Dolby digs its claw deep into video

Known for half a century for sound enhancing tech, Dolby now sprinkles its fairy dust on your TV!

A perfect setting to change the future of televisions, Dolby and LG chose the ongoing FICCI Frames 2016 Broadcast and Film expo to showcase their latest and greatest hardware.

Dolby Vision, a new standard in improving the colour depth of display panels and cinema projectors was first showcased to audiences at CES earlier this year but LG is ready to start selling the next-generation of flat panels to Indian customers as early as May. 

Dolby Vision works by enhancing the picture quality of a movie right from the creation stage to the recreation medium at home. Hollywood biggies like Warner Bros, Disney, Sony and MGM are already on board and have agreed to shoot and colour grade their movies in the Dolby Vision HDR format. Recent releases like Inside Out, The Martian and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens have already benefited from this tech but you didn’t notice because Dolby Cinemas yet have to make their way to India. This has to follow further down the pipeline to broadcasters or more importantly on home-video format. Which it is, thankfully.

The just-launched UHD Blu-ray specification requires all movies on this new format to be HDR-ready so all you need is an HDR-ready television like one of the new LG OLED or LCD panels, a UHD Blu-ray player and you could be well on your way to experiencing movies from the directors chair. 

Now, there is a bit of resistance for Dolby as the UHD-Alliance which consists of top hardware manufacturers is also endorsing another HDR (High Dynamic Range) standard called HDR10, which is the generic name for what Dolby is selling, basically. But there are actual benefits to choosing Dolby Vision over generic HDR10 because Dolby Vision encoded movies contain metadata that will tell your Dolby Vision TV exactly how much standard brightness is needed to play back the movie and how to preserve the accurate hues (depending on whether you’re using an OLED or LED panel) as per the directors decision.

HDR isn’t new as a lot of us already use it for photography on our smartphones but Dolby Vision is infinitely more advanced since it is an encode-decode process and not just software “processing” that enhances your picture. Real life is perceived in 14-bits by our eyes whereas the current TV colour standards only allow for 8-bit resolution under the REC709 standard. Dolby Vision is ready for the future with 12-bit resolution and headroom for up to 10000 NITS of luminosity! The current requirement is not more than a 1000 NITS so clearly they have their eye on the future. 

LG is the first manufacturer to launched these advanced televisions in the Indian market with Dolby Vision built-in and this includes LED models that start as low as ₹1.25lacs all the way to the 77in signature OLED model that will be close to ₹15lacs when it hits the shelves next month. We spent some time viewing the 65in OLED model and as expected, the black levels were deeper than our hearts secret chamber and the colours richer than a costumes in a Karan Johar movie. OLED has the advantage of being able to control each individual pixel and hence the light leakage from the adjacent pixel doesn’t exist, unlike LEDs. But Dolby Vision has been adapted for LED panels too and will eventually make its way into projectors as well. The Dolby Cinema concept uses custom-made Christie projectors to achieve this but India has yet to see a screen as such on its soil. 

To make the most of Dolby Vision on the LG TV, you will need to complete the chain by buying an UHD Blu-ray player, currently offered by Samsung and Panasonic internationally and choose from a small crop of initial release titles on the UHD-BD format. Netflix is already showing Marco Polo encoded with HDR so if you have ponied for the 4K plan, now is the time to go TV-shopping. The increase in bandwidth consumption is said to be only 10% over regular 4K content but the difference it makes has to be experienced to be believed. Colours are richer with a deeper palette and difficult scenes where darkness and sunlight collide in the same frame are displayed with remarkable subtlety.

There is no burn or over exposure on the brighter parts nor is there muddying of details in the darker areas and this makes it a true-to-life viewing.