Bang for the Bit - Benefits of HDR

The Ultra HD Service Tracker list business to consumer (B2C) and business to business (B2B) TV services around the world that offer Ultra HD video content.  Now, Ultra HD covers a few different spatial formats.  The most well-known in main-stream parlance is 4K resolution, but 8K resolution is also under the ‘Ultra HD’ banner, as is 1080p video with high dynamic range (HDR).   This could be confusing to some because 1080p without HDR is also considered a high definition (HD) format, as is 720p.   In fact, some people have proposed to call 1080p with HDR ‘Enhanced HD’. 

Whatever name you put on it, 1080p + HDR video, especially when delivered at a frame rate of at 50 or 60 progressive frames per second, is a major improvement over traditional HDTV.  Many proponents argue rightfully that HDR is more important than 4K resolution, that it provides more bang for the bit. What’s certain is that HDR can be appreciated by viewers at just about any viewing distance and screen size, as opposed to 4K where these dimensions do matter.

And this is just on the consumer side. For broadcasters, HDR should also be of more interest than 4K for a couple of reasons.

  1. Switching from SDR to HDR requires far less bandwidth than upgrading from 720 or 1080 to 4K. To deliver the extra spatial resolution requires an approximate 300% increase in bandwidth, whereas adding HDR takes between 0% and 25% extra capacity, depending on the implantation chosen. For broadcasters, especially ones using scarce terrestrial spectrum, that makes a major difference. 
  1. For broadcasters to upgrade their production workflow from 1080 to 4K involves major investments in all sorts of infrastructure, while upgrading to HDR can be done with much more modest investments, if chosen wisely.

It’s remarkable then, that among more than 250 Ultra HD services currently in our service tracker that we find only a single service transmitting in 1080p + HDR today – an ATSC 3.0 ‘NextGen TV’ over-the-air commercial television service in Las Vegas from network affiliates owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Nexstar Media Group and The E.W. Scripps Company, launched in 2020.  Surely there will be more to follow, especially in the United States as stations there are having to share channels as part of their transition to NextGen TV.   Broadcasters will be seeking ways to get the most bang from every bit, and HDR is arguably it.   

If you’re a broadcaster interested in setting up an Ultra HD service, get in touch with the Ultra HD Forum to find out what’s possible and what’s practical.

Ultra HD Forum

Ultra HD Forum
5177 Brandin Court
Fremont, CA 94538

Tel. +1-510-492-4050

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