Panel: HDR Will Become `The Norm’ In Television Entertainment
The LG Cinema House 360-degree presentation with a Signature W7 “Wallpaper” 4K OLED TV
High dynamic range – the visual experience included in the best 4K Ultra HD TVs and more and more in 4K video productions to relay a wider range of contrast between deeper blacks and brighter whites along with a wider gamut of color – will become the new norm in television viewing over the next couple of years.
That was the prediction of a group of television professionals from a range of disciplines, assembled by LG Electronics this week at New York City’s Paley Center and media history museum.
Panelists, who were questioned by moderator Joshua Fruhlinger, tech and entertainment reporter for the Wall Street Journal, included: Matt Durgin, LG head of content innovation; Ron Simon, curator of the Paley Center for media; Rob Carroll, Dolby Labs content solutions director; and Steven Bodner, Light Iron supervising colorist. The experts praised to invited journalists the benefits that the new pallet of color and light (HDR) is giving producers and directors to tell their stories.
Following the event, LG kicked off a traveling road show called the LG OLED Cinema House powered by Dolby that featured the flagship 77-inch LG Signature W7 4K Ultra HD OLED TV synched with a 360-degree projection experience developed by Light Iron using multiple LG DLP projectors. These surrounded viewers with light and images synched to the content on the OLED screen while accompanying Dolby Atmos 3D surround sound immersed the audience in multi-sensory 360 degree entertainment.
Content supporting the presentation included 4K Ultra HD video clips with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos 3D sound from the popular Netflix Original Series The Defenders, Okja and the forthcoming Stranger Things 2. The latter included an exclusive, first-time viewing of scenes from the second season of the recent Emmy-award-nominated OTT series.
Read more about the HDR tech panel’s feelings about the state of the art of HDR entertainment after the jump:
According to the panelists, the HDR experiences new 4K Ultra HD displays are bringing to living rooms today are just the tip of the iceberg in where video entertainment is heading in coming years.
Bodner, who works behind the scenes in color grading Hollywood productions, including some prominent Netflix shows, said he believes HDR is going to be the new normal for video productions and home entertainment.
“HDR is going to be the norm going forward,” Bodner said. “I’ve started to really like the way HDR looks. We can bring it down, we can make it look filmmick again. It does take some work. The specular highlights and the wider color gamut brings a lot of stuff that people aren’t used to seeing today, but once they get their heads around it and get used to it I think it is going to become the norm. I don’t know how long from now; probably the next few years I would say. I think we will eventually see it in broadcast and sports, and that might even happen before the regular television shows.”
In fact, Dolby’s Carroll said his company is currently testing its Dolby Vision HDR technology on live sporting events in Europe, adding that those trials have done very well. These trials include producing both the [standard dynamic range [SDR] and the Dolby Vision HDR simultaneously, making the backward compatibility aspects of Dolby Vision very desirable for broadcast producers.
Bodner said that in addition to consumers needing to be introduced to the benefits and capabilities provided by HDR, a number of directors and cinematographers are still adjusting to its nuances and variables as a storytelling tool.
“The thing about HDR is that you have a lot more range – meaning color and brightness,” Bodner offered. “What cinematographer wants to see more all the time? Because they don’t. So, there are a lot of times when we are given more range, and they don’t want to see it. So, then it falls back on me and the colorists to manage their expectations. So, when I’m working with any director and DP that hasn’t been working with high dynamic range prior to a production I’m about to work with them on, I have them shoot their tests and I have them come into my room and I show them what it looks like in HDR beforehand. In one Netflix show we were working on, we were running through the HDR and the candles came up. Everyone said, “Woe!, they’re way too bright.”
“When it was in SDR they thought it looked great but when it was in HDR they said right away, `All I can see are candles.’ So, knowledge is the first thing. Not everyone has seen HDR yet, even in our profession, including the directors and cinematographers. The cameras have been capturing it, but we haven’t been able to see it. Now we can.”
Coincidentally, candlelight in HDR is an important strength supported by LG’s OLED technology, Durgin said.
“What makes that candle look great is first the color, but also the fact that the candle is surrounded by true black. You can’t get that with some other display technologies. That’s one of the things that LG is most proud of is that OLED puts that control back in your hands. So, when you go to color that candle, what makes it stand out is not the luminance number that is attached to it but the fact that the contrast that’s around the candle and color of the candle are so pure.”
