Sony CES Booth Features Dolby Vision-Enabled UHD Blu-ray Player

LAS VEGAS — Sony Electronics at the Consumer Electronics Show announced and displayed a 4K UHD Blu-ray player that will become Dolby Vision capable via a firmware upgrade in the summer.

The UBP-X700 player is available now and offers access to 4K streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube, and supports a range of video and music formats, including MP4, DSD, FLAC, according to Sony.

Sony reps used Spider-Man: Homecoming footage to demonstrate the player at the booth.

Technicolor Touts Its Own HDR Technology

LAS VEGAS — While much of the buzz on the advanced high dynamic range (HDR) front came from the announcement of Fox and Warner backing HDR10+ and manufacturers incorporating Dolby Vision in their products, Technicolor/Philips touted its own HDR solution at the Consumer Electronics Show.

What’s behind door No. 3?

According to Kirk Barker, SVP, emerging products, technology division, for Technicolor, Advanced HDR by Technicolor offers a dynamic metadata technology that is cheaper than the competitor that charges royalties (Dolby Vision) and more friendly to broadcasters than either of the other two solutions (HDR10+ and Dolby Vision). Dynamic metadata in all three technologies adjusts contrast scene by scene.

LG was the first TV manufacturer to integrate Technicolor’s HDR technology. The technology is also in Funai products.

“Our solution has three different modes,” Barker said.

These modes make the technology a better solution for broadcasters that have to broadcast in HD as well as UHD with HDR. Essentially, Advanced HDR by Technicolor means broadcasters don’t have to have two sets of crews/trucks, one for HD and another for UHD with HDR.

“It’s a better solution for broadcasters,” Barker said.

The technology was first tested at a 2016 Dodgers game.

UHD Alliance Signs Google, Eyes Consumer Education

Five months after taking charge of the UHD Alliance as its first full-time president, longtime consumer electronics executive Mike Fidler on the eve of CES 2018 unveiled an ambitious agenda to not just grow membership, but also to increase consumer education and maximize device interoperability for a better user experience.

The push comes amid word that Google has joined the trade group, a global coalition of leading film studios, consumer electronics manufacturers, content distributors and technology companies seeking to promote the next-generation premium in-home entertainment platform, which offers 4K resolution as well as a mix of other features that include high dynamic range, wide color gamut, high frame rate and immersive audio, among other features.

Fidler, known in the home entertainment community for his work with Pioneer Electronics and Sony Electronics and as a founding board member of DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group, came to UHDA in August 2017 at a time when the group’s focus was changing. Previously, he said, the group was engaged primarily in developing UHD specifications and expanding licensing. While beefing up membership is still a goal, he said, the group is now focusing on a consumer and press engagement push in the hopes of expanding UHD’s user base beyond early adopters.

“We want to move to a new level of engagement with consumers and the press and to broaden the marketplace beyond just early adopters,” Fidler said. “In accelerating the adoption of UHD, we need these groups to understand what it is and what it does or does not do.”

The group recently launched its consumer web site, experienceuhd.com, with a list of all UHDA-certified products, links to member web sites, answers to frequently asked questions, advice on setting up home theaters, and detailed information about the features required for a device to earn UHDA certification.

“Our job is to break it down and emphasize the benefits of HDR, 4K UHD resolution, wider color spectrum, 10-bit color depth and immersive audio, Fidler said in a DEG blog posting.

Two logos, Ultra HD Premium (for TVs, Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc players and pre-recorded content) and Mobile HDR Premium (for laptops, tablets, phones and other battery-operated devices), promise certified products will meet or exceed strict performance levels for 4K resolution and high dynamic range, along with recommendations for immersive audio. The Ultra HD Premium and Mobile HDR Premium logos are intended to help convey that and confer a “Good Housekeeping seal of approval”-type cachet on products that carry them, says Fidler.

“One of the Alliance’s key messages to consumers will be around HDR,” Fidler said. While HDR was not part of the original 4K specification, it is an important and very visible improvement in picture quality set forth by the major studios.

