Dolby Is Optimistic About HDR Growth as Fox Sports Preps for HDR Super Bowl Coverage

Dolby Is Optimistic About HDR Growth as Fox Sports Preps for HDR Super Bowl Coverage

Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos help improve next-gen productions for high-profile events

One of the companies at the center of the HDR revolution is Dolby Laboratories: both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos are designed to deliver improved next-generation experiences to consumers. And, with Fox delivering NFL Playoff games and Super Bowl LVII in HDR, such high-exposure events are making a difference.

“HDR is really taking off,” says Carlos Watanabe, director, pay TV and streaming, Dolby. “Fox also delivered all the FIFA World Cup games and selected college basketball, college football, and MLB games in HDR. Hopefully, that will stimulate other broadcasters and a lot of producers to deliver more content in HDR. We know that is happening, because we have been talking to some of them and they are all studying it and getting their workflow ready.”

Dolby Vision encoding is designed to expand the HDR viewing experience with more-dynamic images.

HDR discussions can typically devolve into an alphabet soup of production and distribution formats. Dolby Vision sits in the latter camp, adding metadata on top of the HDR signal to maximize picture quality.

“Dolby Vision is agnostic to the production format and resolution,” Watanabe explains. “We insert the frame-by-frame metadata that describes the video on the transmission encoder. Comcast, say, would receive an HDR source and convert it into PQ HDR10 with the Dolby Vision metadata. That is what goes out to the consumer. It’s just another step to the encoder; they don’t have to add another external box.”

He notes that the process is fairly straightforward: “The Dolby Vision Live Distribution Processing analyzes every frame and generates metadata describing that particular frame. When the signal reaches a Dolby Vision–enabled display, it will use the image metadata to map the signal to the capability of that particular display, optimizing the experience for the consumer. With static metadata, you just send specific mapping information for a generic display type. With dynamic metadata (i.e., Dolby Vision), the display dynamically creates its own customized mappings. It doesn’t matter if the panel costs $400 or $2,000; Dolby Vision will deliver a consistent and best image for that particular display.”

Looking ahead to the rest of 2023, Watanabe is optimistic that, by the time the next NFL regular season starts, there will be at least two broadcasters delivering HDR.

One big question regarding HDR is its delivery via over-the-air TV stations. According to the FCC, ATSC 3.0 is available in 68 markets and reaches half of all homes. There is still work to be done in terms of ATSC 3.0 deployment, but its ability to deliver 4K and HDR content along with immersive audio over-the-air is something to keep an eye out for in the coming year.

Just as important as the content is the availability of HDR in lower-cost 4K sets. “It’s coming down to mainstream TVs,” says Watanabe. “One can find Dolby Vision TVs for as low as $299, and there are plenty of choices in the $400-$700 range. Consumers need to be educated about it.”

Efforts like the NFL Playoffs in HDR are the kind of content expansion necessary to give the education process a reason to begin in earnest. “We’re bullish on HDR,” he says. “We’re very confident that we’re going to be seeing much more content in Dolby Vision, in both live sports and VOD.”

And then there is the continuing revolution around spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. With plenty of TVs, sound bars, and mobile devices capable of delivering an experience beyond 5.1, the improved images are being matched with an improved sonic landscape.

“Beyond the traditional living-room devices,” notes Watanabe, “the Apple iPhone and Samsung smartphones have Dolby Atmos, and it is great they are promoting spatial-audio music services.”