ITU Announces HDR Standard for TV

GENEVA— The ITU has announced a new standard for High Dynamic Range Television that enhances the quality of imaging for HD, 4K, 8K and even virtual reality. 

The new ITU-R HDR-TV Recommendation BT.2100 standard which the ITU says will “give viewers an enhanced visual experience with added realism” builds further on the superior color fidelity of ITU’s Ultra-High Definition Television (UHDTV) Recommendation BT.2020. ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) developed the standard—or Recommendation—in collaboration with experts from the television industry, broadcasting organizations and regulatory institutions in its Study Group 6.

“High Dynamic Range Television will bring a whole new viewing experience to audiences around the world,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao, welcoming the announcement. “TV programming will be enhanced with brighter pictures that add sparkle to entertainment and realism to news coverage.”

“High Dynamic Range Television represents an important step towards the virtual-reality quality of experience to be delivered by future broadcasting and multimedia systems,” said François Rancy, Director of the ITU Radiocommunication Bureau. He congratulated Yukihiro Nishida, Chairman of ITU-R Study Group 6, for this major achievement.

The ITU-R announced its UHD standard, BT-2020 in October 2015. UHDTV Recommendation BT.2020 and the latest ITU-R HDR-TV Recommendation BT.2100 brings a further boost to television images, giving viewers an enhanced visual experience with added realism. The HDR-TV Recommendation allows TV programs to take full advantage of the new and much brighter display technologies. HDR-TV can make outdoor sunlit scenes appear brighter and more natural, adding highlights and sparkle. It enhances dimly lit interior and night scenes, revealing more detail in darker areas, giving TV producers the ability to reveal texture and subtle colors that are usually lost with existing Standard Dynamic Range TV.

The HDR-TV Recommendation details two options for producing High Dynamic Range TV images based on technologies promoted by several industry groups. The Perceptual Quantization (PQ) specification—standardized by SMPTE—achieves a very wide range of brightness levels using a transfer function that is finely tuned to match the human visual system and the Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) specification—supported by the BBC and Japan’s NHK—offers a degree of compatibility with legacy displays by more closely matching the previously established television transfer curves. The Recommendation also outlines a simple conversion process between the two HDR-TV options.

The ITU-R Recommendation BT.2100 also allows TV producers to choose from three levels of detail or resolution: HDTV (1920 by 1080), and UHDTV “4K” (3840 by 2160) and “8K” (7680 by 4320)—all of which use the progressive imaging system with extended colour gamut and range of frame-rates in ITU’s UHDTV Recommendation BT.2020.

“This Recommendation is the culmination of three years of intensive work by dedicated image experts from around the world. HDR images are stunning and this is another major step forward in television quality,” said Andy Quested, chairman of ITU-R Working Party 6C (WP 6C), which developed the new standard. “Program makers today need a much wider range of options in order to meet the expectations of the different platforms they must supply, and this need for flexibility is catered for within the framework of a stable ITU-R Recommendation.”

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Tom Butts

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.