So what exactly is 4K Pro?
Panasonic’s 4K Pro premium range of TVs have been optimised to deliver a new standard of television picture, striving to recreate the exact vision of film directors and cinematographers.
How it does this is by combining the processing power of Panasonic’s 4K Studio Master Processor with custom-built panels that deliver at least approximately 90% of the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) colour range.
Panasonic worked with Hollywood colourist Mike Sowa, who is best known for his work on films such as Oblivion and Insurgent.
“Panasonic is proving their commitment to excellence by engineering their newest 4K Pro TV to satisfy my professional standard of zero compromise,” says Mike.
“My world of visual storytelling is based around colour accuracy and the need for a display that compliments the creative vision. Panasonic has engineered their newest 4K Pro OLED TV to a standard that I would only expect in professional displays.”
Mike’s involvement with the new generation of 4K Pro comes about through the close collaborative relationships Panasonic has enjoyed with Hollywood since setting up its Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory (PHL) in 1993.
“The Panasonic Hollywood Lab provides an important link between the Hollywood creative community and product design and development that we take very seriously,” adds PHL vice president/director Ron Martin.
“Our legacy has been one of uncompromising excellence in picture quality. Working with a colorist like Mike Sowa and the calibre of work he represents and having him involved in the tuning process of the picture quality gives us an advantage that cannot be understated.”
4K Pro Background
From television’s earliest days, film-lovers have had to accept that they will never get to see at home what film directors truly intended when they made their movies.
Reproducing a signal accurately on a TV requires highly complex processing so as to adjust the signal according to the characteristics of the panel technology.
In many cases this is not done accurately resulting in a picture which either cannot reproduce certain colours and details (for example deep blacks and details in low-light scenes) or adds over-saturated colours which are not in the original signal in order to make the TV appear superficially more appealing.
Great picture quality isn’t only about resolution
For Panasonic, 4K resolution is just one part of an immersive and accurate picture experience.
So while the new 4K Pro picture engine has been designed to maximise the impact of 4K’s 38440×2160 pixel count, it also deploys a whole raft of technologies – including both panel design and processing systems – to address all the other key aspects of TV picture quality too.
The 4K Studio Master Processor
The proprietary TV picture processor from Panasonic has been designed from the ground up to produce pictures that are reportedly totally faithful to a director’s vision.
Accurate Colour Drive
Panasonic has introduced to consumer televisions the 3D Lookup Table system previously only found at the same level in professional monitors.
This system provides a volumetric approach to colour space control whereby a change in any one input colour causes cross-colour changes in all of the table’s output colours.
The result is said to be a much more accurate rendition of colour tones at different brightness levels than would be possible with normal TVs, which don’t generally employ any lookup table technology.
Panasonic states that even conventional TVs that do offer 3D Lookup Table usually only offer red, green and blue control, whereas on the Panasonic CR850, CX800 and CZ950 TVs the table also references the cyan, magenta and yellow colours across a total of 8,000 registry points (versus a typical 100), resulting in the sort of professional-grade colour accuracy used by directors and cinematographers when they’re editing their films.
The CZ950 additionally offers a picture preset, True Cinema, containing the picture quality settings tuned and approved by colourist Mike.
Black Gradation Drive for LCD
Normally LCD TVs control their backlights and gain settings separately, using 8-bit processing to deliver 256 steps of gradation.
With its 4K Studio Master Processor though, Panasonic has brought the backlight control and gain adjustment picture controls together under the same processing umbrella for the first time so that they can work in tandem to deliver more accurate local light levels.
What’s more, it uses 10-bit driving to produce 1,024 steps of gradation. What this means in picture terms is that the viewer sees vastly more shadow detail and subtler, more accurate colour toning in dark parts of the picture, avoiding a hollow, flat, washed-out look.
Absolute Black Gradation Drive for OLED
OLED’s ability to deliver a new level of black level response – which Panasonic calls Absolute Black – has been challenging for OLED TV makers, since the shift from complete blackness to just above black is a difficult gradation step to render.
However, Panasonic’s experience with plasma technology has enabled it to solve the issue on the TX-65CZ950.
The 4K Studio Master Processor in the TX-65CZ950 is enabled to support the playback of native High Dynamic Range (HDR) content as per the standards recently announced by the CEA.
HDR uses a combination of specially created content and super-bright, colour-rich screens to deliver images containing a much wider luminance range than any traditional TV.
Wide Colour Phosphor LCD Panels
The second key 4K Pro element in the Panasonic CX800 and CR850 LCD TVs is their use of LED panels using new Wide Colour Phosphor technology that have been custom built to complement the work of the Panasonic 4K Studio Master Processor.
These panels can reportedly reproduce at maximum 98% of the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI) colour space – 5% more than the latest Quantum Dot panels -– and also provide 10-bit colour processing to deliver 64 times more colours than a typical 8-bit LCD panel.
This translates into being able to see a range of colours on a TV much closer in tone and subtlety – especially in areas of red and green – to those one would see if they went to see a film at a cinema.
Super Bright LCD Panels
It’s not just colours that benefit from the latest premium Panasonic LCD panel design.
They’re also ultra-transmissive, reportedly enabling them to produce almost twice as much brightness per-watt of power as a conventional panel.
As well as helping colours achieve a more cinematic range, this makes the new flagship Panasonic TVs particularly suited to native high dynamic range playback. Or, alternatively, they could be run at ‘normal’ brightness levels while saving electricity.