Panasonic Unveils Two New Hollywood-Tuned OLED TV Ranges

Panasonic Unveils Two New Hollywood-Tuned OLED TV Ranges

reviewed here) OLED TVs showed that the brand had pretty much fallen in love with the picture quality made possible by OLED’s self-emissive properties. Now that love looks set to be consummated in emphatic terms (so to speak!) by the OLED TVs Panasonic is launching in 2018.

Unveiled slightly ahead of the CES to a small group of journalists (including yours truly) in Deluxe’s Company 3 post-production facility in Hollywood, the new FZ950 and FZ800 models deliver a number of significant improvements over 2017’s already stellar sets. Most created with a laser-like focus on pursuing Panasonic’s dream of delivering pictures that get as close as possible to the way they looked when the content creator/filmmaker was creating them in a mastering studio.

In fact, one of the reasons Panasonic chose to unveil its new TVs at a Deluxe facility is that both Deluxe and Technicolor – which between them deliver post production on around 70% of Hollywood’s blockbuster films each year – now officially use 2017 Panasonic EZ1000 OLED TVs as their large-screen mastering monitors. Deluxe alone has more than 60 EZ1000s installed in its mastering suites around the world.

Photo: Panasonic

The Panasonic FZ950. In somebody else’s house, sadly..

As a result, Panasonic’s TV marketing message has shifted from ‘as tuned in Hollywood’ to ‘as used in Hollywood’. Which is a pretty big deal for serious film fans, since it means that they can actually buy essentially the same TV to use at home that was used to master the films they’re watching on it.

The new FZ950 and FZ800 ranges are both available in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, and feature two key enhancements over even the mighty EZ1000.

First, they use 2018 OLED panels. Panasonic seemed reluctant to go into detail on exactly what this means in picture quality terms, but they did say that there’s an improvement in the average brightness levels they can deliver. Peak brightness is apparently still similar, though – so likely around 1000 nits on a 3% HDR white window.

Next up and more importantly, both the FZ950 and FZ800 models both boast an all-new video processing engine. Simply called HCX (Hollywood Cinema eXperience), this builds on the previous, already prodigiously powerful, Hollywood-tuned HCX2 engine with a number of significant enhancements.

First, the 3D Look Up table color system ‘borrowed’ from Panasonic’s professional monitoring division now features additional layers of Panasonic’s LUT data at much darker levels, helping the screen deliver even better transitions from black than previous Panasonic OLED models. The FZ950 and FZ800 models can both now hit almost 100 per cent of the DCI color space.

Photo: Panasonic

The Panasonic FZ800. And yes, again that isn’t my house.

Even better, the new HCX chipset introduces dynamic LUT control. Rather than just applying a static LUT setting to any given film or TV show as previously, the new system continually (every 100ms!) assesses the average brightness level of every scene and dynamically loads the LUT that it believes best suits the image at any given moment.

A short demo of the new system running on an FZ950 against an EZ1000 showed remarkable improvements in not just the average brightness of the images being shown but also their clarity, detailing, color richness and depth. The difference really was profound, and could for me actually go even further than Panasonic’s pursuit of ‘Hollywood accuracy’ in making the brand’s OLED TVs stand out from the crowd in 2018.

Next in the HCX processor’s new bag of tricks is a feature added in direct response to feedback from the authoring studios now using Panasonic OLED screens as mastering monitors: two new calibration points at 5 per cent and 2.5 per cent luminance. The fact that Panasonic was able to deliver on this request reveals just how uniquely effective its latest OLED TVs are at rendering detail in the darkest areas of the picture.

Also part of the latest HCX engine is a new HDR Brightness Enhancer. This recognizes the fact that watching HDR is greatly affected by the ambient light levels in your room, and uses a light sensor built into the TV to continually monitor the brightness of your environment and adjust the way HDR pictures are reproduced accordingly. You can also adjust the HDR brightness manually, using 15 different setting levels.

The latest processing engine also features a new Game mode reckoned to deliver the fastest response time of any Panasonic TV (around 20ms) and, finally, carries something called a Dynamic Scene Optimizer. The idea behind this is that the TV detects the brightness in each scene (with HDR content that doesn’t have dynamic metadata) so that it can optimize the way each scene appears. Assuming the TV’s analysis is accurate, this should yield better results than just relying on the upfront, one size fits all metadata provided by material mastered in the industry standard HDR10 format.

Photo: Panasonic

The current state of the HDR10+ Alliance.

The FZ950 and FZ800 will both also support the new HDR10+ HDR format. This allows TVs to receive extra ‘dynamic’ metadata from HDR10+-encoded sources that helps them achieve the best picture quality on a scene by scene basis.

