High Dynamic Range (HDR) may be the technology that gets the industry really moving on Ultra HD TV. And Technicolor is positioning itself to be a major catalyst in HDR deployments.
Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH) this week announced a new solution that works at the encoding and decoding layers to make a single video stream look like HDR content to HDR devices, and Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content to SDR devices. (See Technicolor Intros Backwards-Compatible HDR Solution.)
The solution has two things going for it. First, the ability to provide backwards compatibility means programmers and service providers can start seeding the market with more HDR content today without worrying about how few people have HDR screens.
"One of our missions is you can broadcast once, one signal, and it will play just fine on all the legacy TVs out there," said Mark Turner, VP of Partnership Relations and Business Development at Technicolor.
Second, Technicolor's technology is a single-layer solution, and that means programmers don't need two encoders to prepare a video for transport, and receivers don't need two decoders at the other end to deal with both a compressed HDR stream and a compressed SDR stream.
Asked how it all works, Turner quipped, "It's Technicolor magic." However, he then went on to explain that the solution includes two pieces of code: one that initiates a pre-processing step on the video encoder, and one that runs on the silicon sitting in a consumer's TV or set-top. To an SDR TV, the Technicolor technology makes the video stream look like SDR content. But HDR TVs can read hidden messages in the stream and process the content for HDR viewing.
Technicolor has already submitted its solution to the Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) for standardization, and several companies -- including Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL), MStar Semiconductor Inc. and STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM) -- are currently testing it for integration with their hardware-based video decoders. In fact, Technicolor's own 4Kp60 UHD High Frame Rate HDR set-top demoed at the Internet & Television Expo last month includes the technology at the silicon layer. Turner wouldn't say which silicon provider is the partner, but the 4K HDR set-top is already sampling with customers.
On the encoding side, Technicolor has also integrated with Thomson Video Networks ' ViBE 4K UHD HEVC encoder.
Because HDR brings more luminosity to video playback, it makes TV pictures appear brighter and more vivid. Many believe the difference delivers a more noticeable improvement than the increased picture resolution offered by Ultra HD and 4K video, and ultimately HDR technology is likely to be rolled out alongside UHD as the market for next-generation TVs ramps up. (See HDR: The Next Big Video Thing .)
Meanwhile, programmers are already planning out new HDR content. And this week, Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) became the first service provider to start offering HDR video with the debut of its original series Mozart in the Jungle. The HDR video is available to Amazon Prime members for no additional fee. (See Amazon Builds Studio Momentum for HDR and Amazon First to Stream HDR Video.)
Let the age of HDR begin.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading