Cobalt Digital and Technicolor collaborate to simplify delivery of HDR from SDR content

The flagship 9904-UDX-4K UHD up/down/cross-converter

Late in 2017 Cobalt Digital became the first US manufacturer selected to license Technicolor’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) Intelligent Tone Management (ITM) technology for the broadcast television environment. 

Making the Technicolor HDR ITM feature available within its flagship 9904-UDX-4K UHD up/down/cross-converter and image processor for the openGear platform, its BBG-1000 stand-alone units, and certain versions of the company’s 9902-UDX card (already installed in many locations worldwide), Cobalt gives its customers the ability to remonetise HD and UHD standard dynamic range (SDR) content for HDR distribution using existing hardware.

Implementing Cobalt’s 9904 with Technicolor HDR ITM, broadcasters can upgrade their existing HD (720p/1080i/1080p) and UHD (2160p) SDR infrastructure — cameras, switchers, servers, and so on — to HD and UHD HDR systems and workflows using equipment they already have. As a result, they can provide viewers stunning HDR content created from the millions of hours of video originally captured, produced and distributed in SDR. 

Technicolor’s ITM SDR-to-HDR process manages brighter lights and darker shadows to deliver sharper, more realistic images for compelling immersive entertainment experiences. While analysing video content in real-time, the process leverages Technicolor’s colour science and colour grading plug-ins to enable adjustment of luminance in the shadows, as well as in midtones and highlights. With this much greater level of control, broadcasters can expand content to a wider space and higher dynamic range while remaining as true as possible to the creative intent behind the original content.

Equally important is that the Technicolor HDR ITM technology eliminates the need for broadcast productions to use separate SDR and HDR processing paths. Until now, productions used both SDR and HDR cameras simultaneously, with the SDR camera signals up-mapped to HDR so they could be used with native HDR camera feeds. Today, a growing number of broadcasters are using Cobalt equipment, equipped with the Technicolor HDR ITM technology, in a single pipeline, accepting SDR signals and creating exceptional HDR video signals in real-time.

The integrated solution from Cobalt and Technicolor addresses the needs of production truck operators working with a mix of SDR and HDR systems by allowing them to create HDR signals easily from existing SDR sources, such as cameras and graphics systems. One major satellite service provider already has taken advantage of this capability to bring more vivid and realistic images to its 4K sports broadcasts.

Another advantage of using Technicolor’s technology is its ability to tone-map HDR signals into SDR signals while creating dynamic metadata— called SL-HDR1 metadata – that is then inserted into the SDR signal for use downstream. This capability means a network service provider need only transmit an SDR feed to the viewer; if the viewer’s TV or set-top box is compatible, it will automatically “rehydrate” the signal to deliver a full HDR experience.

As markets embrace the new HDR cameras the ability to tone map HDR signals into SDR with “dynamic meta data” in “real time “ will greatly simplify Broadcasters content delivery practices whilst reducing cost and complexity and delivering a very noticeable improvement in perceived quality.

Although Cobalt products featuring Technicolor HDR ITM technology have been on the market for just a year, they are already being deployed by leading outside broadcast truck operators, major networks and OTT providers to keep capex and opex fees to a minimum while delivering premium results.

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