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Cobalt and Technicolor unite to simplify delivery of HDR experiences from SDR content


Late in 2017, Cobalt Digital became the first US manufacturer selected to license Technicolor’s high dynamic range (HDR) Intelligent Tone Management (ITM) technology for the broadcast television environment. With this technology, Technicolor is providing world-class HDR viewing experiences to consumers.

Making the Technicolor HDR ITM feature available within its flagship 9904-UDX-4K up/down/cross-converter and image processor for the openGear platform, its BBG-1000 standalone units, and certain versions of the company’s 9902-UDX cards (already installed in many locations worldwide), Cobalt gives its customers the ability to re-monetise HD and 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) standard dynamic range (SDR) content for HDR distribution using existing hardware.

Implementing Cobalt’s 9904 with Technicolor HDR ITM, broadcasters can upgrade their existing HD (720p/1080i/1080p) and 4K/UHD (2160p) SDR infrastructure — cameras, switchers, servers, and so on — to HD and 4K/UHD HDR systems and workflows using equipment they already have. What is more, they can provide viewers stunning HDR content created from the millions of hours of video originally captured, produced and distributed in SDR.

Technicolor’s ITM SDR-to-HDR process manages brighter lights and darker shadows to deliver sharper, more realistic images for compelling immersive entertainment experiences. While analysing video content in real time, the process leverages Technicolor’s colour science and colour grading plug-ins to enable adjustment of luminance in the shadows, as well as in midtones and highlights. With this much greater level of control, broadcasters can expand content to a wider space and higher dynamic range while remaining as true as possible to the creative intent behind the original content.

Equally important is that the Technicolor HDR ITM technology eliminates the need for broadcast productions to use separate SDR and HDR processing paths. Until now, productions used both SDR and HDR cameras simultaneously, with the SDR camera signals up-mapped to HDR so they could be used with native HDR camera feeds. Today, a growing number of broadcasters are using Cobalt equipment, equipped with the Technicolor HDR ITM technology, in a single pipeline, accepting SDR signals and creating exceptional HDR video signals in real time.

The integrated solution from Cobalt and Technicolor addresses the needs of production truck operators working with a mix of SDR and HDR systems by allowing them to create HDR signals easily from existing SDR sources, such as cameras and graphics systems. One major satellite service provider already has taken advantage of this capability to bring more vivid and realistic images to its 4K/UHD sports broadcasts.

Another advantage of using Technicolor’s technology is its ability to tone-map HDR signals into SDR signals while creating dynamic metadata — called SL-HDR1 metadata — that is then inserted into the SDR signal for downstream. This capability means a network service provider needs only to transmit an SDR feed to the viewer; if the viewer’s TV or set-top box is compatible, it will automatically “rehydrate” the signal to deliver a full HDR experience.

Although Cobalt products featuring Technicolor HDR ITM technology have been on the market for just a year, already they are being deployed by leading outside broadcast (OB) truck operators, major networks, and over-the-top (OTT) providers to keep Capex and Opex fees to a minimum while delivering premium results.

Chris Shaw is executive vice-president of sales and marketing at Cobalt Digital
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