Samsung Opens Up QLED Trademark; Pushes for Open Dynamic HDR Standard

TV giant opens its Samsung QLED trademark for use by any TV supplier, and aims to spur industrywide adoption of SMPTE 2094-40 open, license-free dynamic HDR standard by all manufacturers.

Joe Palenchar

Samsung says it has an “open” mind when it comes to trademarks and dynamic-metadata HDR technology. The global TV market-share leader hopes to spur industrywide adoption of an open, license-free dynamic-metadata HDR standard called SMPTE 2094-40, which it contends will bring the advantages of dynamic metadata to entry-level 4K HDR TVs. The company is also opening up its Samsung QLED trademark for use by any TV supplier as a generic term designating TVs incorporating different variations of quantum-dot technology.

Industrywide use of QLED as an umbrella term would cut down on consumer confusion, company representatives said Thursday during presentations and product demos at Samsung Quality Assurance Lab America in Pine Brook, N.J. Consolidating around a single term would enable retailers to use the designation in physical and on-line stores to help consumers sort through TVs more easily, the company said. “There hasn’t been a standard definition yet,” a spokesman said of TVs that incorporate different variations of quantum-dot technology.

SMPTE 2094-40 Metadata Standard

In promoting industrywide adoption of the license-free SMPTE 2094-40 dynamic-metadata standard, Samsung said it wants the advantages of dynamic metadata to trickle down into entry-level 4K HDR TVs.

Unlike dynamic-metadata Dolby Vision HDR, SMPTE 2094-40 is royalty-free and thus has a greater chance of adoption in a broader range of 4K HDR TVs, Samsung said. SMPTE 2094-40 is royalty-free even though it incorporates select Samsung technology.

SMPTE 2094-40, branded HDR 10 Plus by Samsung, will appear in all of Samsung’s 2017 HDR TVs, in tandem with royalty-free static-metadata HDR 10, at prices down to less than a suggested $700. Because of its TV market share and relationships with studios, Samsung believes it can entice content creators and mastering facilities into adopting 2094-40.

“Samsung has a software solution to inject [SMPTE 2094-40] dynamic metadata into HEVC video streams and post-production workflows,” Samsung consultant Florian Friedrich told CE Pro during the event.

Said Steve Panosian, Samsung’s home entertainment marketing director for visual display products, “Content creators know we’re doing this.”

“In TVs with significant light restrictions compared to the mastering display, regular tone mapping will not differentiate between diffuse light and specular highlights.”

— Florian Friedrich, Samsung consultant

Like Dolby Vision, 2094-40 adds dynamic metadata on top of open HDR 10’s static metadata. Dolby Vision, HDR 10, and SMPTE 2094-40 also share the standardized PQ (perceptual quantizer) “transfer” function, or the way in which light is turned into digital data and then converted back to light on a display.

The advantages of dynamic metadata are readily apparent in lower cost 4K HDR TVs with peak luminance of only 200 to 300 nits, Friedrich said. Many HDR TVs currently approach or exceed 1,000 nits, with new Samsung Q series models hitting peaks of up to 2,000 nits on select models. Some HDR TVs, however, are rated at less than 200 nits, Friedrich noted.

Static metadata sets the dynamic range for an entire piece of content, instructing a TV to adjust (tone map) the content’s brightness and color volume to appear as close as possible to the content creator’s intent. In contrast, dynamic metadata optimizes the image on a scene-by-scene basis, and it is particularly critical to maintaining a content creator’s intent when content is mastered on a display whose luminance significantly exceeds the luminance of a consumer’s TV, Friedrich explained.

“In TVs with significant light restrictions compared to the mastering display, regular tone mapping will not differentiate between diffuse light and specular highlights,” Friedrich said. Dynamic metadata, however, will give content creators the ability to decide whether to maintain specular highlights in a scene or sacrifice specular brightness to make a scene brighter overall. “That’s a decision that a TV can’t otherwise make,” Friedrich said.

SMPTE 2094-40 streams will be backward-compatible with HDR 10 TVs, Friedrich noted. The HDR technology could be adopted first by OTT streaming services and incorporated later into an updated 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray standard, he said.

Samsung QLED Nomenclature

In opening up its QLED trademark, Samsung noted that the term was trademarked by QD Vision, a quantum-dot technology developer acquired by Samsung in late 2016 for its intellectual property.

Now, Samsung is releasing the trademark for use by other suppliers to denote a category of TVs, said Samsung consultant Chris Chinnock, president of consulting company Insight Media. “No one knows they can use this,” he said.

Samsung’s Panosian said QLED could serve as an umbrella term describing different classes, or architectures, of quantum-dot displays in much the same way that LCD describes different classes of LCD TVs, CRT refers to different classes of CRT TVs, and digital micromirror device (DMD) refers to different projector classes.

QLED could be used to describe current-generation photo-luminescent quantum-dot technology and future-generation electroluminescent QLED displays. The photo-luminescent technology uses a blue LED light source to energize red and green nano crystals on a film, creating a white light that hits RGB subpixels, each with an LCD shutter. Future-generation electroluminescent (EL) QLED displays will eliminate backlighting and shoot electrons instead of photons into a combined quantum-dot/subpixel layer. EL quantum-dot displays will be highly energy efficient and deliver perfect blacks because subpixels can be turned off comp-letely.

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Samsung prominently displayed the QLED moniker on a huge sign hung on the façade of the Las Vas Convention Center during January’s CES.

The company didn’t outline how it will promote the QLED name to rivals.

Also during the event, Touch Display Research CEO Jennifer Colegrove said quantum-dot technology delivers wider color gamut and improved color accuracy over traditional LCD TVs with lower power consumption. All current quantum-dot displays use spherical dots, but rod- shaped dots are also in development, she said.

Colegrove called QLED technology the best choice for TVS, monitors, all-in-one PCs, notebooks and tablets. She called OLED best for smartphones, AR/VR devices, and flexible and foldable displays, including wrist-worn health bands.

In another presentation, Friedrich demonstrated what he called a more accurate way to measure a display’s dynamic range, placing a white test patch into the center of a moving picture instead of taking measurements using a static image.