Aside from 4K, the biggest TV trend to come out of the past few years is High Dynamic Range, or HDR. We've already covered exactly what that is in a separate article, but just to confuse things, sound pioneers Dolby have their own version called Dolby Vision.
Television is never short of technical terms and abbreviations, and keeping up with them can be a nightmare. So we're here to explain what exactly is Dolby Vision, how it differs to HDR10, what manufacturers support it and what content there is in the format.
What is Dolby Vision?
Dolby Vision is a standard for the way certain TV content is produced. It's an end-to-end process, from the content creation and mastering through to how you view it at home.
Because it's end-to-end, the metadata in each frame can be dictated by Dolby and then compatible equipment can read it and understand it exactly how it was meant to be. It means you'll get the best possible viewing experience.
HDR10, on the other hand, relies on the HDR TV itself to interpret the metadata and display it and the metadata is relatively basic.
It's worth noting that Dolby Vision content can be played on older HDR TVs (version 1.4b is the oldest).
The main difference between Dolby Vision and HDR10/HDR10+ is the colour depth and brightness the content and equipment is capable of achieving. Dolby Vision content is mastered in up to 12-bit colour depth, compared to HDR10's 10-bit (which is where HDR10 gets its name from).
You may be wondering, what difference could 12-bit over 10-bit possibly make? Well, 12-bit colour depth gives access to over 68 billion colours, compared to 1 billion with 10-bit. This means the colours you see from Dolby Vision films and on compatible TVs are supposed to be far more accurate and as the director intended.
Brightness is another key factor in HDR content. The Ultra HD Premium specification says HDR TVs must attain a minimum of 1,000 nits of peak brightness, which many of the current crop of HDR TVs can do. Nits is the measurement of brightness used for displays.
Dolby Vision content can be mastered for 10,000 nits peak brightness but at the moment, since no display can support this, content is actually mastered to around 4,000 nits. However, it's ready for when the displays support it.
What manufacturers support Dolby Vision?
In order to watch Dolby Vision content, you need to have the right equipment. The benefit of Dolby Vision TVs is that they can support HDR10/10+ as well, but HDR10 TVs can't do Dolby Vision, so if you want the best of both worlds, Dolby Vision is the way to go.
However, not all manufacturers are supporting it because, unlike HDR10/10+, it costs manufacturers a fee to include the technology in their TVs.
Originally, Dolby Vision equipment had dedicated chips inside which read the metadata and reproduced the images. However, as TV processors have become more advanced, it's now possible to enable Dolby Vision through a software update. It appears that some devices will be updated via software and the new smartphone support is entirely software-based.
LG was initially the only TV manufacturer to support Dolby Vision, but Sony, TCL, Hisense and others have since jumped on board with others following this year - Philips is planning to introduce Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos to its 2019 OLED TV ranges while the new Panasonic flagship OLED GZ2000 TV supports it.
Samsung is sticking with its decision to support only the rival HDR10+ format instead. That makes sense as it developed it alongside 20th Century Fox. Panasonic is also on board with HDR10+.
What about Dolby Vision on mobile devices?
Let's not ignore mobile HDR in this equation. With the launch of the LG G6, Dolby Vision got its first mobile device and since then many others have jumped on board. Since the launch of the G6, several other mobile devices have been released that support Dolby Vision.
They include the Apple iPhone X, Huawei P20 Pro, Razer Phone and the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and S9. However, it doesn't seem like the list is expanding hugely, so we'll see what happens there.
What Dolby Vision content can I watch?
We've already mentioned how Dolby Vision Blu-ray discs are coming this year, but what if you don't want to invest in physical media, what are your options? Thankfully, Netflix and Amazon both have a range of Dolby Vision content available to stream - although Netflix has significantly more.
You can tell if a TV show or movie supports Dolby Vision from a tag that appears next to the star rating.
What is Dolby Cinema?
Dolby Cinema is a standard for high-quality HDR cinema that needs a specially-installed cinema. In a basic sense, it uses both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, but also needs other bespoke equipment. Read more: What is Dolby Cinema?