Ultra-HD HDR Primer Part 1

Ed’s AV Handbook
Saving the world from poor fidelity  (2/17)
Ultra-HDTV HDR Primer

any home theater enthusiasts will soon bathe in the ‘crazy good’ images of a new era of television.  Sadly, others will miss the picture as they drown in a deluge of misleading online and retail ignorance.  This seven-part blog aims to avoid the latter.  Part 1 sets the table. Succeeding parts 2 thru 7 will translate buzzwords, report on a possible format war, inspect the HDMI interconnect, offer HDMI tips, list available sources, and identify compatibility issues.

Part 1  Set the table
A Tangential Relevant Observation
It was once common for a manufacturer to engage independent retailers to roll out new technology.  Independents were typically more prepared to evaluate, demonstrate, and install new products.  In exchange, they were rewarded with a profitable window of exclusive distribution.  The arrangement was sustained until a market beachhead was secured.  Distribution was then expanded through larger retailers.

That’s how many manufacturers tested the market waters.  Those days have long passed.  They now seek cheaper faster launches.  Proficient retailers have been swapped for lower-wage ‘big box’ staffs crammed with carefully scripted instant product knowledge to introduce their wares.  This is the backdrop for the inaugural screening of High Dynamic Range Ultra-HDTV.

Honest Breakthrough
Every once in a few decades, an authentic breakthrough arrives on our screen.  The rollout of High Dynamic Range Ultra-HDTV is one of those events.  Tom Burns at TVTechnology commented;  “……. While most people expected (UltraHDTV’s) resolution … 4,096 pixels/line x 2,160 lines … to have the biggest impact, its high dynamic range (HDR), higher frame rate, and wide color gamut (WCG) that come along with (HDR Ultra-HDTV) that are the technological and creative differences that the consumer can immediately see and gives consumers the visual proof they need to rush out and buy a new TV.”

This is what Joel Silver & Terry Paullin of the Imaging Science Foundation had to say;  “Implemented properly, HDR holds the potential to be the most meaningful improvement to our collective enjoyment of images on screen from disc, broadcast, and even commercial theater since color TV was introduced in 1956.”

Again, Tom Burns regarding HDR;  “…… It’s like the Trojan horse that slips into our living room and completely changes the nature of television as we know it.”

There’s a fly in my HDR soup

The ‘big box’ is Ultra-HDTV’s most significant marketing conduit.   Their flawed demonstrations unwittingly sabotage HDR.  It is a condition that ‘dumbs down’ the value of HDR to the level of the disappearing curved screen and 3DTV.   It is a state of mind that misleads too many at the ‘big box’ to pitch HDR as simply a brighter TV.

If that ‘brighter’ TV is sold; incompetent installations unintentionally vandalize “the collective enjoyment of the images”.   Misinformed customers discover that their Internet provider cannot support Ultra-HD HDR streaming.  They may also discover that the HDMI jack of their home theater receiver is incompatible with the new Ultra-HD HDR standards.  Then their friends observe this predicament and decide to shy away from Ultra-HD altogether.

In addition, do you remember Beta vs VHS,  or SACD vs DVD Audio,  or HD-DVD vs Blu-ray?   Similarly, Ultra-HD is dealing with competing-HDR formats.  Although manufacturers may support one or more; the losing formats could possibly leave us with an obsolete hunk of metal and plastic.  Be wary of this pesky fly.  It could evolve into an ‘elephant in the room’.

Grab the rebound
It’s a dark day when someone who coveted a high-performance video experience exits a ‘big box’ dismayed and empty-handed.  On the bright side manufacturers, big promotional spending is drawing customers from their homes to the streets.   And that creates an opportunity for AV professionals to take a ‘free ride’ on their big spending and grab unfulfilled customers on the rebound.

It’s not easy.  It requires a disciplined innovative promotional strategy.  But when you do — be prepared to greet customers with a clear understanding of the relevant technologies, installation requirements, and compatibility issues.  Then set a stage to demonstrate your expertise.  Part 2 ‘Buzzword Noise Reduction’ will lead the way.

Next / Part 2 

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