If you followed our MWC coverage last week you’ll know that the newly-unveiled Xperia XZ Premium is packed with cutting-edge technologies including a 4K HDR screen for unprecedented image quality.
Sony’s TV division – BRAVIA – has been producing 4K HDR screens since 2015 so we thought we’d sit down with one of the team to find out a bit more about the tech which has gone from silver screen to smartphone in just two years.
Before we get to that though, we’re really pleased to say that we’ve buddied up with the team at Amazon to bring 4K HDR content to XZ Premium. For the first time ever on a smartphone, XZ Premium users will be able to enjoy 4K HDR content from Amazon Prime Video including shows like The Man In The High Castle and The Grand Tour. Available via the Prime Video app, this is going to deliver films and TV shows to your smartphone in better quality than ever before.
OK, back to getting under the skin of 4K HDR, here’s our chat with Gavin McCarron from the Sony Europe BRAVIA Product Planning team:
Let’s start simple, what is 4K HDR?
4K HDR or ‘High Dynamic Range’ has a much wider range of brightness or contrast, and a much wider range of colours and tones than what we’re used to with standard dynamic range content.
For the last few years improving picture quality was focused around higher resolutions, basically squeezing more pixels in to the screen. We moved from Standard Definition (640×480) to Full HD (1920×1080) and then to 4K (3840×2160).
While 4K gives us more pixels, adding HDR goes further by improving each of those pixels in the two key areas of colour and contrast. The expanded range of light and colour also means you will also get a better sense of depth in the picture, making it more immersive, involving and closer to what we see in real life.
Got it – same number of pixels, but better. Does 4K HDR content need to be shot differently to standard 4K to take advantage?
Yes, the right equipment needs to be used. Interestingly though, the cameras used to shoot films and TV shows have been able to capture that wide range of brightness and colour for a number of years. It was the industry standards applied in post-production that removed a lot of that brightness and colour information, those standards were originally designed with old CRT TVs in mind that couldn’t display the wide range of brightness and colour that today’s screen technologies can. In fact older films, even those recorded on 35mm film, have enough information to allow them to be remastered in to 4K HDR. HDR allows directors and producers to change how they’ve been creating the look and feel of their shows and films.
With XZ Premium we’re now getting in on the action at Xperia, what can we expect?
It’s such an exciting development for mobile, it means you’ll get that jump in quality we’ve seen at home when you’re out and about. We’ve seen mobile video usage increase massively over the last few years as both the quality and ease of access to content has improved, this is another step in getting the same quality of content on the go as we see at home.
With the combination of 4K and HDR you’ll see a major improvement in all the main areas of picture quality; clarity, colour and contrast. A 4K HDR video will look much more realistic, things like brighter highlights and more vibrant and accurate colours will really jump out.
And we have to ask, what’s next after 4K HDR?
In the TV world 4K HDR is becoming more mainstream and it will continue to be the latest in screen technology for the next few years at least.
The next step is 8K which is even more resolution but that is definitely looking pretty far in to the future currently. For mobile, I don’t know, it’s not so long ago that we were happy with two colour LCD screens with a resolution of 84 x 48 pixels so we’ve come a long way in a short time already!
Discover more about the XZ Premium here.