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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 07, 2014

How Will Consumers Respond to Dolby Vision as it Improves TV Brightness, Contrast?

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

Dolby this week unveiled Dolby Vision, which can improve the brightness and contrast on televisions – and could even lead consumers to visit their local stores to shop for a new TV.

A prototype was shown at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, and prototypes were shown by Sharp (News - Alert) and TCL. The feature is expected to be sold in TV sets later this year.

"The creative community is thrilled to have an expanded color palette and the added contrast so that viewers can see details that might have previously gone unnoticed," Roland Vlaicu, senior director, Broadcast Imaging, at Dolby Laboratories (News - Alert), said in a statement. "Meanwhile, TV manufacturers can offer consumers a dramatically improved video experience, regardless of screen size or viewing distance."

The current color-grading found on TV shows and movies are based on old technology, and video content has changed. But with Dolby Vision production crews can use the “full gamut of colors, peak brightness, and local contrast, with the confidence that those will be reproduced faithfully on televisions that feature Dolby Vision,” according to a company statement.

For instance, typical televisions emit about 100 nits. The Dolby prototype emits about 4,000 nits, according to a report from The Associated Press. Also, Dolby Vision video streams will use 12 bits of data per pixel, compared to 8 bits, which is the typical current standard. The change will result in more content now being filmed using advanced cameras that will actually show up on the screen.

“A lot of information is lost in the TV signals we have today,” Vlaicu told The AP. When it comes to TVs, they will soon emit 2,000 nits of brightness, and still meet Energy Star requirements, he added.

In a review of the new offering, The Verge reports how “Colors pop, incredible detail is visible from the darkest blacks to the hottest highlights, and a dramatic increase in brightness makes for a viewing experience that’s so close to reality it seems like a revelation. In an industry that feels like it’s stalling, Dolby Vision has the potential to steer the conversation away from the resolution arms race and towards the kind of visceral, emotional reaction consumers haven’t felt since high-definition TVs came to market some 15 years ago.”

“The real magic of Dolby Vision is in the signal itself,” The Verge adds. “There’s more information present in a Dolby Vision signal, and while films and shows will need to be graded specifically for the format, Dolby will be providing reference displays and software plugins so companies can start right away. Ultrabright displays will provide the best experience for consumers, but future televisions can be equipped to take advantage of the Dolby Vision signal even if they don’t have the beefy backlight upgrade.”

Some likely partners for movies and TV shows in Dolby Vision include Microsoft (News - Alert) Xbox Video, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix and Vudu – which will offer Dolby Vision content. Movies with Dolby Vision should be offered by the end of 2014. In addition, Sharp, TCL and Vizio are showing off prototypes this week, and may have products sold during the 2014 holiday season.

"Dolby Vision is an exciting step forward in delivering much more compelling and realistic video, and we're excited by the possibility of bringing this technology to Amazon customers," Jim Freeman, vice president of Digital Video at Amazon, said in a company statement. "There is still work to be done to bring together the right mix of hardware, content, and streaming technology, and we look forward to working with great partners like Dolby to make that happen. Together, we will aim to give customers the highest-fidelity movie and TV experience possible."

Dolby Vision may end up leading to consumers opting to buy new TVs with 4K (Ultra HD or UHD), according to Wired. UltraHD televisions will provide an improved picture, too. “A better picture is what you need to sell TVs,” Wired said.  At the same time, editing, mastering and delivery need to be adjusted for the improved content, Wired adds.

The Verge says that until the products reach the market it is unclear what impact Dolby Vision will have. But there is a lot of hope from industry insiders.

"By dramatically enhancing picture quality, Dolby Vision will drive adoption of UHD 4K displays with a winning combination of more and better pixels," Hao E, CEO of TCL Multimedia, said. And Mike Seamons, senior director of Xbox Video, at Microsoft, added, "The improved image quality of Dolby Vision is compelling and offers exciting possibilities for both game play and streaming HD content to the living room."

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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