Another part of the UHDA’s education program is working with retailers and manufacturers to help set expectations for consumers about what they can expect to see and what is currently available.  An abundance of content “will happen,” Fidler said in the DEG blog posting, “but not at the pace people might expect.”

While there are more than 250 Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc titles in the marketplace and streaming services including Netflix and Amazon regularly make content available in 4K UHD, broadcast content availability is sparse but growing.

DEG Gives Movies Anywhere First-Ever Innovation Award

Trade group DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group during its annual reception at CES on Jan. 9 will showcase its Achievement Awards, honoring the best 4K UHD hardware and software products released during 2017.

Movies Anywhere also will be honored by DEG leadership with the new DEG Emiel N. Petrone Innovation in Entertainment Technology Award.

The reception will promote 4K UHD products and content in various ways, with reception sponsor Redbox celebrating its plans to test 4K content at kiosks in 2018 by presenting one reception guest with the ultimate 4K home entertainment center, including a Sony BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TV, winner of the DEG: Excellence in 4K UHD Product Award; a gaming system; and peripherals including a sound bar and gaming headset. All attendees prior to the drawing will receive a chance to win the grand prize, presented during the reception by Redbox CEO Galen Smith.

The DEG Emiel N. Petrone Innovation in Entertainment Technology Award honors the memory of the DEG’s founding chairman, the late Emiel N. Petrone. The new award recognizes a technology development release in 2017 that has created new opportunities for the home entertainment industry.

The first DEG Emiel N. Petrone Innovation in Entertainment Technology Award winner is Movies Anywhere, the Disney-owned industry initiative that at launch last October brought together films from five major studios (Sony Pictures Entertainment, The Walt Disney Studios – encompassing Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment) with four key digital retailers (Amazon Video, Google Play, iTunes and Vudu) to provide movie owners with the ability to store their digital content in the cloud and access it across a wide range of devices and platforms.

Nominations by DEG leaders focused on those innovations that generated significant new trends in home and mobile entertainment. Voters recognized Movies Anywhere as “the best innovation we’ve had in years, with huge potential to come” and “this year’s innovation that has the best chance of transforming our industry.”

Winners of the Excellence in 4K UHD Awards were selected by a panel of product reviewers from the industry’s home theater enthusiast and business publications, including Media Play News. One hardware and one software product will be awarded with the top honors.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, is recognized with the DEG: Excellence in 4K UHD Content Award. The criteria for the Content Award include demonstrated excellence in 4K image capturing/transferring; HDR encoding; wide color rendering; and immersive (object-based) audio.

The DEG: Excellence in 4K Product Award goes to Sony Electronics for its Sony BRAVIA OLED 4K HDR TV. For the Product Award, criteria include delivery, on a consistent basis, of outstanding audio/video performance, convenience and versatility. Sony’s OLED TV boasts more than 8 million self-illuminating pixels and sound that comes from the entire screen, with the industry’s first Acoustic Surface.

“As home entertainment consumers increasingly demand enriched visual and audio experiences, delivered in a more convenient and frictionless way than ever before, DEG member companies are moving quickly to not only meet their needs, but to introduce them to new possibilities,” said Amy Jo Smith, DEG president and CEO. “DEG is delighted to recognize Sony Electronics and Warner Bros. as purveyors of best-in-class 4K UHD for the home, and Movies Anywhere as a model of seamless content delivery perfectly positioned for the future.”

‘Wonder Woman’ Voted No. 1 Movie to See in 4K at Home in FandangoNow Survey

On the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show, on-demand video service FandangoNow surveyed more than 1,000 film fans with HDTVs to find out which movies available now for home viewing should be seen in 4K Ultra HD. The winner, according to the poll, was Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot.

According to the survey, 60% of respondents indicated they are more likely to watch a movie at home if it is available in 4K Ultra HD. FandangoNow has curated the fans’ picks of the top 40 films from its library of 4K UHD titles into one list, which can be found at Fandangonow.com/list/most-in-demand-4k-movies.

The service is offering a 20% discount on all movies in 4K UHD when fans enter the promo code “4K18.”

