Higher dynamic range will boost quality more than ultra HD

There is more to quality of experience than high resolution, delegates learned at the recent EBU Production Technology Seminar in Geneva.

Disney's vice-president of production technology, Howard Lukk, argued that of the three so-called competitive H’s — High Frame Rate, High Dynamic Range and High Resolution — it was the range that would make the biggest difference to the QoE (Quality of Experience) over the next few years. This is because High Dynamic Range will lead to greatly improved picture definition for low-lit scenes, especially those shot at night. Historically, said Lukk, movie and TV producers have struggled to capture on film anything approaching the level of definition under poor light that the unaided human eye is capable of.

Human sight, as well as hearing, has a high dynamic range. The eye can, after a period of adjustment, see objects in starlight without the help of the moon at a level of illumination one billionth (1/1,000,000,000) that of a bright sunny day. This is about 1,000,000x better than the 1/1000 figure achieved by a top of the range LCD display, this being the contrast ratio between minimum and maximum luminance, or light intensity, on the display.

Clearly, humans watching a TV will not be attuned to starlight levels, but the experience would be improved enormously by increasing the contrast ratio by say a factor of 10. At the EBU seminar, delegates were told of enhancements in the pipeline that would make a huge difference to the viewing experience.

The second keynote speaker at the EBU event was the BBC’s Head of Sustainable Production, Richard Smith, who called on European colleagues to join efforts to develop a common carbon calculator to measure the net emissions of TV productions. It was only by measuring the impact that necessary changes could be made, said Smith, who pointed out that the EBU's strategic program on Green Broadcasting was being aligned with similar work already under way in the UK, France and other countries.

This green program embraces all parts of the media chain including production, delivery and consumption, for both traditional broadcasting and online delivery. However, the main objective is to focus on the production and delivery of content, over which broadcasters have some control, rather than its consumption, where they are relatively powerless.

The program is working to produce guidelines on sustainable production, and case studies for distribution and transmission, as well as staging workshops.