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In the marketplace of next-generation imaging HDR quite literally stands out.

Christine Bunish Talks With Mark Schubin about HDR

April - Mark Schubin ImageMark Schubin (www.schubincafe.com) notes that tests show both HDR and HFR are “perceptually significant” for viewers while 4K and wider color gamut offer fairly small perceptual improvements. This leads Schubin to believe that HDR delivers “the most bang for the data” providing the greatest perceptual image improvement with, theoretically, no increase in bit rate (practically, a little increase).

HDR also offers more colors with the same primaries in a TV set and might not even require shading when shooting. While HFR lends itself to fast-moving content such as sports, there’s some concern about the look it brings to scripted programming. Admittedly, HDR makes motion artifacts more visible, but it maintains that suspension of disbelief viewers prize for the vast array of narrative content they watch. All things considered, “There’s no form of programming that can’t show improvement in HDR,” Schubin declares.

HDR is happening now in production and post. “There’s no downside to HDR acquisition,” says Schubin, “and in post there’s more flexibility in grading and creating pictures for standard distribution channels.”

But the number of flavors of HDR and no agreement on transmission standards to cinemas and homes means HDR distribution is not likely any time soon. “It took decades for HD to be accepted,” Schubin reminds us. “We shouldn’t look for HDR to happen overnight.”

The timeline for HDR depends upon “who’s pushing it,” he says. “The TV set manufacturers want HDR to happen real fast because sales are down after everyone bought HD TVs. Consumers need a reason to buy new sets. Creatives find HDR to be a good tool and are using it now in production and post. Distributors, on the other hand, say let’s take our time.”

HDR comes with some distribution issues that need to be resolved, Schubin points out. With HDR’s greater luminosity will a visual “loudness” control be required for commercials that are too bright, just as the FCC’s CALM Act tamed the audio volume of booming spots? And how about power consumption? It looks like HDR TVs pumping out one bright scene after another could violate the California law on the amount of power a TV set can consume.

Although no new technologies are needed for HDR, everyone will have to invest in new equipment. In fact, manufacturers are counting on it.

“It was hard to find a major booth at NAB without HDR in it,” Schubin reports. In addition to HDR or HDR-compatible monitors and cameras, “lens manufacturers were talking improved optical transmission; isovideo showed a converter that took in HDR and squirted out SDR; Atomos had its camera-mounted monitors showing HDR. Panasonic’s HDR demo used Sony HDR monitors – without covering up the Sony name. The whole industry wants HDR to move along!”

Even if HDR stands apart in next-generation imaging it won’t be the only choice creatives implement, Schubin emphasizes. Imaging options “must co-exist” to provide audiences with an optimal viewing experience, he believes. Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee unveiled an 11-minute demo at NAB, which Schubin says combined 120fps acquisition with HDR and wide color gamut. “It stunned the audience.”

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