In CE Pro Eu’s recent article exploring how to watch the majestic Planet Earth II in 4K, it was revealed that the BBC is likely working on a 4K iPlayer channel which will be capable of playing the programme’s 4K footage – otherwise why else would they film it in UHD?

Now, the BBC has announced that it has begun a trial of 4K high dynamic range (HDR) footage on its iPlayer, which takes the form of four minutes of footage from Planet Earth II. One clip shows a frog on a leaf in the rain ­– perfect footage for HDR to flex its muscles and convince viewers of its pixel-pushing potential.

UPDATE: The four-minute trial is now available on Sky Q and Virgin’s new V6 set-top box. It is reported that the footage is available on any HDR-compatible 4K TV.

In short, 4K UHD pushes through more pixels, leading to sharper looking images, while HDR brings additional colours and a brighter image to the table, further bolstering the image.

“The reason this is so interesting is that the redness of the frog is a really deep Ferrari red that you would never get in broadcast television at the moment,” says Phil Layton, head of broadcast and connected systems at BBC Research & Development.

“We want to show that this is how the BBC could make ultra-high definition HDR material available to iPlayer. And we want to use this as a trigger to work with manufacturers to get their products updated so there’s a pathway there for future on-demand BBC content.”

However, only Panasonic’s latest screens support the test’s underlying technology – known as hybrid log-gamma (HLG). The BBC will make the footage available via the different smart TV versions of its iPlayer App as soon as the relevant models support it.


Which TVs are compatible?

According to Pocket-Lint, some TVs are capable of 4K HDR and/or 4K HLG video playback, but they need slight tweaks by the manufacturers to play the Planet Earth II content correctly.

These are the listed compatible 4K sets:

  • Panasonic CX680 Series
  • Panasonic CX700 series
  • Panasonic CR730 series
  • Panasonic CX800 series
  • Panasonic CR852 series
  • Panasonic CZ950 Series
  • Panasonic DX902 Series (Screen Sizes: 65, 58,50)
  • Panasonic DR852 series (Screen Sizes: 65, 55)
  • Panasonic DX802 series (Screen Sizes: 58, 50)
  • Panasonic DX750 series (Screen Sizes: 65, 58, 50)
  • Panasonic Dx720 series (Screen Sizes: 58, 50)
  • Panasonic DX700 Series (Screen Sizes: 58, 50)
  • Panasonic DX680 Series (Screen Sizes: 55, 49, 40)
  • Panasonic DX650 series (Screen Sizes: 55, 49, 40)

The BBC also told Pocket-Lint that more TVs (and not just Panasonic models) will be added to the list during the trial.

With regards to the BBC offering programmes in 4K and HDR, Phil added that these technological challenges could be resolved within the next 18 months.

The Ultra HD trial runs until early 2017 and is available on BBC iPlayer on compatible Smart TV sets that can play back HLG images. Users will get an alert on their version of iPlayer if their TV is already compatible.