By Simon Ray
It was an interesting couple of days in Amsterdam. I was hoping to get some more clarity on where things were going with the High Dynamic Range concept in both professional and consumer panels, as well as delivery mechanisms to get it to the consumers. I am leaving IBC knowing more, but no nearer a coherent idea as to exactly where this is heading.
I initially visited Dolby to get an update on Dolby Vision (our main image), see where they were with their Dolby Vision technology and most importantly get my reserved tickets for the screening of Fantastic Four in the Auditorium (Laser Projection and Dolby Atmos). It all sounded very positive with news of a number of consumer panel manufacturers being close to releasing Dolby Vision-capable TVs. For example, Vizio with their Reference Series panel and streaming services like VUDU streaming Dolby Vision HDR content, although this is just in the USA to begin with. I also had my first look at a Dolby “Quantum Dot” HDR display panel, which did look good and surely has the best name of any tech out here.
There are other HDR offerings out there with Amazon Prime having announced in August that they will be streaming HDR content in the UK, but not initially in the Dolby Vision format (HDR video is available with the Amazon Instant Video app for Samsung SUHD TVs like the JS9000, JS9100 and JS9500 series) and selected LG TVs (G9600 and G9700 series) and the “big” TV manufacturers have or are about to launch HDR panels. So far so good.
Pro HDR Monitors
Things got bit more vague again when I started looking into HDR-equipped professional panels for color correction. There are only two I could find in the show: Sony had an impressive HDR-ready panel connected to a Filmlight BaseLight tucked away on their large stand in Hall 12; and Canon, who had their equally impressive prototype display tucked away in Hall 11 connected to a SGO Mistika. Both displays had different brightness specs and gamma options.
When I asked some other manufacturers about their HDR panels the response was the same: “We are going to wait until the specifications are finalized before committing to an HDR monitor.” This leaves me to think this is a bad time to be buying a monitor. You are either going to buy an HDR monitor now, which may not be correct to the final specifications, or you are going to be buying a non-HDR monitor that is likely to be superseded in the near future.
Another thing I noticed was that the professional HDR panels were all being shown off in a carefully (or as carefully as a trade show allows) light environment to give them the best opportunity to make an impact. Any ambient light getting into the viewing environment is going to detract from the benefits of having the increased dynamic range and brightness of the HDR display, which I imagine might be a problem in the average living room. I hope this does not reduce the chance of this technology making an impact because it is great to see images seemingly having more depth and quality to them. As a representative on the Sony stand said, “It feels more immersive — I am so much more engaged in the picture.”
The problem of the ambient light was also picked up on in an interesting talk in the Auditorium as part of the “HDR: From zero to infinity” series. There were speakers from iMax, Dolby, Barco and Sony talking about the challenges of bringing HDR to the cinema. I had come across the idea of HDR in cinema from Dolby through their “Dolby Cinema” project, which brings together HDR picture and immersive sound with Dolby Atmos.
I am in the process of building a theatre to mix theatrical soundtracks in Dolby Atmos, but despite the exciting opportunities for sound that Atmos offers the sound teams, in the UK at least the take up by Cinemas is slow. One of the best things about Dolby Atmos for me is that if you go to see a film in Atmos, you know that the speaker system is going to be of a certain standard, otherwise Dolby would not have given it Atmos status. For too long, cinemas have been allowed to let the speaker systems wear down to the point where it becomes unlistenable. If these new initiatives can give cinemas an opportunity to reinvest in the equipment (and the various financial implications and challenges and who would meet these costs were discussed) and get a return on that investment it could be a chance to stop the rot and improve the cinema going experience. And, importantly, for us in post it gives us an exciting high bench mark to be aiming for when working on films.
Simon Ray is head of operations and engineering Goldcrest Post Production in London.