4K Ultra HD Olympics Coverage Pays Viewers HDR Dividends
In case you don’t have access to any of the 4K/HDR coverage from the on-going Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, the 24-hour-delayed telecasts to date have earned two big thumbs up from the HD Guru editors.
Our exposure to the coverage includes the Comcast Xfinity platform, using the generic HDR10, baseline format with PQ and metadata insertion, and edited coverage a DirecTV 4K channel, which is based on feeds of both HDR10 and HLG signals, DirecTV told us, and is output in the HLG HDR profitle by supporting DirecTV Genie boxes and select thin clients.
For the record, the Dish satellite system is also providing coverage of the event in 4K Ultra HD resolution with HDR on a 24-hour (and VOD) basis. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a sample of the service at our disposal to compare.
Read more about our assessment of the 4K/HDR Olympics image quality after the jump:
The HD Guru himself, Gary Merson, reports that the Comcast 4K/HDR telecasts of Friday’s opening ceremonies, which were presented on television here on Saturday, were delivered in spectacular fashion on a Samsung quantum-dot-enhanced 4K Ultra HDTV.
Merson reports specular highlights of multi-colored spotlights were brilliantly brighter and sharper with the HDR10 metadata enhancement. In addition, the 4K resolution appeared much sharper, even than many 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray movies, enabling viewers to see the boosted color and contrast highlights right down to the athlete’s eyes.
Anyone living in a Comcast Xfinity cable territory might still be able to add the necessary equipment to enjoy the spectacle for themselves provided they have a supporting 4K Ultra HDTV. To get 4K/HDR from an appropriate Xfinity TV subscription users will need both an X1 gateway device and the service’s XG1v4 set-top box. Together, these will enable accessing the VOD streaming feeds of the 4K UHD/HDR telecasts (again, on a 24-hour delayed basis with VOD features). As long as a subscriber’s package is eligible, Comcast is not charging any premium for the XG1v4 box, which is available now and is said to be easy to self install.
The results were similar on this reviewer’s DirecTV system using an HR-54 Genie DVR and remote-room Genie Mini thin client box. (These must be installed and set up by an authorized DirecTV technician).
Unlike Comcast Xfinity executives, who told us their 4K/HDR coverage is output from the appropriate Xfinity box in the HDR10 metadata-based HDR profile, DirecTV told us its Olympics HDR signals are output in the Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) profile.
Our DirecTV Genie Mini was connected to a Sony XBR65XA1E Ultra HD OLED TV. Pulling up the advanced picture settings on-screen overlay menu, we were able to confirm the incoming signal was delivering HDR. We had previously set the TV to accept the format over the appropriate HDMI input.
During the opening ceremonies coverage, we could see distinctly brighter specular highlights from portions of he screen showing spotlights or spotlight-illuminated faces of the parading athletes. Colors were discernibly more vibrant and bright than in SDR coverage. The Sony Bravia XBR A1E OLED is a spectacular display. Although the specular highlights were not as bright as they would be on 4K Premiume LED-LCD TVs, they were nonetheless pronounced and visible, without being eye-squintingly bright.
Faces were highly detailed and rich in color, while allowing us to observe the twinkle of the spotlights in participating athlete’s eyes during close ups and head and shoulder shots.
Sony’s video processing in the A1E is impressively smooth and realistic, so the combination of the data-rich high-resolution signal with the advanced characteristics of the motion processing engine virtually eliminated any perceptible background noise. Motion blurring was only obsevered in a few instances when participants were fully illuminated and moving at a brisker pace.
Overall, we came away from the 4K/HDR coverage of the opening days of the event highly impressed and optimistic for the future of 4K HDR video entertainment. We can only expect and hope this early trial will lead to the production of much more native content (both live and pre-recorded) to let consumers fully enjoy the capabilities of their 4K Ultra HDTVs.
We can also foresee coverage with this level of quality helping to keep 4K enthusiasts tied to their multi-channel video service provider subscriptions.
By Greg Tarr
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