The talk of CES: HDR, the next step after 4K Ultra HD

Gary Adcock

After every big tech show, a group of my friends get together and talk about what was the big take-away from the Consumer Electronics Show and how will it affect our lives in the future.

This year, like any other, there was one item that drew the most from the exhibitors and attendees. Last year it mainstream 4K, with more varieties of televisions that were able to play 4K content than there are available outlets to get content from.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) — the big leap forward in picture quality, after 4K Ultra HD — was the driving message from the hardware and software manufacturers at this year’s show.  Where 4K is “more pixels,” four times as many as HD, HDR heeds the filmmakers’ call for “better pixels.”

This is the year that your TV set is finally leaving behind its low quality Standard Def roots. It will discard the shackles of limited contrast and colors to embrace High Dynamic Range and Wide Color Gamut that truly will make 4K a worthy viewing environment for the future. 

The TV you grew up with, with terrible local contrast and only recently achieving the millions of colors available in an 8-bit palette and 256 levels of grey per channel, has been our guiding force since the early days of NTSC color broadcasts.

The use of 4K for High Dynamic Range requires higher bit depths, from the camera’s acquisition to delivery on your consumer display, offering users a greater tonal and contrast range when displayed.

SMPTE’s recent standardization of a larger, 10-bit color space offers users 1024 levels per channel. Having more bits per channel will allow users to display a greater contrast range. The associated Wide Color Gamut will allow for an extended range of color that previously was only viewable on the most professional monitors.

While we started talking about consumer 4K at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the talk from this point on is going to be about how HDR will change your perception.

Netflix, Amazon and YouTube have announced some level of HDR development.  So it seems that broadcast and cable entities will up their game and support the technology side of their future. Otherwise, they could get left behind faster than the landlines of the telecom era.