Blue Planet II will be the first TV series to be made available in 4K HDR on BBC’s iPlayer. Brits can enjoy it in its full glory this Sunday – if they own one a HLG-compatible TV. Blue Planet II will also be released on UHD Blu-ray.
All seven episodes in 4K HDR
BBC conducted trials with Planet Earth II earlier this year but Blue Planet II is the first series to be made available in full in 4K HDR video quality via BBC iPlayer.
Like many others in the industry, BBC believes that HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is more impactful than 4K resolution. The format can be utilized for any type of content but nature documentaries should look particularly stunning with brighter highlights, deeper blacks, and more vivid colors.
The entire Blue Planet II series is narrated by Sir David Attenborough.
BBC is trying to pioneer a new format
With the iPlayer trials and Blue Planet II, BBC is trying to pioneer a new HDR format. HLG, or Hybrid Log Gamma, was developed together with Japan’s NHK as a way to broadcast in SDR and HDR via the same channel or stream. TVs that lack support for HLG will see the transmission as a conventional video feed.
- ”Part of the reason the BBC has taken until now to provide a complete show is that it is trying to pioneer a new HDR format,” the BBC reported. “While Netflix and Amazon rely on existing technologies - known as HDR10 and Dolby Vision - to deliver extra colour information, the BBC has teamed up with the Japanese broadcaster NHK to create something called hybrid-log gamma (HLG).”
Unlike Dolby Vision and HDR10, HLG does not rely on metadata.
- "Metadata is extremely difficult to relay through live production workflows," said Andrew Cotton, BBC R&D principal technologist. “The equipment just doesn't support it - and we know from where metadata is used elsewhere, it gets lost, it gets corrupted. It's a real problem."
BBC sees the HLG HDR format as good enough for the majority of viewers. It is a free and open standard that is making its way into more and more modern TVs as well as some 2016 and 2015 models via firmware updates.
- "HLG still exceeds the capabilities of the human visual system, and doesn't need the 28 stops of dynamic range [that Dolby does]," he added.
To watch Blue Planet II in 4K HDR on iPlayer you need a TV that is compatible with HLG. BBC has published a full list of compatible TVs here. It includes TVs from LG, Panasonic, Philips, Sony, Samsung, and others. The Roku Streaming Stick+ is also compatible.
BBC will release Blue Planet II on iPlayer in 4K HDR immediately after the final episode has been broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, December 10. The episodes will be available for 30 days. Blue Planet II will launch on UHD Blu-ray on January 15, 2018 (in HDR10 format).