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BBC’s Ultra HD Planet Earth II Demo Impresses But Adds To HDR Confusion

by David Mercer | 12月 21, 2016

The BBC recently made available an Ultra HD version of sample material from its Planet Earth II production. Initially it was published to the iPlayer app on certain Panasonic TVs. On Sunday it was also made available via the iPlayer within the Sky Q platform.

The way the material is delivered and presented is different in each case. In the case of the Panasonic TVs, the content is delivered in HDR (High Dynamic Range) using the HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) standard developed by the BBC with NHK (see my previous post on HDR). But because Panasonic TVs are not yet enabled for HLG they ignore the HDR part of the signal and deliver SDR (Standard Dynamic Range). Importantly, however, those TVs do extract the WCG (Wide Colour Gamut) signal, so that viewers see SDR combined with WCG. In other words, viewers should see a much improved colour range (compared to the broadcast version of Planet Earth II) but will not see an improved dynamic range (better blacks and whites). This backwards compatibility with SDR TVs is claimed to be one of the main benefits of the HLG standard, in comparison to its competitors, Dolby Vision and HDR10.

The Sky Q trial is different, in part because Sky Q is only available via a set-top box and the HDMI connections themselves are not yet ready to transmit the full capabilities of an HDR HLG signal. So the Planet Earth II material on Sky Q is SDR BT.709 (normal colour gamut), and has been automatically down-converted from a WCG HLG HDR original. So Sky Q viewers of the BBC UHD trial are only getting the benefit of 4K resolution, not high dynamic range or wide colour gamut.

I’m told that the major TV manufacturers have all tested HLG firmware and could upgrade existing 2015 and 2016 TV models during 2017 as HLG content starts to become more widely available. We also expect HLG support to feature strongly in new TV announcements at CES in two weeks’ time.

After all that, if you’re suffering from abbreviation overload it’s probably a good time to relax with a glass of sherry and a mince pie in front of the best TV screen you can find and enjoy a great movie or TV show. Best wishes for a peaceful Christmas and New Year holiday.

David Mercer

 

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