What is HDR10+?

Open source and licence-free dynamic metadata

by Steve Withers Jan 2, 2018 at 8:35 AM

  • You've probably heard of HDR10, it's the mandatory version of High Dynamic Range and is used on all HDR streaming services, downloads and Ultra HD Blu-rays.
    As a result, HDR10 is used by all the content providers and manufacturers that support high dynamic range. However despite being mandatory, HDR10 does have its limitations because it uses static metadata. This means that HDR10 content has a single set of information (metadata) that relates to the entire film, specifically the black level and the peak brightness that define the gamma curve. These two numbers apply to the entire film but, the actual brightness changes from scene to scene, which can result in a sub-optimal HDR experience. This is especially true of less capable TVs, where they have to translate (tone map) this metadata using a lower peak brightness and smaller colour gamut when compared to how the content was actually graded. The solution to this problem is to use what's called Dynamic Metadata.

    What is HDR10+?

    HDR10+ is an open source and royalty-free dynamic metadata platform that has been jointly developed by Samsung, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox. HDR10+ allows content creators to produce HDR content with the full benefits of dynamic metadata, thus enabling TVs to adjust the tone mapping gamma curve on a scene-by-scene basis – unlike HDR10 which uses static metadata and thus can only apply one gamma curve for the entire film. Dynamically changing the tone mapping curve on a scene-by-scene basis optimises the appearance of the film for the capabilities of the TV, thus delivering a superior HDR viewing experience. Samsung originally announced HDR10+ in conjunction with Amazon but that was based on SMPTE 2094-40, which is an industry standard for dynamic metadata. This new version of HDR10+ is also based on SMPTE 2094-40 but includes enhancements and greater flexibility which is designed to make the technology more appealing to studios and manufacturers.

    How does Dynamic Metadata work?

    HDR10+ uses dynamic metadata for the black level and peak brightness, which allows the technology to apply a different tone mapping curve from scene to scene. In HDR10 material, static metadata and tone mapping applies the same contrast, gradation, brightness and colour enhancement across an entire piece of content. However with HDR10+, the use of dynamic metadata with tone mapping means that every scene can be individually colour optimised for a particular TV, thus ensuring a better HDR experience that better matches the content creators' original intentions.

    Who is supporting HDR10+

    At the moment the main supporters of HDR10+ are Samsung, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox, who have formed a partnership to develop and promote HDR10+ through a certification and logo programme. The three companies have created a licensing entity to standardise and formalise the licensing process and thus attract new partners such as content providers and consumer electronics companies. In addition to Samsung and Panasonic, Philips, Hisense and TCL have also publicly declared their intention to use HDR10+. As far as content providers are concerned, the only studio currently supporting HDR10+ is 20th Century Fox but others are expected to adopt the technology next year. Amazon has already begun using HDR10+ on its video streaming service but, as yet, no other service providers have come on board.

    Is HDR10+ part of the specifications for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc?

    No, HDR10+ is not currently part of the specifications for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray but Samsung have proposed to the Blu-ray Disc Association (BDA) that it be added. There is no technical reason why HDR10+ can't be added to the Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications and discs would be easy to produce because the process would be very similar to the current process that already uses HDR10, requiring the addition of one extra tool to add the dynamic metadata. Although it is relatively simple to add HDR10+ to the Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications, it will require the agreement of all the BDA members, which may take a while. The only studio that has currently announced its intention to release Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with HDR10+ is 20th Century Fox, although they obviously won't be able to do this until the technology has actually been added to the specifications.

    What is Dolby Vision?

    Dolby Vision is another version of HDR with dynamic metadata, it is based on the SMPTE 2094-10 industry standard and, in most respects, it is very similar to HDR10+. The main difference is that Dolby Vision is a technology that is proprietary to Dolby and thus uses a closed-source architecture with licensing fees. Dolby Vision uses an HDR10 base layer and adds an additional layer of dynamic metadata, just like HDR10+, but it also uses 12-bit video depth as opposed to the 10-bit video used with HDR10+, and can be delivered over HDMI 1.4 and above.

    Dolby Vision is included as part of the specifications for Ultra HD Blu-ray and studios such as Sony, Universal, Paramount and Lionsgate have already released 4K discs in Dolby Vision, with Warners planning to start soon. Dolby Vision is also available via Apple's iTunes and is used by video streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon and Vudu. All the major studios, with the exception of 20th Century Fox, offer Dolby Vision over video download and streaming services.

    Dolby Vision also has good manufacturer support with LG, Sony, Toshiba, Loewe, B&O, Vizio and Funai all offering TVs that support the format and LG, Funai, Cambridge Audio and Oppo also making Ultra HD Blu-ray players with support for Dolby Vision. Many of the AV Receiver manufacturers now support Dolby Vision for HDMI passthrough and most recently Apple announced that their new 4K Apple TV will support Dolby Vision, which will undoubtedly greatly increase the format's awareness with the public.

    What are the differences between HDR10+ and Dolby Vision?

    As already mentioned, both technologies are based on the same HDR PQ curve with the addition of dynamic metadata but how this is achieved is different. Dolby's technology is a closed-source platform, which means that all TVs have to be tuned and certified centrally by Dolby. Some TV manufacturers are reticent to hand over so much control to Dolby and feel that it stifles innovation. The open-source nature of HDR10+ means that manufacturers are free to develop the technology themselves, bringing their own expertise to the implementation of dynamic metadata. However others like the Dolby approach which, in the absence of any agreed industry standardisation, at least brings some consistency to the grading, distribution and display of HDR content with dynamic metadata.

    The other big difference between HDR10+ and Dolby Vision is that the former is royalty-free, whilst the latter involves the payment of licensing fees to Dolby. Dolby Vision does use 12-bit video depth compared to the 10-bit video used on HDR10+ but it's worth pointing out that there are no 12-bit displays currently available and they aren't expected for a few years yet. Dolby Vision can be delivered over HDMI 1.4 or higher but HDR10+ might require HDMI 2.1, although this has yet to be confirmed. Dolby Vision has the advantage of being included in the specifications for Ultra HD Blu-ray and in fact there are both Dolby Vision players and discs already available. HDR10+ will need to be added to the Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications before any players or discs and even be released.

    Dolby Vision has greater support when it comes to video streaming with Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and iTunes all supporting the technology whilst only Amazon currently plans to support HDR10+. The same is true when it comes to studio support, with Sony, Warners, Disney, Universal, Paramount and Lionsgate all offering Dolby Vision content and only 20th Century Fox currently planning to support HDR10+. As far as TV manufacturers are concerned the split is about 50/50 but the announcement that the new 4K Apple TV will support Dolby Vision is certainly a coup for the technology.

    How can I get HDR10+?

    Samsung have already announced that they will include HDR10+ on their 2018 models and that many of their 2017 models and some of their 2016 models will add support via a firmware update. Panasonic will include the technology on all their 2018 TVs and add it to their 2017 models from the EX750 and above via a firmware update. Philips, Hisense and TCL also plan to add HDR10+ to their 2018 models and possibly some of their 2017 models as well. Since HDR10+ has yet to be added to the Ultra HD Blu-ray specifications, it's impossible to know whether existing players will be able to support HDR10+ but we can certainly expect Samsung and Panasonic to add the technology their 2018 players once the specifications have been updated. As for 20th Century Fox, although they plan to release Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with HDR10+ just as soon as is practical that might change now that they have been bought by Disney. In the meantime the only known source of actual HDR10+ content will be Amazon, who have added the technology to their streaming service.

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