May 19, 2015

UHD, HDR, WCG Offer New Options for Content Creators and Consumers

Ultra high definition (UHD), Higher Dynamic Range (HDR), and Wider Color Gamut (WCG) are taking the video experience market by storm these days.  But these video-enhancing technologies are much more than buzzwords. In fact, these new technologies will create new opportunities – particularly for content creators. So says Josh Limor, Senior Director of Product Development for Industry Video Technology Licensing, Technicolor. Limor sat down with Technicolor’s The Future Trust (TFT), to discuss the immediate impact that these technologies can have on the evolving relationship between content creators and consumers.

TFT: We have seen a lot of buzz around UHD, HDR, WCG and other technologies that are coming down the pike.  What do you see as the key opportunities for the content-creation community?

Limor: Every new technology creates new opportunities for the creative community to use that palette to tell their story in new ways.  Technologies like WCG or HDR further open up the palette that is available to the colorist, cinematographer or storyteller.[subscribe_reminder]

TFT:  What value-adds do these technologies deliver to the industry?

Limor: For years, we have been limited by how much contrast we can put on the screen.  HDR offers significantly more contrast available in your image.  This is important when you consider that 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. WCG is similar: if we increase the spectrum of colors that are available, then the creative talent can take better advantage of color.   As they create a scene, they can come up with more realistic colors and more accurate representations of colors that we are used to seeing in real life.

TFT:  How well developed are these technologies we’re talking about?

Limor: Right now, HDR is more focused on the home viewer.  The opportunity for movie makers depends on how it is distributed to the home.  Today, when you create content for the theater, you also expect that it will be distributed as home video content by cable networks, OTT and Pay TV companies.  That being said, as we engage with any new technology, it’s important to be mindful of current technology in the market place.

As these new technologies enter the market place millions of people still have the current technology. It’s going to be very important for the creative community to ensure their stories and content is appropriately tailored for the millions of viewers that have traditional displays.  This means that while we can create new types of content that take advantage of HDR, we always need to be aware of how this content is going to be consumed.

TFT:  So we’re talking about multiple versions of the same content?

Limor: There will be a need for a traditional home video master for the foreseeable future, as well as HDR masters for those who can take advantage of it.  These different mediums create new choices for content creators that offer opportunities to make different choices.  When you create SDR, you make choices about what that image will look like to help tell the story; With HDR you may make different choices to tell the same story.

TFT:  Is the creative community aware of the capabilities of HDR and WCG and how and where they should be used?

Limor: WCG and HDR technologies are very new, so it will take time for people to learn how to take advantage of them. But the creative community is very interested in the new tools that are available to them.  As these become available, artists will start playing with the content to see what it can do for their story.

But there is also the other side of the coin.  Once the consumer starts to see what a difference HDR and WCG can make to their viewing experience, we believe adoption will happen pretty quickly.  This is because when an HDR/WCG experience is next to an SDR one the difference is very compelling.  It is actually very similar to the difference we felt when High Definition experiences were first introduced and compared to Standard Definition.  When you looked at a High Definition image, looking at a Standard Definition image didn’t look quite right anymore.

TFT:  Speaking more generally, how will technologies like HDR and WCG remove limitations from the creative community and ensure that the consumer has a better experience?

Limor: WCG is a good example of how we can remove limitations from what the consumer at home has been able to see.  To date,the color gamut for home video and television has been limited more than for cinema and to a standard defined by Rec. 709.

[EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the International Telecommunications Union Recommendation BT.709 which set parameter values for the HDTV standards for production and international program exchange.  It is important to note that theaters have had available to them a wider color gamut of P3.  These different gamuts mean the content has to be shaped differently.]

With new WCG technologies and new displays coming into the marketplace, we’re going to open that up.  By opening it up to P3, it means that different colors will now be available to the creative community than they had before.

TFT:  As technologies have advanced over the years, new capabilities have sparked a desire to re-master content.  How do HDR and WCG fit into these trends?

Limor:  HDR and WCG are two examples of technology that make people want to take advantage of new capabilities with their content.  We believe this will cause content owners to re-master their libraries, and for consumers to want the access to content they love in Higher Dynamic Range and/or a Wider Color Gamut.  People who have experienced a movie in a certain way, now have the opportunity to experience it in a completely new realm.  As we open up the dynamic range, we have more contrast available; or as we open up the color gamut, we have more colors available.  The feeling of the movie experience can be expanded beyond its previous limits.

It is important to understand that many of the cameras that have existed for a while have been capable of capturing more dynamic range than you’ve seen on the screen.  Now, with these new technologies, consumers will be able to take advantage of them.  This is a great opportunity for content owners.  They can now go back and re-master existing content, expanding the range of what is available on the screen.

TFT: What should the creative community do to prepare for HDR and WCG?

Limor:  I think it’s important to be mindful of new technology as it enters the marketplace.  It may have an effect on how you shoot your content.

Even if you’re not creating HDR or WCG content today, there’s an advantage to educate yourself about what that content means.  With this understanding, you may want to shoot slightly differently; you might want to protect a little bit more of what has been captured by your camera, knowing that eventually you might want to make an HDR or WCG image out of it.

The most important part of the creative process is ensuring that the audience receives the story you want them to receive.  As we create these new types of content with these new types of technology, we want to be mindful of what sort of devices these are going to be seen on, and how people are going to see it.  We need to make sure what we want to convey is actually represented on the devices as they’re meant to be consumed.