High Dynamic Range (HDR) promises enhanced brightness, detail, heightened ranges of shadow, and color and luminance for a clearly differentiated video experience. That’s why so many, from creatives to equipment providers and broadcasters around the globe who want to incorporate HDR video capabilities into their offerings, have been actively developing specifications and creating products to advance HDR.
The Future Trust caught up with Jérôme Blanc, Chief Operating Officer for Keepixo, a maker of video encoders and other equipment for the Internet TV industry based in France, to discuss HDR and its various versions, how the industry should resolve the differences, and what Keepixo is doing to best serve its customers.
Blanc: What we’ve been seeing in the last 18 months are the appearance of several different HDR technologies. All those technologies compete. They are provided by different vendors on different technical aspects such as backwards compatibility or bandwidth requirements, and so now the operators have to select which HDR technology or technologies they’d like to support.
Blanc: Yes, sure. What I think is that all those different technologies have different advantages or drawbacks in different scenarios. For instance, some are more adapted to live streaming or video-on-demand content. Some focus more on video quality and others on backwards compatibility or bandwidth usage. There is a use case for each of those technologies, so that’s why I think several of those will be adopted in the upcoming standards.
Blanc: It means we have to support all those technologies, and in the end we are not the ones who will select which technology will be used by our customers. Our customers will decide which HDR techniques they want to use. And that means now the encoders we have to support are based on at least three or four different technologies. They all have their different requirements, technically speaking, and CPU-wise as well. So what we have to ensure on our side is that we have a video encoder that is flexible enough to support those technologies now and in the future
What that means is that from the existing HDR content, Technicolor has the technology that can build the signal that will feed our encoders and also additional metadata that will also feed our encoders. And once that data is encoded and delivered to the receiver, the receiver can then decide to recombine the signals together to produce HDR content for an HDR TV set or just the legacy SDR content. So, our role in that system is to just supply the encoder that is compatible with Technicolor’s system, including that video data and the special metadata.
Blanc: Yes, I definitely think so because we’ve all seen that HDR has a great impact on the video quality. And actually a recent study showed that people love HDR actually as much as UHD. When they compare HD SDR content to UHD SDR content, the effect is the same as when they compare HD SDR with HD HDR content. What I mean is that HDR brings the same added value as UHD, and it is very important to be able to supply HDR content even in HD, not only UHD scenarios. That’s why it’s something that can be achieved right now. So, I think that is important to telcos and service providers who are our customers and also Technicolor’s customers. You don’t need to wait for UHD to be mass deployed; just HDR is enough to provide the “wow” effect to the viewers.
Blanc: The key element for us as a provider of encoder systems is to make sure whatever technology gets selected and deployed is open and is part of international standards. We don’t want to be locked in to a closed ecosystem. This is why I think we welcome Technicolor initiatives to make their HDR technology part of open standards, worldwide standards. This is important to us and important to the whole ecosystem as well because we don’t want to deploy a closed system and become locked in with a proprietary solution.
I’d also add broadcasters do have a lot of HD content today and very little 4K. So, Technicolor has unlocked technology that’s called ITM which basically enhances current SDR content to create, a so-called HDR version of it. We believe that this is a great piece of technology that would be very interesting for broadcasters because they can take basically all of the content they have today which is HD SDR and improve it so that their customers, their end users, can take advantage of their HDR TV sets.