It seems like ages ago any industry conference took place in any other way than online, but in January of this year there was still a normal CES. No major HDR news at that time (mainly a confirmation of a change Vizio had announced already in December) and no real NAB, no real IBC, and no dramatic developments in this field. The most important HDR news came outside of those shows, and came very recently.
At their Special Event in October, Apple announced the iPhone 12 and that this device would capture video in Dolby Vision. That sounds like great news if you’ve got a Dolby Vision TV but before you get too excited, please note that it concerns a new flavor of Dolby Vision. It’s called Profile 8.4 and unlike all the other flavors that are based on PQ – the Perceptual Quantizer technology developed by Dolby Labs that also forms the basis of the ubiquitous HDR10 – it’s based on HLG or Hybrid Log Gamma, developed by the BBC and NHK, mainly for live TV broadcasts.
Cameras capturing HDR video in HLG are not new, but labeling this ‘Dolby Vision’ is.
To be sure, it’s not plain HLG with the Dolby brand on it we’re talking about. It’s HLG with Dolby Vision dynamic metadata. Devices that are capable of handling this metadata can offer the best possible picture quality while devices that can’t can play it as plain HLG, which is compatible with HDR as well as SDR displays, so long as they work with Rec.2020 color space.
It’s not clear what the exact requirements for decoding capabilities are to carry a Dolby Vision logo. Surely the PQ-based profiles are the minimum, but we now have this profile 8.4 based on HLG. Is the ability to handle that a requirement for the DV logo? In the past for sure not, but perhaps from now on it is? Only Dolby can tell. It's likely that a lot of Dolby Vision TVs cannot handle this.
Even within the Apple ecosystem there are compatibility issues, notably with the Apple TV 4K, which can claim to support DV after all.
That box has been known for a long time to be HLG-capable (even though Apple has never wanted to talk about that; perhaps now we can understand why) so this should be relatively easy to solve.
Dolby Vision is a complicated set of versions and profiles with a simple brand. That's bound to cause issues at some point. On top of this there's the distinction between player-led and TV-led (low-latency) DV. It’s probably worth exploring all this in a separate article, something more accessible than the official technical documentation.
I’ve added Apple to the chart with consumer cameras capturing HDR, in a spot that covers HLG and Dolby Vision. It’s the first place these circles overlap without PQ/HDR10.
Note that this chart is not really complete. There are a number of brands offering mirrorless/DSLR cameras that capture RAW. Oppo is the only smartphone I’m aware of that does this but in all fairness I need to add brands like Canon and Nikon to the grey circle (after all, Sony Alpha and Panasonic Lumix are also included), and I will dig into that.
I’ve also added Apple – their Pro Display XDR – to the Prosumer/Consumer Monitor chart. Last time I included them in the Professional Monitor chart but this seems fairer, even though you could probably use it for color grading.) Other brands added are Philips, Nixeus and Viotek; like most products in this category supporting HDR10 only.
In a move that meant a small change for LG but possibly a major blow to Technicolor, the Korean TV brand has announced its 2020 TV line-up no longer uses Technicolor Advanced HDR. The Technicolor picture mode has also been replaced by Filmmaker Mode. While Technicolor had some positive developments to report in another part of the ecosystem (see below), it seems it has lost its only TV hardware licensee.
Vizio, only active in North America thus far, has added HDR10+ via a software update announced this time last year. At CES 2020, P&F USA (Philips & Funai) announced plans to carry TP Vision’s 2019 OLED804 set stateside and consequently support HDR10+. That has not materialized, apparently.
In Europe, TCLnow supports Dolby Vision as well as HDR10+; in North America just the former.
The Polaroid brand is now also used on TV sets in the UK. ASDA sells these, which offer Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG. On the continent, or at least in France, the Thomson brand reappears on TV sets. The new range supports HDR10 and HLG.
No news to report about the Japanese and Chinese TV market, but the India market seems to be warming to 4K and HDR, and moving beyond the point where HDR used to mean “HD-Ready” i.e. 720p. It’s a mix of global and local brands. The first iteration of this chart, based primarily on product listings on Amazon.in, made it seem as if specs for global brands differed quite a lot from America and Europe: Samsung and Panasonic appeared to lack HDR10+, Sony and Philips seemed to lack HLG and at looked as if TCL and LG TVs didn’t have Dolby Vision. Based on lots of feedback and TV brands’ own pages, it now looks a lot more similar.
This chart so far covered streaming media players, game consoles, Ultra HD Blu-ray players and set-top boxes but I’ve added the PhilipsHue sync box which now supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
Most notable additions are Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, both in the same spot as their predecessor.
Roku has this year finally added Dolby Vision capability to some of their stand-alone streamers – something their Smart TV platform already had since a long time.
I’ve replaced STB maker Arris by Commscope since they’ve been acquired.
Video streaming services
WarnerMedia has just announced that HBO Max, launched this summer, will begin offering 4K HDR from Christmas, in HDR10 and Dolby Vision flavors. I’ve also added BBC’s iPlayer, obviously using HLG. Google Play Movies & TV now supports Dolby Vision as well as HDR10+.
Other new additions are Movies Anywhere, Nasa, Stan (Australia), Stingray, Ivi (Russia) and Eros Now.
Unified Streaming I’ve moved to Packaging vendors.
