How 'Better Pixels' Could Give Consumers More 'Bang for the Buck'

VFX supervisor and cinematographer Bill Talyor says high dynamic range imagery offers "explosive" possibilities at the HPA Tech Retreat.
Bill Taylor

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.--Veteran visual effects supervisor and cinematographer Bill Taylor said he sees “unlimited expressive potential” from high dynamic range imagery, Thursday at the HPA Technology Retreat the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells.

Taylor, a five-term governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and founding co-chair of its Science and Technology Council, joined a panel during which various speakers contended that 4K (four times the resolution of HD) alone is not enough to attract consumers. They asserted that the ideal is a combination of more pixels (resolution), faster pixels (higher frame rates) and “better” pixels—that is, pixels offered a higher dynamic range (HDR) with a greater color range, including brighter and darker colors.

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“We are having a raging debate about four times more pixels or eight times more pixels (8K), but it really is a combination of all three that we need to think about for next generation imaging,” said Dolby’s executive director of technology strategy Pat Griffis, who contended that of the three, consumers will be the “best bang for the buck” from “better pixels. He previously explained this concept in The Hollywood Reporter.

Panelist and tech vet Mark Schubin agreed, saying he has found that high dynamic range imagery “has far more impact that 4K.”

“It’s tremendously encouraging and exciting to see this technology,” said Taylor. “The possibility of this medium seems to be explosive.

"We can produce gamut and color on screen like never before," he said of the potential of HDR, explaining that currently “we have to test wardrobe, make-up ... to make sure we stay in the limits of the technology. [With HDR technology] we won't have to work quite so hard. It produces something more like reality."

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Asked Taylor: “Imagine what Lawrence of Arabia would have looked like with HDR?

This has been a big topic in Hollywood’s engineering community over the past few months, and in particular at CES, where Dolby announced its Dolby Vision format aimed at delivering “better pixels." Technicolor and Sony also revealed they they are working on HDR technology.

HPA Retreat attendees don’t appear to be sold on 4K alone. During a session, the audience of several hundred entertainment technology industry vets was asked by a show of hands who had a Ultra HD TV, and just a couple revealed that they had one. Asked who planned to buy an Ultra HD TV in the next year, fewer than five hands were raised.