by Michael S. Palmer
Just before the holidays, HDD was one of the first sites to preview Dolby's new high dynamic range imaging technology. And now, Dolby has revealed more details about their exciting tech. Check out the link to see an in-depth overview, but the basics are this:
Digital cinema cameras are able to capture vivid images with lifelike contrast ratios and dynamic ranges. However, our current gen displays are currently tied to an old CRT-era specification, limiting overall brightness to "100 Nits" and Blu-ray's reduced color specification, REC 709, which can't accurately reproduce colors like the famous red London double-decker buses. Dolby wants to create a new "container" (think codec) with a wider dynamic range that will allow filmmakers to color grade productions for new and enhanced UHD or HD displays that have a peak luminance upwards of 10,000 Nits.
The intended result: more lifelike and more accurate displays, regardless of size, frame rate and resolution.
Today at CES 2014, Dolby gave their new tech a name:
Dolby also announced TV manufacturers, Sharp and TCL, will be demonstrating "prototype televisions at CES that show off the benefits of Dolby Vision on various panel types and screen sizes." So hopefully that's, at least, two of the companies who will be producing these new displays, though there's no official word on when TVs will be available to the general public, nor pricing.
The other big tidbit we've learned is Dolby's first "ecosystem" partners -- AKA, who's going to deliver the content? -- will be Amazon Instant Video, VUDU, and Microsoft's XBox Video. At the preview event, Dolby implied their "container" would work with broadcast, streaming / digital download, and optical disc technologies, but they didn't specify as to whether or not it would work with Blu-ray. Though there's still no word on which TV and/or film productions will be produced and color graded in Dolby Vision, we do know the first Dolby Vision content will be delivered via streaming (or digital download) once Dolby Vision compatible displays hit the consumer market.
Dolby Vision looks incredible, but my demo was done with uncompressed video. Admittedly, when watching services like Amazon and VUDU on my HD display, the idea of "streaming" concerns me a little, given bandwidth limitations when compared to optical formats like Blu-ray. That said, Dolby said its new container isn't bandwidth heavy compared to current UHD content. And I've already purchased TV shows on Amazon Instant and streamed them because they were commercial free and looked better than the muddled DirecTV broadcast. Also, Xbox Videos can be downloaded to your console. I suppose I was hoping for a Blu-ray announcement of some kind, but there's probably a number of challenges and hurdles to integrating something like this into an existing optical disc format. Many more questions remain.
Regardless, Dolby Vision should result in some amazing new displays, perhaps a real reason for the 4K / UHD upgrade. And as long as Dolby and its creative partners can deliver content that shows off their technology (it's really night and day when you're in person), we are definitely in for a few interesting years. I just hope Dolby Vision's not limited to streaming. Downloads, most likely an option, will be a must. And hopefully optical as well. Seriously, I can't wait to see what happens next.
If you're attending CES this year, I highly recommend heading over to the Dolby/Sharp/TCL booths to see Dolby Vision in person.
Here is the rest of Dolby's official Press Release:
ABOUT DOLBY'S NEWEST IMAGING TECHNOLOGY
Dolby's new imaging technology helps content creators and TV manufacturers deliver true-to-life brightness, colors, and contrast. It augments the fidelity of Ultra HD and HD video signals for over-the-top online streaming, broadcast, and gaming applications by maintaining and reproducing the dynamic range and color palette of the original content.
Why this technology is necessary:
- Even though most television shows and movies are recorded using camera technology that captures the colors and brightness of real life, much of that richness is lost by the time consumers get to watch. That's because current television and cinema standards are based on the limitations of old technologies and require that the original video content be altered – dramatically reducing the range of colors, brightness, and contrast -- before it can be reproduced for transmission and playback. Dolby's new imaging technology changes that, giving creative teams the freedom to use a fuller range of colors, peak brightness, and local contrast with the confidence that once the content is encoded for transmission with Dolby's new imaging technology, it can be reproduced on televisions with Dolby's new technology.
- More background on our Dolby Lab Notes blog (Is Your TV Bright Enough?) and (Your TV is Missing Some Colors).
What it will deliver to consumers:
- Dramatically brighter and more vivid images with more accurate, beautiful color and higher contrast to make it easier to discern details that might have previously gone unnoticed.
- An expanded color palette for movies and broadcasts to include more of the colors the human eye can actually see.
Why we believe that it will succeed:
- Thanks to this new technology, creative teams can use the full range of colors, peak brightness, and local contrast already captured with current camera technologies, with the confidence that films and TV shows encoded and transmitted with Dolby's new imaging technology will be reproduced faithfully on televisions with this new technology. Our new imaging technology is already getting support from all points in the ecosystem, from those who create and distribute entertainment content, to those who manufacture the devices to display it.
- Filmmakers and other content creators get to unleash their creativity with the broader range of colors and brightness already captured by their cameras, and TV OEMs can offer consumers a dramatically-improved video experience, regardless of screen size or distance.