When the Apple TV 4K with HDR capabilities was introduced over a month ago, it was widely hailed as a real coup for Apple—with one huge exception. The streaming box detects the display’s resolution, frame-rate, and dynamic-range capabilities and sets itself to output all content at those specs, not matter what its native characteristics.
The result is often a less-than-ideal rendering of the content, especially SDR and 24 fps movies on an HDR display capable of 60 fps. In such a situation, users report problems with noise, brightness, and color accuracy. You can go into the menu and manually select the output parameters, but they are then applied to all content until you manually select different parameters.
Naturally, video enthusiasts are quite upset about this, and it appears that Apple has heard their hue and cry. According to this video on the Apple Developer website, the upcoming tvOS 11.2 will include a new item in the Video and Audio menu called Match Content. That submenu will include two settings: Match Dynamic Range and Match Frame Rate. Enabling these parameters will cause the Apple TV 4K to send each title in its native dynamic range and frame rate.
The Match Dynamic Range setting is off by default, but you can enable it so the Apple TV 4K uses the content’s native dynamic-range format, be it SDR, HDR10, or Dolby Vision.
The Match Frame Rate setting is also off by default, but you can enable it so the Apple TV 4K uses the content’s native frame rate.
The Apple TV 4K will still determine the maximum capabilities of the display to which it is connected and set those parameters as the default. When it plays content with different characteristics, it will automatically switch to those characteristics, play the content, and then switch back to the default settings.
After the Apple TV 4K sets its defaults according to the display’s characteristics, it will switch to the native dynamic-range format and frame rate of the content, after which it will switch back to the defaults. In this example, the display is capable of Dolby Vision HDR at 60 fps, but the content is SDR at 24 fps.
Apple cautions developers not to switch modes too often in order to avoid flickering and other anomalies—which is why the company did not allow automatic mode switching in the first place. Also, the new features will work only with “compatible apps,” though it is not clear which apps qualify. Finally, the update does not address the fact that the Apple TV 4K does not support Dolby Atmos immersive audio.
Apparently, tvOS 11.2 was just released in developer beta form. There has been no announcement about when it will be released to the public, but I know that many online-shashki Forum members—including me—are hoping it will be soon.