Panasonic unveiled at CES 2018 Monday four new Ultra HD Blu-ray players, including some of the first models to include support for the new HDR10+ dynamic metadata high dynamic range (HDR) platform.

The players include the latest generation HCX processors, which are said to enhance HDR picture quality, build after planned firmware updates will add hands-free voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assist AI technology.

As this was posted, Panasonic didn’t say which if any of the models would be making it to the U.S. market. Pricing and availability will be announced later.

The players include the Panasonic models DP-UB320, DP-UB330, DP-UB420 and DP-UB820. The latter two step-up models add support for the optional HDR10+ HDR platform, in addition to the mandatory HDR10. The top-end DP-UB820 will also include support for the optional Dolby Vision HDR profile.

Read more about Panasonic’s new Ultra HD Blu-ray player introductions after the jump.

Panasonic said all four 2018 Ultra HD Blu-ray players qualify for Ultra HD Premium certification, under the Ultra HD Alliance specifications.

The Hollywood Cinema Experience (HCX) processor used by the players was developed by engineers at the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory who ensured each model was designed to output an image that would properly convey the artists’ intentions.

The processor was said to reproduce Ultra HD Blu-ray and internet-streamed 4K video images with precise colors and optimal brightness. The UB820, UB420 and UB330/320 also have an original 4K Direct Chroma up-scaling feature that effectivley up-converts Full HD to 4K resolution for displaying beautiful colors.

Once updated with a forthcoming firmware update, the players will add voice control capability for both Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant. This will allow connection to a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa device equipped with far-field array microphones to accept spoken commands to execute player functions including fast forwarding and pause, without the need to find the remote.

Each player is equipped to support one or more of the popular HDR platforms. The HDR10+ profile supported in the UB820 and UB420 will add dynamic metadata technology to the baseline HDR10 to optimize grading for color, tone mapping and highlights on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis. Where the plain vanilla HDR10 profile found in the two step-down players has static metadata that grades an entire movie at one level.

HDR10+ is an open, royalty-free dynamic metadata platform created by 20th Century Fox, Panasonic and Samsung. In addition to Fox, Netflix and Warner Bros. have already committed to supporting the HDR10+ platform with content this year. The companies will be recruiting new members at CES 2018.

As mentioned, the UB820 player will also support Dolby Vision, which is an alternative dynamic metadata HDR platform.

The players use and assortment of features to optimize HDR including an HDR Optimizer that performs toning mapping in the player to ensure HDR-compatible TVs achieve the desired results.

Panasonic said that by performing the tone mapping on the player, stable HDR picture quality is delivered regardless of the TV. Panasonic’s original image processing technologies achieve HDR images with higher definition while tone mapping is used to adjust the brightness level of the content. Even HDR images from ordinary HDR10 and TV footage provide optimal playback, the company said.

For those without HDR-enabled televisions the players include HDR to standard dynamic range (SDR) conversion with “Optimized Tone Remapping.” Dynamic Range Conversion reproduces images with greater brightness and beauty than ordinary Blu-ray Disc images when played on a non-HDR TV with SDR. This feature maximizes the image expression that is inherent to Ultra HD Blu-ray.

The players will also perform HDR adjustment for various viewing conditions. These models have a HDR adjustment feature which reproduces dark and bright areas with high fidelity regardless of the viewing environment, Panasonic said.

Dark scenes in HDR images are sometimes difficult to see when viewed in a bright room and may require brightness adjustment. Because HDR signals are inherently different from SDR signals, existing adjustment functions are insufficient.

The UB820, UB420, UB330 and UB320 use an original technology to optimize HDR video signals, which enables them to freely adjust the brightness of the HDR images.

An HDR Setting button on the remote control allows the user to simply select the optimal setting for the viewing environment.

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support unique audio technologies to achieve rich sound reproduction in up to 7.1-channel audio output. The UB820 supports analog 7.1-channel audio for direct connection to a home theater system. Each terminal is gold-plated to resist oxidization and maintain high signal conductivity.

The UB820 and UB420 models feature dual HDMI outputs for isolating and transmitting TV (4K video) and amplifier audio. By separating audio and video signals, unwanted noise is suppressed, resulting in high-quality audio reproduction.

All four players also support high-resolution audio reproduction. In addition to conventional WAV/FLAC/MP3/AAC/WMA formats, DSD (11.2MHz/5.6 MHz/2.8 MHz) ALAC and AIFF music files can be reproduced. By connecting the player through a home audio system, listeners can hear music sources equivalent to studio master sound quality.

The models UB820 and UB420 are designed to deliver the warm tones of tube-based Hi-Fi audio, offering six different kinds of sounds from vacuum tubes with 96-kHz/192-kHz up-sampling.

Using voice control, the models UB820 and UB420 will enable support for 4K Video on Demand (VOD) services.

Additionally, 4K videos (MP4 format) taken with a camera or camcorder can be reproduced using Panasonic’s 2018 Ultra HD Blu-ray players, while JPEG data can be created in 4K resolution.


By Greg Tarr

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