Sony Pictures Technology Head: For HDR ‘One Size Doesn’t Fit All’
Bill Baggelaar, Sony Pictures Technology Senior VP, stands next to a new Sony XBR-100Z9D .
In introducing its new flagship Z9D XBR line of 4K Ultra HD TVs this week Sony had Bill Baggelaar, Sony Pictures technology senior VP, tell members of the media about how aggressively the studio is working with its Sony Electronics sister company on ensuring the new 4K Ultra HD and high dynamic range [HDR] displays coming to market get the content needed to make use of all of the new available features.
Sony Pictures already has started to amass a catalog of 4K Ultra HD movies with HDR for both streaming distribution and Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, with more on the way, both in new box office releases and back catalog favorites from the Sony Pictures (Columbia) vault.
Sony Electronics still has not announced definitive availability dates on an Ultra HD Blu-ray player of its own, although it is widely speculated that the forthcoming PlayStation 4.5 console from the company’s gaming division will support it when it eventually arrives.
Sony Electronics President Mike Fasulo said the company still plans to have an Ultra HD Blu-ray player on the market by the end of the year, but qualified that by adding that Sony’s forward-looking statements reference fiscal years, which end March 31st.
It also should be pointed out that Sony’s newly announced XBR Z9D 4K Ultra HD full-array LED LCD TVs support the HDR-10 format, and not the Dolby Vision HDR format, although Sony Pictures has already started mastering content for the home in both HDR-10 and Dolby Vision.
Meanwhile, Baggelaar said that Sony Pictures is focused on ensuring that “we get the best content out to the consumers as soon a possible.”
Read more of Baggelaar’s comments on the state of 4K Ultra HD content from Sony Pictures after the jump:
“At Sony Pictures we are always looking at better ways of experiencing our stories,” Baggelaar continued. “From 4K TV with wide color gamut that bring more vibrant colors to UHD to new technologies like high dynamic range (HDR) that combines deeper rich blacks with whiter whites for brilliant colors so all of this can produce visually stunning experiences that will immerse you in the story like never before.”
To bring the new content to the home, both through streaming services, including Sony’s own 4K Ultra HD service, and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs, Baggelaar said Sony has had to “develop all new ways of actually producing content. Some of the work flow stuff with HDR really pushes beyond what conventional displays with standard dynamic range can do, and we’ve really had to re-think how we want to make the product and put it into production to get the best possible results, and we need displays that actually can show all of this new information.”
This new capability, he said, requires new creative approaches.
“For film content we have one approach. For live action sports events there’s a different approach. Then, CG animators and CG designers might have one particular aspect that they are focusing on with HDR. We look at all of our content as actually being applicable in HDR. But some cinematographers want to focus on shadow detail and more resolution to really bring you into the experience,” Baggelaar said.
For sports and some other genres, “high frame rates are really important in order to reduce artifacts that occur from high-action scenes. When it comes to 4K Ultra HD, one size doesn’t fit all. This is a bigger canvas of color, light, motion and detail that allows creative control over how you want your stories to be presented. At the end of the day, this is a storytelling device and [content creators] need to be able to choose the different aspects that actually give them the ability to tell the story the way they want to tell the story. This is the ultimate tool box for the creative community.”
Regarding new display technologies, Baggelaar said that “Sony has come through with products that have set new standards for professional and in-home viewing. Our studio has a fantastic experience with Sony Electronics where content and displays are being developed hand in hand in order to get the best possible results. At Sony we have a culture of constant innovation that allows for leaps in quality from generation to generation.”
“Now with the introduction of this new series of displays [ XBR Z9D] we are able to see even more detail in the shadows and highlights than previously possible,” he said “So, whether it’s the dark details in the spooky and fun new Goosebumps Movie or the rich detail in Smurfs 2, we are able to see more of these details than ever before.”
HD Guru asked Baggelaar if Sony Pictures has been putting pressure on producers and directors to begin developing content that fully utilizes the new 4K and HDR tools available to them for in-home presentation.
Baggelaar told us: “It’s kind of an interesting thing that we get into with directors and cinematographers. We’ve been shooting in HDR forever. Film is an HDR medium. We’ve just never been able to realize it. So, as that technology is coming out and becoming available it is naturally something that cinematographers and directors are thinking about. We want HDR, and obviously we are releasing a lot of it and we are even going back into our catalogs and reissuing HDR content. So, there is not a mandate or directive but there is an awareness, and we are certainly talking a lot about that when we get into the content creation part. I don’t think there is a camera today that Sony uses for any of its content on a theatrical level that isn’t able to produce HDR.”
We also asked him how aware directors and filmmakers seem to be of the new HDR medium and if they have started to take it into account in the pre-production planning process?
“It varies,” Baggelaar told us, “and this is why it’s an education process. There is a transition that the industry will be going through with this technology. The response from creative when they get to it is for the most part that they are enamored with it. They love it, but they need to be exposed to it. So their focus is always on making the movies as they go into production and they don’t have to worry about the technical aspect always until they hit the later stages of production.
Regarding Sony Picture’s policy on re-mastering catalog titles when the director might no longer be alive or available, Baggelaar told us: “We have a team of professionals here who have to deal with this and they do a fantastic job with the storage of our content. When a title is selected, someone has to make the decision at the end of the day, and they make the best choices they can. Sometimes they will go back and try to find someone else who was around and involved in the development process to work on it.”
By Greg Tarr
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