Samsung Electronics hosted its second annual QLED & Advanced Displays Summit on June 27 and 28 at The London West Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, California. The Summit offered insights into Samsung’s plans for quantum dot (QLED) displays, activities surrounding its full 8K ecosystem, the brand’s ambitions of bringing MicroLED technology to consumers and its efforts in integrating HDR into cinemas.
“Samsung has built a reputation for its history of innovation and groundbreaking developments in the TV industry,” said Jongsuk Chu, Senior Vice President of Visual Display Business at Samsung Electronics. “We’re committed to maintaining that trend by bringing advancements of 8K and MicroLED TV technology to the consumers and continuing our investment in enhancing the viewing experience.”
The QLED & Advanced Displays Summit was co-hosted by Samsung and Insight Media, an advanced display consultant focusing on the display industry. During the event, Samsung demonstrated enhancements ranging from HDR10+ mastering workflows to Automatic Color Calibration and no burn-in on its 2018 QLED TVs, showcasing its leadership in the TV display industry.
Participants, including industry experts and influencers attended to experience live demonstrations and spark dialogue about the current state and challenges of TV technologies. Above all, the QLED TV demos highlighted Samsung’s efforts in pioneering HDR capability by applying next-generation enhancements for the benefit of consumers.
The event featured a number of prominent experts in the display industry – ranging from academia experts in the MicroLED technology sector and consultants specializing in HDR cinema integration to renowned professionals in display and mastering tool industry. Speakers and influencers from the following organizations also attended to discuss TV technology-related topics that included:
Insight Media is a technology consultancy focused on emerging technology in the ProAV, cinema, broadcast, consumer electronics and display industries. The company authors white papers and articles on these topics, provide technology and market assessment services and hosts events to discuss key technology trends in these market segments.
As screens get bigger, the quality of the picture on the screen becomes more important. Big screen TVs are the main source of growth in an otherwise flat market. And with big screens comes higher resolutions.
No matter how big the TV screen is, if it doesn’t have the necessary picture quality, users won’t be able to realize the power of the screen. That’s why large-sized TV has inevitably led to the increase in demand for Ultra High Definition (UHD). UHD is a 4K (3,840X2,160) picture quality, which is applied to TVs that measure over 65 inches. The technology is about to take yet another step up as 8K (7,680X4,320) TVs are ready to be commercialized.
But this is an era whereby even the number of pixels isn’t enough in isolation. To produce the best picture quality possible, it’s also important to consider the environment this content will be viewed in and the quality of the original content itself. The paradigm is shifting and it’s vital that all considerations are taken into account to produce an experience that everyone will enjoy.
UHD TV Beyond FHD TV
Worldwide UHD TV sales surpassed FHD (Full High Definition) TV for the first time last year, according to market researcher IHS Markit. It is expected to ship more than 100 million units this year, which is about 45% of the total TV market. In 2022, the proportion of UHD TV is expected to reach 60%.
Samsung UHD TV sales volume is also on the rise. Sales of Samsung UHD TVs in the fourth quarter of last year already exceeded 50% of the total Samsung TV units sold globally. In the first quarter of this year, Samsung UHD TV sales also increased by more than 35% compared to the same period last year.
What is the Standard for Ultra-High-Definition?
In the ultra-high-definition TV market era, standards for judging picture quality are further developing. For example, is a TV able to reproduce colors with real-life brightness, particularly when the normal TV viewing environment is brighter than many would expect? According to the DOE survey, consumers in the U.S. and Europe usually watch TV in a bright environment with an average home illuminance level of 79 lux. Can a TV react and provide an accurate picture in these, and other common viewing use cases?
Experts advise consumers to look beyond the high resolution to see the different factors that cause the difference in brightness, contrast, and content when consumers watch TV. The way consumers view TV and the way experts gauge a TV’s ability to deliver is much more sophisticated than it ever has been. The TV needs to be more versatile because it’s used to do more things. That means Samsung has to be stringent to make sure its QLED products perform not just according to the specifications but also according to real life usage.
Blacks and Colors Transformed
A new criterion for picture quality is color volume, which can measure minute color changes, three-dimensionally, according to varying degrees of brightness. Recently, Verband Deutscher Electrotechnischer (VDE), a well-regarded certification institution in Germany established in 1893, certified QLED TV for 100% color volume for two consecutive years, which is the world’s first and only time a TV has received such a distinction.
