Pressure is mounting on broadcasters to bring consumers more HDR programming as Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube continue to release new high dynamic range (HDR) content, and HDR-capable displays become more accessible. In response, local stations and networks are exploring solutions that can help them meet the demand, without requiring a complete infrastructure overhaul.
HDR has caught the eye of many broadcasters, because it delivers content with a wide and dynamic range of colors and luminance values that better represent what the human vision system (HVS) can see. By leveraging the wide dynamic range available from today’s cameras, with their sophisticated sensors, and preserving as much of it as possible, broadcasters and producers can offer viewers increased contrast and luminance range, in addition to a broader, richer color palette that translates to a more immersive viewing experience.
While HDR workflows pose several benefits – even if a broadcaster is not ultimately delivering in HDR, bottlenecks linger. With so many standards, higher bandwidth requirements due to 4K/ultra HD and consumer adoption of HDR displays just beginning, implementation has not proven easy to date, and the availability of HDR content, though growing, is still limited. Finding a quick and efficient way to convert camera formats, such as RAW and Log, to an HDR standard Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG for example, or being able to apply and/or convert the HDR standard of choice through editing, color correction, and/or monitoring process also remain challenges.
AJA recently joined forces with Colorfront’s Academy Award-winning CTO Bill Feightner and lead engineer Tamas Perlaki to resolve these difficulties with FS-HDR. Building on AJA’s flagship FS4, FS-HDR is a 1RU universal converter/frame synchronizer engineered to meet the emerging HDR and WCG needs of 4K/ultra HD/2K/HD workflows in live production, which demand real-time, low-latency processing, and color fidelity. Powered by the Colorfront Engine™, FS-HDR is effectively a Swiss army knife for HDR workflows, offering support for 4K/ultra HD and 2K/HD pipelines, including SDR to HDR, HDR to SDR, and HDR to HDR conversions, and all leading camera log inputs.
FS-HDR offers two modes. The single-channel mode, with extensive HDR and WCG support for 4K/ultra HD/2K/HD/SD processing, enables up, down, and cross-conversion, including real-time down conversion of 4K/ultra HD HDR to HD HDR or SDR. The four-channel mode allows users to simultaneously apply up to four HDR and SDR transforms to an incoming 2K/HD signal for output or apply transforms to four separate 2K/HD incoming signals for simultaneous output.
With FS-HDR, we are hoping to make HDR more of a technical reality in a broader range of creative pipelines, including broadcast. It helps solve a major part of the production equation. That said, professionals still need a way to view and display HDR materials on compatible monitors, and monitor HDR from SDI sources. AJA’s KONA IP, KONA 4, and Io 4K desktop I/O solutions can assist, with support provided in the AJA Control Panel for setup of HDR10 metadata and HLG, while the AJA Hi5-4K-Plus 3G-SDI to HDMI 2.0 Mini-Converter with support for HDR10 and HLG can help feed displays for HDR monitoring from SDI sources.
HDR playback is yet another part of the production chain that AJA gear can service, with the Ki Pro Ultra Plus multichannel HD recorder and 4K/ultra HD/2K/HD recorder/player allowing users to take an Apple ProRes file with material to be displayed as HDR10 or HLG and play it back.
Furthermore, metadata comes up frequently in HDR workflow discussions, because broadcasters need a way to learn more about the HDR metadata being utilized on their HDR signals over HDMI 2.0. AJA’s HA5-4K HDMI to SDI mini-converter, paired with AJA’s free mini-config software, allows users to connect a USB cable to the mini-converter. The mini-config HDR tab then enables a read out of any HDR static metadata along the HDMI signal present.