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Reinventing the color TV

New standard is designed to expand range of colors on LCD and rear-projection screens, improving viewing experience.

Mitsubishi and others are promoting a technical standard that's expected to greatly expand the color palette on televisions.

The standard--elegantly called xvYCC--is meant to update the televised color spectrum for the Digital Age. The current standard, BT.709-5, defines the ranges of reds, greens and blues that TVs can display. The new standard will broaden the range of colors, adding shades of cyan or bright green, which should lead to more natural-looking colors.

"You'll be able to see richer and more colors," Vik Murty, senior manager of product marketing at Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, said during a presentation Wednesday at audio and entertainment tech specialist Dolby Laboratories in San Francisco. "This opens a new set of colors that no one has ever seen on a TV before."

The existing standard works for most TVs, but it constrains the capabilities of LCD televisions with light-emitting diode (LED) backlights and rear-projection TVs with digital light-processing technology, Murty said.

Mitsubishi plans to incorporate the standard into TVs beginning in April. Broadcasters are also starting to build xvYCC-compliant systems so they can deliver programming that takes advantage of the standard. Others are working on it too: Sony showed off small screens with the technology earlier this year.

Mitsubishi also plans to come out with a , rather than lightbulbs or LEDs, as a light source in late 2007, he added.

The new standard will further be enhanced by Deep Color, an existing technology that smoothes out the fine gradients between shades of colors. In some older digital TVs, viewers can see faint bands in a color field as the colors get lighter or darker. In a TV with Deep Color, the bands disappear, and images in shadows become clearer.

The acronym xvYCC is a rough equivalent for the standard more formally called Extended YCC Colorimetry for Video Applications. The standard is governed by the International Electrotechnical Commission.

Next year should be a big one for improving the picture quality on digital TVs. Several companies are expected to come out with LCD televisions that will get rid of ghosting and the blurriness often associated with the devices.

Toshiba will also try to ship the first SED (surface conduction electron emitter display) televisions, which use a new standard the company says will provide a better picture than plasma or liquid crystal displays.