Broadcasters & Operators
Broadcasters and TV operators remain the companies in the ecosystem that stand out, in that they’re predominantly using HLG, not HDR10. At the risk of introducing a little duplication I’ve split them. At least this helps reducing clutter somewhat.
I’ve done a cross-check with the data I supplied to the Ultra HD Forum’s UHD Service Tracker. I’ve helped them identify close to 200 operators (cable, DTH satellite, IPTV and streaming service operators), more than 70 UHD TV channels and about two dozen trials and event channels. A fair number of them offer HDR services and most of those I’ve included in this HDR Ecosystem Tracker.
Among operators, I’ve added M7 Group as a single logo rather than all the national brands it represents: Télésat and TV Vlaanderen in Belgium, Canal Digitaal in the Netherlands, Diveo in Germany (now defunct), HD Austria and Skylink in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Other operators newly included are Asiasat, Astro (Malaysia), Balticom, A1 (Austria/Bulgaria), HD+ (Germany), Sunrise (Switzerland), KT (Korea Telecom); J:Com, BS Asahi 4K, BS Nippon TV 4K, BS TV Tokyo 4K, BS-TBS 4K and BS Fuji 4K – obviously all from Japan – D-Smart (Turkey) and a slew of operators from Russia and former soviet republics: 24h.tv, Dom.ru, Maxnet, MTS, ATVC (Arkhangelsk), Intersvyaz (Chelyabinsk), Redcom (Khabarovsk), Tattelecom (Kazan), SevStar (Sevastopol) and Alma TV (Kazakhstan). Thanks for Insight TV for providing a detailed list of operators that carry their 4K HDR channel. For a few operators it wasn’t clear what HDR format they use (Free, Salt, Com Hem).
While HDR broadcasts and VoD on Sky (UK) are only in HLG, the Sky Q platform can also output HDR10 and third-party apps from Netflix and Disney+ use this option. Spanish operator Movistar applies a different split on its IPTV platform: Movies and series use HDR10 while sports matches are in HLG.
TV channels added include mostly Japanese channels, all in HLG: NHK’s BS 4K and BS 8K satellite channels; Cable 4K; Shop Channel 4K, Star 4K, The Cinema 4K, Sukachan 1/2 and J-Sports 1/2/3/4 – eight channels on SkyPerfecTV; Japan Movie Era Drama 4K; MBC from Korea; Bein Sports. And then there’s Stingray’s Festival 4K in HDR10. Channels where it wasn’t clear what HDR format was used were excluded here.
In the US, ATSC 3.0 – also known as NextGen TV – has begun to roll out. It offers 4K and HDR capabilities, among many other features. In an interesting development, four stations in the Las Vegas area – Sinclair’s KSNV NBC and KVCW CW affiliates, Nexstar’s KLAS CBS affiliate and Scripps’ KTNV ABC affiliate – have begun transmitting SL-HDR1.
It's a pity Technicolor has lost it's one TV hardware licensee. Now the only people who can properly view these transmissions are owners of 2016-2019 LG TVs.
Also after the splitting of broadcasters and operators, the picture remains the same for both classes: HLG rules here – not HDR10. Some have speculated that the new HLG-based Dolby Vision profile could lead to more 4K HDR (live) broadcasts but people I spoke to at Dolby downplay that likelihood. It’s already fairly common to shoot and produce sports matches in HLG, and then convert them to PQ (HDR10) for distribution.
Movie studios have not changed position (on Dolby Cinema). Their Home Entertainment divisions have changed their position: Since the acquisition of 20th Century Fox/Home Entertainment by Disney, their Use of HDR10+ has stopped (in favour of Dolby Vision). A handful of titles released before that decision are in the market.
Video delivery components
As I wrote in an intermediate, partial update, the chart previously labeled ‘Encoding vendors’ I’ve renamed to 'Video delivery component vendors'. This includes encoding, packaging, and playout. We’ll see if this needs to be split this further in the future but for now the two latter categories only count a few players.
Consequently, I’ve moved Cobalt Digital from Production Tools to this chart. Arguably they should have been here from the start since they operate in the same field as B<>com – SDR/HDR converters. Another new entry in this area: Lynx Technik’s greenMachine.
As mentioned above, I’ve moved Unified Streaming to this chart. They’re not a streaming platform but offer packaging services. Also operating in this field is Broadpeak, added here.
The number of encoder vendors has further increased with the inclusion of Bitmovin, Appear, TFI and Sumavision. Arcvideo in the meantime has added Dolby Vision and according to Dolby people Arcvideo Live becomes the world’s first live distribution encoder to support Dolby Vision also for live sports events .
Post-Production, Mastering, QC and Authoring Tools
Under professional tools I’ve added two companies that offer video review and collaboration platforms – Frame.io and Moxion. The latter supports Dolby Vision. Also added: Autodesk Flame mastering software and Ssimplus’ monitoring product Ssimwave, now certified for DV.
In chipsets there are no new developments to report. Nearly all vendors offer true multi-format support so most of the work there is done. Other diagrams still up to date are Pro Monitors and Smartphones/Tablets/Notebooks. Refer to the previous issue for those charts.
If your company markets one of these HDR technologies and you would like to further develop this ecosystem, let’s talk. I’d be glad to offer my expertise so by all means do contact me.
Yoeri Geutskens works as a consultant in media technology with years of experience in consumer electronics and telecommunications. He writes about high-resolution audio and video. You can find his blogs about Ultra HD at @UHD4k and @UltraHDBluray.