This isn’t unique to the 2018 models since it’s going to be added to the EZ1000 by firmware update. But it’s still another potentially significant step towards delivering the very best picture quality the AV world now has to offer.

Unfortunately, the HDR10+ support is not joined by support for the Dolby Vision dynamic HDR format. This isn’t a surprise given Panasonic’s involvement in the development of HDR10+, but its absence on the FZ950 and FZ800 is left looking a little exposed by Panasonic’s decision to include Dolby Vision on one of its 2018 4K Blu-ray players, as I report here.

You might be wondering at this point what the differences are between the FZ950 and FZ800. The first thing to say is that there should be no difference at all in picture quality terms. Both feature all the picture features covered above.

The differences lie purely in design and audio. The FZ950 enjoys a more elegant overall shape than the FZ800, and its design also incorporates the audio difference in the form of an external (though integrated into the stand) soundbar.

Designed in conjunction with acclaimed audio brand Technics, this soundbar incorporates four woofers (larger ones than those used in the EZ1000), four squawkers and two tweeters, plus a quad passive radiator to boost bass. It’s claimed to deliver 40 per cent more power than the ‘Dynamic Blade’ speaker provided with the EZ1000.

The FZ950 and FZ800 are both expected to launch by the spring, for as yet undisclosed prices. Though unfortunately it looks like they will again not be available in the US.

While I’ve had the chance to see enough of these TVs in action already to believe that they will likely be nothing short of outstanding, I’m going to hold off doing a full ‘first look’ piece until I’ve had the chance to see more of what they’re capable of at the CES over the next couple of days. Keep an eye on my Forbes channel for further updates.

If you liked this story, you might also like these:

Panasonic Unveils New 4K Blu-ray Players – Including World First Dolby Vision And HDR10+ Support

Panasonic TX-65EZ1000 4K OLED TV Review: Hollywood In Your Living Room

Warner Bros Boards The HDR10+ Bandwagon

Amazon Video Has Made All Of Its HDR Shows Available In HDR10+

Didn’t Think There Was An HDR Format War? There Is Now

Samsung, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox Join Forces To Attack Dolby

‘Dunkirk’ 4K Blu-ray Review: A Picture Quality Masterclass

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It’s fair to say that OLED technology is no longer just one part of Panasonic’s TV focus. The extraordinary lengths Panasonic’s engineers went to with 2017’s stunning EZ950 and especially EZ1000 (reviewed here) OLED TVs showed that the brand had pretty much fallen in love with the picture quality made possible by OLED’s self-emissive properties. Now that love looks set to be consummated in emphatic terms (so to speak!) by the OLED TVs Panasonic is launching in 2018.

Unveiled slightly ahead of the CES to a small group of journalists (including yours truly) in Deluxe’s Company 3 post-production facility in Hollywood, the new FZ950 and FZ800 models deliver a number of significant improvements over 2017’s already stellar sets. Most created with a laser-like focus on pursuing Panasonic’s dream of delivering pictures that get as close as possible to the way they looked when the content creator/filmmaker was creating them in a mastering studio.

In fact, one of the reasons Panasonic chose to unveil its new TVs at a Deluxe facility is that both Deluxe and Technicolor – which between them deliver post production on around 70% of Hollywood’s blockbuster films each year – now officially use 2017 Panasonic EZ1000 OLED TVs as their large-screen mastering monitors. Deluxe alone has more than 60 EZ1000s installed in its mastering suites around the world.

Photo: Panasonic

The Panasonic FZ950. In somebody else’s house, sadly..

As a result, Panasonic’s TV marketing message has shifted from ‘as tuned in Hollywood’ to ‘as used in Hollywood’. Which is a pretty big deal for serious film fans, since it means that they can actually buy essentially the same TV to use at home that was used to master the films they’re watching on it.

The new FZ950 and FZ800 ranges are both available in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, and feature two key enhancements over even the mighty EZ1000.

First, they use 2018 OLED panels. Panasonic seemed reluctant to go into detail on exactly what this means in picture quality terms, but they did say that there’s an improvement in the average brightness levels they can deliver. Peak brightness is apparently still similar, though – so likely around 1000 nits on a 3% HDR white window.

Next up and more importantly, both the FZ950 and FZ800 models both boast an all-new video processing engine. Simply called HCX (Hollywood Cinema eXperience), this builds on the previous, already prodigiously powerful, Hollywood-tuned HCX2 engine with a number of significant enhancements.

