Video quality is top of mind for broadcasters, videographers, service providers and consumers, and they have their sights set on High Dynamic Range (HDR), which can deliver a dramatic, positive impact on the consumer viewing experience with more vivid colors, richer contrasts, deeper shadows and brighter highlights. Industry leaders in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region are testing the technology, and network service providers there are gearing up to launch HDR-capable channels.
We caught up with Technicolor’s Frank Debo, vice president for business development in the EMEA region for Connected Home, to talk about the challenges and opportunities NSPs face in EMEA, and how Technicolor is working with operators to accelerate HDR delivery.
Debo: HDR is on everyone’s mind. What we believe within Technicolor is that HDR is going to be the future of video. Soon, we won’t talk about SDR, or Standard Dynamic Range.
So, in all the conversations we have with national service providers in EMEA, we see that they are starting to take HDR into consideration. It’s a clear game-changer on how we’re going to consume video going forward.
Debo: It’s really seen as an opportunity. It’s not only going to help the service providers bring great content to mobile devices – smart phones and tablets – it’s helping also to get superb HDR quality to the TVs in people’s homes.
We’ll see higher-end TVs become available that support higher light outputs —translated into NITs [units of the brightness of light] — primarily to support HDR. HDR will also become much more widely adopted and, in fact, become the de facto standard for video distribution.
What’s holding it back at this point in time is the lack of TV sets out there, but that’s just the natural part of the transition period.
We see that the number of TV screens that are HDR-capable rising rapidly, and that’s an evolution similar to what we’ve seen in the past, when moving from SD to HD [standard definition to high definition], with 4K.
Debo: Yes, definitely. If you look at the key players in the region, the large service providers like British Telecom, Orange, Liberty Global, Vodafone, and also Sky Europe [satellite TV], for example, they’re all starting to do trials. They’ve been announcing plans to launch HDR-capable channels. They’re starting field trials to get more familiar with the technology and see how they can also start to deploy it more widely into their footprints.
What we also see is that many operators, when they ask for their next-generation solution through requests for proposals (RFPs), they are seeking support for HDR. That’s an indication that it’s becoming more widely adopted by the service provider community.
As for Technicolor, if I look at the EMEA region, we’ve already been engaged in a lot of activities over the past two years to position HDR in this market. We’ve done a lot of demos to all service providers; showing what HDR could mean for them and helping them get a better understanding of what it could mean to their end subscribers.
Debo: There are some key issues that NSPs need to understand. First of all, the key element they need to embrace is a delivery solution that can reduce the complexity – which will be especially important as we go through the transition from SDR to HDR.
What do I mean by complexity?
If you look at video from the content creation on the production side to the content consumption on the TV side, you see a lot of standards out there.
On the production side, a variety of standards exist, such as PQ, SLog3, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), VR 709, so a lot of content out there is being produced with different standards.
That could be a potential issue that causes marketplace confusion.
On the distribution side, we also have different solutions. We at Technicolor are promoting an HDR solution that reduces this complexity by delivering any format of SDR or HDR from any source to any device in a normalized fashion in a single stream. It is an efficient way to ensure that all subscribers can enjoy any HDR content in any way they want to experience their content.
Debo: I think it’s going to be an absolute must for the NSP. For example, look at Netflix, which is already deploying HDR content on its platform.
We are having multiple types of conversations and engagements with service providers about how HDR should be integrated into their OTT response strategies.
We are exploring how Technicolor can help to get HDR deployed to mass-markets, what needs to happen to address a hybrid environment because all TVs are not HDR-capable yet, and how they can move forward in an effective and cost-efficient manner.
We also can help NSPs ensure that subscribers have access to an abundant library of HDR content. Technicolor’s Intelligent Tone Management technology, for instance, is an upscaling solution that converts SDR to HDR.
So, we’re having various discussions on several levels with marketing people, engineering teams and strategy teams. If all of the noses are pointing in the right direction — going for the same goal — we are confident that we can get HDR more widely adopted throughout the region.
Debo: First of all, we’re doing a lot of demos. We’re traveling around in all the countries in EMEA visiting our strategic customers and doing demos of the HDR technology, because seeing is believing in this context. If you see what HDR can bring you, it’s much easier to be convinced.
We’re also extremely active as a company in the standardization bodies. We’re working with ETSI [European Telecommunications Standards Institute] and with other standards bodies to get more clarity in the overall HDR technology standardization.
One of the things we’re bringing forward is dynamic metadata for handling backwards-compatible solutions, and that is extremely important for service providers, given the installed base and legacy they have in the field.
Beyond providing solutions to NSPs on customer premises equipment (CPE) through our Connected Home division, Technicolor is also one of the most important players worldwide in post- and preproduction services for the movie industry.
Technicolor can bring end-to-end capabilities to the table to help service providers on content creation. We know what the studios want to achieve with the content they’re creating. We know how they would like it to appear on the screen. And because we’re helping them with that, we can also help service providers get that content translated into their customers’ homes.