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Q&A — Peter Putman, ROAM Consulting LLC, USA

HOLLYWOOD, CALIF.—Shortly before the start of the SMPTE 2015 Annual Technical Conference & Exhibition, TV Technology spoke with Peter Putman about his upcoming session “Display-Advances in Display Technology.”


 Peter Putman
PETER PUTMAN: Not sure what you are asking here. You can have 4K (or, more accurately, Ultra HD in the home — 3840x2160 display pixels) without HDR. And you can have HDR with 2K (1080p) video. The two terms and processes are mutually exclusive. But HDR does complement any images at any resolution, and it is quite spectacular in combination with 4K/UHD.

TVT: You said last year that 8-bit 4K was a “waste of resolution.” Have you seen any 10-bit 4KTVs?

An increasing number of the LCD display panels coming out of China and Korea are true 10-bit addressable panels, not 8-bit as was the case for so long. 8-bit color sampling is inadequate for 4K (also 1080p, but that's water over the dam by now). You can see 8-bit contouring and aliased color artifacts much more clearly with an Ultra HD display. (Not coincidentally, the new Ultra HD Blu-ray format supports 10-bit color.) I won't know if LG Display is shipping 10-bit OLED panels until I meet with them at CES next January. We will no doubt see UHD TVs using 8-bit panels that will "dither down" from 10-bit content, but the move is clearly toward 10-bit panels and signal processing, and 10-bit encoding and distribution.

TVT: Is OLED destined to always remain a fringe display technology?

If OLED manufacturing yields are sufficiently high enough and the past issues with differential aging of OLED colors are resolved — particularly those of dark blue — then no, it won't. OLED technology is emissive and solves a host of problems with LCDs (off-axis contrast flattening, motion blur, color saturation limits, high black levels, uneven gamma response without correction, narrow viewing angles).

The white OLEDs manufactured by LG are used in combination with RGBW filters and produce beautiful images — enough to make everyone forget about plasma. Plus, they can reproduce high dynamic range images and have a naturally wide color gamut. Samsung, Panasonic and Sony were also working on OLEDs for TVs — Panasonic backed away, and now sells a 65-inch OLED UHD TV using an LG Display white OLED panel. Sony is concentrating on their reference OLED monitors (RGB process). Samsung briefly sold an RGBB OLED TV two years ago, but pulled it off the market likely due to low yields and high retail prices. Samsung's Mobile Display division handles all of the company's OLED manufacturing and they are going gangbusters with mobile phones and tablets.

Differential aging (especially of dark blue) isn't an issue here as most people turn their phones over every year or two. I have heard rumors that Samsung may also adopt a white OLED with color filters design, but not sure how'd they get around the LG/Kodak patents on white OLEDs.

TVT: What about interfaces? Are most 4KTVs coming out now with HDMI 2.0?

PUTMAN: They are, but only one or two inputs in most cases. The rest are HDMI 1.4. And now I'm hearing from the MHL Consortium that we will see Ultra HDTVs at Christmas time with superMHL inputs AND HDMI 2.0. But you don't need both — superMHL is much faster and more versatile than HDMI 2.0, which, in my humble opinion, is almost obsolete already, given the clock speed demands of 4K signals with HDR, WCG, and eventually HFR. (And one company, Lattice Semiconductor, controls the IP behind both formats!) It's going to get messy quickly.

TVT: Is advanced audio becoming more of a selling point for TVs?

Not sure. Repeated studies by Nielsen and display research firms consistently show that Americans want big, cheap TVs above anything else. Soundbars are very popular because the speakers in big, thin, cheap TVs are generally awful.

TVT: Quantum dot looks cool. When will we see those in Best Buy?

PUTMAN: They've already been there. The Sony Triluminous Ultra HDTVs used quantum dots manufactured by QD Vision. These came to market in 2013 and were sold through Magnolia/ Best Buy. The Samsung S-UHD televisions rolled out this year use "nanocrystal" illumination technology, but that's also quantum dots by another name. LG has shown them, but I don't think they've shipped any yet. TCL is selling QD-equipped LCD TVs in China (also powered by QD Vision) and they will come to these shores eventually. Sharp was going to come out with a line of QD-equipped LCD TVs, but they exited the North American TV business back in July and sold their brand name and Tijuana factory to Hisense (who calls quantum dots "U-LEDs"). So we may see them yet from Hisense. At last count, I tallied nine TV brands showing QD-equipped TVs at CES last January.

TVT: Do you have a 4KTV?

PUTMAN: Not yet, but my next one will be. I'm waiting for standardized support of HDR and WCG first, plus faster display interfaces. In all likelihood, it will be a 10-bit OLED display, not LCD. No sense settling for a rib eye steak when you can have filet mignon...

Peter Putman is a technology consultant to Kramer Electronics USA; engaged in product development and testing, technology training, and educational marketing programs. He publishes, a Web blog focused on HDTV, digital media, wireless, and display technologies. He is a member of both the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and Society for Information Display (SID).