Just like Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision is another new technology from Dolby Laboratories. This latest development focus on the picture quality side of the equation, while the Dolby Atmos handle the audio.
If you’d like to brush up on what Dolby Atmos is, and how it works, click here to read up on that.
But long story short, the biggest thing in TV technology right now is HDR, or what is called High Dynamic Range. Content that is mastered in HDR format pushes visual quality to its limit, with brighter highlights, deeper blacks, and a much wider range of colors.
Combine this with the sharper picture you get form 4K displays, and your media content will never have looked better.
The future is HDR
That it may be, but the future is also messy. That’s because HDR is currently available in two formats, namely HDR10 and Dolby Vision. The former is an open source implementation backed by major players like Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic.
Dolby Vision, meanwhile, is the more ambitious of the two, but is a proprietary technology developed by Dolby Laboratories, and only garnering support from LG OLED TVs, and some television models from companies like TCL, Philips, and those in the Vizio Reference Series.
Sounds confusing, right?
The simple way to explain the difference between HDR10 and Dolby Vision is that although both HDR formats have very similar base requirements, one is designed or what TVs are capable now, while the other, the more premium version is waiting for screen technology to catch up.
Throw in the fact that Dolby Vision requires licensing fees from TV makers, and you have a situation where the war still rages on. A variety of content is available in both these popular HDR formats, and a definitive victor is yet to emerge.
The Dolby Vision difference
So, the big question is, can you see a difference between identical content playing in either of these two HDR formats? The short answer to this is yes, it is actually possible to tell the difference if you look really close, even though both formats deliver massively improved image quality overall.
Both these HDR formats require displays to be at least 4K resolution, able to work with a wide color gamut that is 90% of the DCI-P3 standard, and the panel and components of the TV or monitor should be of at least a 10-bit color depth.
But this is where Dolby Vision leaps away from HDR10, as it supports mastering at up to 100,000 nits peak brightness, as opposed to just 4,000 nits for its competitor. Dolby Vision also supports up to 12-bit colors depth, and up to the BT.2020 color space.
All these factors combine to create what is essentially a premium version of HDR10. Blend in the fact that Dolby Vision TVs also support HDR10, and the reverse is not true, and you can see Dolby Vision is the superior format, one that promises better image quality across the board.
This video directly from Dolby shows it all:
All that said, the best TV todays can’t yet display content at the standards that these two HDR formats have specified, the color volume is just not there yet. To that end, it is difficult to tell the difference now, for most people at least.
But even now, Dolby Vision provides what most would call the more balanced picture.
If you are setting up your home theater now, it is a good idea to go the Dolby Vision route for your display and AV receiver, for the sake of future proofing. Throw in a quality set of Dolby Atmos surround speakers, and you are all set.
It is hard to predict what the future holds for these two HDR standards, but the recent trend is that most AV receiver makers have started to offer Dolby Vision support on their newest models. And this is certainly a win for what is still, relatively, a new standard — that has time on its side.