Commercial requirements for the next phase of ultra-high-definition (UHD) television have been approved by the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) Steering Board, opening the doors for high dynamic range and other new capabilities to be introduced from 2017. In what it termed as a major milestone for television, an agreement on the requirements for a UHD-1 Phase-II delivery format – an update to the DVB UHD-1 Phase-I system it developed in 2014 – has been reached.
HDR and HFR Picture Quality
To enhance video quality for broadcast TV services, DVB has included HDR, hybrid log gamma (HLG), and perceptual quantizer (PQ) to the new standard. The PQ base is the same as is being used for streaming and UHD Blu-ray. HLG is a new format developed by the broadcast industry, designed to take into account legacy TVs. HLG enables broadcasters to package an HDR version and an SDR version of the video into the same signal. HDR TVs will automatically detect the added picture information while SDR TVs will disregard it.
Furthermore, HFR, which offers sharper images of moving objects beyond the current 50/60 Hz, has also been added into the equation. The industry sees HFR as the next major improvement in picture quality. The first HFR-capable TVs are expected to launch in 2017.
The new DVB tuner standard will also include support for improved audio. The DVB group refers to it as NGA, short for next-generation audio. It is an industry term for a group of new audio formats, including scene- and object-based formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. NGA would enhance the UHD-1 experience. This may come from giving the viewer more clues to the point of origin of a sound in the sound stage. This will become more valuable with larger screen sizes. The NGA systems would allow the viewer to personalize the sound experience, and to use additional sound services. The current target is for the NGA specification to be available at the same time as the specification for UHD-1 Phase-II.
Technical specifications are to be included that would allow, when needed by the service operator; users already using Phase-I will make use of Phase-II services (backwards compatibility).
Now up to the Broadcasters
The task now remains for the DVB technical module to translate the commercial requirements into a technical specification, which once completed will be submitted to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) for standardization.
It is expected that the specification will be finalized in 2016. This could mean that the first DVB UHD-1 Phase-II services that include the HDR feature would be available from 2017 onwards. After that, it is up to TV broadcasters to adopt the new technologies. No broadcaster has outlined formal plans to support HDR or HFR. Some broadcasters have launched their first UHD channel in 2015 or 2016. Instead, streaming providers such as Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube have taken the innovation lead. 4K UHD was introduced a few years ago and HDR was added earlier this year. Broadcasters are hoping to catch up and the new DVB standard is the first important step to realize those plans.
The DVB group expects broadcasters to adopt the HDR layer first. This will enable DVB services offering UHDTV with HDR. This would be the first element of UHD-1 Phase-II features to be implemented and could be available from the next year, allowing broadcasters to leap forward.