More megapixels does not necessarily mean a better camera. That myth has now been busted, as people are understanding more about sensors and lenses. But the one-pixel myth persists: more pixels means a better screen.
This is most prevalent with TVs. We’re seeing the advent of 4K or Ultra HD televisions, which boast of twice the resolution of a Full HD TV. Sharper images, the advertisements say. Better pictures than ever before, the billboards scream. But resolution is just a function of pixels. And like with cameras, more pixels or megapixels isn’t all that it takes to make a better screen.
Dolby, more famous for its sound prowess, is now stepping into the visual space to make screens better. Its idea is to bring a holistic approach: Record videos in great quality, make them easily available to people, and bring hi-tech screens to people’s homes to view these great videos.
But how Dolby doing this? What does a consumer have to do to be a part of Dolby Vision’s ecosystem? What does this all mean? Let’s find out…
What Is Dolby Vision?
Dolby Vision, put in layman’s terms, is an entire ecosystem of technology based around HDR, or High Dynamic Range. For the consumer, it means a few simple things:
1. Your TV is capable of displaying brighter images and more accurate colours. Where a normal HDR TV can be brighter than existing TVs today, a Dolby Vision TV will be even brighter than HDR TVs. This is measured at 1000 nits, which is a unit of brightness. Dolby Vision can go up 10,000 nits. Not all TVs can support this high range though. But Dolby Vision lets TV manufacturers adjust the output to the whatever nits the TV supports—which normal HDR doesn’t, explained Mike Chao, Regional Vice President, Asia-Pacific, Dolby Laboratories.
2. Dolby works with filmmakers and lets them dictate how your TV’s settings should look. This is a major change from how you watch a movie right now. At the moment, you control the brightness, contrast, and other details—but that might not be how the director intended the image on your screen to look. Dolby Vision uses metadata in each frame, so the filmmaker gets to control how each frame should look—and that is how it will be shown to you. On the back end, Dolby Vision matches the filmmaker’s vision with your TV’s settings to present the most accurate representation of how the filmmaker wanted you to see the film.
3. It requires custom hardware and won’t run on existing TVs. You can’t just buy a special player or a new set top box and hope that Dolby Vision will work with your TV. You need to buy new tech.
Is There Content for Dolby Vision?
The good news for those interested in this is that quite a few filmmakers and production houses, as well as content services, have already started adopting Dolby Vision. Recent Hollywood blockbusters like The Martian, Inside Out, and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens were all shot with Dolby Vision technology. There are a total of 40 titles so far, Chao said.
Dolby has also tied up with Netflix, among other streaming providers, to make Dolby Vision content available. Netflix’s own show, Marco Polo, is shot in Dolby Vision. The company estimates that a Dolby Vision video takes about 10% more bandwidth for streaming than a standard video.
Chao also said that they are exploring the Indian space and local creators. “India is quite unique when it comes to content,” he said. “There’s a lot of affinity towards local content. We’ve made investments accordingly for Dolby Atmos, so we have to consider India’s unique ecosystem for Dolby Vision too.”
Plus, Dolby Vision is compatible with any movie recorded in existing HDR technology. Basically, anything that works in HDR right now will work on Dolby Vision TVs; but anything made in Dolby Vision won’t work on HDR.
How Do I Get It?
The big problem for Dolby Vision, at the moment, is the cost involved. Right now, in India, only LG will be making TVs that support the technology. And the cheapest one in that will cost Rs. 1.25 lakh, the company said. LG expects to launch the TVs by the end of May.
There are also other barriers. Existing Blu-ray players aren’t capable of outputting HDR discs, so you’ll need to buy a new Blu-ray player. The problem? There isn’t a Dolby Vision-compatible player out there yet. It should come soon, and LG said it’s exploring the space, but there’s no clarity on when that might be available.
And of course, Dolby Vision creators also use Dolby audio, so it helps if you have speakers set up for that.
In short, to sit at home and get the full cinematic effect of what the director intended, you’ll need a whole new entertainment system. While Dolby Vision is a definite step up in the quality of home cinema, the price to get it is substantially high and not for common consumers.
On the bright side, Dolby’s Jayant Shah, Director – Technical, emphasized that the technology can be brought to cheaper screens and TVs. While the first lot of TVs are probably going to be high-end, the basic Dolby Vision experience can be made with non-OLED TVs (like LCD or LED) and at resolutions lower than 4K or Ultra HD (like Full HD). Hopefully, that should bring the price down in the future.
How Much Would You Pay?
Do you think a high-end TV that costs Rs 1.25 lakh is too high a price for the Dolby Vision experience, or is the ability to see “what the filmmaker intended” worth the cost to enjoy cinema at its finest.