Tele­vi­sion tech ex­plained

RE­CENT AD­VANCES IN TV TECH­NOL­OGY HAVE SPAWNED A HOST OF NEW ACRONYMS AND CON­FUS­ING FOR­MATS. WE’LL EX­PLAIN WHAT THEY ALL MEAN.

TechLife Australia - - WELCOME -

TELE­VI­SION TECH­NOL­OGY HAS come a long way in a short time, and has brought with it a whole raft of ab­bre­vi­a­tions, acronyms and sim­i­lar sound­ing names. These tech­nolo­gies of­ten have sev­eral vari­ants, each with their own acro­nym. So, we at­tempt to ex­plain the dif­fer­ence be­tween 4K, UHD, OLED, QLED, HDR (and vari­ants thereof).

4K

With the in­creas­ing avail­abil­ity and af­ford­abil­ity of TV sets and all-im­por­tant con­tent, 4K (also known as Ul­tra HD, 4K Ul­tra HD, UHD) tech­nol­ogy is here to stay – un­til it’s leapfrogged by 8K.

WHAT IS 4K UL­TRA HD?

Of­fi­cially, 4K res­o­lu­tion is 4096 x 2160 pix­els. How­ever, in or­der to shoe­horn this into a 16:9 for­mat, it was al­tered to 3840 x 2160 – four times the num­ber of pix­els on a Full HD screen (1920 x 1080). To play 4K Ul­tra HD you will need a com­pat­i­ble TV, source and some con­tent.

There are lots of 4K TVs on the mar­ket, a few 4K pro­jec­tors and even 4K phones. As for a source – Ama­zon, Net­flix and YouTube all of­fer stream­ing 4K con­tent, in­clud­ing on 4K stream­ing boxes such as the Ama­zon Fire TV 4K and Google Chrome­cast Ul­tra. The Ap­ple TV 4K box can stream 4K HDR con­tent (HDR10 and Dolby Vi­sion) from iTunes.

HOW CAN YOU WATCH 4K?

If you want to play discs, you need a 4K Blu-ray player, such as the Sony UBP-X800 or Oppo UDP-203, and some Ul­tra HD Blu-ray discs. If you’re stream­ing con­tent, you’ll need some­thing like an Nvidia Shield TV or sim­i­lar de­vice.

CAN YOU STREAM 4K VIDEO?

Net­flix 4K stream­ing ar­rived in 2014, with House of Cards: Sea­son 2. There are now over 100 ti­tles, with more con­tent be­ing added all the time. To watch it, you will need a 4K TV that sup­ports the HEVC codec, which is most 4K TVs since 2016.

Ama­zon’s 4K con­tent com­prises TV shows, such as The Grand Tour, and The Man In The High Cas­tle. YouTube also has a se­lec­tion of 4K videos, us­ing the VP9 codec de­vel­oped by Google. Make sure your TV or mon­i­tor sup­ports VP9.

AND 4K ME­DIA STREAM­ERS?

The Ama­zon 4K Fire TV box de­liv­ers Ul­tra HD con­tent from Ama­zon’s own li­brary on Prime Video and from Net­flix. The Roku Stream­ing Stick+ of­fers a sim­i­lar propo­si­tion, while Google’s Chrome­cast Ul­tra and Sony’s PS4 Pro con­sole of­fer 4K con­tent from Net­flix and YouTube. The Ap­ple TV 4K can stream Ul­tra HD con­tent from Ap­ple’s iTunes store. The Xbox One X also makes a fine streamer and player.

WHAT ABOUT 4K BROAD­CASTS?

So far in Aus­tralia 4K broad­casts are pretty much non-ex­is­tent. It’s been tested, but none of the free-to-air chan­nels are of­fer­ing it. In the UK, how­ever...

In De­cem­ber 2017, the BBC launched a 30-day trial stream of its Blue Planet II se­ries in 4K (and HDR) through the BBC iPlayer. This year, a 4K live rugby league match on iPlayer was fol­lowed by a 4K broad­cast of the 2018 FA Cup fi­nal.

This cul­mi­nated in a 4K trial, us­ing iPlayer, for the 2018 World Cup, where 29 games were broad­cast in Ul­tra HD on com­pat­i­ble TVs and set-top boxes. The BBC fol­lowed this up with an­other 4K trial for its Wim­ble­don 2018 cov­er­age.