QLED TV, based on the metal quantum dot technology, can accurately represent detailed colors that can be hidden from dark or bright images. Brightness can be expressed up to 2,000 knits, which is 3 to 4 times that of conventional TVs, giving a more vivid look to scenes such as sunlight reflecting texture and white snowy landscapes.
Indeed, this year’s Samsung QLED TVs achieves the highest level of contrast ratio by improving the quality of blacks on-screen while maintaining brightness. To create an even more stunning contrast ratio, the TVs feature new Direct Full Array technology, which puts backlit LEDs behind the panel for precise brightness control. By making the LED blocks more than ten times the number of conventional TVs, the light can be adjusted individually to create a subtler difference in black colors. Moreover, it applies the black algorithm that perceives and precisely adjusts black colors, successfully delivering the original detail even in particularly dark scenes.
When watching a dark scene in a bright environment, the reflection of objects around the screen can cause discomfort. QLED TV solved this problem by using Anti-reflection technology. Even under daylight or bright lighting, an anti-reflective screen dramatically reduces glare, allowing one to be more immersed in images regardless of the surroundings.
Along with this, Samsung is also working to expand the ecosystem to upgrade HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology, which is an integral function of ultra-definition TV. Since last year, Samsung has been developing HDR10+, which is one step more advanced than HDR10, a standard for realizing HDR video. HDR10+ is a technology that shows optimal contrast ratio for each scene through ‘Dynamic Tone Mapping’ technique which applies different contrast to each scene. The company is expanding its HDR10+ content in cooperation with global companies such as Amazon, 20th Century Fox, Panasonic and Warner Bros.
AI Upscaling the Content
High quality content is as important as the ultra-high definition TV specification.
Many of the most recognizable names in video content such as Netflix, YouTube and various cable companies already provide UHD content. However, due to the burden of production cost, consumers are not able to enjoy 4K UHD broadcasting content on TV unrestrictedly yet.
The problem here is that if low-quality content is shown on a big screen, the pixels are usually enlarged artificially, causing the picture to shake or lose clarity. Samsung Electronics has solved this problem by installing the ‘4K Q Engine’ based on semiconductor technology on its QLED TV.
‘4K Q Engine’ is a technology that upgrades SD (400,000 pixels) and FHD (2 million pixels) class image to 4K (8 million pixels) class. Based on artificial intelligence, it applies a 5-step algorithm (Image Signal Analysis ▷ Noise Reduction ▷ Improved 1st Detail ▷ 4K Upscaling ▷ Improved 2nd Detail) to improve image quality and express hidden details. In actual comparison, in the FHD image, the part where the light in the night view of the city is clearly separated by the ‘4K Q Engine’.
What’s more, 8K AI Technology will be introduced in the latter half of the year and will offer an even better picture and sound expression.
QLED TV’s dramatically improved picture quality this year has been widely praised by many media outlets including Tech Radar, What Hi-Fi, and AVS Forum. Trusted Reviews gave Samsung’s QLED the Highly Recommended mark and said: “The Samsung QE65Q9FN is the most impressive TV I’ve reviewed in years. It effectively combines the strong brightness and colour of Quantum Dot LED (QLED) with the deep blacks and almost the lighting precision of OLED. That’s a huge deal in a world where you generally choose one or the other.”
“As TVs gradually get larger in size and the competition for premium picture quality becomes fiercer, detailed and subtle image rendering performance is growing in importance,” said Doochan Eum, Vice President of Visual Display Business at Samsung Electronics. “With Samsung QLED TV’s enhanced brightness, contrast, content, we are continuing to provide consumers with a superb immersive viewing experience.”
What do you consider important when watching the Olympic Games on TV? Vivid picture and sound quality on your TV would be able to provide you a lifelike experience just as if you were onsite at the Games. The artificial intelligence (AI) technology which Samsung Electronics recently unveiled at CES 2018 promises to deliver this kind of experience, with picture quality nearly the equivalent of 8K (7,680 × 4,320) resolution, as well as optimized sound, for real-time and other video content.
The new AI technology achieves close to 8K resolution and enhanced sound quality by aligning with the unique characteristics of the specific content, a step up from typical upscaling technology used to improve image quality. So how exactly does it work? Let’s take a closer look.
