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Dolby Vision: A New Level In Picture Quality (Potentially)

Jan 8 2014, 9:21pm CST | by

Dolby Vision: A New Level In Picture Quality (Potentially)
Photo Credit: Forbes

Dolby wants to improve the picture quality of televisions, and Dolby Vision is how they’re aiming to do it. More than just a TV technology, it’s an “end-to-end solution” that includes support from content creators and distributors to offer enhanced picture quality.

Potentially cool? Yep.

To put it simply, Dolby Vision expands the dynamic range of the content and television, increasing the contrast ratio and improving color reproduction. In other words, colors are more lifelike, and the image “pops” more than a conventional television. The image above (supplied by Dolby) is a bit of an exaggeration, but it gives you a general idea. The bright parts of the image are noticeably brighter, as in more intense, than the dark parts.

With most LED LCDs, the difference between the bright and dark parts of the image isn’t that much, at least compared to other technologies like plasma and OLED. Even those two technologies don’t have the dynamic range potential of Dolby Vision.

Improving dynamic range is key, as it makes the image look more real, less like a television, and more like a window into another world. On the TV side, Dolby Vision uses full array local dimming backlights, as in LEDs arranged all across the back of the TV, that can dim areas of the picture depending on the content. So if half the image is in shadow, and the other in bright sunlight, the sunlight will be very bright, while the shadow will be significantly darker.

Dolby showed a prototype a few weeks ago, which had a full array with over 18,000 LEDs. I did a full tech dive over at CNET (before there was a name or announced partners). Check that out if you want to know more of the tech details of the technology.

Along with announcing the name at CES, Dolby also revealed tech partners, since they’re not trying to get into the TV manufacturing business, nor the content creation and distribution business.

On the TV side, Sharp, TCL, and Vizio have signed on. I got a chance to see the Sharp version, a 70-inch, on the floor at CES. It popped, visually, like the proto I’d seen a few weeks prior. Hard to compare them much past that, given the difference in time, distance, and lighting conditions. They did have it next to a traditional LCD, and the difference was pronounced.

Dolby Vision isn’t just the TV, though, it’s also the content, with expanded info to take advantage of the TV’s greater dynamic range. On that front, Dolby has signed up Netflix, VUDU, Amazon, and Microsoft Xbox Video.

Questions remain, of course. What kind of premium are Dolby Vision LCDs going to have? Lots of extra LEDs mean extra manufacturing costs. What about the increase in power consumption? The prototype was capable of incredible light output, but it’s a safe bet it wouldn’t pass Energy Star. Since LEDs are pretty efficient, it’s possible an LCD with additional LEDs wouldn’t break the energy consumption bank, but we’ll see.

And the content? How much will be available? Dolby talks about how their system is backwards compatible with non Dolby Vision TVs, but that still means the Vision enhancements have to be incorporated. That’s an extra cost.

I’m excited to see what Dolby Vision can become. For now it’s probably a niche market, like high-resolution audio, but increasing the dynamic range of TVs is something we should all want, and if this is a step in that direction for every TV, that would be something cool indeed.

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Source: Forbes

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