Coming Soon: Premium Ultra HD

Ultra HDTV will soon be divided into two tiers: lame, regular old UHD; and awesome, premium-grade UHD. How will you know which grade to get when you fill up at the pump—I mean, visit an electronics store?

The Ultra HD Alliance is a new coalition of Hollywood studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and post-production companies with a plan to define an end-to-end ecosystem to churn out exceptional Ultra HD. The features that will differentiate Premium from non-premium in this case include high dynamic range images with a wider color gamut, high frame rates, and immersive 3D audio.

Most of the companies involved can be seen in the above screen grab, though the list has since expanded to include Sharp and, possibly, LG. Part of their plan is to certify sources and displays capable of delivering Premium Ultra HD, so consumers can easily recognize them in-store.

A demo that Samsung set up in a private room at CES displayed the clear advantages of Premium UHD. A reference 4K post-production monitor and typical 4K LED UHDTV showed a regular, upconverted Blu-ray source. Next to them, one of Samsung’s new 9500 Series S’UHD TVs was displaying the same content except with high dynamic range and P3 (digital cinema) color space encoding.

The differences between the images were anything but subtle. Colors looked richer on the 9500 Series set. And the increased highlight detail gave the picture much greater depth. There’s obviously more to Ultra HD than higher resolution. If all goes according to the Ultra HD Alliance’s plan, we should see the benefits of it starting this year.