4K TV HDR Gets Even More Complicated With HDR10+ From Amazon and Samsung


Working together to make high dynamic range content and display even more interesting (and complicated) than it already might seem to be to some people, electronics manufacturing giant Samsung and Amazon.com have unveiled HDR10+, their improvement of the existing HDR10 open standard for high dynamic range video.

The development of the new HDR10+ standard is designed to make it more on par with the arguably superior settings for color, contrast and brightness found in the rival, proprietary Dolby Vision HDR format. For this reason, it makes sense that these two companies in particular teamed up for HDR10+’s development. Amazon makes and streams plenty of 4K high dynamic range video while Samsung is the de facto leader in the worldwide production and distribution of HDR10- enabled 4K TVs.

Existing owners of 2016 and new 2017 4K HDR TV models from Samsung at least need not worry about the models they’ve bought already being out of date with their integrated HDR specs either. Samsung has promised that it will include HDR10+ for all of its 2017 4K TV models and will send along a firmware update for the 2016 HDR models as well. 2015 Samsung 4K HDR TV owners are apparently slightly out of luck here, though their TVs will still play back HDR10 content as well as they ever could. W don’t yet have word on whether any 4K HDR monitors for PCs going on sale in 2017 will also support HDR10+ but we assume that at least Samsung’s own Quantum Dot models will come with this technology.

Current HDR10 dynamic range requirements

Current HDR10 dynamic range requirements

The new HDR10+ standard is designed to counter some of the advantages for color and brightness, as well as contrast that Dolby Vision has had over HDR10 right from the start. Despite these advantages, Dolby Vision has actually so far been the less dominant standard for both content and display devices but mainly because unlike HDR10 which is open source and thus quite cheap to implement, Dolby Vision belongs to Dolby Labs and licensing royalties have to be paid for its its use.

Despite this one major cost advantage of HDR10 over Dolby Vision, the latter standard has been catching up to HDR10 as more 4K TV makers and media creators include support for Dolby’s high Dynamic Range in their 2017 devices. Sony is one major example of this and 4K Blu-rays will also start to have Dolby Vision Support in 2017. The creation of HDR10+ and its improved HDR guidelines is almost certainly a response to these trends.

Dolby Vision alongside HDR10 and other major high dynamic range mastering formats

Dolby Vision alongside HDR10 and other major high dynamic range mastering formats

Like its Dolby Vision cousin, HDR10+ delivers dynamic metadata that gets encoded into video scenes for the sake of adjusting brightness dynamically (as its name suggests) on a scene-by-scene basis. This means that each individual scene and in some cases even individual frames of content can have their brightness and darkness adjusted for maximum realism constantly during playback. This is far superior to the fixed metadata of the ordinary HDR10 which locks down both brightness and black levels in ways that can sometimes deviate heavily from what would work best visually in a given movie scene. This isn’t to say that HDR10 doesn’t still deliver incredible improvements over normal SDR video content but the benefits that dynamic metadata can add to it will be visually notable as they are with Dolby Vision high dynamic range adjustments.

Of course, this dynamic metadata embedding for HDR10+ is not something that can be retroactively given on the fly to any random source of HDR10 mastered content. Instead it has to be baked into the content beforehand and for achieving this Samsung is working with Colorfront to integrate HDR10+ in the systems often used by production houses to master high dynamic range content for sources like Amazon and eventually Netflix, 4K Blu-ray and broadcasts in ultra HD of both the terrestrial and satellite kind.

HDR10+ is, once again, a free open standard that any TV maker or content producer can adapt without paying royalties to anyone. So this is a further benefit of the new standard. However, Dolby still comes with certain technical video advantages. One of these is much bigger 12-bit RGB color gamut (as opposed to the 10-bits of HDR10/10+) and peak brightness range that goes all the way up to a staggering 10,000 nits, which more closely follows the dynamic range of human eyesight.

10-bit HDR10 values per RGB color vs 12-bit Dolby Vision RGB color values per color

8-bit SDR RGB color values vs 10-bit HDR10 values per RGB color vs 12-bit Dolby Vision RGB color values per color

These maximums are far beyond what any current Dolby Vision-enabled 4K TV can actually display but even existing content released with the DB standard is mastered to handle these color and brightness levels whenever TVs that catch up to the mastering start appearing on the market. HDR10+ sticks to much more conservative peak brightness levels and keeps its 10-bit RGB color range. Dolby Vision can however also be delivered to capable 4K TVs through weaker, older HDMI 1.4 connections, while HDR10 requires at least HDMI 2.0a in order to work.

It’s also worth noting that Dolby Vision is backward compatible with HDR10 and will likely offer the same compatibility with HDR10+. HDR10 and its new version don’t offer the same compatibility in return.

Story by 4k.com