High Dynamic Range, HDR10+ Style

15 Minutes with Bill Mandel, Co-Manager at HDR10+ Technologies, LLC

Ultra-high resolution 8K is in the wings but 4K Ultra HD (UHD) is what most of us watch day in and day out, whether we’re streaming a movie over Netflix, spinning a Blu-ray Disc, or watching TV in one of its many forms. The splendor of 4K extends well beyond its 8 million-pixel resolution, offering several noticeable advancements in picture quality over standard high-definition (HD).

Wide color gamut, or WCG, enables your 4K television to display a broader palette of colors, making images more vibrant and realistic. If you’re into videogames and action/adventure blockbusters or sports, 4K’s higher frame rates make fast-moving images appear smoother and more lifelike. And then there’s high dynamic range (HDR), arguably the most significant of the advancements, which brings images closer to real life by revealing a wider range of contrast on compatible TVs.

Simply put, HDR enables the brightest areas of an image to look brighter and the darkest areas to look darker, while allowing for more nuanced detail and gradations in dark areas, particularly shadows, and better delineation of shapes and objects. In more technical terms, HDR holds the potential of enabling us to see not just highlights but the entire range of dark-to-light tonal values, or what cinematographers call “grayscale.”

The thing is, like so many other wonderful A/V technologies that have been introduced over the years, there is more than one HDR technical standard. HDR10, the open standard announced by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) in 2015, is the most common form of HDR. With widespread support across a broad range of industry organizations, content providers, and devices — from TVs and video projectors to streaming media players, PCs, and videogame consoles — HDR10 has evolved into the de facto standard, due in large part to it being “open.” Manufacturers that choose to implement the technology in their products do not have to pay a licensing fee.

HDR10 is also the most basic and least flexible in terms of the way in which it addresses dynamic range. It relies on static metadata, which remains the same throughout a movie or other program as the content is “tone mapped” to the capabilities of the TV. This is in sharp contrast to the more flexible, higher performing approach to dynamic range taken by Dolby Vision, the standard introduced in 2014, and HDR10+, the standard established in 2017 as a direct extension of HDR10. The benefit of having dynamic metadata is a more lifelike rendering of contrast because tone mapping is performed continually throughout the program scene by scene and even frame by frame.

To learn more about high dynamic range and how it can take us a step closer to an experience more akin to looking through a window than of watching images on a TV or projection screen, we sat down with Bill Mandel, head of the Visual Solutions Lab at Samsung Research America and co-manager of HDR10+ Technologies, LLC, a consortium led by Panasonic and Samsung that develops specifications and operates a certification program for products that adopt HDR10+ technology.

S&V: Let’s start with some background and a little history, including the origins of HDR10+. Why was HDR10+ introduced and what role did Samsung and others play in the launch?
Bill Mandel: HDR10+ was created to provide an easily accessible dynamic metadata system for enhanced HDR content. Samsung led the initial standardization efforts with the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and, along with Panasonic and 20th Century Fox Studios [now 20th Century Studios], established a certification program to insure a level of consistency in regards to implementation. Amazon Prime Video became the first streaming platform to be certified as HDR10+ compliant in December 2017, with the full certification program being launched in June of 2018.

S&V: It’s worth reviewing 1) the key advantages of HDR10+ over HDR10 and 2) what advantages you feel it offers over the conceptually similar Dolby Vision standard that’s been around since 2014. What’s most important for enthusiasts and everyday consumers to know?
Mandel: HDR formats were developed to deliver the full range of high dynamic range visual content. They allow both the finer details in the darkest portions of an image, as well the very brightest excursions, to be delivered and reproduced far more accurately than with standard dynamic range (SDR) video. While the static tone mapping [used by HDR10] can be used to reduce dynamic range in accordance with a display's capabilities, dynamic range can vary scene to scene, resulting in an overall reduction of image brightness. Dynamic metadata, the basis of HDR10+, was introduced to improve on HDR10’s static, “one-size fits all” approach. It provides the display with specific data about each scene on a frame-by-frame basis.

With HDR10+ this enhanced image data enables a compatible display to know which picture details are the most important versus those that have only limited dynamic range — and where tone mapping can be bypassed. All of this allows consumers to experience more faithful image reproduction that captures the creative's intent.

HDR10 tone mapping with static metadata (top) vs. HDR10+ tone mapping with dynamic metadata, which provides the video display with specific data about each scene on a frame-by-frame basis for more accurate image reproduction.

In regards to the differences between formats, the HDR10+ Technologies LLC's rigorous testing and certification program insures entertainment enthusiasts that every HDR10+ hardware device or content platform meets the highest implementation standards possible.

S&V: Let’s look at adoption, first hardware and then content. How many companies support HDR10+ today, and how many movies (streaming and disc) support the format? Five years in, are you happy with the progress so far?
Mandel: HDR10+ enjoys a broad range of support today from over 130 companies, both on the chipset level and in a variety of displays, whether they be TVs, projectors, monitors, or mobile phones. HDR10+ technology is also utilized on a number of different dongles devices, including Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku.


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