“Our 4K survey reveals that fans are most excited about reliving the HD thrills of Patty Jenkins’ epic film Wonder Woman at home in the highest resolution possible,” said Fandango managing editor Erik Davis. “I’m also excited to see two Christopher Nolan movies, Dunkirk and The Dark Knight, ranking so highly with the fans. FandangoNow offers one of the most comprehensive collections of new movies in 4K, and these titles are among the top-rented and purchased movies on our service.”

The “Top 10 Movies & Franchises That Must Be Seen in 4K UHD,” according to the survey, are:

  1. Wonder Woman
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  3. Blade Runner 2049
  4. Deadpool
  5. Dunkirk
  6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  7. The Dark Knight
  8. Mad Max: Fury Road
  9. It (2017)
  10. Atomic Blonde

 

In addition to its library of 4K titles, FandangoNow offers more than 50,000 new-release and catalog movies, and next-day TV shows. The service also provides Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer scores for titles. FandangoNow is available on more than 200 million devices, including Smart TVs from Samsung, LG and VIZIO; over-the-top (OTT) streaming players including Roku and Chromecast; the Xbox One video game system; iOS and Android mobile phones and tablets; and online at FandangoNow.com.

Fox, Panasonic, Samsung Push for Wider Adoption of HDR10+ Technology

Twentieth Century Fox, Panasonic and Samsung Jan. 5 announced updates for the proprietary High Dynamic Range platform called HDR10+ Samsung began pushing last year.

In the move towards advanced 4K ultra high-definition televisions, including higher resolution, frame rates and enhanced contrast, and color, adoption of High Dynamic Range has been limited to paying Dolby Vision or using HDR10 – an open-source format any CE manufacturer can use without paying a licensing fee.

The companies envision the updated metadata platform being made available to content companies, UHD TVs, Blu-ray Disc players/recorders and set-top box manufacturers, among others, in the new year.

Samsung and Amazon Prime Video last April first partnered on HDR10+, with Panasonic and Fox joining in August. Media reports suggest Netflix is considering implementing the format as well.

“It was important for us to create an open system that is flexible and offers a viewing experience much closer to the filmmaker’s creative intent for the film,” Danny Kaye, EVP of 20th Century Fox, and managing director of the Fox Innovation Lab, said in a statement. “Together with Samsung and Panasonic, we aim to standardize the licensing process making it easy for partners, including content creators, television and device manufacturers, to incorporate this technology and improve the viewing experience for all audiences.”

Companies attending CES 2018 in Las Vegas Jan. 9-12 can view the new logo, learn about the license program, including final specifications, adopter agreements and/or sign up to receive a notification when technical specifications for HDR10+ become available at http://www.hdr10plus.org.

 

Chinese TV Maker Hisense Selects Amazon Alexa

Following an industry trend linking voice-activated technology with consumer electronics, Chinese TV manufacturer Hisense and Amazon Jan. 3 announced the ecommerce behemoth’s voice-control system Alexa will be available for the first time on select models of Hisense 4K Smart TVs – including a 100-inch UHD Laser TV.

Hisense’s Smart TVs include apps from Netflix, Amazon Video and YouTube, among others. In addition, Alexa-enabled Hisense 4K Smart TVs will offer a wide variety of voice features to help users control certain primary functions, including voice commands, changing inputs and controlling volume.

Alexa also connects to music services like iHeartRadio and Pandora, in addition to myriad skills enabling users to shop for groceries, gifts and ordering take-out. Alexa also enables users to connect to other smart home products, including lights, air conditioner, heater and other connected devices.

“While content providers and other TV manufacturers tend to focus on quantity of content, Hisense recognizes that the future is all about simplicity, making it easy for consumers to find and watch their favorite content, play music, control their smart home and more,” Mark Viken, VP of marketing, said in a statement.

Notably, Hisense entered the U.S. market manufacturing branded Roku TVs, while opting not to use the streaming media device pioneer’s new voice-activated technology. Indeed, Hisense has a history of incorporating Alexa in smart home products.

“[Hisense is] bringing Alexa directly to customers’ living rooms,” said Steve Rabuchin, VP, Amazon Alexa. “This means customers can do things like turn the volume up, control their smart home, get a movie recommendation or even order dinner on select models – with just their voice.”