LG’s Tim Alessi prepares to demo the Alpha 9 processor in LG’s 2018  OLED lineup at CES.

In preparing to launch its 2018 4K OLED and Super UHD LED LCD TV lines, LG Electronics used a product reviewers event in Hollywood last week to underscore the growing importance of 4K OLED technology to professionals for preserving the  director’s artistic vision in the home.

In the days leading up to the retail release of its C8 4K OLED TV series models, LG assembled a group of AV enthusiast press to run-through this year’s top features and to demonstrate a new CalMan AutoCal system developed by Portrait Displays/SpectraCal for 2018 premium LG televisions.

LG selected the legendary Mack Sennett Studios, where much of silent-film history was made., as the site of a product feature overview. The studio continues to be used today for music videos and special productions. Even the landmark’s spooky aging basement was used for some of the opening sequences of the first season of American Horror Story.

LG later brought the group on a tour of both Netflix’s and Technicolor’s Hollywood production facilities to see how some of today’s top OTT and broadcast television series are color graded and mixed for Dolby Atmos surround sound.

The latter was relevant because LG 2018 premium televisions and last year’s OLEDs feature Dolby Atmos decoding. For LG TVs, the object-based audio format is carried in a Dolby Digital Plus codec/container, instead of the lossless Dolby TrueHD format, to send the signal back out over an HDMI audio return channel connection to a supporting soundbar. In addition, most of the leading streaming services with Dolby Atmos support rely on Dolby Digital Plus to carry data more efficiently over bandwidth restricted broadband connections.

Not surprisingly, LG 4K OLED televisions were used prominently in various post-production processes as a check for how various effects will translate in consumers’ homes. Various colorists and sound engineers were there to provide a walk through of post-production techniques they use. Typically, this included testimony to the quality that LG’s OLED televisions produce to accurately portray the director’s vision as it can be seen in the home. In some set-ups, the LG OLED TVs (a B7 in one instance at Technicolor) were placed side-by-side with a Sony X300 professional OLED production monitor, which is the primary monitor for most of the actual color grading work.

The quality message is resonating. LG made great strides in capturing share of the premium segment of the 2017 television market, and Sony’s decision to carry the technology using LG’s panels has no doubt given OLED an additional credibility boost.

Enter 2018, when rival Samsung has stepped up its game with new QLED 4K Ultra HD LED-LCDs, some of which are back to using Full Array backlighting with local dimming, provide a wider viewing angle than ever before and are claimed to offer 100% coverage of the DCI-P3 color gamut, with high accuracy — Consumers  will have an even tougher buying choice to make in the year ahead.

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For its part, LG’s new 4K OLED and Super UHD LED-LCD TVs feature new and improved image quality using advanced new Alpha processors, and processing systems.

Like Samsung, LG has also opted to add Full-Array back lighting and local dimming to its Super UHD LED-LCD TV models, and the black levels we saw in company directed demos looked impressively dark and rich against last year’s edge-lit models.

However, LG did acknowlege that all of its Super UHD LED LCD TVs last year and this year use 8-bit panels with alleged 10-bit-quality dithering, which LG said has been improved through the use of an Alpha 7 processor for 2018 to reduce or eliminate issues like banding between color transitions.

Most of the new 4K OLED models use a more powerful “Alpha 9” video processor, which is said to deliver a 35% improvement in CPU and GPU power.

The Alpha 9 chip, found in this year’s C8, E8 and W8 OLED series, offer four-step noise reduction with double the effective banding reduction, an object-based depth enhancer, and an adaptive color enhancer.

The entry B8 series, which is coming a little later in the year, uses what LG is calling its the same “Alpha 7” processor as the Super UHD LED-LCD models. This is essentially the same processor used in all 2017 4K OLED televisions.

Among other benefits, the more advanced Alpha 9 processor increases the internal color lookup table (LUT) in the televisions to improve color accuracy. Other benefits include support for up to 120 fps video frame rates for 4K content shipped over USB and HDMI 2.0a inputs, for supporting content, like advanced 4K video games.

Another reason for LG’s visits to the Netflix and Technicolor offices was to underscore the support in 2017 and 2018 LG TVs for all of the prominent versions of high dynamic range (HDR). These include: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, and “Advanced HDR by Technicolor.”

In addition, LG’s premium 4K TVs include features called HDR10 Pro and HLG Pro, which automatically apply dynamic tone mapping to HLG, which lacks metadata, and the static metdata-based HDR10 profile. This has the effect of changing color tones on a shot-by-shot basis for a more natural look. Dolby Vision and Technicolor Advanced HDR natively support dynamic metadata.

To simulate the look of HDR in standard dynamic range (SDR) images, LG also provides its HDR Effect feature, but this is less-natural looking than native HDR.

This year’s LG models also add black-frame insertion, which is a process typically used to improve the look of motion on screen. This is an area of weakness OLED shares with LCD TVs.

Meanwhile, LG was also one of the first to partner with Technicolor to optimize television calibration modes, in addition to supporting the Advanced HDR by Technicolor system. LG OLED TVs feature a Technicolor Expert preset picture mode, which is based on the look of monitors used for color grading. One of the primary differences in Technicolor mode is an offset white point from the typical D65 for some applications.

This is done to compensate for the shift in the look of white caused by different types of display technologies like Xenon-based projector bulbs, LCDs and OLED screens.

As for 2018 4K Super UHD LED LCD TVs, the SK9500 and SK9000 this year use Full Array with local dimming LED back lights, in part, to provide a better HDR experience than is possible with traditional edge-lit versions. Like most other manufacturers, LG will not disclose the number of LED zones it uses in these new full array models, which is helpful in determining the effective control over localized black level performance. However, the SK9500 has more dimming zones than the SK9000.

Like last year, the Super UHD LED LCD TVs include LG’s Nano Cell technology, which is similar to other companies’ quantum dot technologies in that it uses nano-sized particles to enhance the red and green elements to widen the color gamut and improve accuracy.

LG’s LED LCD TVs also use In-Plane Switching (IPS) panels for wider viewing angles, although some will argue this approach somewhat lessens contrast performance compared to VA panels when viewed from dead center.

Like the 2018 OLEDs, the Super UHD LED LCD models will support high frame rate (HFR) video up to 120 fps, but these models will not support it with 4K resolution and HDR at the same time.

As reported earlier, this year’s LG OLED and Super UHD TVs incorporate the company’s ThinQ AI user interface, which is built on top of the webOS smart-TV platform. This enables more effective voice control commands of TV operations when the mic button is depressed on the TV’s remote. The 2018 models are also with the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa AI systems to operate supporting home automation devices and execute supported commands.

For 2018, the Super UHD TVs join the OLED models add a Gallery mode to show up to 46 popular painted and photographed artworks on the TV screen to make the set resemble a framed portrait, when not used for video viewing.

New for calibration enthusiasts is the addition of AutoCal for 2018 4K OLED and Super UHD LG TVs to Portrait Displays’ CalMan calibration software. Though AutoCal was launched last year for supporting Samsung 4K UHD LED LCD TVs, it has been expanded to include LG’s 2018 premium series using a wired or Wi-Fi IP connection instead of the serial connection used in the Samsung implementation. The LG implementation is also hardware based for greater accuracy and speed.

AutoCal quickens the sometimes tedious process of calibrating color and white balance settings  and enables a efficient way of calibrating multiple picture models on one television for different lighting conditions throughout the day. The software in the TV also uses 3D Look Up Tables (LUT) like those used in professional production monitors to, once again, assure the artistic vision is present as intended.


By Greg Tarr


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