This year, Apple introduced the iPhone 12 range of smartphones with full support for Dolby Vision video. Devices will be able to record videos in it with a frequency of up to 60 frames per second. The standard also reveals the full capabilities of the Super Retina XDR display. We will try to understand the features of Dolby Vision in this material.
What is HDR video?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. This term refers to visual content such as movies, TV series, video games, or photographs. Basically, the format provides a high level of detail in the bright and dark areas of the picture compared to video or standard definition (SDR) images.
Dynamic range is a phrase used to describe the amount of visible detail between the brightest white and the darkest black. The higher the dynamic range, the more detail is retained in shadows and highlights. HDR video requires a display that supports this format.
Dynamic range is measured in stops, which is a photographic term that is usually associated with exposure (lighting). While SDR displays can show anywhere from 6 to 10 stops, HDR screens can show at least 13, and many exceed 20. This means there is more detail on the screen in highlights and shadows, not just midtones.
What’s Apple with iPhone 12
It all started with pixel density. Apple originally focused on high pixel density Retina displays at a given display size, but this technology has a limit. The human eye ceases to distinguish a certain indicator, so pushing them in even more is a waste of time and pure marketing. After switching to OLED screens, the company shifted its focus to color rendition, contrast and other characteristics.
Dolby realized the same thing. They started working on dynamic range. The company was interested in the limits of existing technologies, namely how deep blacks can be made and how to convey maximum detail in the brightest areas of the frame.
There are several HDR formats now, of which the most common is HDR10. It is an open standard and is used in most devices. Its problem is that it optimizes for the entire video at once, which means that some scenes are darker or brighter than necessary.
Dolby Vision dynamically encodes metadata. The result is the most optimized image transmission for the entire video segment as a whole, as well as for individual scenes. In other words, it looks as if you are processing each photo for all its personalities, rather than applying a standard packet filter to the entire series of images at once.
If you have an Apple TV + with a good OLED TV, then you are probably already familiar with what Dolby Vision can and should look like. So it turns out that this format is good, but why aren’t all manufacturers using it?
First, you need to get a license from Dolby, which in turn is an additional cost. Therefore, some companies use HDR10, or an improved version of HDR10 +, which is licensed for free.
Second, Dolby Vision content creation previously required dedicated double-exposure cameras and powerful video editing equipment. Now you can do everything you need right on your iPhone 12. Yes, you’re not wrong – right on your smartphone. The A14 Bionic processor extracts all the necessary data from the camera sensor, processes it, adds Dolby Vision meta tags and stores it in real time. Another not unimportant point is that the iPhone 12 range of smartphones allows you to edit all the footage on the fly.
It’s worth noting that Apple hasn’t implemented Dolby Vision support equally across all 2020 smartphones. This decision was probably made due to the difference in memory between the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro models. The former is limited to Dolby Vision 4K at 30fps, while the latter lets you shoot in Dolby Vision 4K at 60fps.
However, it was not without its drawbacks. Dolby Vision is ahead of the curve in the iPhone 12 lineup. The thing is that after you shoot and edit a great video in a new format, you will have to limit yourself to viewing it on an iPhone or Android smartphone with an HDR display. Of course, you’re in luck if you have a good current TV with Dolby Vision support.
Many services and devices continue to have problems displaying HDR content on non-HDR displays. For example, when watching HDR videos on YouTube in SDR mode, the results can be frustrating to say the least.
Nevertheless, you can bet that Apple in this case will act as the engine of progress, as was the case with USB, the proliferation of multi-touch interfaces, the abandonment of the floppy drive and 3.5 mm ports. In the near future, we will probably see how the most popular services, especially YouTube, learn how to properly handle video in high dynamic range, but for now, let’s compare the most common HDR formats.
HDR 10: basic standard
HDR10 is the basic standard for most compatible devices. Content created for this format is rendered with a maximum brightness of up to 1000 nits. It uses static metadata to determine the average frame illumination and maximum brightness, which means that the average and maximum illumination values do not change from scene to scene. Despite all its flaws, HDR10 looks much better than SDR content.
Since HDR10 is an open format, it also has widespread support from display and content manufacturers. As a result, you can easily find HDR10-capable videos even on YouTube. This standard is also supported by games on current generation consoles and Windows 10.
HDR10 +: enhanced format with dynamic metadata
HDR10 + is another open standard that was jointly developed by Samsung and Amazon Video. It enhances HDR10 by using dynamic metadata that can adjust brightness per scene or frame by frame. HDR10 + content is currently rendered at maximum brightness up to 4000 nits. Dynamic metadata helps preserve highlight and shadow detail for every scene.
Unfortunately, HDR10 + doesn’t take into account the capabilities of the device it is displayed on. This limitation has been removed in Dolby Vision. Simply put, when certain scenes exceed the capabilities of the display, it must decide for itself how to display the current scene. This may vary depending on the device.
One of the biggest problems with HDR10 + is its lack. At the moment, this format is actively supported by Samsung, as well as Panasonic, Vizio and Oppo. There is also quite a bit of content as long as it can only be viewed on Amazon Video.
Dolby Vision: Proprietary format with dynamic metadata
Dolby Vision is a direct competitor to HDR10 + and has a lot in common from a technical point of view. Content in this format is processed at up to 4000 nits, but in the future it will have support for up to 10,000 nits, 8K-resolution and 12-bit gamut. It also uses dynamic metadata to customize and optimize each scene.
One of the significant advantages over HDR10 + is that Dolby Vision takes display capabilities into account when displaying content. Thus, it can create the impression that is closest to the intention of the creator.
Since Dolby Vision is a proprietary format, device manufacturers have to pay to implement support for it. It can be found primarily on premium TVs from LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense, Panasonic and Philips, and now on iPhone 12. Samsung is the only manufacturer to have completely ditched Dolby Vision in favor of HDR10 +.
Note that there are TVs on sale that support all formats. It will also not be superfluous to emphasize that Dolby Vision has the most content available, it can be found, for example, on Netflix and Disney +. Also, support for Dolby Vision is implemented in Xbox Series X and Series S.
Which format is better
In terms of HDR formats across TVs, most current 2020 models support HDR10. This is a huge leap in dynamic range and brightness over SDR content.
Beyond HDR10, Dolby Vision has the broadest support from both content producers and devices. This format is the most common among streaming services and it is quite promising, and thanks to the release of the iPhone 12 lineup with its support, we will most likely see its widest distribution in the near future. As for HDR10 +, its support is limited by Samsung and the streaming service Amazon Video, so it’s hardly worth focusing on, but it’s too early to bury it.
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