Q. I am a new 4K TV owner and I am using a Roku Ultra streaming player to show my 4K programs. My question is: Does Roku offer all the HDR formats? I read that HDR can really make a difference in the picture, but I also read that Roku doesn’t have Dolby Vision HDR. Is that true? — Frank, Cincinnati.
Frank, you are right. When you have a 4K TV that’s HDR compatible, the picture can look more realistic and the colors more vivid, particularly if the set is properly calibrated.
However, it’s also true that there are different HDR formats, and not all 4K TVs and 4K streaming players support all formats.
This adds to the confusion that still surrounds 4K TV, and discourages many consumers from buying one. After all, why buy an expensive 4K set (or streamer player) if you can’t watch all the available 4K programming on it? Right?
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For instance, let’s look at Roku.
The company does offer Dolby Vision HDR (as well as another popular HDR format, HDR 10) in some of its Roku 4K TVs. However, the Roku 4K streaming players, such as the Ultra and the Premiere, only support HDR 10. Dolby Vision is not included.
That means if a show was produced in Dolby Vision, you will be able to see it in 4K using your Roku streaming player, but the HDR enhancements will not be available. However, if you have a Roku 4K TV that offers both Dolby Vision and HDR 10, you can watch both the way the filmmaker intended.
The good news here is that there are relatively few shows in Dolby Vision compared to HDR 10 because the latter now has the support of more studios and related companies. In other words, if you buy a Roku 4K streamer, you won’t miss much.
But after watching the stupid HD-DVD-Blu-ray disc war roughly a decade ago, it saddens me to see the industry engage in yet another format skirmish. Making matters worse, Samsung this year introduced yet another format, HDR10+, although, like Dolby Vision, it’s been used in very few productions.
By the way, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. When a 4K show or movie has HDR, the brightest parts of the picture can become even brighter while the darkest images can become darker. This boosts the picture’s contrast, which helps creates the more realistic view.
The difference between HDR 10 and Dolby Vision is basically how each format codes the images, which determines how the set displays them. Some videophiles believe Dolby Vision does a better job of enhancing the color, but I’ve seen both and I can’t tell the difference.
So there you go.
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— Phillip Swann
Hi Phillip – Hoping that you can clear this up for me.
I am looking to get a TV with Dolby Vision and have zeroed in on the Vizio Quantum.
But if I use a Roku stick that does not support DV will DV material downshift to HDR10?
Would a Samsung QLED (which has no DV) take DV shows and also downshift to HDR10?
Would a Roku stick that does support DV and being used on a Samsung QLED, ever be able to show DV?
I feel like the DV format is important to have in the future. I want to be able to buy a TV today knowing it can handle both HDR10 and DV down the road.
Dolby Vision content can be shown in HDR10. You’ll see that UHD movie specs will say Dolby Vision, HDR10 with video specs that are DV. I’ve also confirmed that DV content on a Roku shows as HDR. Personally, I like Dolby Vision. There are more titles coming out in it (Netflix has more and more movies and series in Dolby Vision now). It provides image enhancements by having streaming dynamic tone mapping (adjusts contrast throughout the length of the movie). HDR10+ is supposed to do similar things, and is open source. But Dolby is already making a foot print (and no doubt will lower its license fees with higher demand). The main popular streaming device that currently supports Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos is the Apple 4K TV.
This video shows good comparisons of DV and HDR10:
The above comparison video, itself, isn’t shot in HD resolution so it detracts from the fact that the narrator is using high-end OLED panels to demonstrate. The white balance on the video is no good either as the narrator looks to be jaundiced (and I say this using a color calibrated graphic arts display). For the same reason, the OLED demos don’t offer much in the way of color accuracy for purposes of comparison on that front. (Where HDR/DV is concerned, my question is whether the technologies over-exaggerate color — which is just as bad as washed-out color when it comes to creating lifelike images!) It seems kind of pointless, finally, to start off with animated film content to perform the Dolby Vision vs. HDR comparison. Aside from overt image handling problems, like banding, animations tend to simplify colors and shapes and rely on simulated lighting. They never have the same tonality, fine detail and dynamic range as real-life images. I don’t see how anyone can evaluate 4K content using a Disney animation vs. something more along the lines of a National Geographic documentary. Maybe it’s just me but I wish there was a better comparison video available on the web somewhere — and that would start by filming it with just as much care as selecting the high-end TVs on which to demonstrate.
The video is shot in HD. It won’t show the entire HDR range of contrast, but the presenter is a professional color calibrator and gives his impressions (and has pretty in depth reviews of TVs). And actually, 3D animation can have higher contrast and color gradient than a video. With video, you’re limited to the physical limitations of the sensor (if you’re shooting in the dark, you’re using higher ISO and reducing dynamic range). 3D animations, however, now always use 32bit HDR light mapping for simulating light. I’m also not sure if you watched the whole video, as he compares filmed movies as well.