UL­TRA HD BLU-RAY DISCS

UHD Blu-ray has picked up steam, with most ma­jor Hol­ly­wood stu­dios back­ing the for­mat. Over 100 ti­tles (and grow­ing) from Warner Bros, 20th Cen­tury Fox and Sony Pic­tures are now avail­able.

HDR

High Dy­namic Range (HDR) is the most im­por­tant buzz­word in TV now. But with man­u­fac­tur­ers de­vel­op­ing dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties, it can be hard to keep track.

WHAT IS HDR?

Orig­i­nat­ing in pho­tog­ra­phy, HDR refers to a tech­nique to heighten a pic­ture’s dy­namic range – the con­trast be­tween the bright­est whites and the dark­est blacks. The higher the dy­namic range, the closer an im­age gets to real life.

As TVs have be­come more ca­pa­ble, they can go a lot brighter, but the tech isn’t about bright­ness, it’s about widen­ing the range to dis­play finer in­cre­ments of shad­ing and get more de­tails in the shad­ows and high­lights.

There are four main va­ri­eties of HDR: HDR10, HDR10+, HLG and Dolby Vi­sion.

WHAT IS HDR10?

HDR10 is the orig­i­nal and most com­mon form of HDR. All cur­rent 4K TVs fea­ture HDR10 and so should be com­pat­i­ble with the most widely avail­able 4K Blu-ray discs, 4K play­ers and 4K stream­ing con­tent.

WHAT IS HDR10+?

Sam­sung has de­vel­oped its own stan­dard: HDR10+, us­ing dy­namic meta­data to boost HDR images frame-by-frame. The com­pany’s 2018 line-up of TVs sup­ports the HDR10+ for­mat but, since it is a di­rect ri­val, none of Sam­sung’s TVs sup­ports Dolby Vi­sion.

The first Ul­tra HD Blu-ray discs with HDR10+ are due out later this year, and will be 20th Cen­tury Fox and Warner Bros re­leases. Ama­zon Prime Video was the first con­tent provider to an­nounce HDR10+ sup­port, and will be stream­ing over 100 shows in HDR10+ on Sam­sung’s 4K and QLED TVs – but only in the US.

WHAT IS HLG?

The re­sult of a re­search project be­tween the BBC and Ja­pa­nese broad­caster NHK, Hy­brid Log Gamma (HLG) is po­ten­tially the most im­por­tant HDR for­mat.

It takes stan­dard dy­namic range and HDR images and com­bines them into one feed, with HLG-com­pat­i­ble 4K TVs able to de­code and show HDR images.

Most big man­u­fac­tur­ers con­firmed HLG-ready sets for 2018 and 2017, and con­tent ar­rived in the form of Blue Planet II – re­leased in full 4K and HLG on BBC iPlayer in 2017. The 2018 World Cup and Wim­ble­don tri­als were streamed live in 4K and HLG on the iPlayer.

WHAT IS DOLBY VI­SION?

De­signed for cin­e­mas, Dolby Vi­sion dif­fers from HDR10 in that, while the lat­ter ap­plies its pa­ram­e­ters scene-by-scene, Dolby Vi­sion al­lows for dy­namic meta­data to be added on a frame-by-frame ba­sis, giv­ing an im­proved im­age.

Both HDR10 and Dolby Vi­sion can fea­ture on the same TVs and discs. You will need a Dolby Vi­sion-com­pat­i­ble disc, Blu-ray player and TV be­fore you can en­joy the tech­nol­ogy at home.

On the hard­ware side, LG has been the for­mat’s big­gest adopter, with its 2018 OLED TVs sup­port­ing Dolby Vi­sion.

HOW CAN YOU WATCH HDR?

You will need a com­pat­i­ble dis­play – a TV, pro­jec­tor or smart­phone. Most new 4K TVs sup­port the for­mat as stan­dard.

You will also need an Ul­tra HD Blu-ray player, such as the Cam­bridge CXUHD or Oppo UDP-203. Mi­crosoft’s Xbox One S and Xbox One X also play 4K Blu-rays and in­clude HDR10 sup­port.

