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HDR delivery and the Sony BVM-X300 4K monitor

Wednesday, September 30, 2015 5:30 PM

High dynamic range is growing rapidly in significance, not only in acquisition, but in delivery as well. In our latest blog, WTS production specialist and freelance cameraman Patrick van Weeren gives a cameraman’s perspective on HDR, while post-production house Molinare talk about delivering HDR with their new Sony BVM-X300 4K HDR monitor, which was supplied by WTS.

Conventional broadcasters will have to play catch-up if they want to compete with online platforms that can deliver via the internet and thus already have a head start as far as bandwidth is concerned.

As far as conventional broadcast is concerned, high dynamic range is actually easier to accomplish than transmitting higher resolution – and much easier to see for the consumer.

We are seeing several big trends jostling for position in terms of top priorities for the broadcast industry, including IP delivery and the resolution race for 4K. But HDR seems to have jumped to the top of the list, judging from this year’s IBC.

A 4K monitor on set is vital

I’ve been lucky enough to be among the first cameramen in London to work on productions finalised and delivered in full HDR, and one thing I’ve noticed is that working in 4K makes it really important to have a large monitor on set. With so much detail in 4K, it’s impossible to see everything in a 0.7-inch viewfinder screen.

HDR delivery requires a new approach

We’ve been using HDR in acquisition for a while now, giving the colourist more to work with even when delivering in a smaller dynamic range and colour space such as Rec.709.

But actually delivering in HDR calls for a different approach, both by the cameraman and the colourist. Working in this expanded dynamic range means that the colourist doesn’t have the extra margins when correcting, as the whole range needs to be used. More accurate and precise decisions have to be made on set.

Great examples of this are BT Sport’s UHD Channel and Dorna Sports MotoGP Silverstone coverage, broadcast in UHD. One of the big questions to address during these kind of projects is how to grade/shade for HDR content while simultaneously delivering ‘standard’ dynamic range.

The method of putting one ‘LUT’ (adjustment look-up table) on all the shots is not sufficient. The levels for downgrading to SDR are not consistent between wide angle and close-ups. It’s far preferable to use different LUTs for different camera-angles.

Sony BVM-X300 4K HDR monitor completes the puzzle

Sony BVM-X300 4K HDR monitor demo at WTS

With the advent of 4K, high dynamic range monitors like the Sony BVM-X300 4K OLED monitor, there is a feeling that the missing piece of the HDR puzzle has been found, and that the level of detail that 4K HDR cameras are able to capture can now be utilised in the grading process, and delivered to viewers.

At WTS, we are seeing great interest in the Sony BVM-X300 as post-houses find themselves working with 4K footage more and more. In the case of Molinare, to whom WTS had previously supplied HD monitors, a number of their staff first encountered the BVM-X300 at one of our regular WTS demo days in our Soho office.

We were then able to lend them our demo model so that they could test and assess it with some 4K projects they were working on, and they were also able to make use of the expert knowledge of our workflow specialist, Michael Byrne.

BVM-X300 offers highly accurate colour reproduction

Diagram showing Rec. 2020 and Rec. 709 colour space comparison

The BVM-X300 4K monitor has highly accurate image reproduction, a larger 30” display, and an improved viewing angle. Molinare senior colourist Asa Shoul said the BVM-X300’s colour reproduction was “accurate completely through the range. It doesn’t have any points where the colour drifts or changes.”

From the purist’s perspective, grading for HDR delivery with the BVM-X300 allows you to “preserve much more realistically how an image was captured,” as Chris Rodgers, a colourist at Molinare, says. And HDR also offers a much more pleasurable experience for viewers, with brighter images, wider colour space and greater detail in the shadows.

HDR easier to implement than higher resolution

Simon Fell, director of technology and innovation at the European Broadcasting Union) told audience members at his ‘Outlook for Broadcast and Media – IBC2015 Wrap Up’ presentation that “HDR is the new black”.

Anyone can see HDR and it’s easier to implement than higher resolution, the effect of which on the standard living room display is not always as obvious as HDR (depending, of course, on the compression used to get it into the living room and the distance of the viewer from the screen).

Online platforms such as Netflix and Amazon are at the forefront of the 4K resolution race and HDR delivery will be one of their top selling points to convince customers that they are getting premium content over the conventional broadcasters. The question now for conventional broadcasters is whether to offer viewers the highest quality or not.

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