The interest in HDR units is due to their ability to improve quality and enable content creators to migrate toward 4K incrementally over time. “We foresee significant growth in HDR products within the next two years, driven by consumer demand for HDR TV sets,” says FujiFilm's Thomas Fletcher. Above, a Ross ACID HDR camera. Click here to access TVNewsCheck’s NAB 2018 Resource Guide listing of camera vendors and products or here to download it as a PDF.
HDR To Be Focus Of Cameras At NAB Show
Cameras at this year’s NAB Show will prominently feature 4K resolution, but gear with high dynamic range (HDR) may be in sharper focus. That’s due to uncertainty about the speed at which broadcasters will roll out the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard needed to support 4K, and an increasingly common belief that 1080p HD plus HDR may be sufficient for the foreseeable future.
“No question, during the past year there’s been just a tremendous amount of head-scratching in the broadcast community,” says Larry Thorpe, Canon senior fellow. “The ATSC has completed the new transmission standards and it’s been approved by the FCC, so in theory, they could start now, but there’s quite a bit of hesitancy.”
The interest in HDR will be apparent in new camera products on display at the NAB Show that improve quality and enable content creators to migrate toward 4K incrementally over time.
“These new product options take advantage of higher dynamic range, coupled with the ability to slowly upgrade via software,” says Gina Thompson, product specialist for cameras and robotics at Ross Video. “Both of these trends will continue to dominate our market for the foreseeable future.”
The rapid adoption of HDR will be discussed at length at NAB, according Thomas Fletcher, director of sales for FujiFilm’s Optical Devices Division. “We foresee significant growth in HDR products within the next two years, driven by consumer demand for HDR TV sets,” he says.
FujiFilm has been rolling out 4K compatible lenses that also make it possible to shoot in HDR, an imaging technique designed to preserve details in highlights and shadows. It allows for reproduction of rich tones, even when shooting at dusk or intense contrast scenes.
“With an HDR image, the increased range shows up as shadows and contrast that make programs like live sports and reality TV really pop,” Fletcher adds. “It’s a similar shift to when HD finally overtook SD because the average consumer could see a big difference in a way that mattered to them.”
Canon’s Thorpe says that in a session at the recent HPA Tech Retreat in Palm Desert, Calif., panelists discussed at length the idea of 1080p with HDR as an attractive option for those who are not ready to take the plunge into UHD.
“Customers are going to see [HDR] across the living room immediately, so maybe that’s a very sensible interim step,” Thorpe says.
When it comes to demos and requests for information, Klaus Weber, principal camera solutions and technology for Grass Valley, says HDR has stood out among other 4K and UHD options such as high frame rate or 4:4:4 chroma.
“I think it’s fair to say HDR is by far the most asked-for topic,” Weber says. “More and more of our customers have asked us to support them in doing HDR tests, so we have spent quite a substantial amount of time in the last couple of months on that.”
In the U.S. market, 1080p in combination with HDR is “clearly the most preferred format,” while in Europe, a segment of the market is looking at 4K plus HDR, driven mainly by pay TV platforms including Sky and Canal Plus, Weber says.
“What is also really clear up to now is that nobody has really started to use [HDR] on a daily basis for their regular live programs,” Weber adds, “so we are still in a phase where people need to find their way in this next generation of formats.”
Hitachi Kokusai, one of the first camera manufacturers to support HDR in its camera line, will be rolling out new functionality in its SK-UHD4000 camera system this year enhances and simplifies parallel HDR and SDR production, according to John Humphrey, VP of business development.
“HDR continues to garner interest for dramatically extending the range from very dark to highlights while adding detail in the dark and bright regions of the picture, but customers still need to produce SDR for legacy displays,” Humphrey says.
While few are prepared to shoot in 4K HDR now, 4K capable camera equipment will be prominent on the show floor.
“There’s considerable customer interest in 4K, although I would say a high percentage of that is for future-proof protection as opposed to immediate use,” says Alan Keil, VP and director of engineering at Ikegami.
Vendors and their customers are still sorting through the HDR formats. “We’re thinking that the HLG [hybrid log gamma] curve has the most traction at this point, although there are customers considering different dynamic ranges,” Keil says.
However, manufacturers say they are prepared to support whatever format wins, so to speak.
“There’s still sort of a format war in terms of what delivery system is used in the displays,” says Bob Caniglia, director of sales operations, North America for Blackmagic Design, which will be showing its URSA Broadcast and URSA Mini Pro cameras at NAB.
For mastering of HDR content, Blackmagic’s DaVinci Resolve software supports HDR and wide color space formats including HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision, and others. “We run the gamut,” Caniglia says.
While HDR appears to be set for quick adoption, how quickly other next-generation standards take hold may depend on a critical mass of individual actors taking the plunge.
“I see similarities back to when the HD standard was worked out in the 1990s,” says Canon’s Thorpe. ”For a couple of years, it just sat, and everybody was staying with standard definition. Then around 2003, ESPN said, ‘Hey, guess what? We’re going to do sports in 720p,’ and it was like a trigger. I suspect somebody will move, either on the cable side or broadcast side.”
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