Technicolor and Portrait Displays Move to Standardize Color on Smaller Screens

For 97 years, Technicolor has been known for its expertise in film and, more recently, digital color. Technicolor has famously applied its color know-how to The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, along with many hundreds of other movies and DVDs. Ed Thompson, Technicolor’s VP in charge of technology licensing, told me at CES that colorists at Technicolor earn up to $1 million per year, and that directors such as Clint Eastwood and James Cameron use Technicolor specifically so they can have access to these colorists.

“Seeing what the director intended” has long been critical in movies, whether intended for theaters or the large home TV set. Now, with the dual explosions of eCommerce and the watching of entertainment media on cell phones, tablets, notebook PCs, and computer monitors, color accuracy on smaller screens has become just as important.

For professional applications, it has been possible to perform color calibration for years, but it is unlikely that many consumers will either learn how to do color calibrations themselves or pay an amount comparable to the purchase price of a relatively inexpensive device for professional calibration. What is needed is automatic self-calibration. That is difficult, but it exactly what Technicolor and Portrait Displays believe they have done.

Technicolor has developed a new color specification for smaller displays, and Portrait Displays has implemented it.

Technicolor has developed a new color specification for smaller displays, and Portrait Displays has implemented it.

Technicolor has used its film, DVD, and Blu-ray color-conversion expertise to develop a new color specification for the PC viewing environment and viewing conditions, and Portrait Displays has implemented it. The targeted platforms are notebooks, monitors, all-in-one PCs, tablets, and smart phones, said Martin Fishman, Portrait Displays COO and VP for worldwide sales and marketing.

The "eCommerce shopping dilemma" was also a problem for printed color catalogs.

The “eCommerce shopping dilemma” was also a problem for printed color catalogs.

The problem of matching the color of a product to its image in a catalog is much older than eCommerce. Even with printed catalogs, the most common reason for customer returns was “did not like color.” Technicolor and Portrait Displays have a patent pending on a color-matching process and automatic tuning between Websites and consumer displays. The process requires that both the Website and the consumer’s display device comply with the Technicolor specification. Such Websites will carry the “Technicolor Color Certified” logo. Thompson said he could not reveal specifics yet, but that most of the big eCommerce sites were working to establish compliance, and for most of them it was not particularly difficult.

And creators of movies, TV series, and other media, would like to have confidence that viewers were seeing the colors the creators intended.

For OEMs, Technicolor and Portrait Displays believe that Technicolor Color Certification will be a relatively low-cost differentiator that significantly improves customer satisfaction.

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, display manufacturing, display technology, and display applications. You can reach him at ken@hdtvexpert.com.