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What we learned about HDR10+

08 Sep 2017 | Rasmus Larsen |

Panasonic, Samsung, and 20th Century Fox have with HDR10+ formed a front against Dolby Vision. At IFA, we met with the companies and the Blu-ray Disc Association to get more concrete information. Here is what we learned.

Panasonic & Samsung’s plans for HDR10+

Samsung announced in April 2017 yet another HDR format. HDR10+ is an enhancement layer on top of the base HDR10 format and is designed to employ dynamic metadata to optimize HDR picture quality on a scene-by-scene basis. Much like Dolby Vision.

Samsung has spearheaded the HDR10+ format. At IFA 2017 Panasonic and 20th Century Fox joined the club.

Masayuki Kozuka, Director of the Panasonic Media Alliance Office, and Paul Williams, Assistant General Manager, Panasonic Corp. first and foremost emphasized that HDR10+ is open and royalty-free, which they hope will accelerate adoption amongst other brands. They were optimistic that even manufacturers who sell TVs with Dolby Vision will consider adding HDR10+ support. However, when asked at IFA, no TV manufacturers currently in the Dolby Vision camp were ready to make that promise.

One important detail that we learned is that HDR10+ can be supported over HDMI 2.0b. HDMI 2.1 is not a requirement, said Paul Williams. This opens the door to firmware updates for existing products.

That is why Panasonic is planning to update its 2017 range of ’4K Pro’ TVs, meaning this year’s EX750 and EX780 LCD models as well as the EZ950 and EZ1000 OLED models. Last year’s DX900 flagship will not be updated. Panasonic is still working out the details so no timeframe for the update was announced.

Panasonic added that almost all of next year’s TVs will support HDR10+

As for Samsung, the company has already enabled HDR10+ on its 2017 TVs and will add it via a firmware update on 2016 TVs later. Initially only for streaming content.

A format war?

Masayuki Kozuka furthermore commented on the certification process for HDR10+, saying that all TVs will need to be certified before HDR10+ can be enabled. Dolby has a similar certification program for Dolby Vision.

The certification process for HDR10+ is new. The requirement was added after Panasonic and 20th Century Fox joined Samsung’s fight.

“Dolby Vision is a black box”
So why did Panasonic pick HDR10+ over Dolby Vision? Control, they said. “Dolby Vision is a black box” of video processing that TV manufacturers have no control over, argued Masayuki Kozuka. Royalties were also a concern, especially 10 years down the road from now.

Kozuka stressed that Panasonic does not view this as a format war but instead a technology choice. HDR10 will continue to be the base HDR format, meaning that you can watch any UHD Blu-ray or HDR video stream on any TV. HDR10+ will serve as an enhancement layer – like Dolby Vision.

At IFA, Panasonic had set up a side-by-side demonstration of video content reproduced via HDR10+ and HDR10, respectively, on the same mid-range LCD TV, arguing that the results of dynamic metadata, which is the main advantage of HDR10+ (and Dolby Vision) over HDR10, are most pronounced on mid-range TVs.

This demonstration revealed visible differences, mainly in the brightest areas of the scenes. Of course, it is extremely hard to capture on camera but these photos should give you an idea. Notice for example how the sky and sunbeams look much better on the left TV in the first photo.

HDR10+ versus HDR10Left: HDR10+ - Right: HDR10

HDR10+ versus HDR10Left: HDR10+ - Right: HDR10

HDR10+ versus HDR10Left: HDR10+ - Right: HDR10

HDR10+ players

Both Panasonic and Samsung said that there is an ongoing discussion with the Blu-ray Disc Association about adding HDR10+ as an optional HDR format to the UHD Blu-ray specification. This was confirmed independently by the BDA who we met at IFA to discuss the latest developments.

However, nothing has been decided yet. All parties said that they expect to have more answers in January at CES. It is not clear if current UHD Blu-ray players can be firmware updated to support the format but in the past, while developing HDR10+, Samsung indicated to us that it may be technically possible.

Today, the UHD Blu-ray specification specifies HDR10 as the mandatory base format for all disc releases, with Dolby Vision as one of the optional formats. The first Dolby Vision-enabled Blu-ray players received the required firmware this summer.

Amazon is still on board to provide movies and TV series in HDR10+. The streaming giant is already offering content in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Amazon is betting on more than one horse, so to say. Netflix will of course have to come onboard to make HDR10+ relevant, but the company had nothing to announce at IFA.

Besides Amazon, 20th Century Fox has committed to releasing movies in the format. It is the only major Hollywood film studio not to have released movies in Dolby Vision for home entertainment (see table in first section).

Dolby has a head start and the company has already convinced six of seven major Hollywood studios to release movies via disc or streaming in its format. HDR10+ has some catching up to do but the group is optimistic that the format will flourish. As Masayuki Kozuka said: ”Why not? It is open and free”.

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