In the quest to deliver better and more immersive experiences to consumers, content creators are exploring the role that technologies like high dynamic range (HDR) can play. While the buzz surrounding 4K has been off the charts over the past 18-24 months, HDR looks increasingly likely to steal the ultra-high definition (UHD) technology’s thunder.
Consider these developments: All of the major TV manufacturers are launching products that showcase HDR. Netflix has described HDR as "more exciting than 8K in the near term." A cross-industry group formed the UHD Alliance in January 2015 and released premium UHD specifications at the 2016 CES show in Las Vegas – and HDR is a key element of the standards process.
The HDR market is estimated to grow from $1.82 billion in 2015 to $36.82 billion by 2022, at a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37 percent between 2016 and 2022, according to a new Markets and Markets report. Specifically, HDR in the entertainment sector will experience strong growth – and deliver the largest market share.[subscribe_reminder]
Although HDR faces a few challenges in the near term, few doubt that the power and promise of HDR will have a transformational impact on the entertainment industry. Once consumers compare HDR with standard dynamic range the differences will sell the new technology.
HDR TV sets, offering enhanced brightness for a broader palette of light outputs and sparkling highlights, will soon be commonplace in the global ultra-high-definition (UHD) TV market. According to analysts at IHS, unit shipments of HDR TVs will grow dramatically from 2.9 million in 2016 to 32.6 million in 2019. The forecast covers only sets that meet the UHD Alliance’s acceptance criteria.
“Numerous consumer trials by broadcasters, content producers and research labs have demonstrated that HDR has a huge impact on viewers,” said Paul Gray, Principal Analyst for IHS. “Not only do images look more realistic, but coverage of sports and other outdoor events in HDR also ensures that none of the action is lost in shadow. It is also worth remembering that HDR images are recognizable and effective regardless of the screen size or viewing distance.”
The Quarterly TV Design and Features Report from IHS Technology, predicts HDR will start to gain a toehold in the market beginning in 2016, but the start of rapid growth won’t occur until 2017 when 12.5 million HDR TV are expected to ship.
Enter the UHD Alliance (UHDA), an inter-industry group charged with fostering the Ultra HD ecosystem and promoting the benefits of Ultra HD entertainment technology. At CES in January, the group unveiled a consumer-facing logo to identify devices, content and services capable of delivering a premium experience – including support for the HDR 10 standard.
The most frustrating challenge for the creative community is the surfeit of delivery versions and the lack of standards, Ben Rosenblatt, co-producer of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, told a standing-room only crowd at the Hollywood Professional Association (HPA) Tech Retreat in February. The estimated 482 different versions for The Force Awakens included two deliverables in HDR-supported theatrical formats.
Despite the exponential growth in the number of versions, Rosenblatt and director J.J. Abrams are committed to the HDR value proposition. “We are doing our HDR passes on Star Wars, and both Star Treks and the last Mission Impossible,” he said. “To me, HDR is an opportunity. It makes a noticeable visual difference."
While HDR will give consumers better, more immersive experiences, it also delivers value to the creative community – enabling them to leverage the technology to improve storytelling and creative vision. “For years, we have been limited by how much contrast we can put on the screen,” explains Josh Limor, Senior Director of Product Development for Industry Video Technology Licensing at Technicolor. “High dynamic range means you have more contrast available in your image. With content, colorists and cinematographers paint with light. By giving them additional light – more stops, more contrast for them to paint with – they can create a more dynamic image.”