HDR is arguably the most significant technical advance in television in more than a decade. High dynamic range imagery provides a significantly wider range of colors than standard dynamic range imagery, as well as greater and more lifelike contrast and brightness. The difference is obvious, and breathtaking, and it’s got both content providers and consumers very excited.
MTI Film recently completed a major expansion in order to process and deliver television shows in HDR. The facility added new HDR-capable color grading and finishing systems, as well as the latest HDR monitors, and boosted its infrastructure to handle the greater data loads that come with the new formats.
“We’ve invested in HDR because we believe it’s the future,” says CEO Larry Chernoff. “We think the new formats are going to be very popular, and we have devoted a lot of time, effort and resources in order to properly service our clients and meet the requirements of networks and streaming services.”
Working in HDR requires more than hardware. It also demands new workflows and technical protocols, and new creative approaches. Currently, there are two principal HDR formats, HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and they differ from each other in image structure and workflow requirements.
“With Dolby Vision, two deliverables are incorporated into one file, an HDR master and an SDR master that’s derived from it,” explains Senior Colorist Steve Porter. “With HDR10, the two deliverables are rendered separately.”
Director of Product Development Randy Reck adds that Dolby Vision is robustly supported by Dolby Laboratories, while HDR10 is open source developed by a community of programmers and engineers. Each format has its adherents and each has strengths and technical constraints. “MTI Film's Cortex Enterprise software demonstrated support for Dolby Vision IMF delivery at NAB 2016,” Reck adds. “This NAB, we'll be showing significant improvements in editing picture and metadata for Dolby Vision with an enhanced edit interface.”
In either case, the aesthetic advantage over previous formats is clear, and post-production artists are being challenged to capitalize on them. “Colorists need to embrace the brighter, more dynamic qualities of Dolby Vision and HDR10,” insists Porter. “You need to fully explore the greater latitude HDR affords in order to make each shot the best that it can be.”
That’s why MTI Film has placed as much emphasis on educating its staff as on adding new gear. “We’ve put a lot of effort into training our people on the technical requirements and creative possibilities,” Chernoff observes. “We believe we have a very good understanding of HDR and know its sweet spot so that we can deliver outstanding results to our clients.”