Amazon Launches First 4K Ultra HD HDR Streaming Title
Amazon jumped the gun on formal industry standardization efforts Wednesday by announcing that it is making 4K Ultra HD streaming content available with High Dynamic Range (HDR) metadata to U.S. Prime customers beginning immediately.
Amazon said the HDR enhancement is being added to the debut season of its original series “Mozart in the Jungle” and will be playable on Samsung “SUHD” 4K Ultra HD sets that are capable of recognizing and decoding HDR metadata via an Amazon App installed on the sets. The capable SUHDs include 13 models across seven series, the JS9500, JS9100, JS9000, JS8600, JS8500, JS850D and JS7000 series.
With the news, Amazon becomes the first service to deliver 4K UHD HDR content to the home.
More on Amazon’s HDR offerings after the jump:
Amazon said the HDR series will be offered to its Prime customers at no-additional cost to their membership, and will kick off a schedule of 4K UHD HDR releases to follow later.
Steve Panosian, Samsung spokesman for product marketing management, told HD Guru that Samsung was given a heads up that the announcement was coming by Amazon but was not a party to it. Samsung is the spearhead company for the Ultra HD Alliance, which is a multi-industry alliance of hardware manufacturers and content producers, who are currently helping to guide the parameters for Ultra HD definitions and standards including what HDR is and how it will perform.
Standards for HDR have not yet been set or formally announced for television sets, but Panosian pointed out that the standard for next-generation Ultra HD Blu-ray has been established and it established SMPTE 2084/2086 as its mandatory format for high dynamic range support. The Ultra HD Blu-ray standard also makes provisions for voluntary support of additional HDR metadata standards if hardware and software producers wish to include them.
As a result it is generally believed that the rest of the industry will support SMPTE 2084/2086 in HDR-capable TVs, and may also include voluntary support for other standards, such as those from Dolby and Philips, if manufacturers choose to include them.
The first Ultra HD Blu-ray players and discs are expected to arrive next year, with some early releases possible by the end of 2015, industry executives have said.
It is generally expected around the industry that SMPTE 2084/2086 will be at least one of the standards formally accepted for HDR streaming content and other delivery systems for 4K Ultra HD Connected TVs.
One industry observer said he didn’t expect Amazon’s decision to launch a tidal wave of HDR content from movie studios. Most studios are expected to follow a release schedule based on the introduction of Ultra HD Blu-ray players and software, and that won’t be until the fourth quarter of 2015 at the earliest.
As for Amazon’s debut HDR series, the first season of “Mozart in the Jungle” was a creation of Jason Schwartzman, Roman Coppola and Paul Weitz. Amazon said the series will be the first in a series of HDR releases coming to Prime subscribers soon.
High Dynamic Range brings greater contrast to the screen with brighter colors, enhanced shadow details and distinct highlights to make images appear more vivid, rich and lifelike, than on sets without HDR capability. “HDR is a technical innovation that provides a truly stunning viewing experience and we’re thrilled to be the first to offer this unmatched picture quality,” said Michael Paull, Amazon Digital Video VP, in a statement. “We can’t wait for our Prime members to watch and re-watch Mozart in the Jungle in HDR at no additional cost to their membership, and we look forward to adding more titles and devices that support HDR this year.”
“It’s been a great year for Mozart in the Jungle,” said Roman Coppola. “Now, having the first season available for fans in an upgraded visual experience is exciting—the enhanced quality makes every scene look even better and we hope it’s something that our viewers really enjoy.”
Because definitions have not been established for exactly what HDR is yet, Panosian told HD Guru that Samsung is saying its SUHD TVs are capable of playing “higher dynamic range” content. Different series have different levels of luminance and will show HDR differently depending on the capabilities of the panels in each model.
All of the Samsung SUHD models are capable of receiving and playing SMPTE 2084/2086 metadata and presenting it in “higher dynamic range.” The flagship three-model JS9500 series has the highest level of peak luminance at between 800-1,000 Nits, Samsung has said.
Amazon said it began offering movies and TV shows to Prime members and customers in 4K Ultra HD (without HDR) in 2014 and now offers “hundreds of titles” in 4K UHD streaming.
Amazon’s statement said: “HDR is the next step—additional titles in HDR and expanded device compatibility can be expected this year as Amazon continues to work with Hollywood studios, technology leaders and global consumer electronics companies to expand the Amazon HDR experience.”
By Greg Tarr
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