You'll find Dolby Vision in a lot of different places these days. In next-generation game consoles like the XBox Series X (or at least it's coming very soon), in 4K Blu-ray players, smartphones including the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and Xiaomi's latest Mi Mix Fold, and of course many high-end TVs like LG, Panasonic, Sony, etc.
But what is Dolby Vision HDR? What content is typically found in this format and how does it make a difference to your viewing experience? The world of HDR can be confusing, so we've put together this detailed guide to what Dolby Vision is, where it's available, and what advantages it might have over competing formats.
While Dolby Vision may be commonplace, it is a game-changer. The one we needed in televisions for the last decade. 4K may have given us a few extra pixels, but it's HDR that really makes those pixels shine like never before.
Not all HDR televisions come with this dynamic HDR format; the minimum required is the most basic HDR10. However, those that offer a truly enhanced viewing experience beyond the usual SDR footage - that is, if the screen you're looking at is capable of doing it justice.
Movie buffs will be delighted to know that Dolby Vision is the format that studios are turning to and harnessing its potential to deliver colorful, dynamic, and calculated scene-by-scene images. All of this will be shown on your home television.
Featuring the latest Dolby Vision IQ technology that also improves the way Dolby Vision is displayed on the screen, using light sensors on high-end televisions to automatically calibrate the picture settings based on the light level in the room, it is a format that continues to provide more, the more is on the market.
Dolby Vision is still a relatively new format, but from what we've experienced, that's exactly what your home entertainment system needs to turn it into a home theater. The good news is that it is available to you right now.
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What is Dolby Vision?
Dolby Vision is a type of HDR (high dynamic range), possibly the second most popular after the ubiquitous HDR10 standard that is included in all HDR TVs and players.
While it bases much of its technology on the basic HDR standard (Dolby played a key role in the development, after all), it is a better solution.
The main improvement from an end-user perspective is that it places an additional layer of information on top of a main HDR10 video signal that contains scene-by-scene information that Dolby Vision-compatible TVs can use to improve the way they present their images. . This means brighter and darker blacks, allowing televisions to display the full gamut of colors in Standard Rec 2020.
If HDR surprises you now, wait until you see Dolby Vision.
We've already seen Dolby Vision in the UK on a handful of Netflix and Amazon video streams, and it's also available via VUDU and iTunes in the US.
However, the "big thing" for many AV fans has been Ultra HD Blu-ray. Dolby Vision is listed as an option on the UHD BD spec sheet, and AV fans desperately need to see how much of a difference Dolby could make to the picture quality of the world's best AV source.
The latest crop of Dolby Vision Blu-rays, including Despicable Me, HBO's West World and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, look amazing, as long as you have the material to watch them.
What is Dolby Vision IQ?
Dolby Vision is expected to get even better this year with a new feature on select high-end TVs, Dolby Vision IQ, that will make shows and movies look great in any room at any time of day.
The new feature was announced at CES 2020 alongside the new Panasonic HZ2000 OLED and the LG Gallery Series OLED, two of the first televisions to use the new technology.
Dolby Vision IQ works by using the encoded dynamic metadata in Dolby Vision content in conjunction with a light sensor built into the TV, using the information to change picture settings and display a more accurate image.
Basically, Dolby Vision IQ can tell that you are watching TV in a well-lit room, where a lot of dark details are lost. Therefore, the TV will be able to automatically increase the brightness without you having to enter the picture settings and do it yourself. Dolby Vision IQ also allows you to change the picture settings according to the type of content you are watching (movies, sports, etc.).
What you will need to see in Dolby Vision
For the avoidance of doubt, Dolby Vision is a licensed video platform that requires all video channel links to be compatible. So buying Despicable Me 4K Blu-ray Discs alone won't be enough; you'll also need a TV capable of receiving Dolby Vision and a 4K Blu-ray player capable of playing Dolby Vision.
All LG OLED TVs are DV compatible, as are their premium Super UHD LCD TVs. Sony TVs with X1 Extreme chips (the ZD9, A1 OLED, XE93, and XE94, plus the 900 X2018F) also support DV after a firmware update, as do some VIZIO and TCL TVs in the US. Much of Panasonic's 2019 range of TVs (GX800, GX920, GZ1000, GZ1500 and GZ2000) also support Dolby Vision.
