Marking the biggest commitment yet to high dynamic range (HDR) content, 20th Century Fox has decided to make versions of all of its new movies in Ultra HD (UHD) with HDR for home entertainment, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. It also intends to make HDR UHD versions of its recent releases, including X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Maze Runner.
High dynamic range — meaning a wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks in an image — is viewed by many Hollywood tech leaders as the key feature that will create a more noticeable picture advancement for viewers, certainly compared with Ultra HD (4K resolution, or four times the resolution of HD) alone. But while many tech industry leaders are in agreement on taking an HDR path, the challenge is how to implement it while sidestepping a potential format war.
To do this, the recently formed studio and manufacturer coalition UHD Alliance is aiming to work swiftly to create an agreed-upon, consistent and inter-operable HDR quality specification for home entertainment. (Standards bodies such as the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers are also doing HDR standards work.)
Speaking last month at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Show, UHD Alliance president Hanno Basse — who is chief technology officer at Fox — asserted: “We want to have a first version [of a quality spec] later this year to coincide with the Blu-Ray Disc Association (which is introducing Ultra HD Blu-Ray with HDR support).”
Fox intends to follow these guidelines once they are completed, and for the time being the studio is creating masters in UHD with HDR, using a non-proprietary HDR spec that’s based on the Alliance’s current direction.
The Blu-Ray Disc Association recently completed its UHD Blu-ray spec with HDR support. The first products to support the UHD Blu-Ray format are expected to begin to roll out later this year.
Some consumer electronics manufacturers have already started to introduce HDR capabilities. Notably, Samsung has released HDR-supported UHDTVs, dubbed SUHDTV, which supports content for a non-proprietary HDR spec. Fox previously said it intended to release content for these displays. (UHD with HDR clips created for Life of Pi and Exodus: Gods and Kings were provided to Samsung by Fox to use as demonstration material when the set maker launched its SUHDTVs at CES in January.)
Dolby has developed a Dolby Vision HDR format, and Vizio is expected to be the first set maker to release Dolby Vision-supported TVs. Fox has not made announcements with regard to this format.
Hollywood is also eyeing HDR for cinema. Dolby Vision is also starting to roll out (Disney’s Tomorrowland will be the first film to be released in the format at a handful of Dolby Vision-equipped theaters), and Imax’s recently launched laser projection system provides HDR support.