A major discussion surrounding Ultra HD is whether there's a need for an enhanced, richer-pixeled version of the format that includes greater luminance and colour alongside higher frame rate and resolution. Technicolor and Dolby are already working in this area, but they are not alone.
Colorado-based video processing company Folded Space, a subsidiary of anamorphic lens maker Panamorph, is licensing what it calls deep colour content encoding (DCE) and decoding algorithms capable of delivering 12 bits per colour.
“DCE is an extremely efficient process requiring very little additional bandwidth or processing power to deliver true 12-bit equivalent colour to compatible displays,” notes business development director John Schuermann.
The company's algorithms process original content with 12 bits and encode information about the colour detail into a backward compatible 8-bit Blu-ray disc. Newer displays and Blu-ray players with the decoding algorithm can then restore a 12-bit equivalent of the original image.
Folded Space plans on licensing the encoding algorithm to software partners for free “to stimulate deep colour, HDR content production as soon as possible” it says while charging a modest fee for the decoding algorithm to player and display vendors.
“We are working with several CE manufacturers and major film studios to develop a 12- to 8- back to 12-bit demo, but of course the current limitation is the lack of a high bit depth display to show it on or even good 12-bit video content to run through the process. These are challenges we are working on with several CE companies and film studios, most under NDA at this point.”
He added: “The whole HDR / high colour bit depth discussion is evolving rapidly and there are still technical problems to be overcome on the display side. This is where Dolby is focusing part of their efforts (with Dolby Vision), as a major component of what they are doing is encouraging the development of higher brightness, high bit depth displays. We have simply been focusing on the efficient delivery of high bitrate content. It is our understanding that Dolby's delivery system will be proprietary and include at least two data streams that will need to be remuxed at the display; our technology is fully compatible with current and future Blu-ray standards and can be adapted to other high quality delivery methods such as downloads (although probably not realtime streaming, as the massive compression could adversely affect our process).”
The company also markets Multi Format Encoding technology that delivers content in the UltraWide screen aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 with a claimed 33% higher resolution.
Pictured: an image showing how Folded Space can take an 8-bit image, reduce it to four bits using its encode process, and then restore it to 8-bit using its decoder. Also shown is the intermediate image showing the 4-bit image that was created before reconstruction back to eight bits (DCE Intermediate Steps).
By Adrian Pennington