Al­ter­na­tively, you can stream HDR con­tent via Net­flix or Ama­zon Prime

Video – both ser­vices sup­port HDR10 and Dolby Vi­sion (Ama­zon’s HDR10+ con­tent is avail­able only in the US). This can be done through a com­pat­i­ble app on your TV or stream­ing box, such as the Ama­zon Fire TV or Ap­ple TV 4K.

WHAT HDR CON­TENT IS THERE?

Ama­zon Prime Video was the first to stream HDR con­tent, but Net­flix has a large li­brary, most of which is also in 4K. Ap­ple is about to stream 4K HDR films through iTunes. The UHD Blu-ray for­mat in­cludes HDR10 in its base spec­i­fi­ca­tion and sup­ports Dolby Vi­sion on select ti­tles. HDR10+ ti­tles should be avail­able at the end of the year. Over 100 4K Blu-ray discs with HDR are on sale now.

THE FU­TURE OF HDR

The com­bi­na­tion of 4K and HDR means a su­per-sharp, dy­namic pic­ture and a clear step-up from Full HD. Po­ten­tial is­sues are the dif­fer­ent vari­a­tions of HDR and the need to en­sure your TV is fu­ture-proofed – there is a bub­bling for­mat war be­tween HDR10+ and Dolby Vi­sion.

OLED

The first Or­ganic Light-Emit­ting Diode (OLED) TVs, from LG and Sam­sung, hit the shelves in 2013, giv­ing a glimpse of its ul­tra-dark black tones, su­per-punchy con­trast and slim­line de­sign. Soon after, Sam­sung ditched OLED for QLED – a com­pletely dif­fer­ent TV tech­nol­ogy.

WHAT IS OLED?

OLED makes it pos­si­ble to reach dark black lev­els from ul­tra-thin screens. It works with a car­bon-based film be­tween two con­duc­tors, which emits light when an elec­tri­cal cur­rent is passed through it.

Un­like a Liq­uid Crys­tal Dis­play (LCD) panel, which re­quires a back­light to light up the crys­tals, this takes place in ev­ery pixel of an OLED dis­play. With LCD, you can’t achieve true blacks as the back­light af­fects neigh­bour­ing pix­els. As OLED pix­els gen­er­ate their own light, they be­come pitch-black when turned off.

OLED also in­cludes an ad­di­tional white pixel along­side the usual red, green and blue sub-pix­els, which de­liv­ers more var­ied and ac­cu­rate colours.

THE AD­VAN­TAGES OF OLED TV?

OLED sets are lighter and thin­ner than LCDs, as they don’t re­quire a back­light. Each pixel can be turned off in­di­vid­u­ally, so OLED TVs de­liver ab­so­lute black and stronger con­trast ra­tio – the holy grail for AV purists. Be­cause of their thin­ness, man­u­fac­tur­ers can curve, bend and roll OLED pan­els up. LG de­vel­oped a rol­lable 77in screen, not for­get­ting the ul­tra-thin ‘Wall­pa­per’ range, which sticks to a wall. And the dis­ad­van­tages? OLED is ex­pen­sive to pro­duce and so TV sets are ex­pen­sive. Prices have come down, though.

AND WHAT IS QLED?

Cur­rently, Quan­tum-dot Light Emit­ting Diode (QLED) is a re­fine­ment of LCD tech­nol­ogy where a Quan­tum dot layer is placed be­tween the back­light and the LCD panel. The Quan­tum dot par­ti­cles emit light of a spe­cific colour when the back­light shines on them – big­ger par­ti­cles emit red light and the smaller ones blue light, for in­stance.

De­spite be­ing eas­ier and cheaper to man­u­fac­ture, QLED sets have, un­til now, been al­most as ex­pen­sive as their OLED equiv­a­lents. But with fur­ther de­vel­op­ment, we could soon reach a point where the Quan­tum dot par­ti­cles can gen­er­ate their own light – that’s when OLED tech­nol­ogy will re­ally have some­thing to worry about.

THE COM­BI­NA­TION OF 4K AND HDR MEANS A SU­PER-SHARP, DY­NAMIC PIC­TURE AND A STEP-UP FROM FULL HD. PO­TEN­TIAL IS­SUES IN­CLUDE A BUB­BLING FOR­MAT WAR BE­TWEEN HDR10+ AND DOLBY VI­SION

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