The importance and future of HDR technology on consumer television at Pexels

Why is HDR important?

By Alfred Chan, Vice President of Product Marketing at MediaTek’s TV Business Unit

Ever since TVs were invented, followed by computer displays or other types of display technologies for consumer devices, they have been continually playing catchup with the capabilities of the human visual system. In addition to improvements in resolution, wide color gamut and HDR (high dynamic range) technologies have allowed us to create digital images as close as possible to real-life. From a content creator perspective, it allows filmmakers and TV show creators to bring cinematic experiences into the home.

Traditional standard dynamic range (SDR) video uses 8-bits of luminance data (quantization), whereas the newer high dynamic range (HDR) uses 10-bits or more. The extra data is required to accommodate the extended luminance range and finer graduation. However, not every display is capable of the same brightness or darkness, and thus color, so tone mapping metadata is used to adjust the values according to the display. In HDR10 this metadata is a static value based on the maximum and minimum in the entire video clip, show, or movie. More recent HDR10+ has improved on this with dynamic metadata that changes according to each scene within the video stream. It is frame-by-frame accurate. MediaTek has even gone further in some of its latest TV using Artificial intelligence techniques to identify objects and apply optimized local settings to fine-tune picture quality further to best match while following the HDR standards (e.g. apply skin tone mapping to human faces)

The next-generation standard will be called HDR10+ Adaptive. Using ambient light sensors embedded into devices, this HDR technology adjusts the display according to the brightness of the surrounding environment: whether you’re at home in the evening enjoying the TV with the lights off, or outdoors at mid-day watching on your smartphone.

HDR Industry Discussion

A recent Web Seminar discussing the HDR10 Ecosystem was held by its industry steering panel and representatives from major display technologists and content services including Samsung, YouTube, Amazon Prime, SMPTE, HTSA, and MediaTek.

Alfred Chan, VP of Product Marketing at MediaTek’s TV Business Unit, noted how the company is central to the HDR ecosystem as the world’s leading TV-SoC supplier and one of the world’s largest smartphone SoC suppliers. MediaTek serves a vast number of consumers’ devices where users primarily watch TV, movies, and other streaming or broadcast entertainment. MediaTek is shipping TV-SoC across all segments, from 8K to HD worldwide. Since 2018, MediaTek Smart TV SoC has brought the most up-to-date HDR10 and HDR10+ capabilities to the OEMs. In addition to these open standards, there are other popular HDR formats supported such as Dolby Vision.

Chan noted that picture quality is more important to consumers the bigger TVs get, and for HDR that requires accurate frame-by-frame metadata, which is why the most recent standard, HDR10+ (and Dolby Vision), is so important. MediaTek works extensively with the biggest content streaming service providers, Smart TV designers, and the HDMI forum to accommodate their production guidelines with best practices so device makers using MediaTek TV-SoCs can provide their customers with the best experience regardless of where they buy or what they watch. Partners are not simply buying the chips we ship; the company receives the thousands of new TV models produced by partners annually and checks the picture quality, accuracy, and standards compliance to ensure best results.

In its latest high-end Smart TV-SoCs, MediaTek already supports up to 10,000 backlight zones and up to 3000-nits for flagship-class TVs. With heavy investment into in-chip AI engines, MediaTek can check the content scene by scene, HDR metadata recommendation, monitor ambient light sensor (external lighting), and apply the best contrast setting to the TV. All these calculations. The days when consumers have to manually use remote controls to change the display mode setting of the TV is soon to be history. In the future, with MediaTek AI technology know-how, the TV will continually evaluate, and automatically apply the best settings, giving users the best convenience.