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TV tech terms demystified, part 3: Color standards, definitions

Jon L. Jacobi | Dec. 14, 2015
Don't be befuddled by the alphabet soup of acronyms, spec charts, and feature lists you'll encounter when shopping for a new TV. This guide series explains it all in plain language.

sony x930c
Sony's  XBR-65X930C is a 65-inch 4K Ultra HD TV that offers high dynamic range.

HSL (Hue/Saturation/Luminance): Another way to refer to and adjust colors. Put simply: hue is the color, saturation is the amount of said color, and luminance (or brightness) is how bright or dark it is. You’ll also run into HSL in some TV color-calibration dialog boxes.

RGB (Red/Green/Blue): The three colors of pixels that most displays use in trios to form the other colors in the spectrum. This is done by varying the individual intensity or luminance of each dot in the trio. You may be familiar if you’ve adjusted a TV that uses the reference, or created a custom color on your computer where you’ll have 256 levels (0-255) each of red, green, and blue.

Rec. 2020: An abbreviation of ITU-R Recommendation BT.2020, where ITU is the International Telecommunications Union. While Rec.2020 also deals with resolution and frame rates, in terms of color, it is the current definition/target for the spectrum that an Ultra HD (or higher resolution) cinematic display should reproduce. When you hear someone say their TV reaches 98 percent of Rec. 2020, they mean the TV can reproduce 98 percent of the colors in that standard.

Rec. 709: The resolutions, frame rates, and other specs for HDTV that encompass the sRGB color space (see below).

sRGB: The original color space for computers and color displays and matched by Rec. 709 (HDTV). Slightly smaller than the Adobe RGB color space and considerably smaller than Rec. 2020.

True Color: 24-bit color depth. A digital video signal supporting True Color uses 8 bits for each of the red, green, and blue components of a pixel to produce 16,777,216 colors. (See also: color depth.)


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