Now under control of Disney, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment this week played Switzerland in its handling of the dynamic metadata HDR profile competition by announcing the upcoming release of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of Fox’s CGI animated sci-fi title Alita: Battle Angel.

Since the announced acquisition of 21st Century Fox including the 20th Century Fox movie studio, industry observers have wondered if Disney would begin influencing Fox to use the Dolby Vision dynamic HDR profile instead of the rival HDR10+ profile Fox formerly had championed along with Samsung.

With the release of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of Alita: Battle Angel, anyway, supporters of either HDR profile will be satiated. Owners of most mid-range to high-end televisions and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players released in the last two years or so will be able to see the title in one form of dynamic metadata HDR or the other.

If the display or UHD Blu-ray player doesn’t support any dynamic metadata HDR profile at all, the movie will be played as default HDR10.

Dynamic metadata is a set of instructions in the content that tells the display how to adjust contrast and brightness for HDR in a movie or program on a scene-by-scene or even shot-by-shot basis, and is offered as an optional profile on Ultra HD Blu-rays. This is a step above the default HDR10 HDR profile mandated for all 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles offering HDR enhancement. It presents 4K movies with static metadata that establishes contrast and brightness grading for HDR at a constant set of parameters throughout the program.

When used, the dynamic metadata versions are considered to be closer to the intent of the content creators.

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We point out that with either format the picture quality improvements of dynamic metadata HDR are subtle in most titles released so far. To many home viewers we expect the benefits to be more psychologically appreciated than obvious without an HDR10 picture running side-by-side in the room.

Alita: Battle Angel was developed by James Cameron in association with Jon Landau and the movie’s director Robert Rodriguez. It’s therefore possible that the use of both formats was stipulated by them, and not necessarily Disney. Disney has not announced an official position on either format, but has released 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray titles with Dolby Vision in the past.

Interestingly, keeping neutral would be good for Cameron. The legendary director/producer has said that his 20th Century Fox classics Titanic and Avatar will be remastered in Dolby Vision. He earlier had been a visible endorser of Samsung’s and Panasonic’s 3D television efforts, even appearing at a Samsung-sponsored Black Eyed Peas concert in New York City’s Times Square prior to the Blu-ray 3D release of Avatar.

Panasonic is a member of the HDR10+ Alliance, along with Fox and Samsung. Panasonic doesn’t broadly sell 4K Ultra HDTVs in the United States any longer (other than some limited sales on its web site) but in other regions it has introduced high-end 4K Ultra HDTVs supporting both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.

Thus far, Cameron hasn’t said which profile is a closer match to the intent of the movie’s creators.

For those interested in getting a copy of the disc, Alita: Battle Angel will be released in DVD, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray versions, all scheduled to hit store shelves and ship from e-commerce sites on July 23, 2019. It is available for pre-order here. The movie will be available from streaming sites beginning July 9th.

Among the many other features in the UHD Blu-ray version will be a Blu-ray 3D disc and Dolby Atmos object-based audio surround sound.

Alita: Battle Angel is based on the popular manga series from Yukito Kishiro. Cameron has reportedly confirmed a sequel of the movie is in development.

By Greg Tarr

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