4K Ultra HD technology isn’t new, but it hasn’t done much to win over new customers outside of the promise of “greater resolution”. Fortunately, a change is coming, with LG and Dolby at the forefront.
The future is bright for Ultra HD TVs, but while the LED-backlit LCD panels are bright themselves, the future we’re talking more about has to do with making the picture quality more impressive. Sure, there are technologies to balance colour appropriately and fast panels, but one of the areas filmmakers are looking to capitalise on is HDR.
Also known as “High Dynamic Range”, HDR is one of those areas that has graced cameras and smartphones for some time, but has only recently been employed in the art of making movies.
For those who don’t know, the idea behind HDR technology is to expose more of the frame providing a balanced image everywhere, so while you might take a picture and see the subject clearly but have a too bright or too dark background, HDR evens out those sections allowing you to see more of the picture.
HDR isn’t just something that can be dealt with from the camera, though, as the screen has to be made to support the technology.
Small screens like that of your smartphone may already support the colour space and ability to play back the large amount of colours needed for higher dynamic ranges, but larger TVs need a little more than a good panel to make this happen, and for its latest range, LG is tapping Dolby for this area.
“We are extremely excited to be launching our HDR-enabled LG TV range, especially those that also include the highly anticipated Dolby Vision,” said Grant Vandenberg, Marketing Manager for LG Home Entertainment in Australia.
“The technology is truly game-changing in the TV picture quality stakes, and we’re confident that once consumers experience the combination of HDR content with our new HDR-enabled TVs for themselves they‘ll find it just as breathtaking as we do.”
While you can toss the phrase “game-changing” around — and companies do — what LG is unveiling in this year’s range might actually match the concept, because with Dolby Vision on-board, you’re talking about a interpretation of HDR that takes in not just the scene and analyses it, but information with the HDR-equipped film for when the screen should be changing the brightness and contrast values to match what the filmmaker wants, all in the effort to help them tell the story as best possible.
“Dynamic range is way more important than resolution,” said Peter James, an award-winning Australian cinematographer responsible for photographic direction on movies such as “Mao’s Last Dancer” and “Double Jeopardy”.
“4K is good, but you need a really big set to see it,” he said. “I’m very in favour of large format capture, I push that with 65mm, but on a TV, you don’t really see it. What you do see is the dynamic range.”
That dynamic range is something filmmakers will be able to manipulate, with a feel from the colour able to be represented by the TV in much the way projected movies work, similar to when you visit a cinema, and sometimes even greater.
Few cinemas in the world are equipped to handle Dolby Vision’s interpretation of colour over HDR, and we’re not even sure there’s one locally that can do it, meaning Australians haven’t yet experienced this.
While you can’t yet find HDR equipped movies easily yet, Netflix has started streaming HDR shows in 4K with the new seasons of “Daredevil” and “Marco Polo”, while 4K Blu-rays will be along later this year supporting the new technology.
And just like most things, the technology is here ahead of the content, meaning customers can get on-board ahead of the massive content drop.
“We are delighted to partner with LG to incorporate Dolby Vision into their 2016 line-up of Super UHD and OLED TVs,” said Patrick Griffis, Vice President of Technology for Dolby Laboratories.
“We have seen how committed LG is to creating the best viewing experience possible for consumers and look forward to working with them to deliver unparalleled Dolby Vision imaging to Australians.”
As a result of this inclusion, LG’s line-up isn’t the easiest to follow, with quite a few models of TV on the way depending on the sort of things you might be after.
New LED-backlit TVs will be first off the rank to receive this technology, with LG’s Super UHD 4K range getting Dolby Vision first, arriving in the 60 inch UH850T ($4999), the 75 inch UH855T ($10999), the 55 and 65 inch UH950T ($4299, $6499 respectively), the 79 inch UH953T ($11999) and the 86 inch UH955T ($15999), with these all arriving between now and June depending on the model.
Aside for Dolby Vision, the panels are very, very slim measuring on some of them as low as 6.6mm while anti-reflective coatings have been applied. TVs in the LG Super UHD range support 4K Ultra HD as well as 3D, while HDMI 2.0 ports are provided as is a quad-core processor fast enough to drive webOS 3.0 and a six-step upscaler for bringing Full HD content into the world of 4K.
OLED TVs will also benefit from Dolby Vision’s HDR, but only on the new 4K models making their way out in the next few months.
LG will be keeping the older curved and flat stock in the market with the EG960T and EF950T variants, but the G6 and the E6 are the next models to get an update, with a thinner screen dropping to an insane 2.57mm thickness (thinness?), while Dolby Vision is also being added to the screens. These will command a different price, that said, with the 55 inch and 65 inch E6 grabbing $7499 and $10499 respectively, while the 65 inch G6 will be fond for $11999.
Given the strength in colour over on the OLED side of things, it is very likely that OLED will be the area that commands the best quality in HDR video simply due to the sheer vibrancy of the image, and the fact that representation of black on an OLED TV is more like the black you see black as, with the pixel powering down instead of trying to recreate black.
“As a director of photography, I want to be able to produce footage as close to the director’s vision as possible,” said James.
“What I’m looking for is to show the full tonal range of a scene, all the true variations of colour, the full contrast and the details within shadow areas. In this regard HDR is more important than resolution or simply increasing the brightness levels, and it will transform the experience of watching movies, dramas and documentaries on TV.”
Unfortunately, HDR-enabled televisions will command high prices in the beginning, but in case these are all too steep for your blood, LG will still have UHD TVs without Dolby Vision coming out, and this is where we’re seeing prices drop for a premium TV maker, so much so that a 43 inch Ultra HD TV will cost as little as $1549 at the end of April for LG’s UH610T.
Standard 4K UHD TVs won’t be OLED and will be backlit LED panels, missing out on all that new cool tech of Dolby Vision and the new upscaling processors, but also resulting in lower prices, ranging from that $1549 starting price to $8999 depending on if you need a 75 inch panel without as many fix-ins.
“The 4K segment will grow even more this year and LG will be at the forefront,” said Vandenberg of LG’s range in Australia.
Given what we’ve seen, we’d believe it. Now you just have to wait for LG’s stock to hit stores and see for yourself, and then see what the competition has to offer.
The ball’s in your court, Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and everyone else who slaps their name on a TV these days.