By Mike Rockwell, Executive Vice President, Advanced Technology Group, Dolby Laboratories
When we talk about having an experience in Dolby®, most people think about sound—hearing an amazing film like Gravity in Dolby Atmos®, for example, with sounds moving all around the theatre, even over your head. Or they think about watching a great TV event such as the Oscars® or the Olympics® in Dolby surround sound.
Earlier this year, though, we introduced a new technology, Dolby Vision™, that’s designed to bring that “in Dolby” experience to images. Dolby Vision on your TV will mean images that are brighter, with better contrast and richer colors. The technology produces more vibrant, true-to-life images that are more like looking out a window than looking at an LCD screen.
The three areas Dolby Vision is designed to improve—brightness, contrast and color—are each important and intertwined.
Let’s start with brightness. Today’s TV images are limited to only about 100 nits of brightness. To put that number in perspective, consider that a simple 100-watt lightbulb can produce 18,000 nits. Indirect sunlight may be a million nits. So how can you accurately represent the world within just 100 nits? The answer is, you can’t.
If you think about it, we all know instinctively about this problem. What do we do to get a good picture on our TVs? We close the curtains, turn off the lights, anything we can to make the room darker. We do that because we know that the brightness of a TV image can’t compare to that of the real world.
We at Dolby are working with TV manufacturers to help them build displays that are capable of showing much brighter images. And we’re working with industry standards bodies to change the rules that govern the way TV images are produced. One of those rules limits TV images to about 100 nits. It’s an antiquated standard based on the clunky old CRT, the cathode ray display that almost no one uses anymore.
Contrast is just as important in making images look lifelike. Our eyes are capable of distinguishing incredible degrees of contrast. Let’s say you’re looking at an area that’s half in shade and half in sunlight. You can tell the difference between a grey jacket and black jacket in the shade while also seeing the bright patches and small shadows in the sunlit area. In that scene, the lightest area might be 100,000 times brighter than the darkest area (a contrast ratio of 100,000 to 1), yet you can distinguish subtle variations in both areas.
Current TVs aren’t nearly so capable. At best, they might show a contrast of 2,000 to 1. That lack of contrast is one of the main reasons that when you look at a TV image, you know it’s not real. TVs with Dolby Vision technology will be capable of showing far greater ranges of contrast, as much as 100 times greater than current displays.
Have you ever seen a TV show with one of those distinctive red double-decker buses in London? If so, your TV has been lying to you. Current TVs can’t reproduce the true deep red of London buses; instead, content creators have to substitute a more washed-out color. The same is true for the green of California highway signs or the cyan (blue) of the ocean in the South Pacific.
Dolby Vision will change that. Through a combination of a larger gamut, or range, of colors, and brighter images, TVs with our technology will be able to represent far more colors than current displays can.
Our goals for Dolby vision are ambitious. We’re working with television manufacturers to get Dolby Vision enabled TVs onto store shelves by the end of 2014. We’ve also developed the tools that content creators need to produce images that take advantage of all the power of Dolby Vision. And we’ve created technology that will help conventional broadcasters and streaming video providers get those images to your home with no loss in quality.
We’re already starting to see the results of our industry partnerships. At CES in January 2014, leading TV manufacturers Sharp and TCL demonstrated Dolby Vision TVs in their booths. Leading digital cinema technology company FilmLight will feature our technology in their postproduction software Baselight, so that television shows can be created with all the color, contrast, and brightness that is possible with Dolby Vision.
We can’t wait for you to see the results. We know from experience that once people see Dolby Vision images, they never want to go back to their old TV.
Read more about Dolby Vision.