Ultra HD – More Than Just Resolution
The number of TV’s boasting 4K display resolution has exploded, and for good reason, who doesn’t want a more detailed TV image?
However, 4K resolution is just one part of what is now referred to now as Ultra HD.
In addition to increased resolution, to make the video look better – improved color is one extra factor that helps, but the other factor that improves picture quality significantly is HDR.
What HDR Is
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.
The way HDR works is that in the mastering process for selected content destined for theatrical or home video presentation, the full brightness/contrast data captured during the filming/shooting process is encoded into the video signal.
When encoded the signal is sent to an HDR-enabled TV, the information is decoded, and the High Dynamic Range information is displayed, based on the brightness/contrast capability of the TV. If a TV is not HDR-enabled, it will simply display the images without the High Dynamic Range information.
Added to 4K resolution and wide color gamut, an HDR-enabled TV (combined with properly-encoded content), can display brightness and contrast levels close to you would see in the real world. This means bright whites without blooming or washout, and deep blacks without muddiness or crushing.
For example, if you have a scene that both very bright elements and darker elements in the same frame, such as a sunset, you will see both the bright light of Sun and the darker portions of the rest of the image with equal clarity. The result: A better TV viewing experience.
For more details on HDR, check out the following report from About.com TV/Video: HDR Explained.
How HDR Implementation Is Affecting Consumers
There are currently two HDR formats in use, HDR10 and Dolby Vision. HDR10 is an open royalty-free standard, while the use of Dolby Vision requires a licensing fee.
Of course, what makes things confusing for consumers, is that neither format is compatible with the other as they apply HDR in slightly different ways. HDR10 is considered more generic as its parameters are applied equally throughout a specific piece of content, and the TV decides how to display the information, while Dolby Vision is considered more precise in that it can adjust HDR parameters on a frame-by-frame basis, based on .
This state of affairs means that some HDR-enabled TVs or video projectors are compatible with content using the HDR10 format, while other TVs or video projectors may be compatible with Dolby Vision – and to make things even more confusing, as of 2016, the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format has only implemented HDR10, although there is no technical limitation that wouldn’t enable Dolby Vision to also be used. However, streaming providers, such as Netflix and Amazon, which have been offering content in HDR10, have both added the Dolby Vision option to some of their offerings. On the other hand, Vudu only offers HDR content encoded with Dolby Vision.
On the TV end, LG’s 2016 Super UHD LED/LCD and Ultra HD OLED TVs are compatible with both Dolby Vision and HDR10, and Vizio’s 2016 and newer P,M, and R Series TVs, although starting off with Dolby Vision compatibility only, will be adding HDR10 compatibility via firmware update later in 2016.
It is also important to point out that while Vizio’s P, M, and R series TVs are all Dolby Vision compatible, as of the publication date of this article, only the Vizio R Series has access to the Amazon Instant Video app. This means, that for the time being, the Vizio P and M series TVs will only be able to access Dolby Vision content from Netflix and Vudu.
So, What is available to watch in HDR10 and Dolby Vision?
As of 2016, HDR10 content can be accessed (provided you have an HDR10 compatible TV from one of the brands mentioned above) via some content offered by Netflix and Amazon, as well as the Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc format. There will be a total of four Ultra HD Blu-ray disc playersavailable (one each from Samsung, Philips, and Panasonic, plus the Xbox One S) by the end of 2016.
Of course, in addition to the player, consumers will also need access to disc content. For details on available Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles, read my report: First Wave Of True Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs Announced, as well as a running list posted on Blu-ray.com (click on the month).
However, for Dolby Vision, you don’t need a special player yet, but what you do need is a 4K Ultra HD Smart TV from either LG or Vizio that has the internal hardware and software support to decode Dolby Vision content via streaming from services such as Netflix, Vudu, and the most recent to join in, Amazon. Also, with regards to streaming, take note of broadband speed requirements and monthly data caps.
Amazon HDR10 and Dolby Vision Titles Include: The Smurfs 2, After Earth, Men in Black 3, Hancock, Salt, Pineapple Express, Fury, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Chappie and Elysium – Minimum broadband speed required: 15 Mbps.
Netflix HDR10/Dolby Vision Titles Include: Marco Polo: Season 1 is currently available in Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10, with more to come (refer to list) – Broadband speed required: 15-to-25 Mbps
Vudu (Dolby Vision-Only) Titles Include: Mad Max: Fury Road, San Andreas, Jupiter Ascending, Man of Steel, The Lego Movie, and more – Minimum broadband speed required: 11 Mbps
Note: If an Amazon title is offered in both Dolby Vision and HDR10, and your TV is only compatible with HDR10, the HDR10 version will be provided. If the TV is Dolby Vision, or Dolby Vision and HDR10 compatible, the Dolby Vision version will be provided.
With the steady pace of both Dolby Vision and HDR10-encoded content releases – all we need is more TVs that offer both options.
Note: If you have a 4K Smart TV that allows access to 4K streaming content, but is not HDR compatible, or you have an external 4K media streamer, such as the Roku 4 or the 4K version of the Amazon Fire TV, which are also not HDR compatible, you will still be able to access the 4K resolution portion of the stream, without the HDR enhancement information.
Examples of TVs 4K Ultra HD TVs With HDR
LG C6P Series OLED TVs (HDR10 and Dolby Vision) – Buy From Amazon
LG UH7700 Series Super UHD TVs (HDR10 and Dolby Vision) – Buy From Amazon
Vizio P-Series Home Theater Displays (Dolby Vision – HDR10 via Firmware Update) Available at Best Buy
Samsung KS8000 Series SUHD TVs (HDR10 Only) – Buy from Amazon
Sony XBR-X850D Series TVs (HDR10 Only) – Buy From Amazon
This article will be updated as more information becomes available.