If you’ve recently purchased a new television (or are considering one soon), then you’re probably aware of a technology called high dynamic range (HDR). HDR is one of the more important video innovations in recent years, far outpacing all of those extra pixels delivered by 4K panels. In essence, HDR allows capable TVs to produce much richer content, higher levels of brightness, more vivid colors, and better detail in the brighter and darker portions of an image.
There’s currently a decent amount of streaming and disc-based HDR content available, and when HDR is done right the results are phenomenal. As proof, I offer you a little experiment I've performed over the past month, challenging eyes of the stingiest “I can’t tell the difference” non-techie friends and family members in my life. The results aren't too surprising: resounding admissions of “wow, that’s amazing!” If you've ever tried to impress a non-enthusiast only to be met with a lackluster response, then you'll recognize that the results of my informal study carry some decent weight.
HDR really is that special.
There are currently four HDR formats (HDR-10, Dolby Vision, HLG, and Advanced HDR). Up to this point, enthusiasts in the United States have primarily been exposed to HDR-10. It’s an “open” standard designed to combat Dolby’s standard, offering 10-bit color and a peak brightness of 1,000 nits. Both HLG and Advanced HDR are newer standards that are designed to work with broadcast television, and will most likely play nicely with TVs that can support HDR-10 (assuming manufacturers issue supportive firmware updates). Then there’s Dolby Vision, which is primed to be the market leader in performance capabilities.
Dolby Vision content directly competes with HDR-10, offering 12-bit color and 10,000 nit performance (color and brightness parameters that are significantly more potent). To make use of Dolby Vision, users need televisions and Blu-ray players with onboard Dolby Vision hardware. The number of TV manufacturers jumping on the Dolby Vision train is growing, and we currently have several 4K UHD Blu-ray player options (including the recently reviewed OPPO UDP-203) that ship with the appropriate onboard hardware. So, the equipment is available, now we just need content.
Last year, a few On Demand streaming services began streaming Dolby Vision laced content (currently 80 titles are available), but disc content remained non-existent.
That is about to change.
Dolby recently announced a partnership with Lionsgate, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, and Warner Bros Home Entertainment to release Dolby Vision enabled content on Ultra HD Blu-ray beginning in early 2017.
"Commitment from Lionsgate, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment for Dolby Vision Ultra HD Blu-ray content is a major milestone for expanded choice and accessibility for consumers," said Curt Behlmer, Senior Vice President, Content Solutions and Industry Relations, Dolby Laboratories. "With Ultra HD Blu-ray, we are able to scale faster to meet the growing demand for Dolby Vision content globally."
Not to knock streaming (because, frankly, the streaming 4K/HDR content I’ve seen has been exceedingly impressive), but the arrival of Dolby Vision on disc is a big deal for hardcore enthusiasts; the videophile world is about to see the best of what modern 4K HDR televisions can offer.
The first Dolby Vision disc titles are due to hit store shelves during "early" 2017.
Image Credit: Dolby