Research & Development

Posted by BBC Research and Development on , last updated

The perceived quality of a television image is affected by the viewing conditions in the place where the video content is being watched. Ambient lighting, in particular, plays a significant role in the perceived brightness and dynamic range of the displayed picture.

Content producers and the media industry are aware that viewers do not often watch video in the same dark environment that production areas and editing suites use. This differential has an impact on the audience perception of the picture quality, and there is, therefore, a desire to understand more about the viewer’s environment. How can variations between domestic viewing and post-production lighting conditions best be accommodated? Alana Boles has worked for the BBC for three years as a broadcast engineer and has spent six months at BBC Research & Development working on sustainability and next generation video systems. Here Alana writes more about how you can help us with research we’re carrying out.

The UHD Alliance have worked with filmmakers, Hollywood studios, consumer electronics companies to specify a viewing mode that “enables your TV to display the movie or television show’s content precisely as it was intended by the filmmaker.”

We would like to understand what might be needed to achieve a similar outcome for the broad range of television content available.

How to take part

We would really value your input on our investigation into ambient lighting for content viewing which will help inform our research into TV content quality perception.

  1. Instructions for how to take measurements
  2. Complete our survey and submit your results

What we want to find out

For our research to be a success, here is what we want to find out from you and why:

  • Light level measurements surrounding your television. These readings will be used in our research results.
  • Time of day, so that we can investigate a relationship between time and light level.
  • The nearest major town, to find out whether there is a relationship between latitude and light level.
  • Room orientation, so we discover any link between window direction and light level.
  • Type of lighting in the viewing room (natural, LED, etc.) to explore any connections this has to the light level.
  • Number of times someone has filled out the survey, so we know how many individuals have taken part.

We are using the survey tool SmartSurvey to collect your responses, and this will record the time the survey was completed and the IP address from where it was submitted. This information is not required so will be deleted when we analyse the responses.

The BBC is collecting no personal data, and our research adheres to the BBC’s Privacy Policy.

A living room scene with bright light shining through the window which is reflecting off the TV screen.

Our investigation

In 2014, BBC Research & Development conducted a survey to understand TV viewing distances, screen sizes, and how variables might impact the technical parameters of future television services. BBC R&D has published a white paper containing our findings, which showed viewing distances in the UK were independent of screen size. These findings have been used by industry groups such as the EBU and ITU and influences Ultra High Definition TV guidelines. We are now working on an investigation into domestic lighting measurements for viewing of video content.

For the first phase of this new research, we asked our colleagues in BBC R&D and the wider BBC to measure the ambient lighting in the places where they watched TV. We asked participants to measure the lighting around their viewing device using an application on their smartphone. They were then asked to enter these readings into a survey and answer questions about the lighting conditions in their viewing room.

The results so far show that there is a significant variance in brightness levels at different times of the day. Consumer devices, such as TV screens and tablets, will potentially need to be able to adapt to variations in viewing lighting to give audiences the best viewer experience as possible.

Currently, the participants that have completed this survey work in the technical industry and so may have already acquired an awareness for how ambient lighting might affect the perception of the pictures on screen. To best reflect a larger proportion of viewer’s lighting conditions, we have now decided to expand the investigation to the general public, inviting you to take part and tell us about your viewing conditions.

We hope that, with an increased number of participants, this research will further inform the media industry on viewers preferred lighting conditions. This will be done by sharing results with television industry bodies and publication on our website.

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This post is part of the Broadcast and Connected Systems section