Of all the new technologies for televisions that have emerged in recent years, possibly none have had such a large impact on image quality as High Dynamic Range (HDR). The HDR can make a huge difference in terms of the perceived quality of the image, and we think that its impact has even been greater than when it went from Full HD (1080p) to 4K Ultra HD, or even 8K resolution. However, not all HDR has been created equal; In fact, HDR is a general term that encompasses several different technologies. The one with the highest brand recognition is Dolby Vision. Dolby Labs has done such effective work to promote Dolby Vision as its own platform that many consumers are unaware that it is an HDR format. But what is Dolby Vision? And more importantly: how can you take it home?
What is HDR?
Before talking specifically about Dolby Vision, let's make a brief summary of the HDR in general. The High Dynamic Range is a technology that allows filmmakers and content creators to produce video material with greater brightness, superior color accuracy and better contrast than ever. Although HDR is often used in high-tech cinemas, it is increasingly popular for the home.
There are five important HDR formats for home use: two static and three dynamic. The two aesthetics are HDR10, the version supported by all HDR TVs, and HLG, a version designed for broadcast applications. In this case, aesthetic means that the data necessary to display HDR content is determined only once, depending on the movie or television program. When the video starts, the information does not change.
The three dynamic formats include Technicolor Advanced HDR and two much more familiar home formats: HDR10 +, a free license format developed in part by Samsung, and Dolby Vision. Unlike aesthetics, dynamic formats can be adjusted while the content is playing, raising or lowering the HDR elements depending on each scene. Although this type of HDR requires much more data, experts agree: the ability to refine the color, contrast and brightness of each scene can have a great impact on the quality of the HDR.
And what's so special about Dolby Vision?
As mentioned, Dolby Vision is an HDR format developed by Dolby Labs. By adjusting the image scene by scene (and even frame by frame), it allows you to see more details with better color accuracy. Make adjustments constantly so that every image you see on the screen is optimized. But that is not all.
In addition to the ability of content creators to modify the image at a highly granular level, Dolby Vision offers a much wider range of possible settings than the HDR10. For example, HDR10 handles a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits on a television; Dolby Vision can reach up to 10,000 nits.
The case of chromatic accuracy is the same. HDR10 allows content creators to specify color with 10 bits of data, while Dolby Vision allows up to 12 bits. That may not seem like a big deal, but the difference is huge. With 10 bits, you can choose between 1,024 tones of each primary color, obtaining more than one billion possible colors. That sounds impressive until you find out that 12 bits offer you 4,096 all and a total of more than 68,000 million colors.
And the HDR10 +?
The HDR10 + format resembles Dolby Vision in that it is also a dynamic format that can optimize images on the scene-by-scene screen. It supports a higher brightness and color depth than the HDR10, although it does not go as far as the Dolby Vision. In theory, this means that with Dolby Vision you will get better results, but for now the biggest difference between both standards lies in availability.
There are currently few devices compatible with HDR10 +, and even less content in this format, although over time, thanks to the free license of this standard, things can change. In addition, any device that is currently compatible with Dolby Vision can also handle the HDR10 + with a firmware update, and the cost to manufacturers who opt for this option will not be high. The case of Dolby Vision is different, because in addition to the firmware development, it has a cost per license.
What televisions are compatible with Dolby Vision?
Although Dolby Vision is more prominent than the HDR10 +, not all TVs are compatible. An incompatible prominent brand is Samsung. Some important brands offered by Dolby Vision are LG, TCL, Vizio and Sony, although compatibility with Dolby Vision may vary between models. Be sure to read the specifications of the model you are considering purchasing.
What else do I need for Dolby Vision?
A video source in Dolby Vision
In addition to a Dolby Vision compatible TV or device, you will need a video source in Dolby Vision. Many 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays support Dolby Vision, and services streaming as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offer a good selection of Hollywood movies and original series in this format. Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus are highly compatible with Dolby Vision. Where you will not find it now is on open television.
A device compatible with Dolby Vision
If you use a decoder, a game console or a Blu-ray player to view content on streaming, must also be compatible with Dolby Vision. Not everyone is.
Another thing to consider is that if your Dolby Vision compatible device needs an HDMI cable, you should make sure you purchase an HDMI cable that guarantees compatibility with Dolby Vision. Any cable labeled as Premium HDMI Certificate is ideal. The good news is that you can purchase a cable of this type for less than the cost of a ticket to watch an IMAX movie.
And what is Dolby Vision IQ?
At CES 2020, Dolby Labs is launching a new video technology called Dolby Vision IQ that could be considered an improved Dolby Vision: by means of light sensors, the software can optimize the content in Dolby Vision based on the ambient light of the room Where you are. In this way, Dolby Vision becomes even more dynamic: change the additional color and contrast information scene by scene, and then change it again based on the conditions in which you are viewing the content. Currently, only LG and Panasonic produce equipment compatible with Dolby Vision IQ, although more manufacturers are expected to incorporate it soon.