Studios, Tech Companies Unite to Set Ultra-HD TV Standards

Samsung, Sony, Warner, Disney among founding members of Ultra-HD Alliance

Samsung Ultra HD TV

A group of companies from across the television industry have banded together to form the Ultra-HD Alliance, a coalition aiming to establish open standards for 4K and higher resolutions, high dynamic range, wider color gamut and immersive audio.

Samsung is leading the alliance, with fellow TV manufacturers LG, Panasonic, Sharp and Sony on board. Among the Hollywood major studios, Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. have signed on; Netflix and DirecTV are also members. Among behind-the-scenes tech providers, Technicolor and Dolby are also founding members. More companies are expected to sign on as the body’s work gets under way.

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Technicolor senior exec VP-head of strategy Vince Pizzica told Variety, “The founders (of the UHD Alliance) are trying to create the framework and foundation for a healthy competitive environment.”

Though it has taken months of phone calls and meetings to get even these diverse companies to announce their alliance, the org will meet and try to attain some tangible goals. It will hold its first meeting “in the coming months,” according to the announcement, to begin charting a technology road map for UHD. Also on its agenda will be the creation of a quality assurance brand or mark and some sort of independent certification for products.

“We all agree that UHD stands for something beyond HD. More pixels, more colors, more range, even higher frame rates when they get here,” said Pizzica. “But we want to quickly converge on a brand that will say to the consumer, this is a better experience. A mark that they get that there’s a certain quality they get when they buy that product.”

Conspicuous by its absence from today’s UHD Alliance announcement was any mention of 3D technology, but Pizzica said that was not a deliberate omission and high-end manufacturers will continue to build stereoscopic 3D into their sets.

Consumer electronics companies are betting heavily on UHD as the Next Big Thing that might inspire consumers to replace their TVs, since 3D failed to generate much consumer interest. However, the first generation of UHD TVs doesn’t entirely deliver on the promise of the UHD format. Meanwhile, in the absence of an industry-wide standard, some TV makers have adopted the Dolby Vision HDR format, while others have held off.

“We want to get people away from thinking about how many nits (of brightness) or even how many pixels,” said Pizzica, “and get them thinking about ‘what is the experience I’m going to have on that TV?'”

Dolby and Warners also announced today that three Warner homevideo titles — “Edge of Tomorrow,” “Into the Storm” and “The Lego Movie” — will be released with support for Dolby Vision, which expands the brightness and color range of a TV image.

HDR TV was demonstrated at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show and has generated more enthusiasm from entertainment industry creatives than the extra pixels of 4K UHD. The Ultra-HD Alliance is likely to forge standards for UHD TVs that incorporate some sort of HDR technology that goes beyond the original UHD specifications.