New UltraHD Premium Standard Unifies the Entire 4K/UHD Industry

– Incorporates 4K, HDR, Wider Color Gamut & Immersive HD Audio
– Will Impact All Aspects of the TV Industry from Studios to Set Makers and Content Creators & Distributors
– Confirms that TV’s Future Is 4K & Beyond

The most far-reaching announcement at CES 2016 was held at a relatively late 7 PM session, by CES standards, on the night before CES officially started and in a small meeting room, by CES standards and in front of a small audience, by CES standards.

However, the announcement of a new industry standard for TVs will have a major impact on every maker of CE, broadband and home networking gear, on every content creator, like all the major studios, on content distributors from OTT services to pay TV companies and on every broadband service provider, wireline and wireless – in the world.

 

UHD Premium logo 1

The new logo

 

The UHD Alliance, whose members include the most important player in TVs, TV technology, content production and content distribution, announced that the members have agreed on a next generation standard that will specify the functions that TVs, and related products such as Blu-ray players, will be made and the format that studios will use in the content that is distributed to the home, whether by OTT, pay TV or physical media.

The new standard is called UltraHD Premium (UHDP) and at its core is 4K resolution with new technologies having been added to improve the viewing experience in the home. A special logo will be used on hardware and content to signify to consumers that they meet the new standard.

Executives of four major studios said at a panel discussion during the announcement that their companies will fully support the new UltraHD Premium standard by producing content that matches the UHDP standard – beginning immediately.

Two executives felt that the as yet unshipped 4K Blu-ray player will be the main way that UHDP content is delivered to the home. The other two said it would be OTT services such as Netflix, Amazon, M-GO and Vudu that would, initially at least, be the main distributors of UHDP content.

At the center of UHDP is the 4K resolution.

The new technologies contribute to 4K’s original promise: Not just more pixels but better pixels.

UltraHD Premium includes:
1. 4K resolution, the same 4K that has been in TVs for several years. There is no change to 4K. In fact the new technology standards add significantly to 4K, which clinches the deal for 4K, making it the only resolution for TVs that are 40-inches and larger. Presumably 8K, if and when it is completed, would be inserted into the new UHDP standard.
2. HDR (high dynamic range), which some say contributes more to the viewing experience than 4K resolution does by improving the contrast.
3. A wider color gamut, which enriches the picture.
4. Immersive audio (sometimes called 3D audio because it sounds like it is coming from all directions). It brings the theater’s audio experience into the home – plus some new audio functions such as viewers deciding whether or not to listen to the announcer at a sporting event or whether to hear the home team or the visitor’s side of the stadium.

The UHD Alliance said the coalition of companies backing it have “united to set the bar for next generation video entertainment by establishing new standards to support innovation in video technologies including 4K and higher resolutions, high dynamic range, wider color gamut and immersive 3D audio.”

 

The Announcement

Making the announcement at CES was Hanno Basse, the president and board chair of the UHD Alliance, whose main job is at 20th Century Fox Film as its CTO where he oversees technology strategy and engineering, including home entertainment, theatrical distribution and post-production.

Basse said that in the last year or so the Alliance participants had accomplished a lot. The Alliance had been founded, he said, because UHD has such a great future with estimates of 300 million UHD TVs being in use by the end or 2019. Alliance members, he said, are very bullish about UHD – both the technology and the content.

The panel that was assembled for the announcement represented only the content industry but CE makers, content distributors, post-production and technology companies also belong to and energetically support the Alliance.

He said the goal of the Alliance was to produce a single standard that includes 4K (and presumably eventually 8K and beyond), HDR and other parameters. Members wanted to create a unified vision that defined a full-featured UHD that goes beyond resolution and also includes brightness, contrast, color and audio.

The goal is to produce a “premium consumer experience” that can be identified by consumers with a single logo, one that signifies performance compliance – both the hardware and the content. Its name, he announced, is UltraHD Premium. Licensing, certification and compliance will be done by the UHD Alliance at multiple test centers.

The Alliance said its goal is to “ensure that all of the links in the chain – from the production, distribution and consumption of content to the playback capability of devices – meet the identified premium quality standards, whilst embracing standards that are open and allow flexibility in the market yet give consumers confidence that they can watch the content they want on their devices.”

After revealing the actual logo, Basse said that more than a dozen TVs have already been certified and the logo will also be used by content creators (the studios) and content distributors (OTT, pay TV, Blu-ray players).

To submit TVs for certification, equipment makers can send products to a testing facility. If they meet or exceed the criteria, it receives UHD Premium certification. The manufacturer can put the UHD Premium logo on the product, packaging and brochures and in ads.

Samsung said at CES that its entire 2016 SUHD line-up is certified as being UHD Premium.

The Specifications
To be certified, a TV must meet or exceed these standards:
– Image resolution: 3840 x 2160
– Color Bit Depth: 10-bit signal
– Color Palette (Wide Color Gamut)
– Signal Input: BT.2020 color representation
– Display Reproduction: More than 90% of P3 colors
– High Dynamic Range: SMPTE ST2084 EOTF
– A combination of peak brightness and black level either:
– More than 1000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level
OR
– More than 540 nits peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level

 

The UltraHD Premium Panel Session

Jim Bottoms, executive director of MESA Europe, moderated the panel, which included:
– Michael Bonner, executive VP of digital distribution for Universal Studios Home Entertainment, which is owned by NBC Universal, which is owned by Comcast.
– Man Jit Singh, president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
– Mike Dunn, worldwide president of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
– Ron Sanders, the president of worldwide home entertainment distribution for Warner Bros

Bottoms started by saying, “Today we stand at the threshold of yet another revolution in unfolding or releasing the ‘ultimate’ in entertainment experience” and that the new standard was “a tremendous achievement in a short space of time.”

The first question Bottoms asked the panel was, “Why is UHD important to the content community?” Sanders answered that it is because of its revolutionary consumer experience and the size of the market – 360 million UHD TVs in use by 2019.

Bottoms asked, “Bigger than 3D?” Sanders answered, “Bigger.” He said UHD TVs will be used throughout the house and that set makers will only produce UHD TVs. Sanders also predicted that the size of TVs will increase and that they will sound better.

Singh said it’s like the transition from SD to HD in that “you can never go back.” 3D was limited by the glasses, he said and Bonner seconded that by saying UHD has a broader appeal than 3D had.

Sanders said, “It’s an impactful change when viewers see it. When you see ‘Mad Max’ with the fire with the bright television, the nits really coming at you, it’s almost a 3D experience without the glasses. It’s much better than what we’ve had before.”

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NOTE:
Our understanding of the definitions
4K, 8K and such are display resolutions as defined by the number of pixels they have. They measure the number of pixels the display shows, not the quality of the pixels
UHD is a general purpose term for 4K, 8K and the like
UHD Premium includes 4K resolution plus other technologies, as approved by members of the UHD Alliance, that improve 4K’s viewing experience such as HDR, improved contrast, a wider color gamut and immersive audio
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To see UHD Premium in its full glory, three things are necessary:
1. The TV set must be…

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