Spears & Munsil Rethink TV Calibration Disc for HDR

Stacey Spears and Don Munsil, creators of the acclaimed Spears & Munsil High Definition Benchmark series of test and calibration discs, have announced the release of the UHD HDR Benchmark, a 4K Blu-ray disc dedicated to the calibration and evaluation of 4K Ultra HD (UHD) displays that support high dynamic range (HDR).

Available on amazon.com for $39.95, the disc is said to provide a wealth of test and demonstration materials that enable professionals and amateur enthusiasts alike to evaluate TV performance, identify weak links in hardware and software, and dial in optimal settings.

“Every pattern has been rethought with high dynamic range (HDR) and Ultra HD in mind,” said co-creator Stacey 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.”

HDR was designed with the future in mind. Instead of creating a standard based solely on the capabilities of existing displays, video-standards bodies designed HDR to meet the capabilities of future displays as well, the developers explained. When properly implemented, HDR content remains backwards-compatible with today’s technology while making available metadata and picture information that will produce brighter, more dynamic, and more colorful images on future TVs. Content can now be smartly scaled to use the color depth and dynamic range of the display, which means the content you watch today will actually look better on future display technologies.

“HDR represents a new way of thinking about video,” Munsil said, “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 UHD HDR Benchmark enthusiasts and professionals will be able to get insight into exactly what the display does when it makes those important remapping decisions.”

Most of the patterns provided on UHD HDR Benchmark are encoded in multiple versions, with metadata and peak levels adjusted for a wide variety of HDR display technologies, according to the developers. And like the previous S&M discs, the new disc uses patterns created from scratch using in-house software.

“There really isn’t any other way to make patterns that we can stand behind,” said co-creator Don Munsil. “We build every pattern using our own tools, written from scratch 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.”

UHD HDR Benchmark includes new editions of some favorite patterns from earlier discs, plus many new patterns exclusive to Spears & Munsil.

“We’ve created the very best single pattern for evaluating which color space to output from your UHD player or set-top box,” Spears explained. “The problems of artifacts caused by color conversion and video processing remain as relevant as ever for HDR and UHD, but HDR adds exciting new problems to all the old ones. We rebuilt the color-space evaluation pattern from scratch, and put in one place everything an end-user or professional evaluator needs. Every pattern we make goes through that same process, and is refined again and again to make it clearer, simpler, and more precise.”

The disc also includes a complete suite of test patterns designed for use with spectroradiometers and colorimeters. “These patterns are tested by real industry professionals, multiple times over multiple iterations, before we put them on the disc,” Spears said, noting that “they are the same patterns used regularly by the same people who produce your displays, players, and movie content.”

For more information, visit spearsandmunsil.com.

K-hud's picture

Finally! Took long enough.

YourMainDude's picture

So true ...

gnagus's picture

I still use my Avia DVD from 1999

David Vaughn's picture
I have an entire section of my disc collection dedicated to calibration discs...multiple versions of DVD Essentials, 2 Spears & Munsel discs, Sound & Vision disc, Disney WOW, multiple THX and DTS demo dics. Looks like I'll be adding one more.
YourMainDude's picture

Funny thing is, JKP (DVE essentials)has a new USB calibration source available too - but when you visit their website, it's all borked up.

Joe Kane can't even higher a competent webmaster.

YourMainDude's picture

Joe Kane can't even hire a competent webmaster.