As VP of Technology, Warner Bros. Michael Zink is responsible for exploring the emerging technologies that could enhance Warner Bros.’ capabilities in production, post production and distribution.
Concentrating mainly on scripted content for TV and film, his work includes assessing new technologies and assisting with the setup and integration of digital workflows.
He also participates in a number of standards associations including BDA, SMPTE and UHDA. At IBC2016 he appeared on the panel ‘High Dynamic Range and Wide Colour Gamut: The Art and Science’.
What is your stance on high dynamic range (HDR) and wide colour gamut (WCG)?
We’ve always bundled HDR, WCG, high frame rate and resolution together because, for us, it is the combination of all four that makes the difference to the viewing experience. While we noticed fairly quickly that it was difficult for some people to recognise the difference between HD and 4K resolution, we found that it was very easy for people to make out the difference between HDR and standard dynamic range. So we decided that if we wanted to truly provide a differentiated experience for viewers, then HDR with WCG was an important element.
What lessons have you learned so far?
That HDR needs to be considered throughout the end-to-end chain. It starts in shooting and moves through the entire process, including production, post production, DI, VFX and then onto finishing. Every part of this process is vulnerable to compromising dynamic range. The range you get in the area where it is compromised the most, is the maximum range you are going to get out of your product.
Once you start compromising, and the detail is lost, you are never going to get the dynamic range back.
Do you consider the final display screen when creating content with HDR?
Our experience with consumer displays is that they improve every year, yet our masters are made available for 10 years, maybe longer – so creating content just for today’s consumer technology seems rather limiting. Instead, what we try to do is use the best technology currently available for production, independent of what is currently being used in the home.
Most of the top-end consumer displays in the market currently do about 1500, maybe 2000, nits of brightness. Our masters are created using a Dolby Pulsar professional monitor that goes up to 4000 nits.
How do consumer HDR displays screens differ?
Each manufacturer converts high colour volume to a lower colour volume in a different way. And, because of the innovation and competition in this area, the content then ends up looking very different on each of the displays. As a consequence we spend a lot of time trying to understand the capabilities of the consumer display.
The goal is to ensure that the content that we create maintains its creative intent throughout. If you create a master that has higher luminance values and larger colour gamut than current consumer displays can support, then displays need to apply colour management, which includes both colour gamut mapping and luminance tone mapping.
We actively work with the manufacturers to help them understand which items are important to us so that they can improve their products and ensure our content looks better on their devices.
Do we need to change our workflows to accommodate HDR?
Yes, and along with the rest of the industry, we are still trying to work out exactly what needs to change. So far there have been a lot of existing titles remastered with HDR and, in some cases, HDR has been added to new titles, but as an afterthought.
I believe that this process is somewhat backwards, and that over time it will change and we will start with an ‘uber’ master that will be the HDR theatrical version. From there we will work our way down to other versions. I think that will be a more logical approach and will ensure an optimum quality product in any viewing environment.
Vice President of Technology, Warner Bros.
As Vice President of Technology at Warner Bros., Michael Zink is responsible for exploring emerging technologies to enhance WB’s capabilities for production, post-production, and distribution. This includes assessing new technologies; and assisting with the setup and integration of digital workflows. Michael also participates in a number of standards associations such as BDA, CTA, DCI, SMPTE, UHDA, among others.
Prior to joining Warner Bros. in 2014, Michael worked at Technicolor for over 10 years, most recently as Vice President of Technology Strategy, where he was responsible for launching the production efforts around various new optical disc formats. Additionally, Michael was responsible for the promotion and adoption of Technicolor technology solutions within industry groups. Earlier in his career, he worked for several media production facilities in Germany.
This interview was first conducted for IBC2016.