When It Comes to TVs, Forget 4K … It’s the Brightness, Stupid

High dynamic range TV could give smaller TV makers a leg up

Pat Griffis has long been a voice in the technology wilderness.

Imaging experts like Griffis have thirsted for “more, faster and better pixels.” While the consumer electronics industry has been obsessed with more (HD! 4K HD! Retina Display!) and broadcasters and filmmakers have taken tentative steps toward faster (“The Hobbit” at 48fps! TV sports at 60fps!), Griffis has led lobbying for making pixels better, which means brighter pictures showing a wider range of colors.

Dolby, where Griffis holds the title executive director of technology strategy, office of the CEO, has lined up behind his crusade. At the Consumer Electronics Show last week, the company unveiled its Dolby Vision technology for high dynamic range TV. Three companies also unveiled Dolby Vision UHD TVs: Sharp, TCL and Vizio. Vizio aims to bring its Dolby Vision TVs, dubbed the Reference Series, to market in the second half of 2014.

High dynamic range TV is a leap forward in picture quality that anyone can spot from across the room, offering startlingly brighter brights, darker darks and more, richer colors. (Dolby prefers the term “enhanced dynamic reproduction,” arguing the term HDR is overused and refers to latitude of brightness alone, not color gamut.)

The Sharp and TCL prototypes are more eye-grabbing than today’s market-ready UHD TVs, and the Vizio Reference Series TVs have the best picture I’ve ever seen on any TV, by any maker. They could leapfrog Vizio from the second tier of TV makers to rival the leaders.

And that may be exactly the point, Griffis says.

“Everyone’s doing more (pixels),” he says. “If you’re trying go get competitive differentiation, ‘better’ is one way to get there. I think many people see what we’re showing here as being disruptive, and bringing for the first time really perceptible differences in performance.”

The Big Four consumer electronics makers, Sony, Samsung, Panasonic and LG, have plunged ahead with 4K TV, which is an upgrade from today’s HDTV, but the extra sharpness is invisible unless the television screen is very large — or unless viewers sit very close to the screen.

The Big Four haven’t ignored color and brightness. Sony in particular is promoting its Triluminos enhanced color, and was showing its XDR (extended dynamic range) TVs at CES. They’re aware of what Griffis has long argued: Light sells. But they are talking a lot about 4K, which means more pixels.

“(4K TV) takes a lot of engineering investment, and indeed there are some improvements there,” Griffis says. The Big Four have also invested in organic LED (OLED) TVs, which deliver gorgeous color but can’t deliver the brightness to display Dolby Vision. Griffis thinks quantum dot (QD-LED) screens, recently introduced on one Amazon Kindle tablet, should be bright and energy-efficient enough.

Vizio, Sharp and TCL aren’t waiting, though. They’re building Dolby Vision LED TVs now.

“Vizio believes the high dynamic range technology has a bigger impact on picture quality than a straight increase in resolution,” says Vizio chief technology officer Matt McRae.

“Response to the Reference Series was absolutely outstanding when people saw the picture-quality performance that was achieved and the cinematic quality of the 120-inch version,” explains McRae. “Content creators were shocked that this level of contrast, color and clarity was possible today, and did not expect to see televisions of this magnitude for three to five years. Retailers are excited to see a technology that can easily be seen in a retail setting, and felt the improvements would sell themselves.”
It all represents vindication of Griffis’ crusade for better, not just more and faster. “Everyone who sees what we’re showing here is going, ‘Wow, when can I get it?’ ” Griffis says, recounting how one d.p. blinked, dropped his jaw and said “Oh my God” on seeing HDR TV.

He notes the combination of UHD and EDR/XDR/HDR, or whatever the industry finally calls it, “may well be the combination that creates the real punch it takes to get consumers to part with their dollars.”

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • fundo logo

    Google‘s Area 120 Is Testing Fundo, a Crowdfunding Service for Creators (EXCLUSIVE)

    Google’s skunkworks lab Area 120 has been quietly testing an events-centric crowdfunding service for YouTubers, Variety has learned. Called Fundo, the service allows creators to invite their fans to virtual meet & greet sessions and other paid online events. A Google spokesperson confirmed the testing in a statement provided to Variety: “One of the many [...]

  • Telling Lies - Logan Marshall-Green

    Sam Barlow's 'Telling Lies' Government-Surveillance Thriller Game Sets Release Date

    After more than two years in the works, “Telling Lies” — the investigative thriller from acclaimed game creator Sam Barlow — is ready to take the stage. The game, produced with and released by Annapurna Interactive, will be available next Friday, Aug. 23, via Steam and Apple’s Mac and iOS app stores. “Telling Lies” will [...]

  • YouTube logo

    YouTube Will Stop Letting Copyright Holders Seize Revenue via Manual Claims on Very Short Music Clips

    YouTube is pushing back against overzealous copyright policing by music companies. Starting in mid-September, the video giant will forbid copyright holders from making manual claims to commandeer revenue generated by YouTube videos that include very short music clips (e.g., five seconds of a song) or “unintentional” music (like music from passing cars). “One concerning trend [...]

  • Chelsea Handler memoir book buy online

    Chelsea Handler Bonds With Alexa in iHeartRadio Smart Speaker Promo

    iHeartRadio has teamed up with Amazon to promote Chelsea Handler’s podcast “Life Will Be The Death Of Me.” Beginning this Thursday, users of Amazon’s Echo smart speaker and other devices with Alexa built-in can opt to get their mornings started with Handler cracking jokes and exchanging banter with the smart assistant. Users simply have to [...]

  • David Messinger, Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Hires CAA Veteran David Messinger as CMO

    Activision Blizzard tapped David Messinger, a former 15-plus-year veteran of CAA, as its first corporate-wide chief marketing officer. Messinger, based in Santa Monica, reports to Coddy Johnson, Activision Blizzard’s president and COO. It’s the first time the video-game company has appointed a CMO who will oversee the global marketing operations across all of Activision Blizzard [...]

  • Ashley Flowers - Crime Junkie

    'Crime Junkie' Podcast Host Ashley Flowers Responds to Plagiarism Allegations

    Ashley Flowers, creator and host of “Crime Junkie” — currently the No. 1 true-crime podcast — has been accused of using material in her show from multiple sources without credit. In a statement sent to Variety, Flowers said in part, “we recently made the decision to pull down several episodes from our main feed when their [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content