DCI Examines HDR, Direct View Displays for Digital Cinema

At NAB in Las Vegas, Warner Bros. vice president of technology Michael Zink presented DCI’s perspective on two major technology changes in recent years: the advent of high dynamic range (HDR) and direct view displays. First Zink described how Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) was created in March 2002 as a joint venture of Disney, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Universal and Warner Bros. Studios to “establish and document voluntary specifications for an open architecture for digital cinema … to achieve interoperability and compatibility.”

Zink noted that DCI is guided by three essential goals: quality, security and interoperability, and that it collaborates with industry experts, filmmakers, distributors, exhibitors and equipment manufacturers. “The digital cinema experience is evolving,” he said. “We’re looking at enhancement in projection systems; the introduction of new display systems; and new imaging formats such as high dynamic range.”

DCI has received requests for guidance and perspective, said Zink, on these areas, and DCI evaluated technologies “with an eye to their impact on the digital cinema ecosystem.” After multiple years of research, testing and cross-collaboration, DCI produced two draft specifications, one on direct view display and another on high dynamic range.

“The intention of the documents is for any DCI projection or direct view [display] to be able to play back DCPs and HDR DCPs for the future,” said Zink. “With regard to HDR, a critical feature is one of creative expression. An HDR DCP doesn’t need to use the entire range of brightness, despite the improved luminance. That is always up to the filmmaker, not the display which simply provides the full range.”

Zink described some of the testing and research that went into creating the draft specs. About 100 expert and non-expert viewers examined luminance modifications to simulate different contrast performance, as well as ambient lighting tests to confirm the feasibility of black levels. “There was a clear correlation between higher contrast, peak luminance and an improved viewing experience,” said Zink, who added that DCI plans additional research into peak luminance levels greater than 100 nits. “DCI has continued to study this in an effort to determine parameters for a differentiated HDR viewing experience.”

With regard to direct view displays, DCI has started consultations with industry experts in the field and has also done detailed testing of various direct view display systems to understand their performance characteristics. Zink invited the audience to view the draft specs on the DCI’s site and, before May 31, send comments to dci.info@dcimovies.com.