companies which formed the UHD Alliance include, Sharp, Panasonic, Samsung, Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros, Technicolor, Dolby Labs and DirecTV. All of these and others will continue to work for advances in resolution, color, brightness, contrast and audio which go beyond even the scope of UHD Premium levels.

The "UHD Premium" logo for 4K devices and services

The “UHD Premium” logo for 4K devices and services

Now, as for the “UHD Premium” standards themselves, They vary somewhat depending on whether they’re applied to devices, distribution or content itself but their essentials break down as follows:

Devices, such as 4K HDR TVs

  • Display resolution: minimum of 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Color bit depth: 10-bit signal
  • Color Palette: (Wide Color Gamut)
  • Signal Input: BT.2020 color representation
  • Display Reproduction: More than 93% of the DCI P3 color spectrum
  • High Dynamic Range
  • SMPTE ST2084 EOTF
  • Both Peak Brightness and deep black levels of either more than 1000 nits and less than 0.05 nits of black, OR more than 540 nits of peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits of black level. (This dual contrast standard is likely a direct sop to LG’s OLED technology, which can’t match the high nit levels of LCD/LED displays but can completely outmatch them in terms of how dark their blacks go, thus re-bracketing the range which constitutes HDR and deep contrast.

Distribution (channels of any kind which deliver content with UHD Alliance quality approval)

  • Minimum image resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Color Bit Depth: 10-bit signal minimum
  • Color: BT.2020 color representation
  • High Dynamic Range: SMPTE ST2084 EOTF

Content Master (UHD Alliance Content producers must meet the following standards)

  • Minimum image resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Color Bit Depth: 10-bit signal minimum
  • Color: BT.2020 color representation
  • High Dynamic Range: SMPTE ST2084 EOTF

And the following additional content standard are also strongly encouraged:

  • Display reproduction to a full 100% of DCI P3 colors
  • Peak brightness in excess of 1000 nits
  • Black level of at least 0.03 nits or less than this.

There are also of course recommendations for next-generation audio support in the UHD Alliance guidelines for “UHD Premium”.

Story by 4k.com

15 comments
 
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  • Dan Dieleman
    January 25, 2016 at 8:52 pm

    So last weekend I purchased a Sony xbr 65 x850c and by this announcement it’s safe to assume it’s already obsolete? Would you suggest I return it and wait until fall to purchase or will the UHD premium sets be very expensive like UHD tvs were when they first came out? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      January 25, 2016 at 11:37 pm

      Hello Dan, the X850C is by no means obsolete can certainly isn’t a 4K TV worth returning if you’re happy with it and your unit works fine. It already comes with HDR technology, expanded colors and some generally excellent specs which come close to UHD Premium standards. You can happily enjoy it for years unless you absolutely need to have the latest and most advanced 4K TV technology. In other words, the X850C is just about as good as many newer possibly “Ultra HD Premium” TVs we can expect (though some of them will truly be in a class of their own for quality).

      As for the prices of these kinds of new 4K TVs for 2016, yes you can probably expect most of them to be on the somewhat or very expensive side of the scale, at least from what we’ve seen so far. However, as they do every year to at least some extent, prices will indeed drop across the board.

      Reply

  • John Hamilton
    March 8, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    I’ve just bought a Samsung UE55JS9000. Will the new KS series make mine redundant as far as Ultra HD Premium is concerned?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      March 9, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      Hi there John. No, the JS9000 is not made redundant by the new KS Series. It is a superb 4K TV on its own and though the SUHD line is from 2015, they’re still more than excellent models with great specs and fine HDR. The JS9000 isn’t certified for UHD Premium standards by the UHD Alliance. This only goes to a couple models like the JS9500 and the X940C from Sony but that doesn’t mean the HDR of the JS9000 is crappy. It’s just not quite as broad as that of the 2016 SUHD 4K TVs. If you’d like to wait, go ahead but I doubt you’ll be unhappy with your JS9000 if you buy it.

