Heading towards brightness regulations

Bruce Devlin TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online

I like IBC in the same way that I find NAB grating. Maybe I have been living in the UK for too long, but the bright morning Amsterdam sun breaking through clouds and reflecting off the canal while fit young things on bicycles pedal to college; snapchatting with their friends and avoiding collisions with practised ease has a certain charm. You just don't see that in the after-party morning-after haze of the Las Vegas Strip in the harsh desert sunlight.

I have photos of IBC going back nearly 3 decades that completely fail to capture the dynamic range of this Amsterdam scene. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the dynamic range of my eyes today is a few stops short of the (probably) 12 to 14 stops that they could achieve in the early 1990s. Camera technology has overtaken the ability of my eyes to see these scenes and looking around IBC there were visible improvements in the quality of High Dynamic Range (HDR) presentations compared to NAB.

And here in lies the quandary for the future. Assuming that we can support HDR in the whole broadcast and distribution chain (more of that later), how should we acquire imagery so that we both optimise the user experience and prevent a "brightness arms race" to win new viewers as this new story telling technology rolls out?

Looking at the various IBC screens showing HDR content, there were many more displays that seemed to show dark blacks, specular highlights, bright whites and good detail. Many of the clips were shot especially for the show with a great many being night shots where HDR seems to give a lot of "Bang for the buck" compared to Standard Dynamic Range (SDR).

And there's the rub for acquisition. If the brave new world is going to be HDR UHD (or maybe even HD) in the high value markets within the next 2 years, then what should you be shooting today if that's your target market? Not everyone has the technically skilled team to recreate Ang Lee's 120fps HDR masterpiece Billy Lynn's Half Time Walk (https://youtu.be/mUULFJ_I048) and maybe the HDR / HFR combination won't suit every genre. If HDR does become the mainstream technology that I think it will, then a Standard Dynamic Range title shot today will have a very "2016" look compared to its HDR cousins within a few short years.


Modern Cameras can shoot 13 to 16 stops of dynamic range and the RAW and HDR compression codecs used in edit software can keep most of this dynamic range through to the final transcode for distribution. At that stage I can see the need for Dynamic Range transcoding to up-convert SDR for HDR consumptions as well as to down-convert HDR for SDR consumption. Looking around IBC there were a number of algorithms on display that did a decent job of retaining the creative intent of the original material and if you had no access to that original then you probably wouldn't notice anything strange.

What we haven't seen yet is a body of converted material shown back to back (as in a broadcast or stream) with the option of switching channels to a parallel stream of parallel content. In the audio world we have still not quite mastered the challenge of consistent loudness within a channel and between channels despite 5-6 year of regulation and operational struggle to get it right. Will brightness be next on the list? If HDR is likely to use its higher brightness range to show specular white rather than average-white then will a station's SDR white level on a domestic screen be shown at a brightness of HDR peak-white or HDR average white? Who chooses and where in the chain do they choose?

I would love to have all the answers and if anyone out there really knows (and how the ITU regulations are likely to affect inter-station operational practise), then I'd love to have a chat. Until then I'm going to sit back and enjoy some radio.

Tags: iss118 | class | mr mxf | hdr | Bruce Devlin
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Interviews
  • Classic tubes reinvented by Kino Flo at IBC 2018

    Classic tubes reinvented by Kino Flo at IBC 2018

  • Winner of the LP54 Miller Classic

    Winner of the LP54 Miller Classic

  • FS-HDR from AJA at NAB 2018

    FS-HDR from AJA at NAB 2018

  • All you need to know about the Sony FS5 Raw and HDR Upgrade and more from NAB 2017

    All you need to know about the Sony FS5 Raw and HDR Upgrade and more from NAB 2017

  • HDR, 12G, 4k, IP - the range expands from Phabrix at NAB 2017

    HDR, 12G, 4k, IP - the range expands from Phabrix at NAB 2017

  • IP, 3G-SDI + HDR generation, analysis and monitoring from Phabrix NAB 2017

    IP, 3G-SDI + HDR generation, analysis and monitoring from Phabrix NAB 2017

  • Ikegami 8k camera at IBC 2016

    Ikegami 8k camera at IBC 2016

  • Ikegami HQLM-3120W monitor at IBC 2016

    Ikegami HQLM-3120W monitor at IBC 2016

  • Ikegami UHK-430 camera at IBC 2016

    Ikegami UHK-430 camera at IBC 2016

  • Tektronix at IBC 2016

    Tektronix at IBC 2016

  • BBright at NAB 2016

    BBright at NAB 2016

  • Elemental Technologies at IBC 2015

    Elemental Technologies at IBC 2015

  • Inmarsat at NAB 2014

    Inmarsat at NAB 2014

  • Inmarsat: Global Xpress and Explorer at NAB 2013

    Inmarsat: Global Xpress and Explorer at NAB 2013

An Epiphany Moment
Peter Savage 2 I had been negotiating the sale of my company and had reached the really hard end of the bargain. We were close to agreeing the final sum after a lot of too-much-give-and-not-enough-take negotiation. The solicitors were calling me, keen for a deal. It had come down to one sticking point and, in my hard ball “I am the Wolf of Wall Street” guise, I wasn’t going to let it go. It would make a value difference of 1.5% on the total outcome. Not much, you might think, but I had already nearly fallen out with the solicitors over their fees and I was giving my advisors an extremely hard time because the corporate adviser couldn’t see how I had already given more than an inch and the buyers were taking more than a mile. I was not going to let them win.
Tags: iss134 | azule | finance | Peter Savage 2
Contributing Author Peter Savage 2 Click to read or download PDF
An Obituary to Timecode
Bruce Devlin - new A stoic and persistent character that stubbornly refused to change with the times, Timecode has finally passed on, but no-one has noticed. A long-lasting industry veteran, Timecode was brought into this world at an uncertain date in the late 1960s due to the needs of analogue tape workflows and the demand for synchronisation between audio and video devices. A joint activity between SMPTE and the EBU led to the work on Time and Control codes starting its journey to standardisation in the early 1970s.
Tags: iss134 | timecode | smpte | ebu | edit | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read
The Wireless Way to 4k
JP Delport DTC’s AEON group of products have been specifically designed for the 4K market. We encode with the more efficient HEVC algorithm, which means we are taking a 12G signal and compressing it to a bitrate that can be managed over an RF link. So what makes this a leading idea in the 4K revolution?
Tags: iss134 | wireless | 4k | transmission | JP Delport
Contributing Author JP Delport Click to read or download PDF
GoPro HERO 7 Review
Tim Bearder When I heard I was filming a nature restoration project in the pouring rain this week I was excited. WHY? No Cameraman enjoys the rain, surely but this time I was enthusiastic because I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to try out the brand new GoPro Hero 7 Black Edition.
Tags: iss134 | gopro | hero 7 | review | liberal media | Tim Bearder
Contributing Author Tim Bearder Click to read or download PDF
Shedding Light on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k BMCPP4K
Garth de Bruno Austin “What is it about light that has us craving it?” Is the question asked in the opening seconds of Garth de Bruno Austin’s latest short, The Colour of Light. Exploring this natural, human need as well as our innate desire to control it, Garth’s film showcases everyday people going about their lives in differing degrees of luminance, whether that be an artificial streetlight or a natural morning sunrise.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | cinema camera | 4k | cpp4k | Garth de Bruno Austin
Contributing Author Garth de Bruno Austin Click to read or download PDF