Carroll pointed out that Dolby Vision expands the tool box for content creators, and that while a candle can appear much brighter as a specular highlight in an picture, directors and cinematographers can adjust that brightness level to emphasize the candle as an important story element or de-emphasize it if it is merely a part of the background ambience.
Carroll predicted that over time, displays will advance to a point where they will have even more range and flexibility including the ability to display specular highlights with peak brightness levels exceeding 4,000 nits. The ceiling on today’s best consumer displays is around 1,600 nits.
“Over time we will see improvements in television sets that will continue going to [4,000 nits and higher]. This is different from what we’ve done in the past, because in the past we set a standard for what we could deliver today and we would find five years later that there is this new thing we would like to have, but we can’t get there because everyone is stuck at this particular standard level. This time, the industry set those standards with a future place in mind, so that we can move that high dynamic range and wide color gamut farther toward the limit of human visual perception,” Carroll said.
Carroll cautioned that while bright specular highlights are a key advantage of HDR and Dolby Vision, there is much more to it. (For disclosure, one of the weaknesses of OLED technology has been the inability to achieve peak brightness levels of 1,000 nits and higher, while LED-LCD technologies can surpass it. OLED, on the other hand, produces the deepest levels of black purity, which LCD cannot reach).
“One of the mistakes that people make when it comes to HDR is that it means brighter images. It doesn’t mean brighter images,” Carroll explained. “It’s about that bigger pallet. There will be cases where there will be a desire or need to get to 4,000 nits (brightness level) on up to 10,000 nits for a particular scene. It may be one or two pixels that give you that depth perception, but it’s not going to be something where you are going to be squinting because you are up to 10,000 or 4,000 nits, but it’s going to be a case where there is a specular highlight and there is a nice curve or depth behind it. This is that spatial resolution, that contrast resolution that HDR provides and wide color gamut provides that does improve the image quality in order to deliver a spectacular experience, and it may have pixels that go up to 10,000 nits. That doesn’t mean we will have average picture levels that go up that high, because as Steve will attest, we kind of know where our average picture level is right – the tonal quality of skin tones, the tonal quality of a room, what’s comfortable to view. That average restriction level will change. The darks will get darker and the brights will get brighter but that average will stay about the same. But I do believe we will see peak brightness levels of 4,000 nits and we do want to see those contrast ratios available as a pallet.”
Another big part of the HDR experience is a wider color gamut, with the Rec. 2020 gamut (currently not achieved by a consumer display) standing as the Holy Grail of color spaces and established in the high dynamic range capabilities specified for Dolby Vision and the Ultra HD Blu-ray standards.
Carroll said with the best TVs now achieving nearly 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color space recommendation for professional cinema exhibitions, most of the color spectrum seen in nature is already covered, but the additional headroom in the outlying shades of Rec. 2020 will help to achieve other worldly effects desirable for animation and science fiction.
Carroll said: “What you have with high dynamic range is the ability to drive saturation in colors. Let’s take the sky, for example, you have to be able to drive the blue primary very, very high. What happens is if you don’t have that high dynamic range headroom you can only get so bright. You have to bring green and red into it in order to get the brightness level up and then what you have is a gray sky. That’s why what you see a lot in standard dynamic range is the sky’s that are blue are not very bright and the skies that are bright are usually gray.”
Carroll continued: “With high dynamic range we can actually drive that blue. When you talk about Rec 2020, especially when you talk about things like animation or science fiction shows, we are trying to create environments that don’t exist in reality. It gives us color spaces to play with. What we saw with one of the first Dolby Vision titles, which was Inside Out By Pixar, was they wanted to get almost a poster black light look for the `emotions’ in that and you can’t get that in a P3, but with the colors they were able to get to through what Dolby Vision gave them they were able to get that look they were trying for.”
As for the future of television design, the Paley Center’s Simon said technologies like ultra-thin OLED panels are going to make the consumer begin to “rethink the architectural space of a television because the question will be, how are you going to live with it and where are you going to put it?”
The wall paper-like LG Signature W7 4K OLED TV certainly underscored that assessment in the LG 4K OLED Cineman demonstration.
By Greg Tarr
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