      Reply

  • Jarrod Novak
    March 10, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    Whats your opinion on the Hisense ULED TV’s which will be UHD Premium? How do you think it would compare to the Samsung JS8000 which isn’t certified but has HDR capabilities.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      March 11, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      Hello there Jarrod, We haven’t yet reviewed the new Hisense ULED models but are in progress on that for release as soon as possible. That said, if they will be UHD Premium certified (only two of the models will from what we know so far and only one of these is a ULED H-series model), that adds a lot of weight to their potential quality since the standards of the UHD Alliance are pretty cut and dry, with little room for subjectivity. Furthermore it should be noted that Sharp has sold off its North American manufacturing facilities to Hisense for 2016 and if the very decent display quality of Sharp’s older 4K models is anything to go by, we’ll see a lot of improvement over older Hisense TV displays. From the preliminary stuff we’ve seen about the ULED TVs, they are good indeed. However, a TV’s quality isn’t just in the specific display calibrations it offers. Smart TV functionality and lasting power are both important, and I think that Samsung’s expertise in these areas will allow it to beat Hisense in an serious new 4K TVs like their 2016 SUHD models, even if some of the ULEDs offer better picture quality than 2015 SUHD models.

      Aside from all this, the SUHD TVs from 2015 are still superb models by any normal standards of TV performance.

      Reply

  • Robert
    March 19, 2016 at 6:01 am

    Hello! Since the upcoming KS9500 is Ultra HD Premium certified, but lacks 3D support, I wonder if I should rather go for the older JS9500 that has 3D support. However I’m still uncertain if the JS9500 qualifies as UHD Premium, I cannot find the logo or any confirmation if it meets the demands of the certification. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply

  • ali
    March 23, 2016 at 9:27 am

    would it be worth selling a X900A sony to pickup a X850C? is HDR capability worth it?

    Reply

  • J
    March 28, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Hi, I see TVs with HDR specs that don’t have the Premium cert, why is this? An example is the LG 49UH850V.

    Thanks.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      March 29, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      Hi there J, quite simply, 4K TVs without the new UHD Premium certification either lack some crucial metric of those specs, as I detailed them in this particular news piece, or they simply didn’t bother to go through certification. UHD Premium HDR and HDR are not necessarily the same in their exact specfications. The UHD Premium version is superior and more difficult to reach. Thus, there are high quality HDR televisions on the market like the JS9000, or JS8500 from Samsung, or the Sony X850C and X900C which do offer excellent display, HDR and enhanced color but don’t offer these qualities quite to the levels demanded by the UHD Alliance.

      Reply

  • Sam Troft
    May 13, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Who needs 1000 nits brightness?? Anyone trying to derail OLED. Sorry but the UHD Alliance smells fishy. And UHD Alliance President Hanno Bosse… he’s with FOX! …nuff said.

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      May 14, 2016 at 10:06 am

      Hello Sam, the question of who “needs” 1000 nit brightness is entirely subjective. The people who want to enjoy the best viewing experience that technology makes possible are those who need it and that’s more than good enough for the consumer market and the push for just such better technology. Higher nits are indeed related heavily to a superior level of realism and superb viewing experience and this is fundamentally a good thing for consumers and digital home entertainment fans. This is not so much an effort to undermine OLED as it is an effort to simply make TVs built with the dominant technology on the current market (LCD) better. That aside, LG is also an active member of the UHD Alliance and participates fully in their development of display standards for HDR.

      Reply

  • Ilyas
    September 17, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Is there such a thing as UHD Premium monitors? If there isn’t, can we expect them in the near future?

    Reply

    • Stephen
      Stephen
      September 27, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Hey Ilyas, there are no UHD Premium monitors that I can think of off the top of my head but a number of monitors are coming out with HDR support and both wide color gamut and 10-bit color. Here is one example, the ASUS PA329Q. We can almost certainly expect monitors with all practical HDR10 specs built into them down the road, even if they’re perhaps not labeled as “UHD Premium” devices.

      Reply

  • analyst
    December 18, 2016 at 5:54 am

    The UHDA nit standards hardly apply to OLEDs as far as nits brightness goes because oleds have better black levels which far surpass the lcd led black levels and this is not comparing apples with oranges as side by side there is hardly any difference in brightness between these two technologies.

    Reply

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