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HDR in HD Emerges as Compelling Solution for High-Fidelity Streaming Services

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Rick Dumont, Philips
SILVER SPRING, Md. - eTradeWire -- As awareness -- and popularity -- of high-dynamic range (HDR) technology rises among consumers, a growing number of players in the content distribution sector are exploring the implications of sending HDR over high-definition (HD) channels rather than focusing exclusively on ultra-high definition (UHD), according to Rick Dumont, Head of Business Development for Wireless and HDR at Philips.

"Streaming services account for a growing share of how people worldwide enjoy their digital entertainment experiences. As the market evolves, these providers face significant challenges in delivering high-quality content efficiently," explains Dumont.

One key issue is ensuring smooth, buffer-free streaming in areas with limited internet bandwidth. This is crucial for maintaining high-quality viewing experiences across varying network conditions -- from terrestrial fiber to 4G and 5G connectivity -- and devices -- including smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and gaming consoles.

While HDR has largely been touted as a viewing innovation that is closely associated with UHD, the team behind Advanced HDR by Technicolor—a collaboration between Philips, InterDigital and Technicolor—believes that HD distribution strategies for HDR can create more options for delivering higher-quality experiences for experiences across a greater range of circumstances.

"HDR can significantly enhance HD content, not just UHD 4K, providing a better viewing experience on HD TVs and other devices. By utilizing HDR for HD content, providers can achieve bandwidth savings while delivering brilliant video content. It largely expands availability of HDR content and access to high-quality visual experiences to a broader audience," he says.

Overcoming Misconceptions about HDR

It is a message that will require an industry-wide shift in perspectives -- especially among streaming providers whose customers access content from a variety of venues and circumstances.

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"The growth of streaming service providers in recent years has been driven by several factors, including increasing internet connectivity, advancements in technology, changing consumer preferences, and the proliferation of mobile devices. But they do face some challenges that must be addressed head-on," says Dumont.

For instance, streaming providers must ensure that content is delivered smoothly, with limited buffering, even in areas with limited internet bandwidth while maintaining a high-quality viewing experience. This means that connections for stable viewing of UHD are not always available.

"Many people assume that HDR is married with 4K content, but that is not the case. HDR technology over HD allows viewers to enjoy improved color, contrast, and overall image quality without UHD. They can have a more immersive and visually appealing experience," he says. Also, HDR improves the perceived resolution as adjacent pixels might have the same color but have different brightness that HDR will bring out.

HDR over HD has a more significant visual impact than SDR over UHD because HDR presents more accurate colors, smoother light and color shading, and more detailed images while reducing bandwidth requirements by a factor of four simply because HD uses only one-fourth of the pixels.

This leaves the industry with addressing the challenge of providing high-quality HDR with 8-bit coding when, theoretically, a 10-bit color depth is needed in HDR to prevent coding artifacts -- like banding. It is an issue, however, that can be effectively addressed with the adoption of dynamic automation and meta-data from Advanced HDR by Technicolor.

Resolving 10-Bit Color Depth HDR Requirements for HD Streaming

Advanced HDR by Technicolor is a suite of production, distribution and display solutions that leverages machine learning (ML) technology to maximize image quality and enhance the consumer viewing experience.

The solution's intelligent tone management (ITM) tool provides a dynamic, tunable, real-time solution to up-convert SDR content to HDR with full freedom and flexibility to manage contrast, brightness and color saturation.

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Its single Layer HDR (SL-HDR) technology is a dynamic and tunable real-time tool that implements the ETSI SL-HDR standards to generate and deliver a single, consistent, high-quality stream. SL-HDR transforms HDR input streams into SDR-plus-metadata streams. SL-HDR compatible receivers provide consumers with high-quality HDR images that can be adapted to optimize the display capabilities of their devices.

When it comes to addressing the 10-bit color-depth performance to HD, the dynamic -- or adaptive -- nature of SL-HDR preprocessing allows coding to be used more efficiently compared to the static formats like HDR10 and HLG.

"Hence where HDR10 needs a 10-bit bit-depth and typically HEVC coding, SL-HDR can use AVC in 8-bit as used by legacy systems, making it less bandwidth hungry and at the same time ensuring backward compatibility with legacy SDR systems," states Dumont.

The metadata transmission in the SL-HDR stream allows optimal use of the receiving device's dynamic range by adjusting the HDR quality to its capability. This avoids overexposure with limited dynamic range capabilities while maximizing the capabilities of TVs that support high dynamic range.

"Advanced HDR by Technicolor can deliver an extremely high-quality, high-dynamic-range image in HD without compromising content creators' intent or viewers' experiences. Dynamic conversions accomplish this outcome in a stable manner—at scale—while minimizing the factors that typically add cost and complexity to the creation, storage and distribution process," he says.

The value proposition for streaming providers includes reduced storage requirements – by using 8-bit instead of 10-bit as well as storage of SDR and HDR in a single stream – and improved stability for lower bandwidth connections. By utilizing HDR to enhance HD video, streaming providers can save significant bandwidth compared to 4K HDR video while still delivering the same brilliant quality for the vast majority of video content.

"The bottom line is that HDR on HD is ideal for meeting the requirements of service providers that seek a bandwidth-efficient streaming solution for delivering significantly more vibrant video content. Advanced HDR by Technicolor can make it happen," concludes Dumont.

To read the full Q&A with Rick Dumont, please visit: https://bit.ly/3Xm8Zju

Source: Advanced HDR by Technicolor
Filed Under: Technology

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