Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I'll be at NAB (the big TV conference) next week to help goHDR with their booth: I put a little money into this company years ago when I was looking for where I could bet on HDR, and I still like the odds.  It's got me thinking about trends in TVs and whether HDR is finally going to "arrive".  At NAB two years ago there were two big things TV manufacturers were pushing: 4K and dark blacks.  In my opinion the dark blacks had gone past their useful sweet spot; one manufacturer had to close off a room with black curtains so you could see how black their blacks were.  While impressive, it was a very unnatural display condition.  But 4K was the word most often being pushed, and the common demo was a huge 4K display with 4K content.  And huge it is totally worth it.  But do I really want a 4K TV in my house?   I don't think so or I would watch more on my TV and less on my laptop.   However, 4K is exactly what I want on my computer so I see a market there.  Maybe we'll finally see the convergence of TVs and computers but this has been predicted for a long time so I won't hold my breath.

My impression of the history of TV is that manufacturers keep pushing whatever dimension they can and the public does or doesn't bite.  There is an overlapping parallel in the movies.  This has been in roughly this order:
  • Pictures at all (clearly needed!)
  • Color
  • Spatial resolution
  • 3D
  • Temporal resolution (frame rate)
  • Dark blacks
  • Bright whites (the key part of HDR in my opinion)
The industry will push each of these until people stop buying.  I think 4K is past where they stop buying.  And same for 3D and dark blacks.    And temporal resolution (24fps is surprisingly good).  I don't see any technological reason not to have bright brights (back lit LEDs) as has been demonstrated by various manufacturers (old graphics nerds may remember the awesome Brightside demos), so I expect the industry to be pushing these hard next.  And I think I will buy one when it is cheap.   I think the industry will try it because it is the only "big thing" left to try!   We'll see if this is the year "HDR" is a touted word at NAB.  I think it will be, but it could be that 4K still has some legs.


Jens said...

how about content for HDR? isn't that the same issue as with 3D, i.e., "you can do really cool tech demos but can you add value to a whole movie?".

BTW, I think one other thing could still be size and thickness (I see those as somewhat related). You said yourself 4k makes a lot of sense for a big screen, so I'd say: sell everyone a giant screen, make it so big that 8k makes sense and you have some headroom for the next couple of years :-)

- Jens

Peter Shirley said...

Jens I agree completely. I only jumped on the HDR bandwagon when I saw an HDR video camera. Even people that don't think HDR screens are coming love HDR video as tone mapping can be edited and deferred.

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Bram said...

I foresee a side effect from the popularity of 4K and retina: Ray Traced games will be delayed, and even further out.

For a two decades now, we have had 1MP to 2MP displays. Suddenly, we are jumping to much more pixels, which means that rasterization is the only viable approach to rendering iat 60fps.