Spears & Munsil UHD HDR Benchmark Test Disc


Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
The Spears & Munsil (S&M) UHD HDR Benchmark is a video test disc developed with a wide range of users in mind. It has basic video setup and evaluation patterns aimed at the general consumer, but also patterns and features designed for use by professional calibrators, reviewers, and even manufacturers. Unlike S&M's previous test disc, the HD Benchmark, this version does not include general explanations on how to use the patterns wrapped into its interface but is still easy to navigate and use. (Tips are posted on the spearsandmunsil.com website that will help to get the most from the disc's content.)

S&M worked with Dolby and other industry heavyweights on the disc's patterns and demonstration montage, both of which provide a range of options to evaluate HDR tone mapping on different displays. The user can initially select the luminance level (how bright the content was mastered, also known as grading) for the content they want to view, but even after this selection is made, it can be changed on the fly by pushing the up arrow on your player's remote and selecting a different output value for that specific test or demo content.

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Patterns and content were mastered with a peak luminance value of 10,000 nits to exploit the HDR format's full potential. From there, trim passes were made at more common luminance levels—1,000 nits, for example. There is also a standard dynamic range option for select demonstration material. Switching between these options allows users to see how an HDR image changes with different luminance levels, but also gives calibration pros a way to compare a display's tone mapping performance at different nit levels.

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The UHD HDR Benchmark is primarily focused on video setup and evaluation with the only audio test being an A/V synch pattern that's available in both Dolby and DTS formats. This is one of the few tests out there to help you properly set lip synch in your A/V setup, and it counts among the most valuable tests on the disc. The disc's menu structure makes finding what you are looking for easy. For those seeking to simply dabble in setup, there are basic setup patterns you can easily jump between with simple clicks on the arrow buttons of your player's remote. I appreciated that the patterns are endlessly looped by default and will stay on the screen until you switch them off.

Once you get past the basic setup section, there's a vast array of patterns and tests providing everything needed to evaluate your video chain from player to display. The disc covers the entire gamut, from chroma processing to dynamic range. Many of the patterns are new 4K versions of patterns appearing on S&M's DVD and HD Blu-ray test discs, but there are also new patterns to evaluate contrast performance, scaling, and tone mapping.

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The disc includes tests that target specific display types like edge-lit and full-array backlit LCD TVs and projectors. I found that these did a great job of showing the strengths and weaknesses of different display technologies. There are even tests to evaluate displays that use dynamic contrast systems and "pixel-shifting" technologies to achieve 4K resolution.

After taking a comprehensive tour of the disc's offerings, I ended up particularly impressed with the new contrast evaluation patterns, chroma and luma resolution options, and the controls to evaluate different grades on the fly for each pattern. Another nice touch was the inclusion of standard dynamic range test patterns authored in full 4K resolution, which makes the disc completely backwards compatible with older 4K displays that don't support HDR or a wider color gamut. It's this level of attention to detail that sets S&M's releases apart from other test discs on the market.

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The cherry on the top here is the disc's demonstration material. There's a roughly 8-minute video montage captured using both 8K and 5K Red Digital Cameras (Red Dragon and Monstro 8K Vista Vision). With modern-day 4K digital cameras, only the luminance part of the signal is truly 4K, while chroma resolution is typically only half the captured resolution. By capturing images entirely with 8K cameras, the chroma resolution of the content was retained in full 4K resolution for the eventual mastering. Viewing options include Dolby Vision—both with the full enhancement layer (FEL) data for true 12-bit precision or the more common minimum enhancement layer (MEL) for strictly frame information—HDR10+, standard HDR10, HLG, and SDR. Color grading was done using both a native Rec. 2020 monitor and a P3D65 based monitor converted to 2020, and there are options to compare them. There is also an option for comparison of HDR and SDR using side-by-side images.

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There are few products I get a chance to evaluate that I would classify as a must-own, but this disc is one of them. There are other good Ultra HD/HDR test discs on the market (the discs from Diversified Video Solutions come to mind), but not one as complete as the UHD HDR Benchmark. The lengths S&M went to in order to provide maximum testing flexibility on this disc are second to none. Anyone interested in video calibration, or simply in testing out the capabilities of their new flat-panel Ultra HDTV or projector, should be thrilled to own this new benchmark disc.

COMMENTS
Traveler's picture

I just adjust until things look right to my eye.

jeffhenning's picture

Native colorimeter support has been on computer displays for a while. And I'm not talking about $5K displays. HP's fantastic Dreamcolor Z displays have always natively supported the Xrite i1. Their 24", non-4K display costs about $500.

I realize that adding this capability is not necessarily easy, but if it's been in good computer displays for 4 years or so, why not in TV's that cost over $1K? If all you supported were the two cheapest colorimeters that do a good job (the Xrite i1 or SpectraCal C6), wouldn't that be a huge plus for the end consumer?

Go one bit further: offer the TV and colorimeter as a bundle for some extra cash.

This seems like a no-brainer.

I understand that the margins are exceptionally low on TV's today, but, when you're spending more than $2,500 on a set, would adding $20-30 for this capability (in the set, not the bundle) with a giant upside to the end user be that much of a deal? It's a huge feature for people who are videophiles.

If done right (such as the way HP did it in my display), you hook up the colorimeter, go to the display menu, and run it. You are admonished to make sure a few controls to default settings, other than that, in 5 minutes, your display is calibrated.

Wouldn't everyone who reads this site love that?

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