What is Dolby Vision?

Posted Thu May 4, 2017 at 09:00 AM PDT by
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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


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 content. 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 50 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 current max output of 4,000 nits -- though future output could be upped 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 Ultra HD Premium displays on the market now max out at only about 1,000 nits, the Dolby Vision format has been designed with support for both current and future hardware in mind -- a notable advantage over the standard 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 currently 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. 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 OutThe Good DinosaurThe 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 the HDR highlights should appear. Unlike other competing HDR formats like HDR10, Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata for its workflow. This means that Dolby Vision titles can adjust brightness levels on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis, offering a more accurate HDR experience.


In order to watch Dolby Vision content, users will need a Dolby Vision-capable display with 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 only requires HDMI 1.4 connections, but copy-protected content still needs HDCP 2.2 compliancy. At this time, it remains to be seen whether HDMI 2.0a receivers will be able to pass-through Dolby Vision video (at the very least, firmware updates will be required). Likewise, 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, and Sony. Likewise, Ultra HD TVs from Hisense and TCL with Dolby Vision capabilities are also set for release later this year, making Samsung the only major manufacturer yet to offer its support.

When it comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray players, upcoming Dolby Vision firmware updates have been confirmed for the Oppo UDP-205, Oppo UDP-203, LG UP970, and Philips BDP7502, though a release date has not been announced yet.


On the content side, Dolby Vision is an optional addition for HDR on Ultra HD Blu-rays (the default standard is HDR10). Lionsgate, Universal, Warner Bros., and Sony have all announced plans to master Ultra HD Blu-rays with Dolby Vision.

Upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray discs revealed so far include Despicable Me, Despicable Me 2, Power Rangers, and Resident Evil: Vendetta.




In addition, Dolby Vision content is also available through streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and VUDU, offering a growing collection of titles including original shows like 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 solutions on the market right now, covering a wide-range of price points and panel technologies. Here's a rundown of some recommended Dolby Vision gear...

55" VIZIO M-Series Ultra HD HDR XLED Plus Display ($1,000) - This budget friendly 2017 Ultra HD display from VIZIO includes Dolby Vision and HDR10 support with 350 nits fullscreen output and 600 nits peak output, along with full-array local dimming with 32 zones, and wide color gamut support. With that said, the display does not include a TV tuner. 

65" VIZIO P-Series Ultra HD HDR Home Theater Display ($1,600) - This affordable yet high-performance 2016 Ultra HD display from VIZIO includes Dolby Vision and HDR10 support with 600 nits, along with full-array local dimming with 128 zones, and wide color gamut support. With that said, the display does not include a TV tuner. 

65" LG B6 OLED Ultra HD TV ($3,497) - This premium 2016 OLED display features Dolby Vision and HDR10 support with wide color gamut playback and Ultra HD Premium Certification. Thanks to its industry-leading black levels, this is one of the best-looking flat-screen displays on the market.

65" LG SIGNATURE G7 OLED Ultra HD TV ($6,997) - As one of LG's top-of-the-line 2017 OLED TVs, this premium model offers Dolby Vision and HDR10 support along with improved picture performance over 2016 models, industry-leading black levels, wide color gamut playback, a Picture-on-Glass design, and a sound bar stand with Dolby Atmos support.


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! 


-What is HDR?
-What is Dolby Atmos?
-What is DTS:X
-Best Sound Bars
-Up-mixed: Dolby Surround vs DTS:Neural:X

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