2018 World Cup: Watching in 4K HDR makes a difference

Color survey of the Top 10 World Cup countries for 2018

The 2018 World Cup is officially underway with a blowout victory for host country Russia today.

Over the next month, an estimated 3.4 billion (according to GlobalWebIndex) soccer fans will have an opportunity to watch World Cup games in 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a wider palette of colors. This means the experience of watching the games on TV will be much closer to being at the stadium in person.

It’s likely to make a big difference. The World Cup is one of the most colorful sporting events on TV with teams from 32 countries, thousands of flag-waving fans and, of course, wildly colorful cleats.

To get a sense of how impactful the change from HDTV to 4K HDR might be for World Cup soccer, I did a quick survey of the country colors for the 2018 World Cup’s top 10 teams according to CBS Sports’ most recent ranking.

Color gamut of the 2018 World Cup’s top 10 countries. 

Color gamut of the 2018 World Cup’s top 10 countries. 

With a mix of publicly available data and a little math, I was able to plot the dominant flag colors for the top 10 World Cup countries into the CIE 1931 color space (if you are new to reading color space charts, check out our primer here). Note that I limited the survey to flag colors since data on 2018 uniforms was incomplete and flag colors seem to be featured on most uniforms. I’ve also only plotted the two most dominant or most ‘colorful’ colors, ignoring blacks, whites and grays.

The results were a little bit surprising. Based on this data, just two teams entire flags – Argentina and France – can be accurately displayed on a standard HDTV with the BT.709 color gamut. This means fans with wide color gamut sets will finally be able to see their county’s colors in their full glory when viewing a 4K HDR broadcast.

It’s a great example of the power of HDR and wide color gamut to deliver a lifelike experience that really makes you feel like you are there in the stands in Russia sitting next to a crazy face-painted super-fan waving a flag in support of his country (only without the obstructed view from that flag).

How to watch the World Cup in 4K HDR

If you have a 4K HDR-capable set, the World Cup is available to watch in 4K HDR from a variety of sources around the world this year. Here in the US, TV maker Hisense is making 4K HDR games available for streaming in a partnership with Fox while DirecTV, DISH and Comcast are all offering broadcast options.

For a full run-down of all the options I recommend Johnny Archer’s thorough review over at Forbes. He breaks it down by country and gets covers the nitty-gritty differences in broadcast features from each of the providers.

Stay Tuned…

I’ll plan to update this with measured data from actual team uniforms once the field has narrowed a bit more in the semi-final or final rounds.