Posted Thu May 31, 2018 at 09:00 AM PDT by Steven Cohen
Keeping track of the latest audio and video tech can be daunting. Thankfully, High-Def Digest has you covered. Welcome to Home Theater 101 series, where we'll be explaining emerging technologies while also recommending the very best possible A/V gadgets n' gear you can buy at your particular budget level.
When it comes to recent cinematic and display advancements, few are as buzzworthy as DOLBY VISION.
But just what exactly is Dolby Vision? And how does it compare to other competing HDR formats? Fret not! If you don't know the difference between Rec. 709 and Rec. 2020, this guide is here to breakdown the ins and outs of Dolby Vision. So, without further ado, let's dive right into...
Dolby Vision is a proprietary end-to-end High Dynamic Range (HDR) format that covers content creation and playback through select cinemas, Ultra HD displays, and 4K titles. Like other HDR standards, the process uses expanded brightness to improve contrast between dark and light aspects of an image, bringing out deeper black levels and more realistic details in specular highlights -- like the sun reflecting off of an ocean -- in specially graded Dolby Vision material.
Versions of the format are available in cinemas and home theaters, with the theatrical implementation being an integral part of the Dolby Cinema process, which uses a dual-4K laser projection system for 500-times the contrast ratio of conventional projection systems (1,000,000 to 1!), pure black levels, expanded color gamut capabilities, and twice the brightness (up to 31fL).
Currently, there are more than 100 Dolby Cinema locations around the globe (HERE is a list of Dolby Cinema at AMC locations here in the US).
For the home theater, Dolby Vision grading supports a typical target peak output of 4,000 nits -- though the format can support up to 10,000 nits. In general terms, the more nits a display can produce, the brighter the image and greater the HDR performance will be. And since flagship Ultra HD Premium displays on the market now max out at about 2,500 nits, the Dolby Vision format has been designed with support for both current and future hardware in mind -- a notable advantage over the base HDR10 and dynamic HDR10+ format.
In addition to enhanced contrast, Dolby Vision is also bundled with support for a Wide Color Gamut (WCG) and a bit depth capability of 12-bits (at the present time, content is graded in 10-bit), offering a greater range of colors than those found in traditional HD sources and TVs using the previous Rec. 709 standard and 8-bit tech. This means that Dolby Vision content and displays can now produce more realistic colors, providing a more true-to-life representation of an image.
Check out the chart below to see the differences between each gamut. The entire curve represents the full visible color spectrum. The smallest triangle represents the old Rec. 709 gamut; the solid triangle represents the wider DCI-P3 gamut; and the large dotted triangle represents the Rec. 2020 gamut. (Source: AVS Forum)
As you can see, Rec. 709 is missing out on many of the colors covered by the larger DCI-P3 and Rec. 2020 color spaces, allowing the wider gamuts to produce hues that don't even exist in the previous standard.
Though the Dolby Vision spec provides support for Rec. 2020, only three-to-four productions have used it (Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, The LEGO Batman Movie, and possibly Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and there are no consumer display technologies currently capable of reproducing the full gamut. As such, current gen Dolby Vision movies and enabled-displays reproduce a color space closer to DCI-P3 (aka the color space where commercial cinemas operate).
When content is graded in Dolby Vision, the video is encoded with metadata. This metadata is then interpreted by a Dolby Vision display during playback, telling the TV what colors to render and how bright or dark the HDR highlights should appear. Unlike like the standard HDR10 format which uses static metadata, Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata for its workflow.
Static metadata does not change during playback, offering one fixed HDR picture enhancement across an entire piece of content. In practice, this can lead to inconsistent HDR quality in certain scenes, especially if a movie has an overall bright color palette mixed in with a few dimly lit sequences. Dolby Vision dynamic metadata, on the other hand, can adjust brightness levels, color saturation, and contrast on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis, producing images that are closer to the director's intent.
In order to watch Dolby Vision content, users will need a Dolby Vision-capable display with internal Dolby Vision supported media apps. And for external playback, customers will also need a Dolby Vision capable Ultra HD Blu-ray player or set-top box. Unlike HDR10, Dolby Vision technically only requires HDMI 1.4 connections, but copy-protected content still needs HDCP 2.2 compliancy and AV receivers need specific Dolby Vision firmware. Though the format initially required gear to include special Dolby Vision chipsets, recent developments have made software solutions a possibility.
Dolby Vision for the home theater is currently supported on several displays from manufacturers like VIZIO, LG, TCL, Sony, and Hisense -- making Samsung the only major manufacturer to not include the tech in its display models.
Meanwhile, Ultra HD Blu-ray players with integrated Dolby Vision playback (or future support via upcoming firmware updates) are available from brands like LG, Sony, Oppo, and Philips. In addition, select media players like the Apple TV 4K also support Dolby Vision.
