Vudu is now streaming major 4K ultra HD movies with Dolby Atmos Surround and HDR, but with a serious catch
Stephan Jukic – November 22, 2015
It seems that for the time being at least, Vudu has suddenly positioned itself as the single best source of next-generation 4K ultra HD content on the market right now. This may not necessarily apply in terms of quantity but it certainly seems like it does apply as far as quality goes. Why? Because for the moment, Vudu is the only source which currently offers the home theater lover a source of 4K UHD video which includes not only Dolby Atmos Surround Sound, but also Dolby Vision’s own HDR technology, at least for 4K TVs that are capable of handling and outputting both technologies.
As of the 17th of November, when Vudu first made the announcement, the company will now be streaming 4K movies and other programming with two different next-generation technologies integrated into them. The first of these is Dolby Atmos surround sound, which is a new audio format that’s also found in powerful commercial theater sound systems. Of course, the version used with Vudu’s home theater programming will be a dramatically scaled-down type of theater surround sound but it should still deliver plenty of kick to users who have a home theater system capable of outputting it.
The second technology for Vudu 4K content is Dolby’s also powerful version of High Dynamic Range technology for expanded contrast values in the streamed 4K UHD video that gets presented on a screen. These technologies together will only be available in Vudu’s 4K UHD titles.
These developments should be very exciting to a certain subset of 4K TV and home entertainment fans who also have the requisite devices to handle the new video technologies in their homes. This is of course the catch behind Vudu’s new developments: Anyone who fully wants to enjoy them will have to get their hands on some rather specific and somewhat expensive equipment. Most important among these gadgets, at least for Dolby Atmos surround sound, is the specific use of one of Vizio’s new Reference 4K ultra HD TVs or failing that, the inclusion of a compatible streaming device in the home for the Vudu selections. For the moment, the only streaming media set-top box that’s equipped for Atmos sound is the newly released Roku 4 4K media box.
Eventually, Vuds streaming media app will obviously also offer their Dolby Atmos sound to other set-top boxes like the Amazon Fire 4K TV box and possibly to the Joey 4K box but for now, the whole audio setup is exclusive to the Roku 4 and to Vizio 4K UHD TVs of certain types.
Furthermore, the requirements for Dolby Atmos surround sound via Vudu don’t end there: Users will also have to get their hands on a Dolby Atmos-capable A/V receiver or pre-amplifier (processor and accompanying speakers with the same compatibility. One example of a setup that makes all of this work is one of Yamaha’s Dolby Atmos-enabled sound bars, like the YSP-5600.
As for the HDR video side of the new Vudu technology, users who want to also enjoy Vudu’s 4K UHD content in the enhanced contrast realism format will have to buy one of Vizio’s Reference Series 4K UHD TVs. For now, these are the only 4K HDR TV models that work with Dolby HDR technology. Other 4K UHD TVs with HDR from Sony and Samsung, as well as LG’s latest OLED HDR TVs use a different type of HDR that works through HDMI 2.0a connectivity ports in the TVs themselves.
In other words, the entire new range of Vudu 4K programming technology is almost entirely geared towards functionality with some highly specific 4K TVs and sound equipment. This is of course problematic for users who just want to enjoy great content on whatever quality ultra HD TVA brands they already have. Furthermore, the above is yet another symptom of the lingering platform compartmentalization mentality that still plagues a lot of 4K UHD content in the consumer market, with different content only available to certain TVs and certain video/audio technologies still not being standardized across the board.
Overall, while the selection of Vudu UHD HDR content with Atmos sound is indeed interesting, it’s not quite large enough to justify buying such specific TVs just to watch it.
Some of the current Vudu 4K titles that will be available through the above mechanisms consist of. Max Max: Fury Road, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, The Gallows, San Andreas, American Sniper, Man of Steel, Edge of Tomorrow (with Tom Cruise), Jupiter Ascending and Into the Storm.
For interested fans of 4K UHD home entertainment, Vudu and Dolby have created this rather helpful infographic which explains how all the Dolby Atmos sourround sound and Dolby HDR connectivity works.
Story by 4k.com