Why HLG may be the buzzword at CES 2017 and other predictions

Next week, the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will take place in Las Vegas – one of the two key events in the western world where CE manufacturers announce their hopefully exciting new products. What can we expect this time? To some degree it’s crystal ball gazing, but a few things are quite certain or at least likely.

HLG

Expect HLG, short for Hybrid Log Gamma, to be one of the buzzwords at CES2017. Press coverage so far suggests there are just two HDR video standards but there are several more and HLG might become the norm in an area of video where HDR had not yet been adopted – broadcast TV, especially live TV. That’s because HLG is highly compatible with existing production workflows, and the HDR signal is backwards compatible with SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) UHD TVs. HLG is not a brand new technology but it has some catching up to do with Dolby Vision and HDR10 in terms of awareness, with industry professionals as well as consumers. HLG was developed by Japan’s public broadcaster NHK and the BBC. Sony demonstrated HLG as early as November 2015, at InterBEE. At IFA 2016, the major TV makers including LG, Samsung, Panasonic and Philips all had HLG demos while at IBC this year, companies such as Harmonic, Elemental, Dolby and Eutelsat showed HLG demos. In the meantime, HLG has gained support in the new HDMI 2.0b standard and the Android TV 7.0 platform, and the first trials are underway: BBC has made a part of Planet Earth II available in UHD with HLG in the iPlayer on selected Ultra HD TVs, while TravelXP has announced it’s launching a channel in UHD with 10-bit video,WCG (Wide Color Gamut) and HLG.

HLG does not require dedicated silicon support; most HDR TVs are likely able to support it with a software upgrade. Expect just about every 2017 HDR TV to support HLG. For a deeper technical explanation of HLG you may read up here. For more evidence of HLG quietly entering the fray, see these tweets.

Dolby Vision

Since the launch of Ultra HD Blu-ray in February 2016, all discs as well as all players have supported HDR10 as the only HDR format – until December, when Oppo Digital launched its first player. For it to support Dolby Vision will actually require a software update but clearly the silicon to support it is here.

Wouldn’t this coincide nicely with the first Dolby Vision-enhanced Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to appear? These have not been announced yet but this may very well happen at CES 2017. If not at that show, then likely at NAB in April. It was at NAB 2016 that Scenarist and Sony DADC announced they’d add Dolby Vision support to their authoring tools.

Ultra HD Blu-ray

Oppo’s just-launched UDP-203 player will probably be on show at CES. What we’re likely to see from them that’s not available is the UDP-205 model, which adds audiophile qualities to a videophile product.

Sony will no doubt showcase their high-end UBP-X1000ES player, which debuted at CEDIA 2016. Expect Sony to announce one (or more) more affordable models as well.

Samsung didn’t want to wait until CES and announced their new player already late December.

The latest to join the party will be LG, who have so far been sitting on the fence. German publication 4Kfilme discovered a registration with the WiFi Alliance for an LG UP-970 player. The big question is: Will it support Dolby Vision? It may very well be the case, as LG is firmly in the Dolby Vision camp, and chipsets are now available (see above).

Displays

TVs are of course a much bigger item at CES. So what developments to expect besides HLG?

One thing’s for sure: The Nits Race is on. TV makers are falling over themselves to outdo one another in terms of peak brightness. Samsung has recently registered a trademark called ‘HDR 1500’. Sony already sells a TV with 1800 nits. It’s a race that likely will not stop until 4,000 nits are reached – the current state of the art of professional HDR displays – and may even go up to 10,000 nits – the maximum brightness specified in standards like Dolby Vision.

The number of brands offering OLED TVs will likely grow. For one, Sony is reported to introduce its first pair of OLED UHD TVs at CES. Meanwhile, LG looks set launch its ultra-thin ‘wallpaper’ OLED TV at CES.

Just a few more days, then we’ll know more for sure.

 

Yoeri Geutskens has worked in consumer electronics for more than 15 years. He writes about high-resolution audio and video. You can find his blog about UHD / 4K at @UHD4k and about Ultra HD Blu-ray at @UltraHDBluray.

 

 
© 2017 Yoeri Geutskens. All rights reserved.