A decision on how to implement high dynamic range (HDR) and which technology to use for the nation’s next broadcast system will likely take a little longer than originally expected to determine, according to Mark Richer, president of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC).

Richer’s ATSC, which developed the broadcast system now used for digital over-the-air SD and HDTV broadcasting, has already completed most of the work on establishing the next OTA system. Among other things, it will bring 4K Ultra HD, data and interactivity to the TV viewing experience. The system, known at ATSC 3.0, will fill in many of the gaps the old system was unable to account for with the growth of the Internet and other technologies.

One of the more competitive aspects of the process has been selection of the system needed to send live on-the-fly HDR to television sets.

Richer told HD Guru: “While we have made great progress on the development of specifications for HDR, we now expect the documents to be finalized in January.”

With that, it seems unlikely that the HDR system selection will come in time for CES 2017, which takes place in Las Vegas Jan. 5-8th, giving the various interests with stakes in the game a little more time to pitch their various solutions to technology enthusiasts and manufacturers.

Read more on HDR for ATSC 3.0 after the jump:

For much of the last year, the ATSC has been testing and considering six different technologies for live on-the-fly HDR broadcasting. Most of these solutions are based on the Perceptual Quantization (PQ) transfer function (ST2084) developed with significant contributions from Dolby Labs, and currently used for both the HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR systems used for Ultra HD streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray sources. The following is a list of proposed live HDR developers (and their systems’ preferred transfer functions) vying for ATSC 3.0 consideration:

  • Technicolor (transfer function agnostic)
  • Dolby Labs (Dolby Vision/Perceptual Quantization (PQ) transfer function)
  • Qualcomm (PQ transfer function)
  • Qualcomm+Sharp+Samsung (PQ transfer function)
  • Ericsson (PQ transfer function)
  • NHK/BBC (Hybrid Log-Gamma transfer function)

Content supporting these formats will use dynamic range elements, which is captured by new digital cameras capable of recording 14 stops or more of light, and added to the final program in on-the-fly color grading. The ATSC’s video group has already approved use of the HEVC video compression codec, Main-10 profile, Main Tier, meaning the selected HDR system(s) must support that as well as be 10-bit compatible.

Of the two HDR systems in use today, Dolby Vision is optimized for dynamic metadata that will enable color grading on a shot-by-shot basis, as is required for live HDR broadcasts. However, Samsung is reportedly working on enhancements to HDR10, which would allow its current static metadata application that requires one set of color-grading parameters for an entire production to have dynamic metadata capabilities. The HDR10 system is also an open platform.

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In addition, HDR used for live broadcasts will also have to conform to regional opt-outs and interstitial advertising practices of broadcasters, which are not issues encountered with content produced off-line.

The ATSC has said it is trying to avoid confusing consumers by allowing fragmented HDR solutions in the marketplace, and therefore the members are intent on specifying technologies adaptable to their unique environment that will be deployable on a large scale over various devices.

In other 4K news unrelated to the ATSC 3.0 status: the Ultra HD Alliance, which is a multi-industry alliance putting together standards and performance criteria for 4K Ultra HD content, equipment, consumer displays and source devices, cancelled a press conference it had planned for CES.

An Ultra HD Alliance spokesperson said the group didn’t have enough details finalized on new or developing 4K Ultra HD certification recommendations to warrant a special press conference.

By Greg Tarr


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