Display technology testing resource Spears & Munsil introduced Thursday an updated version of its popular “Ultra HD Benchmark” test discs.

The three-disc S&M Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc set, which is available now for $59.94 (currently on special for $47.95) offers an expanded set of unique test patterns to serve as a calibration tool for today’s televisions and video display monitors.

The disc creators Stacey Spears and Don Munsil has been developed for both professionals and enthusiasts to show the level of excellence or deficiency of a video display device, including today’s most advanced products.

Disc purchasers can use the various test patterns and clip demonstration materials to “tell them what their displays are doing, identify weak links in their hardware and software, and dial in the optimal settings not only for their equipment, but for future equipment that hasn’t even been designed yet,” the company said.

“Every pattern has been rethought with High Dynamic Range and Ultra HD in mind,” said Spears. “We believe this disc completely changes the game for test and evaluation discs, by making use of all of the features and range that HDR and wide-gamut standards can offer.” Almost every pattern is encoded in multiple versions, with metadata and peak levels adjusted for a wide variety of HDR display technologies. “The previous disc had 1000 separate encoded files, which was a high water mark for evaluation discs at the time. “We blew past that record with this new set, which includes over 5000 separate video and audio clips.”

Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark uses patterns created using proprietary tools, written in C++.

“If a pattern needs to be generated directly in a very specific color space and data format, we generate it in that color space and format; we’re not limited to what you can do with off-the-shelf graphics software. In a few cases we’ve had to create our own format, because no existing file format could represent the pattern we needed to create,” stated Munsil.

The disc includes new editions of some favorite patterns from the earlier editions, plus many new patterns exclusive to Spears & Munsil. It also expands the range of formats and encodings supported, “In this set, we’ve included video in HD and UHD resolution, in SDR (encoded in both BT.2020 and BT.709 color spaces), HDR10 (with multiple target peak luminance options), HDR10+ and Dolby Vision,” said Spears. “On the audio side, we include test material in both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which is completely compatible with earlier iterations of Dolby Digital and DTS.”

As with the previous editions, the S&M Ultra HD Benchmark contains patterns suitable for the professional calibrator or serious enthusiast who wants a complete suite of test patterns usable with spectroradiometers and colorimeters. “These patterns are tested by real industry professionals, multiple times over multiple iterations, before we put them on the disc,” said Spears. “These are the same patterns used regularly by the same people who produce your displays, players, and movie content.”

The disc creators said High Dynamic Range (HDR) section of the set was designed with the future in mind. Instead of creating a standard based solely on the capabilities of existing displays, the video-standards bodies designed HDR to meet the capabilities of future displays as well.

“Properly implemented, HDR content remains backwards compatible with today’s technology while making available metadata and picture information that will produce brighter, more dynamic, more colorful images on the displays of tomorrow. For years, content has had to be mastered for the lowest-common-denominator displays, not the newest and most capable consumer displays, which have long been capable of producing a brighter image with wider gamut,” the company said.

Using new standards enables content to be smartly scaled to the color depth and dynamic range capability of the display, which means that content today will actually look better on new-generation display technologies.

“HDR represents a new way of thinking about video,” said Munsil, “with a completely different approach to transfer functions, or what we used to call ‘gamma,’ and that meant that a bunch of old patterns just plain didn’t work anymore. Video is now encoded for very-high-brightness devices, and then has to be remapped by the display to fit that display’s actual capabilities. Needless to say, every display does it a little differently—now, with the Ultra HD Benchmark, enthusiasts and professionals will be able to get insight into exactly what the display does when it makes those important remapping decisions.”

The 2023 Spears & Munsil Ultra HD Benchmark features the following:

Approx. 5000 files, up fro 1200 in the previous version

HDR Tests for the HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision HDR profiles. The previous version was HDR10 only.

Object-oriented surround sound test tones for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio from 5.1.2 – 9.1.6. (5.1, 7.1 and 9.1 base; 2, 4 and 6 height). AV Sync testing was previously only available.

Sample of 59.94p material

Peak Luminance test pattern for a more accurate measurement than the legacy window pattern.

Pixel Aging pattern to break in OLEDs properly.

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By Greg Tarr

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