Enjoy any content in 8K through Machine Learning
The world’s first 8K AI Technology that realizes a definition nearly the equivalent of 8K is based on Machine Learning. Computers or smartphones run according to directive values that humans enter. In contrast, Machine Learning refers to the way AI learns certain patterns and gives optimized answers based on various examples.
Samsung’s Machine Learning Super Resolution (MLSR) utilizes AI technology to compare low and high-quality versions of the same content to learn the technological differences between the two and form a vast database. It analyzes millions of pieces of video content and finds a correlation. Based on its analysis, it can select the optimum filters that support brightness, the level of blackness, spread and other errors from all inputs, and transform low-definition content to close to 8K high definition.
The input content is recognized as ‘real-time’ based on a frame and is enhanced by scenes, which makes it possible to upgrade image and sound quality immediately, regardless of whether the video source is live streaming or OTT (Over The Top).
8K picture quality through AI, what’s the difference?
Other upscaling techniques require human input to compare low-resolution and high-resolution scenes and find ways to reconstruct them. However, Samsung’s AI Technology enables it to self-study millions of images on its own using MLSR, allowing much-improved accuracy compared to conventional technologies.
There are three elements to improving picture quality on displays. First is ‘Detail Creation’ that sharpens the detail of expression and improves the texture to areas with low definition that have become blurry after compressing the file. Second, ‘Edge Restoration’ defines the edges of text, people or objects in a video, moving pixels on the borders to thin them down to increase legibility and visibility. For example, if text context is spreaded along the edges, the video will be adjusted around the text for clarity. In a video that shows the moon, Edge Restoration improves details of the moon’s shadow and enhances the darkness of the background for a clear distinction. Lastly, ‘Noise Reduction’ gets rid of static noises generated during high compression or recompression of files. In order to transmit an image, it is necessary to compress the image. In this process, various ‘noises’ such as a jiggling point or a squared dot can be effectively removed according to the image characteristics.
AI delivers immersive sound effects
When watching dramas or movies, realistic, immersive sounds are as important as picture quality. Samsung’s AI technology not only transforms low-definition into high-definition, but also optimizes the sound quality of content.
Conventional TVs provide multiple view settings such as movie mode and sports mode according to the genre of content. With Samsung’s new AI technology, content can be automatically analyzed by characterizing scenes to provide optimum sounds.
For example, let’s say you were watching a movie that includes musical performances. AI technology can highlight the music in a way that allows you to experience the sound as the actual characters would. When the crowd applauds after the performance is over, you would hear the clapping the same way as if you were in the crowd in the movie. When characters are speaking, AI adjusts the sound to make sure the lines are communicated clearly.
Imagine you were watching a relay broadcast of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics that started last week. AI will enhance the voice of the announcer so that you don’t miss who’s up next. When a game has started, AI will increase the background sound to deliver the liveliness of the actual game. With this tailored sound adjustment scene by scene, audiences can enjoy the best sound quality for any genre of content.
Samsung developers plan to continue to improve sound quality according to the preferences of individual viewers so that each viewer can enjoy the best TV viewing experience, right for them. Because volume patterns differ for every user, and the viewing environment can change according to the time of day and other factors, the sound will be accordingly adjusted and optimized to provide the most enjoyable experience to each individual viewer.
Why does 8K AI technology matter?
As customer needs for high-definition TVs and content increases, some terrestrial broadcasting stations have committed to working towards UHD delivery, and various IPTV and cable channels have initiated 4K UHD (3,840 × 2,160) services. However, even as the TV industry begins to launch 8K (7,680 × 4,320) TVs, the reality is that 4K content is, as of yet, still not fully utilized in homes.
In this context, Samsung has proposed a new direction for TV technology by combining 8K UHD display technology and premiere content through AI. Samsung has developed an AI algorithm that automatically enhances picture quality to solve the problem of limited high-quality content. As example, AI technology plays a key role in the 85-inch 8K QLED TV technology that Samsung introduced at CES 2018.
Samsung will begin the process of applying AI technology to its 8K QLED TVs from the second half of this year, and viewers will soon be able to enjoy UHD quality video that is nearly 8K in resolution and delivers optimized sound for any type of content. A genuine 8K era is now on the horizon, and Samsung will continue to lead the way.