Advanced HDR by Technicolor and the Future of TV
From conversation with InterDigital Vice President of Technology Alan Stein
The evolution of television has been fostered by innovations that fundamentally enhance the visual impact of our viewing experiences. A ground-breaking innovation in television evolution was sparked by the introduction of high dynamic range (HDR) production and display solutions that enhance the viewing experience with crisper content and more vibrant colors on high-definition televisions. Alongside complementary innovations across the video ecosystem, InterDigital is a leading contributor to an award-winning suite of HDR technology solutions that are today unlocking new opportunities for the video ecosystem.
But first, a look back at history.
The earliest television content was exclusively broadcast in black-and-white after television sets gained widespread adoption in the 1940s following WWII. After the introduction of the color television in the 1960s, television manufacturers had to accommodate state-of-the-art color television broadcasts on both color-capable televisions, as well as on older, black-and-white televisions. It was imperative to create a solution that ensured broadcasts designed for color-capable televisions could also be decoded and applied “backwards” to display a comparable quality picture on black-and-white displays.
The concept of “backwards compatibility” has fueled innovation in the video ecosystem by offering solutions that support the highest quality of content while also optimizing broadcasts to older versions of devices and capabilities. Fast forward to today, and the latest innovations in television are still being bolstered by backwards-compatible technology techniques to foster the highest quality broadcast regardless of display type.
In fact, contributions made by InterDigital and industry partners Philips and Technicolor to the award-winning Advanced HDR by Technicolor* solutions have helped democratize device access to some of the highest quality, most visually enhanced content. As audiences begin to demand and consume more high-definition content, InterDigital’s Advanced HDR contributions ensure that consumers who receive HDR content on a standard-dynamic range (SDR) device, or even SDR content received on an HDR device, can enjoy the highest-quality visual experience.
What is Advanced HDR by Technicolor?
A suite of HDR production, distribution, and display solutions developed through the research and technology contributions of InterDigital and Philips, Advanced HDR by Technicolor fundamentally enhances the image quality and the viewing experience for both HDR and SDR video content. A valuable television technology, our state-of-the-art solutions can format both SDR and HDR content without compromising the viewing experience of each unique display, regardless of device capability.
In production, HDR depends on the type of content being watched, whether live or pre-broadcast, produced in a studio or outdoors. In a live sports context, producers are primarily concerned with ensuring lighting levels are consistent, so they do not distract from the viewing experience, whether on an HDR or SDR television. As such, our HDR solutions may be leveraged for live broadcasts of outdoor sports, as it uses machine learning to mitigate dynamic changes in natural light and to deliver high quality images for live events in real time.
In fact, the solutions provided by Advanced HDR by Technicolor were recently adopted by Sinclair Broadcasting Group, a media conglomerate owning TV stations in more than 100 U.S. markets, with critical coverage of live news, sports, and more. By incorporating our HDR solutions within their broadcasts, a Sinclair station may use the ATSC 3.0 standard to deliver HDR and high-definition content to all viewers, but a local subscriber with an SDR television can still receive the HDR content optimized for their SDR device. Regardless of the caliber of the viewing device, the solutions we provide through Advanced HDR by Technicolor ensure the viewing experience is optimized.
Alternatively, cinematic productions pose different challenges than live broadcasts. In situations where a cinematographer is involved, artistic decisions around light and color are more easily controlled, with some scenes presenting more brightly lit scenes while others are saturated with dark colors and lower intensity light.
Most televisions are factory-configured to showcase the best display in a brightly lit showroom, but most television buyers don’t adjust or optimize their television settings for typical viewing in a darker living room after installation. In the example from Game of Thrones, many of the televisions and devices used to watch the episode were not configured to showcase the dark and shadowy tones of the battle scenes as the show creators intended.
Content is a critical component of the video ecosystem, and as consumers begin to expect more immersive video, the ability to preserve a content creator's original intent in SDR, while also delivering high-quality HDR content, helps democratize access to immersive viewing experiences. InterDigital’s contributions to Advanced HDR by Technicolor offer critical solutions to optimize content delivery for both HDR and SDR devices, while preserving the creative intent of the content creator.
Like many groundbreaking innovations, HDR is challenged with the chicken-or-the-egg approach to adoption of this new technology and its enabled content. Interested audiences may be wary to purchase HDR televisions until there is a greater amount of HDR content to consume, while broadcasters are apprehensive to publish HDR content if more consumers do not have the appropriate devices on which to enjoy them. Critically, our HDR solutions help to accommodate both SDR and HDR device types while seeding the ground to support the crisper, more immersive HDR content that audiences desire as more consumers transition from SDR to HDR devices.
As we innovate towards the future, newer platforms and greater diversity in device types will emerge. Our contributions to the solutions provided by Advanced HDR by Technicolor provide a critical ingredient to deliver the best television viewing experience, regardless of circumstance.
*Advanced HDR by Technicolor is a trademark owned by Technicolor and licensed to Philips.