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Oops! BBC iPlayer App on Panasonic 4K HDR TVs Doesn’t Support HLG for Planet Earth II

by on December 16, 2016
 

Stephan Jukic – December 16, 2016

As we’d recently reported the BBC was planning a limited test release of the new and stunning documentary “Planet Earth II” in 4K UHD resolution with broadcast HDR included into it as well to a limited selection of 4K TVs from Panasonic via the BBC iPlayer app on these select TVs.

While “Planet Earth II” has already gotten its complete Full HD release to broad public audiences, the real anticipation of seeing this impressive successor to the tremendously popular 2006 original “Planet Earth” was in having a chance to watch the new documentary in the full glory of 4K resolution and HDR combined.

This is why, with this visually spectacular version of “Planet Earth II” in the works, the BBC was planning on releasing a limited run sample segment of the documentary series to 4K HDR TVs from Panasonic through their iPlayer App where owners of these TV models could not only enjoy the documentary in full 4K but also with the specialized HLG broadcast HDR standard that the BBC has developed in partnership with NHK of Japan enabled.

We should also note that the BBC’s trial release of “Planet Earth II” to the iPlayer app in these select Panasonic TVs for UK audiences only includes a few minutes of video from the “Jungle” episode. The full six episodes of the documentary series won’t be available in 4K or HDR until an unspecified future date.

The HLG standard for high dynamic range was developed by the BBC and the NHK state broadcasting corporation of Japan as a much more streamlined HDR option for broadcast 4K content as opposed to streaming 4K video of the sort delivered by Netflix, Amazon or Sky Q in the U.K. Unlike the HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR standards used by these online services, HLG works without the need for additional metadata that is encoded into the video source. It is instead beamed alongside a piece of broadcast 4K content and if the receiving 4K TV or set-top box is compatible with it, it will display, and if not, then the video that was sent by the broadcaster will display only in standard dynamic range.

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Like the HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR standards, HLG also offers a much deeper, more realistic range of colors as well as better overall contrast for a more life-like picture quality in video. For a documentary like “Planet Earth II”, this sort of thing would be a crucial element for a truly spectacular viewing experience. Thus, the modest excitement at the prospect of seeing even a limited and partial segment release of “Planet Earth II” in HLG, and the disappointment at finding out that even this small test broadcast doesn’t work.

As the BBC and Panasonic have confirmed, viewers will only be able to see the documentary segment in SDR 4K for now, even if trying to view it on the few Panasonic 4K TV models that are compatible with HLG high dynamic range and have the iPlayer app.

What’s amusing about this is the sheer clumsiness with which the BBC is trying to present HDR entertainment to the public. Yes, it’s understandable that the broadcaster wants to start things off with the right foundation of broadcast HDR that can be much more effective down the road for other content once the kinks in the channels get worked out. This is arguably a better strategy than trying to move into 4K high dynamic range programming through more developed but less adequate HDR standards for broadcast video. However, given how well Netflix and others are adopting to the consistent consumer market delivery of full 4K programming and movies through the more common HDR10 and Dolby standards, it’s worth asking why the BBC can’t simply move forward with their HLG experiments while at the same time also having created and released the “Planet Earth II” documentary in full with HDR10 or even Dolby Vision as a secondary display option that’s much more compatible with the majority of 2015 and 2016 (as well as soon-to-arrive 2017) 4K HDR TVs?

A bit more effort on the BBC’s part to be sure but would the extra work for the sake of their millions of audiences be too much to ask from a media giant which wants to stay relevant wherever possible?

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The simple fact that the iPlayer app 4K trial only works in some Panasonic TVs with no current plans to extend the trial of 4K HLG HDR into other models for “Planet Earth II” or any other programming with HDR in the new format speaks poorly of the BBC’s short-term consumer satisfaction planning in this area.

On the other hand, a small ray of good news for a 4K HDR version of “Planet Earth II” does come in the form of Virgin Media. Its new Virgin V6 TiVo box is rolling out and it apparently will support the “Planet Earth II” trial in 4K and with HLG as well it seems.

Story by 4k.com

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  • Derek
    December 18, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Sky Q doesn’t stream it uses progressive download. Incidentally the BBC iPlayer is launching UHD on Sky Q this week with Planet Earth 2 demo clips, but not HDR.

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