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THE ULTRA HD Alliance is on a mission to spread the good word of Ultra HD, which, as any self-respecting home theater enthusiast will tell you, is more than just a resolution story. Yes, having four times as many pixels as standard HD is a definite boon to image quality, but high dynamic range (HDR), wide color gamut, and other recent advances in TV picture quality are even more compelling, nudging us ever closer to images that mirror the real world. Last summer the Alliance recruited industry veteran Mike Fidler as its first full-time president. We recently caught up with Fidler, who has served in key executive roles at Sony and Pioneer, to get an update on the Alliance and its efforts to promote the benefits of what it calls a “premium audio/video experience.”
S&V: Let’s start with a little background. How did the UHD Alliance (UHDA) come into being, and what is its mission?
MF: The organization was formed in 2015 with the primary mission of more faithfully delivering creative intent using next-gen A/V technologies, establishing a minimum benchmark to ensure a compelling user experience, and establishing a logo program to identify products that meet strict certification criteria. The Alliance is committed to education that helps consumers better appreciate how advanced picture quality contributes to a “premium” audio/video experience across content, devices, and services. S&V: What role does the Alliance play in establishing performance requirements for TVs, Blu-ray players, and other entertainment devices?
MF: The UHD Alliance has specified technical requirements for UHD content, distribution, and devices that must be met to deliver a high-quality experience—one that preserves creative intent. Our scope includes developing testing methodologies and certification programs. With that in mind, we established the UHD Alliance logo program to identify products certified to deliver an optimal presentation of UHDAbranded content on UHDA-branded devices. The Alliance also established specifications—including mandatory distribution requirements related to HDR, resolution, color bit depth, and color palette—and in the past year expanded those specs to include battery-operated devices.
S&V: How about content—what role does the Alliance play there?
MF: From a content perspective, the Alliance has established both mandatory and recommended specs. Mandatory “content master requirements” include HDR, image resolution, color bit depth, and color palette. Mastering display recommendations include display reproduction, peak brightness, and black level.
S&V: How does UHD certification work?
MF: The certification program for hardware devices uses independent testing labs around the world to verify conformance with our performance specifications. The manufacturer submits candidate products to the Authorized Test Center, and if the device passes certification tests (as defined by the Alliance), test results are submitted for final review by the Alliance’s management company (VTM Group), which specializes in compliance enforcement to ensure proper testing protocol was followed. Once the certification process is successfully completed, the UHD Alliance executes the requisite licensing agreement, allowing the brand to use the UHD Premium logo. S&V: It’s been a couple years since the Alliance introduced the Ultra HD Premium logo. How successful has the program been?
MF: The logo program has been very successful in establishing performance benchmarks that ensure a premium experience for consumers. We have certified products in numerous categories, including UHD TVs, UHD Blu-ray players, UHD content, computer monitors, mobile devices, PCs, and media players. We believe the establishment of performance specifications, developed and agreed to by all member companies, is significant, but we also understand that member companies are free to decide how to use the logo program.
We are working toward a more expansive use of the Ultra HD Premium logo program with our member companies and retailers to help clear up confusion around new UHD-related technology announcements and give consumers confidence in choosing UHD products. We are also working hard to expand the program to include new categories of devices, including set-top boxes, streaming media, and desktop PCs and to expand our marketing efforts through a new consumer website (ExperienceUHD. com), brochures, and a soon-to-bereleased set of educational videos. S&V: Resolution tends to be the first thing people think of when they hear “Ultra HD,” but the format represents so much more in terms of video quality. Can you talk about the significance of the other technical elements that fall under the UHD umbrella?
MF: We couldn’t agree more and have established key pillars of performance to help consumers understand what goes into a premium A/V experience. Beyond 4K resolution, we include high dynamic range (HDR), wide color spectrum, color bit depth, and immersive audio. We focus our collateral material on explaining what these attributes mean in terms of performance and how Ultra HD Premium certification optimizes the experience. High frame rate is another factor in the overall experience—one that will play a key role in defining premium live broadcasting, especially sports broadcasts.
S&V: The Alliance broadened its scope last year with the creation of the Mobile HDR Premium logo for portable devices, which could be seen as overkill. Why mobile?
MF: Mobile video consumption is growing exponentially, and we believe mobile devices deserve the same attention as non-mobile devices, which is why we established a separate set of specifications that are based on display size and proximity of the screen to our eyes. We focus on the same core specifications used for Ultra HD Premium to make sure you can get an enhanced visual experience on the small screen.
S&V: What will the Alliance be doing in the coming year to increase awareness of HDR and wide color gamut as features?
MF: We have put an enormous amount of time and resources into building an exceptional website that educates consumers on the benefits of the Ultra HD Premium and Mobile HDR Premium programs. ExperienceUHD.com is a great resource, and it will be updated throughout the year as we work to increase awareness among consumers, retailers, and the press. We provide comprehensive information about the technology and developments in the UHD space as well as a listing of all Ultra HD Premium–certified products, with direct links to member company websites, extensive FAQs, and guides to help consumers get full enjoyment from UHD devices and content.
We have also produced a companion brochure that explains the benefits of our Premium programs and helps consumers determine with confidence which products will best meet their needs. In addition, we have produced five videos designed to help consumers in a friendly, non-technical way understand UHD technology and make buying decisions. These will be available shortly.
The full version of this interview appears on soundandvision.com.