UltraFlix launches HDR Streaming Service

Move Over 4K!

UltraFlix logo
UltraFlix

Although it doesn’t seem to have notched up a great deal of awareness with consumers yet, the buzz phrase in the TV world right now is High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. And that buzz just got another bit louder with the announcement this week by US video streaming platform UltraFlix that it’s going to start adding HDR to its some of its video streams.

I’ve previously covered HDR technology and what you need to do to get it, but briefly, it’s a new picture system designed to add more quality to the pixel quantity you get with 4K UHD (though it actually also works with standard definition and HD content).

It does this by providing enhanced brightness/contrast and a wider color range than the traditional video signals we’ve been stuck with for decades now. 

More HDR, please!

The only problem with HDR right now, as with any new video technology that depends on software content as well as hardware, is that while it can certainly deliver brilliant results, there isn’t currently much of it to watch. In fact, before the UltraFlix announcement, the only widely available HDR source was Amazon, which as I reported last month has made a couple of TV shows available in HDR to people who use its app on Samsung’s latest high-end, HDR-capable SUHD TVs.

At the moment details on NanoTech's UltraFlix service are rather thin on the ground. The HDR announcement came as part of a wider press release that also discussed other technical changes to the UltraFlix service, and the HDR part pretty much limited itself to outlining HDR’s advantages: “Color, hues, and shades are dramatically richer.

Brightness is up to 40 times richer. Contrast is enhanced up to 500 times, bringing a finer sense of dimension with more natural depth and shading. Viewers not only feel the difference but significantly notice the fine details.”

4K at under 4Mbps!

The information released to date doesn’t give an exact date for when the HDR streams might start, and nor does it give any indication of which titles in the UltraFlix library may be getting the HDR treatment.

But it’s a significant announcement nonetheless - especially when you consider that one of UltraFlix’s USPs is its ability to deliver 4K video streams over broadband bandwidths as low as 4Mbps (Netflix and Amazon, by comparison, both recommend a whopping 25Mbps for their 4K streams). 

The UltraFlix HDR streams will likely only be available on HDR-capable Samsung TVs in the US (like the UN65JS9500 reviewed I reviewed previously) in the short term, but as with Amazon’s HDR streams - and those of Netflix when they launch later this year - the availability will surely spread to other devices over time. Certainly, UltraFlix is currently working with HiSense, Sony, and Vizio to get its 4K app onto those TV brands as well as Samsung.

Could HDR and 4K Be UltraFlix's Ticket?

It has to be said that despite its remarkable claim that it can deliver ‘visually lossless’ 4K Ultra HD streams at under 4Mbps (and a separate claim that it can deliver streams to customers with 100Mbps broadband that match the quality defined by the recently announced UHD Blu-ray specification), UltraFlix is currently a niche player compared to Amazon and Netflix. This is chiefly because its content tends to be of a lower profile than that carried by its global rivals.

However, UltraFlix did score a content coup in March when it bagged the rights with Paramount to stream Interstellar in 4K UHD ahead of anyone else. So if the platform can manage to combine a few more such content deals with its increasingly strong picture quality/technical story, it may really start to make a name for itself - especially if it continues to be the case that there’s precious little other native 4K content around for all those millions of people already buying 4K TVs to chase.

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