Ready For That HDR-Ready Home Theater? Hold On
From the hurry- up and-wait department: a recent HDMI 2.0a spec. extension, which supports metadata for high- dynamic range (HDR)-encoded 4K Ultra HD video passed over HDMI connectors may not be as seamlessly updatable as generally expected for some home theater components.
Jeff Park, senior technical specifications manager for the HDMI LLC, told HD Guru that whether or not new HDMI 2.0-enabled A/V receivers, media players or HDR-enabled televisions already in the market can be updated with a simple firmware download or more extensive hardware changes, is “solely dependent on the manufacturer and their system design. The HDMI specification never defines upgradability criteria.”
More on the status of HDMI 2.0a upgrading after the break:
Simply put, HDR provides a wider range of light for a TV to display a picture, along with extra brightness to make the bright areas of a picture actually brighter and not simply whiter. This enables seeing more detail that is typically washed out in bright areas of a picture or crushed into blackness in dark areas.
The best way to deliver this is by first applying it in the content production process and encoding it as metadata into the distributed signal. High dynamic range metadata conforming to CEA 863.1 guidelines, which is to be sent over the HDMI 2.0a connection, is information added on top of the regular content that tells HDR-enabled TVs what to do with their expanded dynamic range.
For more definitive information on HDMI 2.0a upgrading, Park referred us to each product manufacturer to determine the HDMI 2.0a implementation plans, but because of the recent nature of the new HDMI 2.0a spec. release, few were ready to issue definitive statements as to how (or if) their products will support the HDMI 2.0a specification.
In the case of HDR-enabled 4K Ultra HDTVs the issue seems to be as simple as a firmware download for some – or at worst a possible hardware module exchange such as Samsung’s “Evolution Kit.” Where HDR-jonesing home theater owners may run into problems, however, is in purchasing a new “HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2” supporting A/V receiver, switcher, preamp or media player with the intention of using it to switch 4K UHD/HDR signal sources feeding an HDR-ready TV.
Asked if the latest HDMI 2.0 enabled A/V receivers on the market would be able to accept or pass this new HDR metadata for repeaters, switching and so forth, Park said:
“This is manufacturer system design dependent but typically the AVR will need to have specific support for this HDR feature.”
So, keep that in mind if you are intending to purchase an AV receiver to connect to a new HDR-ready 4K Ultra HDTV.
As this was posted, not one of the major A/V receiver manufacturers we contacted – including Sony, Pioneer, Denon/Marantz, and Yamaha – has responded to our questions about their ability to update HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 receivers to support HDR.
As for TV makers, a spokesperson for Samsung said: “we are exploring HDMI 2.0a and will be able to offer an update. We can’t provide any further detail at this time.”
A spokesman for LG Electronics USA said his company had “nothing to report at this early stage.”
Asked why the HDMI 2.0a spec. was published after some of the first HDR-ready televisions were already launched into the market, Park told us: “The HDMI specification has consistently been ahead of market requirements and has done so in a way that is practical and usable to our more than 1,600-adopter base worldwide. We support features based on the industry requirements, such as content providers and other industry standardization efforts like CEA and BDA. In this case, the near-term availability of HDR content drives this feature and not the plans of select few manufacturers.”
Several versions of HDR are currently being proposed for widespread adoption, including the Dolby Vision system that will be used in Vizio’s Reference Series TVs and possibly others. Park said “HDMI 2.0a will support static metadata as referenced in CEA 863.1. As the industry and features/formats develop, we will certainly evaluate supporting additional formats.”
Thus far, only a handful of 2015 television models from Sony (X930c/X940c series), Samsung (JS9500 series), and Vizio (Reference Series) have been announced as having the ability to process this HDR metadata for on-screen display. Vizio, perhaps wisely, has opted to hold off on revealing delivery plans for its Reference Series, which will support the Dolby Vision-brand of HDR. But for televisions, HDMI 2.0a may not be essential for HDR reception since the sets have built-in smart TV functionality with support for 4K UHD streaming services, and presumably HDR-streaming content, when available. The first Dolby Vision encoded movies already have been announced for availability over Vudu later this year in six Warner Bros. streaming titles.
In addition to HDR, many of the enhanced 4K Ultra HDTVs announced so far also support a wider color gamut, with some covering almost the entire color space indicated in the Digital Cinema Initiative P3 recommendations for professional cinema equipment.
Park said that nothing more was necessary for sending that extra information to wider color gamut TVs.
“HDMI version 1.4 already supports a wide color gamut (x.v.Color) and 2.0 added support for BT.2020,” Park said. “Typically, the content and the entire system, not just the receiver chip, will need to support the wider color gamut to fully deliver the benefits.”
By Greg Tarr
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