HDR Showcased at CES

LAS VEGAS—The call for better pixels is being heeded. LG Electronics, Technicolor, Amazon, Harmonic, Netflix, Dolby, Philips and broadcasters are among technology developers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas showcasing high dynamic range, a measure of image brightness.

LG preceded the annual gadgetfest by announcing that it added HDR capability and built-in HDR processing to its 98-inch 8KTV. The 98-incher made its debut at IFA in Berlin in the fall of 2014. The model being demoed at this week’s CES is newly HDR-enhanced.

LG’s organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, TVs also got the HDR treatment. The 2016 OLED line consisting of four models now feature HDR Pro, “assuring a superior HDR viewing experience, with increased contrast ratio and color range.”

The LG OLEDs support HDR formats HDR10 and Dolby Vision, plus they are expected to be among the first displays certified as “Ultra HD Premium,” a set of specifications released this week by the UHD Alliance. These include 3840x2160 resolution,10-bit color depth, BT.2020 color gamut and a high dynamic range of either more than 1,000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level, or more than 540 nits peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level for OLEDs. (See “Ultra HD Defined.”)

TV set makers Vizio and Samsung also are embracing HDR in a bid to fuel the type of demand not seen since high-definition digital TVs were introduced. Stereoscopic 3DTV followed the HDTV trend, but fell flat. The double-HD resolution display type initially refered to as “4KTV” was “rebranded” by the Consumer Technology Association as “Ultra HD” to circumvent any association with 3DTV. Even so, more pixels haven’t been sufficient to start a fire beneath consumers, so set makers are embracing what Dolby’s Pat Griffis coined a couple years ago as “better pixels,” including HDR.

There is, however, very little widely available HDR content. Netflix is on track to stream “Daredevil” mastered in Dolby Vision later this year. LG will run clips of “Daredevil” on its OLED TVs during CES.

YouTube also is on deck with HDR for 2016. LG will demo HDR YouTube content, mastered to meet Google’s own VP9-Profile 2 HDR standard.

Internet streamer Amazon beat Netflix and YouTube to the punch when it rolled out HDR content last summer. Its original series, “Mozart in the Jungle” became available for HDR streaming to Samsung SUHD TVs in July, CNetsaid. LG said it will show that and other Amazon HDR titles at CES.

Fox came out of the HDR blocks last summer as well, announcing that it would make UHD HDR visions of “all of its recent movies,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. One notable title, “The Martian” will be on display in HDR at CES in the LG booth. LG will use a Vidity video player from Western Digital to feed “The Martian” into its HDR OLEDs.

The Fox initiative coincided with an announcement from Samsung that it would be releasing the industry’s first Ultra HD Blu-Ray player this year. The UBD-K8500 will have “64 times higher color expression compared to standard Blu-ray and can upscale content to provide UHD resolution for any disc,” according to CNet.

Harmonic is in the HDR mix in a collaboration with NASA. (See “NASA Kicks Off UHD Channel with ‘Out-of-this-World’ Content,” Sept. 18, 2015) Clips from the resulting footage will be on display at LG’s CES booth in a specially designed dark room.

Elsewhere, Dolby Vision made it into new 65-inch TCL 4KTVs, the first of the Chinese electronics company’s X1 series to be launched in the United States. The sets will be on display at CES, and on U.S. retail shelves in the second quarter of the year.

Dolby Vision scored two more Hollywood studios as well. MGM and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment have committed to “deliver new release and catalog titles mastered in Dolby Vision,” Dolby said on Tuesday. No further details were provided.

Technicolor’s contribution to the HDR proliferation includes the content and reception technology being used in demonstrations of HDR broadcasting using the developing ATSC 3.0 standard. Initial tests were conducted in collaboration with Sinclair last month (See, “Sinclair Demos HDR 4KTV Over ATSC 3.0 in Vegas.”) Technicolor’s Alan Stein provided further details.) TV Technology contributor and broadcast veteran James E. O’Neal will file a report on the ATSC 3.0 demonstrations lined up to take place during CES.

LG and Samsung are set to receive and display ATSC 3.0 signals on the exhibit floor, with LG leveraging Technicolor’s HDR color grading on content created by Francis For Coppola. Here’s a quote attributed to the “Godfather” director as provided by Technicolor:

“Since the invention of color film, Technicolor has stood for lustrous, clear, beautiful images. A partnership between Technicolor and LG’s OLED technology will bring the magic of my movies to the home as they were meant to be experienced.”

Technicolor also is throwing in with Royal Philips to “merge their ongoing delivery roadmaps for HDR solutions, including content creation tools, encoding and decoding software and implementation support,” Technicolor said. The goal is to streamline HDR deployment and create full backward compatibility with standard dynamic range displays.

The Consumer Electronics Show, otherwise referred to as “CES,” starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday.