Netflix’s Mirer: We Are Always Trying To Deliver The Best Possible Picture
During LG’s 2015 spring television line send off this week, Netflix device partner ecosystem VP Scott Mirer was very candid about his company’s expectations for the delivery of next-generation enhanced 4K Ultra HD content.
Both in his panel discussion and in follow up questions after leaving the stage, Mirer indicated that Netflix has been an active participant in talks with manufacturers and as a member of the UHD Alliance to accept the most agreeable standards for wide color gamut, bit depth and high dynamic range. He was also optimistic that standards can be settled in time to deliver some of the enhanced content into the market with the current calendar year.
Read the interview after the jump:
The following is a Q&A with Mirer from the LG 2015 spring TV review in New York City on Wednesday:
Q: Does Netflix have a preference among the competing HDR formats?
A: The standard that we prefer is the one that’s widely adopted. What we really don’t want is fragmentation. We would rather have widely accepted `great’ instead of narrowly accepted `perfection.’ We hope that the industry overall can agree on a standard that delivers the best possible experience for at least some number of years that everyone can support. So it’s not too crazy in terms of brightness, it’s not too crazy in terms of bit depth and it’s not too crazy in terms of gamut. We’re getting close. The UHD Alliance and Dolby and Technicolor are delivering convergences that I think are realistic and will be deliverable by the end of this year.
Q: Do you take the film makers’ point of view into the format selection discussions?
A: Absolutely. The UHD Alliance has three or four studio members. And they are just as important a voice as the device makers and the service providers.
Q: Which of the standards appear to be gaining consensus?
A: Dolby is getting some traction in the market and the UHD Alliance is pursuing an open standard that is getting some traction in the market. Those are the two leading candidates [for HDR standardization] right now. They both rest on many similar principles but are realized in different encoding approaches. They start from basically the same output from the content creation process, but then they go through a different approach in terms of encoding to get to the point where you are rendering it.
Q: Is it possible to support more than one standard on a single title?
A: It’s quite possible. For us it’s just a matter of running the same asset through a couple of different encode processes, storing those assets in our distribution network and choosing which one to stream depending on the capabilities of the device. It’s technically quite possible, but we don’t want to support 10 formats because that can be pretty inefficient, but we would be open to supporting one or two.
Q: How will the inclusion of HDR information affect bandwidth?
A: HDR has almost no effect on bandwidth. Wide [color] gamut also has almost zero effect. Wide gamut doesn’t have that much information. We spread out the bit depth over a slightly larger range of colors. You don’t have to add much information to the scene.
Q: What does Netflix do with its 4K content after it’s edited and delivered?
A: First, we get the best possible source. We want to get as much information as we can at the source – the widest color, the highest resolution and so on. But we have to deliver that to a wide range of screens. We will encode that content in a variety of different formats at a variety of resolutions intended for the different screen sizes. But we are always trying to deliver the best possible. For example, we will take 4K content and clearly we will try to deliver 4K content in the clearest resolution possible, but network conditions change and we want to make sure things start up quickly, so we won’t necessarily be able stream 4K content 100 percent of the time. That’s why we are very happy that the upscaling is well implemented on these end-user devices. But we always make a best effort and are prepared to deal with the realities of network-based streaming.
Q: What’s your opinion of 4K Ultra HD OLED coming into the home theater experience?
A: It’s the best experience you could imagine right now. There is no place that you can see this at the same fidelity. Movie theaters give you a different experience. It’s great in its own right, but in terms of consumers having access to the best fidelity experience – this is it.
Q: Is Netflix at all concerned that the current assortment of digital media adapters like Roku and Apple TV do not support 4K?
A: We are really excited to bring 4K to smart TV because it gives us a direct path to realizing the best picture quality possible – we don’t have to worry about HDMI, we don’t have to worry about how 4K HDR standards are realized from one device to another. The ecosystem will work itself out. The whole ecosystem will upgrade to enable the quality specs or standards but for now smart TV is kind of the tip of the spear for bringing these advancements into the consumers’ world.
Q: Does Netflix see the work going on with Ultra HD Blu-ray as a competitive challenge and does Netflix think it’s still time for a packaged media experience?
A: Netflix’s answer is that some of our device partners obviously think it’s important to invest in, and some of our studio partners will invest in delivery content to that new media. Consumers ultimately will decide what happens. My personal perspective is that there is a Blu-ray Disc Association, there are product teams that make Blu-ray players and want to keep those products going. This is their next thing. So, there is some momentum carrying it forward. Again, consumers will decide whether physical media still has legs and whether the advancement in picture quality is enough to carry it forward. My guess is that it is not going to matter very much. We certainly don’t view it as a competitor, and we don’t lie awake at night thinking, `Oh my gosh, is Blu-ray going to change the world on us.’
By Greg Tarr
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