Interest in HDR technology for 4K is “exploding” according to the SMPTE

by on October 27, 2015

Stephan Jukic – October 27, 2015

The SMPTE, or Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers has used their recent Annual Technical Conference, also known as SMPTE 2015, to publish a report about high dynamic range (HDR)  which clearly indicates that the technology is exploding, according to an overview that takes into consideration the work of over 170 different experts in the visual technology field.

According to Alan Lambshead, VP of standards for the SMPTE, “HDR is a rapidly emerging and much debated technology with the capacity to make a greater impact on viewer experience than higher-resolution formats”. By Higher-resolution formats, Lambshead is clearly alluding to 4K UHD technology and other forms of ultra HD that go even beyond the standard 3840 x 2160 pixel definition of 4K.

The VP also stated that, “Recognizing the remarkable potential of HDR and the media industry’s growing interest in this technology, SMPTE created an HDR ecosystem study group and –within just 12 months—delivered a valuable consensus report on implementation of HDR and the creation of efficient HDR workflows.”

In simpler terms, the SMPTE and the experts behind it are also working towards creating a more standardized, easy to implement HDR spec that can be efficiently added to consumer display market applications for us the end viewers.

As this image shows, HDR creates a highly visible difference in how digital 4K content on the screen looks

As this image shows, HDR creates a highly visible difference in how digital 4K content on the screen looks

Going into further detail, the SMPTE report on the growing HDR ecosystem provides a sort of consensus guidance for the terminology and definitions used in this technology while also presenting detailed and practical information about the technologies which make up HDR. Until recently, many of these technologies haven’t been easily available to the consumer media industry but this is now rapidly changing.

According to the SMPTE report, HDR technologies in both proprietary and standard form are now available and ready to be implemented relatively simply into non-real time video content workflows. However, moving these same technologies over to live real-time entertainment and other video content applications.

In these areas, HDR implementation still remains rather complex in some ways and has a heavy effect on professional media workflows. The SMPTE report furthermore catalogues HDR technologies, examines the issues facing both live and non-live (non-real time) HDR workflows and also describes the role that HDR metadata serves in distribution of video content with high dynamic range. Finally, the report also makes recommendations on the importance of industry harmonization for HDR technologies and underlines how important it is for the assorted technologies that are emerging around HDR to be standardized across the board while older standards are uniformly updated to enable high dynamic range.

Despite these difficulties, HDR has alredy been implemented in several new 4K ultra HD TV models such as Samsung’s JS9500 series and Sony’s new X940C 4K UHD TV. It’s also found in some Sony 4K projectors.

Those of you who are interesting in browsing through the full report itself, may find it right here.

HDR or high dynamic range technology in display mediums (as opposed to photo cameras) is essentially a spec for more greatly expanded range of bright and dark levels on a screen, resulting in a much greater level of realism, detail color vibrancy and contrast to become visible in video content and particularly in the ultra HD video content that is the primary beneficiary of HDR specs today. Furthermore, unlike 4K ultra HD video resolution, high quality HDR in a display such as a TV or a projector screen is immediately visible to most viewers at both long and short distances.

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