First, the 3D Look Up table color system ‘borrowed’ from Panasonic’s professional monitoring division now features additional layers of Panasonic’s LUT data at much darker levels, helping the screen deliver even better transitions from black than previous Panasonic OLED models. The FZ950 and FZ800 models can both now hit almost 100 per cent of the DCI color space.

Photo: Panasonic

The Panasonic FZ800. And yes, again that isn’t my house.

Even better, the new HCX chipset introduces dynamic LUT control. Rather than just applying a static LUT setting to any given film or TV show as previously, the new system continually (every 100ms!) assesses the average brightness level of every scene and dynamically loads the LUT that it believes best suits the image at any given moment.

A short demo of the new system running on an FZ950 against an EZ1000 showed remarkable improvements in not just the average brightness of the images being shown but also their clarity, detailing, color richness and depth. The difference really was profound, and could for me actually go even further than Panasonic’s pursuit of ‘Hollywood accuracy’ in making the brand’s OLED TVs stand out from the crowd in 2018.

Next in the HCX processor’s new bag of tricks is a feature added in direct response to feedback from the authoring studios now using Panasonic OLED screens as mastering monitors: two new calibration points at 5 per cent and 2.5 per cent luminance. The fact that Panasonic was able to deliver on this request reveals just how uniquely effective its latest OLED TVs are at rendering detail in the darkest areas of the picture.

Also part of the latest HCX engine is a new HDR Brightness Enhancer. This recognizes the fact that watching HDR is greatly affected by the ambient light levels in your room, and uses a light sensor built into the TV to continually monitor the brightness of your environment and adjust the way HDR pictures are reproduced accordingly. You can also adjust the HDR brightness manually, using 15 different setting levels.

The latest processing engine also features a new Game mode reckoned to deliver the fastest response time of any Panasonic TV (around 20ms) and, finally, carries something called a Dynamic Scene Optimizer. The idea behind this is that the TV detects the brightness in each scene (with HDR content that doesn’t have dynamic metadata) so that it can optimize the way each scene appears. Assuming the TV’s analysis is accurate, this should yield better results than just relying on the upfront, one size fits all metadata provided by material mastered in the industry standard HDR10 format.

Photo: Panasonic

The current state of the HDR10+ Alliance.

The FZ950 and FZ800 will both also support the new HDR10+ HDR format. This allows TVs to receive extra ‘dynamic’ metadata from HDR10+-encoded sources that helps them achieve the best picture quality on a scene by scene basis.

This isn’t unique to the 2018 models since it’s going to be added to the EZ1000 by firmware update. But it’s still another potentially significant step towards delivering the very best picture quality the AV world now has to offer.

Unfortunately, the HDR10+ support is not joined by support for the Dolby Vision dynamic HDR format. This isn’t a surprise given Panasonic’s involvement in the development of HDR10+, but its absence on the FZ950 and FZ800 is left looking a little exposed by Panasonic’s decision to include Dolby Vision on one of its 2018 4K Blu-ray players, as I report here.

You might be wondering at this point what the differences are between the FZ950 and FZ800. The first thing to say is that there should be no difference at all in picture quality terms. Both feature all the picture features covered above.

The differences lie purely in design and audio. The FZ950 enjoys a more elegant overall shape than the FZ800, and its design also incorporates the audio difference in the form of an external (though integrated into the stand) soundbar.

Designed in conjunction with acclaimed audio brand Technics, this soundbar incorporates four woofers (larger ones than those used in the EZ1000), four squawkers and two tweeters, plus a quad passive radiator to boost bass. It’s claimed to deliver 40 per cent more power than the ‘Dynamic Blade’ speaker provided with the EZ1000.

The FZ950 and FZ800 are both expected to launch by the spring, for as yet undisclosed prices. Though unfortunately it looks like they will again not be available in the US.

While I’ve had the chance to see enough of these TVs in action already to believe that they will likely be nothing short of outstanding, I’m going to hold off doing a full ‘first look’ piece until I’ve had the chance to see more of what they’re capable of at the CES over the next couple of days. Keep an eye on my Forbes channel for further updates.

If you liked this story, you might also like these:

Panasonic Unveils New 4K Blu-ray Players – Including World First Dolby Vision And HDR10+ Support

Panasonic TX-65EZ1000 4K OLED TV Review: Hollywood In Your Living Room

Warner Bros Boards The HDR10+ Bandwagon

Amazon Video Has Made All Of Its HDR Shows Available In HDR10+

Didn’t Think There Was An HDR Format War? There Is Now

Samsung, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox Join Forces To Attack Dolby

‘Dunkirk’ 4K Blu-ray Review: A Picture Quality Masterclass

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