Auto brightness adjustments on televisions are nothing new, but Dolby's Vision IQ is an attempt to make HDR viewing more viable in a wider variety of ambient lighting conditions.
Do you remember the days of CRT TVs at home? Heavy boxes that sat in the corner of your living room showing glorious SD pictures. Cast your mind back and you may remember a feature called CATS, available on some Panasonic TVs. This setting allowed the TV to adjust contrast according to ambient room light levels. I remember being intrigued by this feature, testing its usefulness by shining a torch on the sensor buried beneath the lower bezel. If was quite effective but at the same time limited in its adjustment range and really not good enough to satisfy the AV enthusiast.
This feature found its way into subsequent TVs under various different guises from different manufacturers. Some current TVs have a built-in light sensor than can adjust picture levels based on ambient light, but I’ve always thought that, maybe, this could be better used. For people who have spent time and money getting their screens calibrated there hasn’t been a way to take this into account, so it’s often left switched off in the menu.
Roll on 25 years and Dolby has expanded on this idea with the introduction of its Vision IQ system.
A development of Dolby Vision HDR, this system employs a sensor in the TV to dynamically adjust the HDR aspect of the picture according to the prevalent light levels in the room. It does this by using the measured light level in tandem with the dynamic metadata embedded in the Dolby Vision HDR signal. This will primarily help with content that looks too dark in rooms with high ambient light levels. It does mean that you won’t have to reach for the remote to switch the picture preset and then again when light levels drop. This can be one menu setting that doesn’t often get changed. I know I forget which setting I’ve selected sometimes.
No free lunch
This sounds interesting but, as usual, you don’t get something for nothing. Even if you have a relatively new TV that supports Dolby Vision, it won’t necessarily support the IQ element. Panasonic and LG have announced support for the new format in their new 2020 line up. In the past, Sony and Philips have also adopted Dolby Vision, but, at the moment, they haven’t announced support for the format in their new TVs for 2020. Samsung, on the other hand, doesn’t support Dolby Vision but instead uses HDR10+ for dynamic HDR. It will be interesting to see if Dolby’s new system takes off and if Samsung and other manufacturers develop a competing feature on their TVs as a result.
I welcome this new development, but it would also be nice not to have to rely on Dolby’s implementation. A TV which selects the picture preset based on ambient light levels and the type of content being viewed would be a great additional feature. This would mean that you could automatically switch between calibrated settings for different types of content and the prevalent lighting conditions. Current SDR implementations are limited in their ability to make advanced adjustments and, after all, it’s only a minority of people who are viewing in HDR.