High Dynamic Range (HDR) — an image attribute that offers a wider range between the blackest blacks and whitest whites in images — has been generating plenty of interest in cinema circles, as well as for remastering movies for home entertainment, but the potential to offer HDR in live broadcasting is considered by many to be a key missing link in the HDR dialog. At this year’s IBC, focus was moving in that direction.
Delia Bushell, managing director at BT TV and BT Sports in the UK, spoke about BT Sports’ recently-launched Ultra HD 4K sports channel and said the company is looking to add HDR capabilities, possibly in two years. Sky Broadcasting in the UK is among additional broadcasters testing HDR.
“There’s still some technology questions open, but the big issue is the cost,” said Twentieth Century Fox CTO Hanno Basse, who chairs the UHD Alliance that’s working on quality standards for HDR home entertainment. “For a Hollywood studio, making HDR is fairly straightforward. On the [live] TV side, they don’t have that luxury, especially if it’s 4K. They’ll need new cameras, switchers … and that’s a much higher investment.”
On the technology side of the equation, during IBC several manufacturers showed demonstrations of how live HDR broadcasting might be handled. For instance Technicolor teamed with video processing company Elemental (which was recently acquired by Amazon Web Services in a deal reportedly valued at around $500 million) to host a live IBC demonstration of a broadcast delivery system of 4K with high dynamic range.
The demonstration includes a new server-based version of Technicolor’s Intelligent Tone Management software that scales standard dynamic range source material (in this case, 4K at 60 frames per second) for HDR use. The aim is to allow sports or live event productions to continue use current cameras and infrastructure at a venue, and also upscale the broadcast to include HDR. The Elemental Live video encoder was used for encoding and delivery in the demonstration.