Cobalt is one of the first vendors in the broadcast industry to license Technicolor HDR technology.
In these early days of 4K UHD production and for those HD projects that seek to include High Dynamic Range (HDR) acquisition to enhance the broadcast image, many production companies are finding they don’t have enough native HDR cameras to cover a standard live sports or entertainment telecast. This comes as several major production companies in the U.S. have opted to build 1080p/60 HD trucks with HDR acquisition and delivery capability, rather than the higher resolution 4K UHD, arguing that the highest quality HD technology with HDR is less costly to deploy and it looks as good (or better to some) as 4K UHD on screen.
One increasingly common solution is to upconvert the signal from a standard dynamic range (SDR) camera to one of four main HDR formats—that is, HDR10, Dolby Vision, Hybrid-Log Gamma (HLG), or Technicolor’s Intelligent Tone Management (ITM) technology. This allows the content owner to repurpose SDR content for HDR distribution using existing systems and make that content available to consumers with HDR-compatible TV sets.
Cobalt Digital, a Champaign, Ill.-based company that specializes in signal processing and image acquisition technology and products, has been selected by Technicolor to license Technicolor’s ITM technology for the broadcast television production industry. As part of the licensing agreement, Cobalt will make the Technicolor HDR ITM feature available as an option to its new series of 12G/6G/3G/HD/SD-SDI 4K cards for the openGear platform and its BBG-1000 series of stand-alone signal processing units. The cards and hardware processors convert signals from one format to another and are often used on mobile production trucks and in studio environments.
By embedding Technicolor’s HDR technology into Cobalt Digital products, content producers and production companies can now offer viewers stunning HDR content originally captured, produced, and distributed in SDR.
Cobalt’s 9501-DCDA-3G provides 3G/HD-to-SD down-conversion and provides up to four SD-SDI and/or analog composite outputs. It now can handle HDR signals processed with Technicolor’s ITM technology.
"We are delighted that Technicolor has selected us to represent its contribution to HDR viewing,” said Bob McAlpine, CEO, Cobalt Digital, adding that the licenses with Cobalt products will be professionally managed through Technicolor's partner program. “Combining Technicolor's HDR ITM processing with Cobalt's latest up/down/cross-conversion platform is going to make a lot of engineers happy.”
Technicolor's ITM SDR-to-HDR process manages brighter lights and darker shadows while offering an opportunity for content owners to offer existing SDR content to consumers in the HDR format. This allows broadcasters to expand content to a wider space and higher dynamic range while being as true as possible to the creative intent of the original content.
Technicolor ITM analyzes video content in real time, enabling adjustments of luminance in the shadows as well as in midtones and highlights by leveraging Technicolor’s renown color science and color grading plug-ins.
In most cases, current broadcast productions require separate SDR and HDR processing paths. With SDR technology, both types of camera signals are used simultaneously, with the SDR camera signals being up-mapped to HDR so they can be mixed with native HDR camera feeds. By adding the HDR image quality that the Technicolor ITM SDR-to-HDR process provides, Cobalt can offer a solution that eliminates the need for separate processing paths.
The majority of HDR-compatible televisions sold currently support HDR10 and to a lesser extent Dolby Vision formats. Going forward, most HDR-capable TVs will display at least one and in more advance models all four HDR formats.
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