According to Ericsson, HDR for 4K Display needs end-to-end thinking

by on March 27, 2015

Stephan Jukic – March 27, 2015

In an opinion it made clear at DVB World this week in Copenhagen, Denmark, Ericsson is thinking heavily about the future of HDR and the digital video display resolutions it will and already is being implemented in.

Primarily, Ericsson is concerned that the high dynamic (HDR) ecosystem is not yet completely understood and that existing trials of the technology aren’t taking the entire video content supply chain fully into account. And according to Ericsson, this is a crucial thing to understand as the entire digital video industry currently sees more benefits emerging from HDR in a way that’s comparable to or even better than that of the first generation (phase 1) of ultra HD.

So far, HDR has revealed itself to by one of the key areas in the shift towards UHD video services and this applies specifically to the second generation (phase 2) of ultra HD, which will take into account factors that go beyond simply applying higher 4K television and 8K resolutions.

In fact, many in the industry are viewing HDR, which is a new standard for the contrast between the lighter and darker colors on a digital display screen like a TV, as the more important and consumer-notable progression of TV display quality than just enhancements in resolution like 4K itself.

The major interest in HDR lies in the fact that it’s not a technology which gets defined by the distance from which a screen is viewed. It’s improvements in picture quality are something that any viewer can notice at once and at any distance, in contrast to the more subtle visual changes 4K or the still experimental 8K offer.

The HDR experience will greatly enhance the 4K resolutions of the latest UHD TVs

The HDR experience will greatly enhance the 4K resolutions of the latest UHD TVs

This is a major reason for why the entire digital media industry is pushing hard for HDR implementation and want to include the technology not only in the obvious places like 4K content but also in plain ole’ HD content as well. Industry bodies and agents that are expressing such strong interest in HDR include streaming media providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime as well as industry bodies like the recently formed UHD Alliance, which is a consortium of 4K media broadcasters, film studios and electronics manufacturers.

According to Mark Horton, strategic product manager, encoding portfolio at Ericsson Television, “There is a big push back happening against phase 1 (4K resolution). There is little consumer benefit of Phase 1 at sets below 55 inches and they (broadcasters and service providers) think the extra bandwidth doesn’t justify the consumer benefits”. These comments were some that he made at this week’s DVB World in Copenhagen.

It’s for this reason, according to Horton, that many broadcasters and media companies think HDR is the much more worthwhile investment and that it can create improved results for consumers simply by being applied to HD instead of 4K resolution.

Horton also claimed that Ericsson is working independently of the various HDR-related proposals being reviewed by ITU, MPEG and other standards bodies. So far Ericsson doesn’t favor any specific proposal but the company’s unique position of being involved in the entire content chain from content acquisition to end-user screen technology is causing Ericsson to worry about HDR-related standards and decisions being reached in isolation from each other in ways that cause harm to the entire HDR content transmission line.

HDR content, in other words, needs to be implemented across the board in a uniform way and according to Horton, “We need to understand what the ‘HDR look’ will be for types of content, whether sports or drama, and need end-to-end tests in a real-world situation.”

Questions also need to be answered about the effect of HDR content on things like wider color gamuts, higher frame rates and live environments in which answers for HDR are still not conclusively defined.

In simple terms, 4K is a good technology but the real golden opportunity lies in the second generation of UHD, in which the resolution increase combines effectively with HDR, wider color gamuts and increased frame rates to create a much deeper viewing experience for users. The arrival of this is what will really kick broadcasters into investing into 4K part 2 and all its associated technologies.

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