Netflix has quietly rolled out 4K HDR content, starting with “Marco Polo” Season 1

by on April 15, 2016

Stephan Jukic – April 15, 2016

Netflix has been promising its 4K HDR content streams for a while now with some previously vague information on exactly when they’d actually be available, with words like “soon” frequently being used. Now however, the HDR 4K streams promised by Netflix are all of a sudden available, starting with “Marco Polo” Season 1.

According to a report from FlatPanels HD, Netflix has releases the first season of “Marco Polo” in HDR 4K and more HDR-encoded shows will be coming along…….. you guessed it, soon. Furthermore, the second season of the TV show has been confirmed for a June 2016 release in 4K and HDR.

Netflix’s corporate communications manage Yann Lafargue has basically confirmed that some of the companies streaming 4K ultra HD programs will come with HDR support but the Netflix executive has been vague on concrete details about exactly which shows and when.

According to the exec, “We are indeed live with HDR. It works with compatible TVs, both in HDR10 and Dolby Vision. We have season one of Marco Polo for now, but much more content should be available shortly, so stay tuned.”

As we have explained previously on this website, HDR, or high dynamic range, improves picture quality in a piece of content or a 4K TV (and HDR is only available for 4K displays and content for now) by expanding the range of dark and bright tones to new levels, with much brighter peak brightness and much deeper black levels on each end of this expanded dynamic range. The new technology for content and display also enhances color quality by increasing color space to 10 or even 12-bit levels instead of the 8-bits found in most SDR (standard dynamic range) 4K video.

Currently, there exist several different HDR standards, with different 4K TVs and content sources embracing one or the other standard, which complicates the picture for consumers who just want the content in the simplest way possible. This is being ironed out slowly but the process of a uniform HDR interoperability among TVs and formats is still not here.

HDR is highly notable in 4K content and display

HDR is highly notable in 4K content and display

However, whichever HDR content source a user does end up managing to get their hands on, a basic requirement is a 4K TV that has the capacity to display high dynamic range on its screen. In 2016, the majority of the 4K TVs released so far do however come with HDR display.

The two dominant HDR standards as of now are Dolby Vision and HDR10 (basically the same standard as that used by the UHD Alliance for its Ultra HD Premium certification for 4K TVs and content. Netflix is embracing the Dolby Vision HDR standard and the two TV brands which also support it are LG and Vizio in their 4K models. On the other hand, 4K ultra HD Blu-ray discs are generally geared more towards HDR10-type dynamic range encoding, which is delivered to HDR 4K TVs from 4K BD discs via the TVs’ HDMI 2.0a ports.

Now, as far as the bottom line for getting one’s hands on Netflix’s 4K HDR content, users will need to have the Netflix 4K content streaming plan, priced at $12 per month, and will also have to own an HDR TV as well as an internet connection of at least 20Mbps, enough for supporting 4K UHD content streams.

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