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HDR pipeline to debut at IBC

26 July 2011

A world’s first High Dynamic Range acquisition-to-display pipeline will be demonstrated at IBC, writes Adrian Pennington. HDR imaging has the capacity to record the highest dynamic range similar to the human eye with potential applications in sports from swimming to Formula One.

The demonstration by the WMG, University of Warwick, and its spin-off company goHDR, will show live and recorded HDR video content displayed via a special Media Player on an HDR display and also on standard low dynamic range displays, including a TV and laptop.

Whereas the HDR display will show a true HDR image, the laptop and LCD TV will display tone mapped versions as well as up to 20 separate exposures per frame. The HDR imaging system includes a camera manufactured by SpheronVR that captures 20 stops at 30fps. By comparison a Red Epic offers up to 18 stops in its HDRx mode.

While there are HDR cameras and displays appearing on the market from various sources, the missing ingredient has been a compression technology that binds a full workflow together. That is what WMG’s researchers claim to have solved.

“We are capturing 42GB a minute – or a CD second of data – so without compression HDR is unpractical,” explained professor Alan Chalmers, head of the Visualisation Research group, at WMG International Digital Laboratory (pictured). At IBC, the HDR data won’t be compressed out of the camera but dumped to a 24TB array, although Chalmers says direct from camera compression is possible.

“We want to preserve data along the pipeline and to work with existing infrastructure. We have worked very hard to get the codec perceptually lossless, at a 100- 1 ratio but part of our exposure to IBC is to look further into this.”

For soccer matches an HDR system would be able to follow the ball as it moved into and out of the shadows.

“There are applications in golf where cameras find it notoriously hard to track golf balls at speed against sky and trees,” added Chalmers. “If an F1 car enters a tunnel, as it does at Monaco GP then you would be able to capture the car moving into and out of the tunnel, which isn’t necessarily possible today with cameras that can’t handle high degrees of contrast or high light or dark exposures. In swimming competitions or rowing where light is reflected off the water a conventional camera struggles to resolve the detail, but HDR does not," he said.

“You just get far more detail and a very rich experience in shadow and shade. Wildlife filming is another genre that would benefit because of the bright contrasts when filming outdoors.”

Other manufacturers addressing HDR include Dolby (an HDR display), Italy’s Sim2 (HDR display) and Texan firm AMP, which has a new three-sensor HDR camera, AMPII.

“One problem is that few people are aware of HDR so IBC is a great chance for us to educate the market,” said Chalmers.

For more information, see our previous article.


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