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CES 2016 – A report from the UHD Alliance’s Monday night press event

January 5, 2016 - 12:45 am   |   by
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The UHD Alliance held their official press event at CES 2016 last evening to begin the official unveiling of “full-featured” Ultra High Definition as an in-home consumer experience here at the convention. The Alliance was formed in part to simplify the UHD experience for consumers by unifying the consumer electronics industry and content creators behind a single standard, thus avoiding the pain of another costly format war.  [Read on here…]

The event featured representatives from all key members of the Alliance, which includes board members DIRECTV, Dolby Laboratories, LG Electronics, Netflix, Panasonic, Samsung Electronics, Sony, Technicolor, The Walt Disney Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros. Entertainment, as well as contributing members Amazon.com, ARRI, DreamWorks, DTS, Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Hisense, HiSilicon Technologies, Intel Corporation, Koninklijke Philips NV, MStar Semiconductor, Nanosys, Novatek, NVIDIA, Orange, Realtek Semiconductor, Rogers Communications, Sharp, Shenzhen TCL New Technology, Sky UK, THX, Toshiba Lifestyle Products & Services Corporation, and TP Vision Europe BV.

The program began with an introduction by UHD Alliance president Hanno Basse, who is also the Chief Technology Officer for Fox Filmed Entertainment. Basse highlighted the industry’s belief in the potential strength of the 4K market by showing IHS projections that 300 million 4K displays are expected to be sold globally by 2019. He revealed that the UHD Alliance has created a certification standard for UHD hardware and software to ensure quality (with multiple and independent testing centers around the globe), and that they’ve further created a Ultra HD Premium logo meant be included on hardware and software that meets this standard. The logo is meant to let consumers know when they’re getting the highest quality UHD experience. Here’s what the logo will look like…

Ultra HD Premium logo

Basse also offered concrete details on the UHD standard, as follows:

UHD Alliance Technical Specifications Overview

The UHD Alliance has developed three specifications to support the next-generation premium home entertainment experience. The three specifications cover the entertainment ecosystem in the following categories:

  • Devices (currently, television displays, with other devices under consideration)
  • Distribution
  • Content

A high level overview of each technical specification can be found below. Please join the UHD Alliance for full access to all technical and test specifications.

Devices

The UHD Alliance supports various display technologies and consequently, have defined combinations of parameters to ensure a premium experience across a wide range of devices. In order to receive the UHD Alliance Premium Logo, the device must meet or exceed the following specifications:

  • Image Resolution: 3840x2160
  • Color Bit Depth: 10-bit signal
  • Color Palette (Wide Color Gamut)
    • Signal Input: BT.2020 color representation
    • Display Reproduction: More than 90% of P3 colors
  • High Dynamic Range
    • SMPTE ST2084 EOTF
    • A combination of peak brightness and black level either:
      • More than 1000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level    
      • OR
      • More than 540 nits peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level

Distribution

Any distribution channel delivering the UHD Alliance content must support:

  • Image Resolution: 3840x2160
  • Color Bit Depth: Minimum 10-bit signal
  • Color: BT.2020 color representation
  • High Dynamic Range: SMPTE ST2084 EOTF

Content Master

The UHD Alliance Content Master must meet the following requirements:

  • Image Resolution: 3840x2160
  • Color Bit Depth: Minimum 10-bit signal
  • Color: BT.2020 color representation
  • High Dynamic Range: SMPTE ST2084 EOTF

The UHD Alliance recommends the following mastering display specifications:

  • Display Reproduction: Minimum 100% of P3 colors
  • Peak Brightness: More than 1000 nits
  • Black Level: Less than 0.03 nits

The UHD Alliance technical specifications prioritize image quality and recommend support for next-generation audio.

---

You’ll note the two different options for High Dynamic Range in that spec. This is intended to allow Dolby Vision HDR as an option. Basse noted that over a dozen displays have been certified as compliant with the Ultra HD Premium spec and many more are on the way.

After Basse’s introduction, MESA Europe’s Jim Bottoms came on stage to introduce a discussion panel of Hollywood studio content producers to talk about UHD. They included:

  • Ron Sanders, President, Worldwide Home Entertainment Distribution, Warner Bros Entertainment
  • Mike Dunn, Worldwide President, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
  • Man Jit Singh, President, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • Michael Bonner, EVP of Digital Distribution, Universal Studios Home Entertainment

Ultra HD Event panelists

During the panel discussion, Sanders mentioned Warner research that indicates the UHD business could top $1 billion by 2019. He believes UHD is much larger than the home 3D market, with a much broader consumer appeal, and that it’s most certainly not a niche product. Dunn suggested that be believes 4K UHD could reach full US household penetration within 10 years, and that soon manufacturers will only be making 4K displays.

Singh went so far as to say that he thinks the jump from HD to UHD is as big as the shift from SD to HD. All of the participants suggested that it’s not any single aspect of UHD but the total features package that makes the difference: 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range, increased color big depth, wider color gamut, and more immersive audio. They added, however, that clearly explaining these features to consumers would be the key to the format’s success – something they didn’t do well enough with the launch of Blu-ray.

The best Ultra HD experience will be delivered via UHD BD discs, naturally, but the standard will include broadcast, satellite, and digital/streaming content as well. Sanders even noted that the digital market could end up being much bigger than physical media over time.

As for those discs, Sanders noted that Warner will begin delivering titles over the Spring and Summer of this year, with the biggest push planned for the holidays. Dunn agreed with this, adding that (between all the content providers) there were likely to be more than 100 titles delivered in the 4th quarter of 2016. Fox plans to release all of their upcoming theatrical slate on UHD BD, supplemented by key catalog titles. Sony too plans on digging deep into their catalog, with Singh naming The Guns of Navarone and The Bridge on the River Kwai as among titles to watch for.

One thing the various studios reps could not discuss at this event was specific launch windows and price points for Ultra HD Blu-ray, though they do expect to make those announcements very soon. I did learn from Fox reps however that all of their Ultra HD Blu-ray titles will include HDR and will come packaged with a regular Blu-ray copy of the film as well as a Digital HD option. Warner Bros. reps also told me that their price point for Ultra HD Blu-ray releases would be “premium” but comparable to Blu-ray 3D. They also plan to include regular Blu-ray and Digital HD copies of the film as options in the package.

As for a general launch window for Ultra HD Blu-ray, we’re still hearing end of February to early March, with title availability timed to the arrival of the first players. We do expect to hear details on the first actual UHD Blu-ray players from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, and LG starting tomorrow. Watch also for possible additional title news over the next few days, including word of the first UHD BD titles from Lionsgate.

Here’s a few more pictures from the event, including Basse with the panelists, the panelists posing for a photo in front of the Ultra HD Premium logo, and representatives from all of the UHD Alliance Board Member companies doing the same…

Hanno Basse & the panelists

The panelists

Representatives of all the UHD Alliance board member companies

L to R in the last image are Victor Matsuda (Sony), Masahiro Shinada (Panasonic), Bryan Barber (Warner Home Video), Mike Dunn (Twentieth Century Fox), Ron Sanders (Warner Home Video), Man Jit Singh (Sony), Hanno Basse (Fox), Michael Bonner (Universal), SP Baik (LG), Michael Wise (Universal), KG Lee (Samsung), Mark Turner (Technicolor), and Mahesh Balakrishnan (Dolby).

We’ll be back tomorrow with more Ultra HD news from CES as it develops, so be sure to check back for that. Until then, stay tuned…

Bill Hunt

 

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