Dark Game of Thrones episode inspires new brightness technology

The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones was plagued by controversy, the first big one probably being how damn dark “The Long Night” was. The final battle between the living and the dead was always going to be dark, sure, but we were expecting dark as in “intense and grim,” not, “I literally can’t see what’s happening onscreen.”

Image: Game of thrones/HBO

The reasons why “The Long Night” was hard to see have been thoroughly explored. Maybe it was the brightness on our TVs, maybe it was that the episode had to be compressed before it could air so a lot of the detail the editors saw while putting it together didn’t show up for ordinary fans at home. The end result is the same: stuff was hard to make out.

The television industry, which is nothing if not responsive, is already planning fixes for problems like this, with Panasonic Europe executive Paul Darch specifically citing “The Long Night” as one of the inspirations behind technology going into high-end Panasonic TVs. Basically, Panasonic’s Intelligent Sensing feature will use light sensors to adjust lighting in real time so the viewing experience for people at home will most closely match with what the professionals who worked on the episode saw when they were in the editing bay.

Right now, this technology is only available in OLED TVs, which are rarer and more expensive than LCD TVs, which is what most people have. But Darch thinks this technology could “potentially” be a part of LCD sets in the future. “The impetus to optimize the display in bright environments came from consumer feedback that specifically HDR content can appear dark when there is some ambient light in the room,” Darch told Tech Radar. “This is equally true of both OLED and LCD TVs. “We have a sneaking feeling that OLED’s dimmer output over LCD / QLED TVs may be part of the reason the feature was developed, especially given it’s currently only available for select OLED sets.”

Do I 100% know what that means? No. Do I like the idea of sitting back and not having to worry about whether I’m watching something at the proper brightness because my TV will do the work for me? Yes.

Maybe this will help explain it. Panasonic’s Intelligent Sensing is similar to something Dolby is using to improve watching video in its dynamic HDR Dolby Vision format. It’s called Dolby Vision IQ, and it also uses light sensors to adjust brightness. “We don’t adjust brightness or contrast,” said a Dolby representative. “That would be a global picture setting, and thus not deliver a consistent experience.”

Dolby Vision IQ ambient light compensation algorithm is applied in 12bit precision, and models the contrast sensitivity of the human visual system at varying degrees of light adaptation to reproduce how the content would have looked to a content creator in a reference viewing environment.

Okay, so it does more than just adjust the brightness up and down, even if I don’t know exactly what is does. As long as I can make out the pores in Arya’s face when she kills the Night King, I’ll be happy.

Next: Game of Thrones star Max von Sydow has died

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