High Dynamic Range Display - Brightside Technologies and Dolby Laboratories

As a component of his prism light guide research program, Lorne Whitehead became involved in a collaboration with researchers at the National Research Council of Canada in Ottawa to study lighting quality in workspaces. During the course of this research, he became aware of the need for a high dynamic range display to accurately depict various luminous environments. To address this need, Lorne invented the idea of forming a high dynamic range electronic display using dual modulation. Specifically, he invented the use of a computer projector to backlight a liquid crystal display in order to produce an HDR display. An undergraduate student working on the project at the time, Duane Bieber, helped to develop an algorithm for describing the spatial frequency of light in the visual field.

Another undergraduate student, Helge Seetzen, subsequently got involved in the project and, while assisting Lorne with the project, built a first working model of the projector version of the HDR display. It was shortly after building this demo that Helge became interested in the commercial potential of the technology and the HDR display development became a program in its own right rather than only a research tool. The lighting quality research was temporarily put on hold while Lorne and Helge focused on the development of the display.

In order to fund this development, they set up a collaboration with researchers from York University and McGill University. The group was awarded an NSERC Strategic Project Grant, with Lorne as the Principal Investigator. About the time the grant was awarded, Lorne became aware of Greg Ward and his highly-regarded work in high dynamic range image file formats and invited Greg to become involved in the project.

During the first official meeting of the HDR collaborative group in Montreal, the current LED-based version of the display was invented. During this discussion, Greg introduced his idea of using a blurred rear image to reduce registration problems in layered transparencies in order to yield a high dynamic range photo. Helge wondered if that idea might have application in the active HDR concept and, as a result of this discussion, Lorne came up with the idea of using a matrix of individually controlled, high brightness LEDs to produce a low resolution high brightness rear image. At the time, LEDs with the required brightness were just being developed, and although the cost was extremely high at the time, it appeared that within a few years this could be a practical solution for backlighting displays.

The NSERC-funded project was highly successful and, partway through the granting period, Lorne, Helge and several others founded Brightside Technologies Inc. (initially called Sunnybrook Technologies), a UBC spin-off company intended to commercialize the HDR display. Lorne served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the company from 2003 until 2004 and he currently is a member of the Technical Advisory Group. Helge is in the process of completing a Ph.D. at UBC and he remains very actively involved with Brightside as their Chief Technology Officer. The Brightside products have received a substantial amount of media attention in the display industry, and the company has been credited with bringing high dynamic range imaging to the forefront. Brightside was acquired by Dolby Laboratories and became Dolby Canada in 2007.

image005

Brightside’s High Dynamic Range (HDR) display shows images with realistic dynamic range.