Rec.2020 Quantum Dots on display at SMPTE on a rec.2020 display! In the above demo, 3M is showing red and green Quantum Dots with rec.2020 wavelengths (clear box at lower right) next to an accurately reproduced image of those same dots on the 93% rec.2020 display (above and left).

SMPTE’s annual event is always one of the best places for technologists and creators to get together to explore what’s coming next in entertainment technology. Hot topics on this year’s agenda included a slew of acronyms that are likely familiar to readers of this blog: HDR (High Dynamic Range), WCG (Wide Color Gamut), UHD (Ultra High Def) and OTT (Over The Top). 

Collectively, this alphabet soup of features have already come to define next generation video (and maybe your next TV). Now the industry is really looking at ways to bring those features together into a cohesive package to ensure that consumers have a great experience. So industry stakeholders from content makers to consumer electronics manufacturers are working on the fine details and specifications that will enable next-gen content to look it’s best on next-gen displays. 

The rec.2020 color gamut is practically impossible for physical displays to fully reproduce due to highly saturated, monochromatic primaries.

An example of one of these specification challenges is the rec.2020 wide color gamut standard that’s been widely adopted for next-gen video. Rec.2020 offers a vast improvement over rec.709, the old HD broadcast standard, by delivering essentially double the range of colors and, for the first time, offering displays the ability to recreate nearly every color found in nature. It’s an awesome improvement in fidelity and, in fact, even more impressive from a user experience perspective than the jump in resolution from 2K to 4K since it can be seen at any distance from the display.

There’s a catch though– rec.2020 is such an ambitious standard that we cannot create displays that can physically reproduce 100% of it. And by “cannot” I mean: the laws of physics pretty much will never allow to do this! This is because 100% rec.2020 calls for totally pure, monochromatic light sources that are not practical to put into a display (even with a laser). Basically, we’ll never have a display that device makers can market as “fully rec.2020 compliant.”

All is not lost though! Based on research presented at SMPTE by Nanosys partner 3M, it turns out that true, 100% coverage of rec.2020 may not be necessary to effectively deliver the rec.2020 experience to consumers. In their study, 3M used a 93.7% rec.2020 Quantum Dot LCD to simulate different color gamut sizes for a group of test subjects. They found that consumers would not notice a difference between pure rec.2020 and around 97% rec.2020 in nearly all cases.

Since it is possible to manufacture displays that cover as much as 97% of rec.2020 using today’s Quantum Dot technology this means there may now be a pathway for device makers to develop and market fully compliant rec.2020 displays. While it may seem like a small difference, this is definitely meaningful for consumer electronics manufacturers looking to manufacture TVs, monitors and other devices that deliver the full suite of next-generation video features.