Wednesday, 17 August 2016 10:05

HDR must be more than marketing hype

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High Dynamic Resolution (HDR) has no ISO standards and every TV and Blu-ray player maker knows that.

Samsung has set out to protect its turf by producing an Ultra HD HDR Reference Test Disc and corresponding PC-based workflow to help product reviewers, professional calibrators, and others properly test and evaluate new products coming to market.

It commissioned Quality.TV’s Florian Freidrich, a television technology expert, to develop the workflow and test patterns used to accurately calibrate the HDR-10 protocol.

Why did Samsung do this? In one word: “Lies”. It needs to protect its HDR turf from interlopers that make claims but don’t deliver. The smart TV and Blu-ray market is heating up!

HDR, if not properly done, has a problem – most lower-cost HDR-capable TVs automatically ramp down peak brightness levels after a few seconds to guard against damaging the LED panel lighting system. There is no end-to-end HDR, particularly on those sets where software has simply been upgraded instead of using a new HDR-capable panel.

Freidrich said (paraphrased – full interview here) that the tests were to understand the limitations of a TV, to understand what is right for it. So in some cases, tone mapping makes sense (software), and in other cases, the devices should not handle the HDR at all. Everyone who is interested in HDR — manufacturers, post-production, enthusiasts, and any others — need this tool as HDR will look different on different TVs and Blu-ray players.

Samsung is one of the leading supporters of HDR10 as it is a more open platform that competitor Dolby Vision offered. It also means no licensing fees are paid and gives it more control over their products. HDR10 has been embraced by most manufacturers, and some like LG also offer Dolby Vision.

To be technical, it is based around the SMPTE ST 2084 electro-optical transfer function and in layperson’s terms that means that more of what is captured on a film or digital master is seen on the viewing device.

HDR systems are intended to present more perceptible details in shadows and highlights to better match the human visual system. HDR allows the distinguishing of bright details in highlights that are often compressed in traditional video systems, including allowing separation of colour details in diffuse near-white colours and strongly chromatic parts of the image.

Properly designed HDR systems dramatically improve the available creative palette and directly enhance the consumer experience. There is a need for a better understanding of the set of elements, including standards, required to form a complete functional and interoperable ecosystem for the creation, delivery and playback of HDR image content.

The parameters that make up HDR include higher peak luminance, lower minimum luminance, greater contrast range, and improved precision minimising quantisation errors that cannot be delivered by existing standards. Wide colour gamut is also going to be used.

Full points to Samsung – please send me a test disk as I have seen some shocking HDR sets recently. Not yours!

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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