In addition to Dolby Vision, the competing HDR10+ format also offers very similar HDR dynamic metadata capabilities -- but there are a few differences between the two, particularly when it comes to how future-proof each platform is.
While both formats allow for mastering with dynamic metadata and support for WCG (up to Rec. 2020), Dolby Vision offers support for a higher bit depth of 12-bits versus the 10-bits used for HDR10+ content. In essence, this means that titles graded with Dolby Vision have the potential to offer a much larger range of colors. With that said, no 12-bit TV panels are currently available, so this distinction is a moot point for now.
Meanwhile, when it comes to target brightness, HDR10+ content is typically mastered for a peak of 1,000 nits and is able to support mastering for up to 4,000 nits. In contrast, Dolby Vision content is graded for a target peak of 4,000 nits and the format can support up to 10,000 nits. As was the case with bit-depth, however, consumer TVs can't take full advantage of Dolby Vision's higher nit grading just yet, as current flagship displays max out at about 2,500 nits.
Finally, HDR10+ is an open, royalty free high dynamic range platform with only a nominal administrative fee required for use. In contrast, companies have to pay a royalty for implementing Dolby Vision tech into their products.
On the content side, Dolby Vision is an optional addition for HDR playback on Ultra HD Blu-rays (the default standard is HDR10). Lionsgate, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Universal, Disney, Sony, and BBC have all released Ultra HD Blu-rays with Dolby Vision, including many recent titles and popular catalogue films like Black Panther, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Matrix, Gladiator, Saving Private Ryan, and more.
In addition, Dolby Vision content is also available through streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, and VUDU, offering a growing collection of titles, including original shows like Stranger Things, Daredevil, and Marco Polo, and popular films like Pacific Rim, Suicide Squad, Star Trek Beyond, Mad Max: Fury Road, Lucy, The Lego Movie, Edge of Tomorrow, Batman v. Superman, The Great Gatsby, and more.
There are several great Dolby Vision display and media player solutions on the market right now, covering a wide-range of price points and technologies. Here's a rundown of some recommended Dolby Vision gear...
TCL 6-Series 65R617 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Roku TV ($1,000) - Offering several advanced features normally reserved for more expensive sets, TCL's 6-Series just might offer the best performance to price ratio of any new display for 2018, cementing itself as one of, if not the, top 65-inch 4K TV in the $1,000 price range. The display includes Dolby Vision and HDR10 support, along with the Roku OS smart TV platform. In addition, the set uses full array local dimming with 120 zones (96 on the 55-inch model) for improved black levels and contrast. Likewise, the panel incorporates NBP Photon technology with LED phosphors to provide Wide Color Gamut support. A 55-inch model is available as well for an introductory price of just $650.
(Note: The Best Buy model does not include Voice Remote)
VIZIO P-Series 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TV ($1,300) - Marked by some notable performance upgrades over the 2016 and 2017 models, the new 2018 P-Series once again cements itself as one of the industry's premiere bang-for-your buck TVs. The 4K display offers full array local dimming with 100 zones on the 65-inch set. Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG high dynamic range formats are all supported with UltraBright 1,000 for up to 1,000 nits of peak brightness, and Ultra Color Spectrum tech provides nearly 100% coverage of the P3 wide color gamut and about 72% coverage of the Rec. 2020 wide color gamut. The SmartCast OS is used for integrated on-screen streaming apps and the ability to cast even more from a mobile device. And unlike 2017 VIZIO displays, this TV does feature an integrated tuner for OTA broadcasts with a digital antenna. Units are also available in 55-inch and 75-inch (coming soon) sizes.
LG OLED65C8PUA 65" 4K Ultra HD OLED TV ($3,198) - As one of LG's top-of-the-line 2018 OLED TVs, this display offers some of the best overall picture quality on the market, including perfect blacks and the company's new α (Alpha) 9 intelligent processor for improved image and color performance over last year's models. In addition, the panel also supports onboard Dolby Atmos audio and LG's 4K Cinema HDR suite of high dynamic range formats with wide color gamut capabilities, including Dolby Vision, Advanced HDR by Technicolor, HDR10, and HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma). Meanwhile, the TV's new ThinQ AI tech allows customers to take advantage of advanced voice assistant features by speaking directly into the remote, enabling users to search for information, images or videos through verbal requests. 55-inch ($2,497) and 77-inch ($8,997) C8 models are available as well.
Apple TV 4K ($179) - Utilizes the A10X Fusion chip and offers 4K playback capabilities at up to 60 frames per second with support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 content. In addition, the device includes 4K scaling for HD sources, Siri voice search, iCloud support for media sharing, standard AirPlay capabilities, and the ability to serve as a smart home hub for HomeKit accessories with remote access and automated control. Unfortunately, the unit does not currently offer Dolby Atmos playback.
So, there you have it. Those are the basics of Dolby Vision. If you still have any questions about Dolby Vision, please let us know in the forums!
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