All of Panasonic's OLED TV models support Dolby Vision, as do several of its mid-range LED sets.
The latest additions to the Dolby Vision family are consoles, including Xbox One S and Xbox One X, and mobile phones, albeit high-end. The format can be displayed on the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone X and LG G6 phones, bringing really vivid images and colors to the screens you are likely to use the most.
Of course, if you want Dolby Vision from a physical disc, there are only a few 4K Blu-ray players that currently support Dolby Vision, like the now-discontinued Oppo UDP-203 and Oppo 205, but more models. LG and Sony should help. fill the void.
If you're lucky enough to have a suitable kit combination, trust us - you'll want to buy as many Dolby Vision Blu-rays as possible. You have to see the impact of Dolby Vision on the images of both movies to believe it.
Dolby Vision: a new world of color
Take color for example with our combination of Oppo 203 and LG OLED55C7, Dolby Vision Despicable movies show me an unprecedented range of tones and tonal subtleties. Everything from animated skin tones to background walls and locations contains subtle variations and color accuracy that you simply don't get in HDR10 - a comparison verified by playing the "main" video. HDR10 discs through the Panasonic UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player in the OLED55C7.
This helps images instantly appear more detailed and refined, even though Dolby Vision cannot add more pixels to 4K source images.
Dolby Vision streaming doesn't just feature more subtle colors than HDR10 streaming. Some colors also have a slightly different hue and hue; and invariably our impression was that the DV versions were the final and accurate versions.
The latest 4K Blu-ray players from Panasonic support Dolby Vision.
Dolby Vision's light domain is surprisingly bright, too. Either way, the technology seems to deliver purer and brighter reflections than we've seen with the LG OLED, while also delivering richer dark scenes and lighter details.
In fact, there seems to be more definition between the subtle differences in light in each part of the Dolby Vision image, making it appear more stable, rich, deep, and solid that it appears almost three-dimensional compared to the image. Accurate HDR10 image.
As if all of that wasn't surprising enough, the setup Dolby designed for the OLED55C7 seems to handle motion more cleanly and efficiently than LG's processing with HDR10.
Add in all the benefits of Dolby Vision / Despicable Me and you've got a picture we've never seen on national TV before, even though we're only talking about a couple of old animated titles. After seeing the movie version of Dolby Vision working on Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 recently, we can only imagine how spectacular Dolby Vision at Home could be with titles more visually sophisticated than Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2.
Baby Groot from Guardian of the Galaxy 2 deserves to be appreciated in Dolby Vision.
Technologies that rival Dolby Vision
It should be remembered at this point that AV marks not registered with Dolby for Dolby VisionSamsung, in particular, tend to suggest that they can deliver DV-equivalent results simply by applying their own processing power to HDR10.
After playing Despicable Me discs in HDR10 on a reference Samsung UE65KS9500, although this set provides brighter peaks of light than the Dolby Vision image on the LG OLED, it was unable to match Dolby Vision because of the complexities of light and the color.
Samsung announced in 2017 that it would partner with Amazon Prime Video to develop a new HDR format called "HDR10+," which also applies a layer of "dynamic metadata" (scene-by-scene instructions) to an HDR10 stream. . It's essentially a royalty-free alternative to Dolby Vision, part of Samsung's premium line of QLED TVs.
Panasonic and 21st Century Fox had put their weight behind HDR10 +, selling it as a more democratic open source HDR format. However, Panasonic recently changed its mind on this and you can now get Dolby Vision on a host of Panasonic 4K Blu Ray players and Panasonic TVs.
All recent LG OLED TVs, including the LG E8 OLED, support DV.
We're not necessarily saying here that your next 4K TV and Blu-ray player must absolutely be Dolby Vision compliant. After all, the format should always work within the brightness and color limits of whatever television it is applied to.
There are non-Dolby Vision TVs that are (in the case of Samsung in particular) capable of delivering color and brightness levels beyond those possible with any current Dolby Vision TV. But there are still not many Dolby Vision Ultra HD Blu-rays available, despite the 'official' release of the format.
What certainly doesn't seem to be in doubt after watching Dolby Vision in action from a 4K Blu-ray is that it does an incredible job of making the most of any display it comes in contact with. And with technology as confusing and bug-ridden as today's HDR, that's a big deal.