HP: Display technology to make colors 'jump off the screen'

It worked with DreamWorks on technology for various product lines

Hewlett-Packard is planning to deploy a new color display technology it says can display one billion colors, making them far more vibrant and real, across its product lines.

The technology was developed by HP and DreamWorks Animation SKG and is intended to ensure that colors used in movies are consistent throughout the production process and even in printing.

HP says that the technology improves upon today's widely used displays, which offer 24-bit color making 16.7 million colors available per pixel; HP plans to raise the color display to 30-bit, which can offer 1 billion colors per pixel. The product is called the HP DreamColor display, and it follows a two-year collaboration between the computer maker and the animation studio.

The display was announced Tuesday at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas.

HP is using display technology that incorporates a graphics card from ATI, the company acquired last year by Advance Micro Devices, that supports 30-bit color displays. It also incorporates a new LED backlight technology in its LCD screen that makes blacks blacker and whites whiter, said Jeff Wood, director of product marketing for HP.

Wood claims that viewers will "see red like you have never seen before; blues and greens that just jump off the screen."

HP's product won't be ready until later this summer, and while it has been initially targeted for workstations, its display technology "can be used on any myriad of systems today," said Wood. He said plans call for making this display technology available across a range of consumer and business products.

HP isn't widely showing its technology, and Chris Chinnock, president of research firm Insight Media, is among those waiting to see it. But he said the 30-bit shouldn't really increase the color gamut of a display or the black levels of the display.

What 30-bit should do is give much better gradation between those levels, said Chinnock. In very subtle changes of color, such as a sky displayed on an LCD television, "you will see these bands across the sky - discrete steps in the shades of blue, and that's because 24-bit is not quite enough bit depth to cover all this fine gradations of color." But with 30-bit color "you can basically smooth that all it, you won't see that banding, that contouring, they call it.

"It will make the displays much more accurate in being able to display colors and gray-scale properly," said Chinnock. Whether the colors look more vibrant and saturated will depend more on the backlight technology HP uses, he said.

Most source media, photos and graphics, are intended for 24-bit displays, meaning the new technology must extrapolate to create a 30-bit image. While it would be better if source media moved up to the more detailed color display, Chinnock doesn't see that happening anytime soon. Even so, there will be benefits with using 30-bit displays.

HP said that animators today use CRT displays because they do a better job than LCDs in calibrating colors. But with CRTs disappearing, the need for development of this technology is growing. Pricing for the new studio-quality displays isn't yet available.

Crawford Del Prete, an analyst at IDC, sees the technology eventually reaching across HP's product line, but not until costs drop. When it does appear, it will show up first on low-end workstations and higher-end PCs, he said.

Home and business users who want accurate color reproduction will be among those most interested in the technology, said Del Prete. It is "a way for HP to better match the experience you have on the screen with the experience [that] comes out of the printer," he said.

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Patrick Thibodeau

Computerworld

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