Technicolor and Philips fuse HDR development as ‘full fat’ UHD HDR specs emerge

Graphic for the Philips/Technicolor announcement

Graphic for the Philips/Technicolor announcement

The number of High Dynamic Range solutions may have reduced but agreement on a single agreed standard may be further away following an announcement by Technicolor and Philips to marry their respective HDR technologies.

The two companies say they will work to produce a joint approach to HDR content creation tools, encoding and decoding software and implementation support. The pact covers all content production, including the live HDR process which Technicolor demonstrated at IBC2015 and which has since been tested by two “major broadcasters” according to the company.

The first results of the collaboration with Philips – which has been ongoing since IBC – will be shown at NAB with commercial deployments planned in late 2016.

Previously the companies had submitted competing proposals to the ITU, alongside Dolby and broadcasters BBC/NHK, for inclusion in future UHD specifications. Frustration with this standardisation process is part of Technicolor’s response.

“One of the reasons we decided to join forces [with Philips] was to make it easier for customers to adopt HDR,” explains Manuele Wahl, senior vice-president of Technology and Trademark Licensing at Technicolor. “It’s been a while since standardisation bodies have begun work on a solution. We think there’s room for another HDR deployment, we think the consumer will adopt it and we think standards bodies will adopt it.”

Technicolor is keen to emphasise that its approach will accommodate full backwards compatibility to Standard Dynamic Range displays. This, says Wahl, will simplify HDR deployments for broadcasters “who will be able to send one signal to all of their customers, regardless of which TV they have. This is a clear demand from broadcasters.”

STB factor

Both Technicolor and Philips own a set top box business which, according to Wahl, is the chief reason for the alliance over that of partnering with the BBC or NHK, both of which also place backwards compatibility as a critical component.

“The reason we partnered with Philips is that it is also an operating company,” explains Wahl. “We think a key element in the deployment is that we will not only offer a specification to the market but a fully developed end-to-end solution with field engineering services. There are several HDR solutions but we share the same view as Philips and we have very complementary technologies.”

Technicolor will lead the joint approach, which will also be branded as Technicolor HDR to the consumer and on set top devices produced by both Technicolor and Philips. Other consumer electronics groups supporting the initiative in either TV or STB hardware will be announced in time, Technicolor said.

“Other partners which have implemented the Technicolor solution (such as Elemental Technologies) will follow the roadmap,” says Wahl. “This joint HDR solution is based on core Technicolor technology enriched with other features. We have around 10 sub-vendors covering STB and TV design working with us on the solution.”

Among them is LG Electronics, with which the French group is collaborating on delivering content in accord with specs of the UHD Alliance. The two companies have gained the endorsement of director Francis Ford Coppola, who has overseen freshly HDR-graded content from his back catalogue.

Technicolor plans to incorporate its HDR delivery technologies in LG devices and displays, intends LG OLED TVs to serve as Technicolor’s consumer HDR reference model and for LG OLED units to be marketed to post-production facilities as reference monitors to view and approve content prior to distribution.

Separately, the UHD Alliance ­–­ which also includes Panasonic, Samsung and Sony, Netflix, Disney and Fox – has announced an ‘Ultra HD Premium’ specification for content for home distribution including HDR.

HDR specifications

The HDR specs are defined as meeting SMPTE ST2084 EOTF with a

contrast performance of either more than 1000 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. The two performance criteria are designed for OLED and LED LCD screens, which have different luminance characteristics.

Ultra HD Premium TVs must also deliver 10-bit colour bit depth, and they must reproduce at least 90 percent of the P3 colour gamut, the same as digitally projected theatrical exhibition.

Curiously, the Dolby Vision HDR format is not stated.

Products and services which meet the performance metrics will be eligible to license an ‘Ultra HD Premium’ logo, with which TV makers can badge and market their equipment. The idea is to reduce all the different and confusing varieties of UHD and HDR away from the retail store and present consumers with a no-nonsense kite mark of top of the range quality.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) expects a bumper year for 4K TV sales with revenue from displays sold in the US this year topping $10 billion, a 65 percent increase year-over-year.

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