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Wide Color Gamut: The Science behind the Screen Color Revolution

Diving into the Colorful World of Wide Color Gamut and the Terms that Define It

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Wide Color Gamut (WCG) technology uses advanced backlighting and color filtering systems to amplify color rendition, surpassing traditional sRGB standards in screen technology.

Sep 23

by Hannah Lincoln-Abbott

Diving straight into the multidimensional matrix of screen technology, we encounter countless parameters and indices defining what we perceive as an image on a screen. A key force revolutionizing this field is the Wide Color Gamut (WCG) technology, taking us a giant step closer towards a more life-like digital visual experience. If you're a tech enthusiast, a digital media student, or a software engineer aspiring to delve deeper into modern display advancements, this article is for you.

Fundamentally, Wide Color Gamut enhances color representation in digital devices, expanding over the color realm expressed by conventional sRGB standards in a mesmerizing fashion. With WCG technology, screens display a broader spectrum of rich and precise colors, dynamically transforming the viewer’s experience. In this technical walkthrough, we will systematically demystify the array of essential terms and scientific concepts, central to Wide Color Gamut, molding the kaleidoscopic visuals on your screens.

Quantum Dots (QDs)

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The incorporation of Quantum Dots in screen production contributes in enriching the color spectrum on a display, while maintaining energy efficiency.

Quantum Dots (QDs) are tiny semiconductor particles, just a few nanometers wide. These tiny specks behave uniquely when struck by light or electric current, in fact, they can emit or change the color of light.

In relation to WCG, QDs come into play when integrated into display technology, as they can significantly amplify the vibrancy and precision of the colors displayed. They primarily contribute to achieving a broader spectrum of colors and outstanding brightness—all without compromising power efficacy. Thus, making these miniature nanocrystals a game-changing component of WCG technology.

Melanopic Efficacy of Luminous Radiation (MELR)

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The consideration of MELR in display design could greatly determine the screen's overall blue light emissions, potentially influencing sleep health.

Melanopic Efficacy of Luminous Radiation (MELR) measures the impact of light on stimulating melanopsin, a photopigment present in our retinal ganglion cells that influences our sleep-wake cycles. A high MELR value indicates light's efficiency in provoking melanopsin.

In the context of WCG, there’s a delicate balancing act at play. While the goal is to enhance the viewer's visual experience with an array of bright, vivid colors, it's also vital to manage the light emitted by screens correctly, limiting MELR to ensure comfortable viewing, and to prevent disruption to the viewer's natural sleep cycle.

Full-Width-at-Half-Maximum (FWHM)


By controlling the FWHM, manufacturers can optimize color purity, thus enhancing the viewer’s visual experience.

Full-Width-at-Half-Maximum (FWHM) is a principle applied in spectroscopy and signal processing, essentially, it measures the bandwidth of light at half its peak intensity. This concept relates to the spectrum of colors that our screens can depict, indicating the color purity or sharpness.

In the technicolor world of WCG, a narrower FWHM results in more saturated and purer primary colors. This enhanced color purity allows our screens to reproduce a significantly wider color spectrum, promising a more vibrant and lifelike visual experience.



Rec. 2020, the benchmark for 4K television color space, can potentially cover 75.8% of the entire CIE 1931 color space, promising vibrant color range for displays.

The Rec.2020 standard (also coined as BT.2020) delineates certain parameters for ultra-high-definition television (UHDTV), including color space, resolution, frame rate, and more. This standard is crucial to WCG, as it specifies the color space available to ultra-HD displays.

Rec.2020 offers a wider spectrum than previous models, which integrates perfectly with the objectives of WCG. This pairing results in the realistic, richly detailed, and vibrantly colored content that you view on your UHDTV.



The Rec.709 is an international color standard used by directors, video creators, broadcast stations and more, ensuring global consistency in color representation in video production.

Rec.709, or BT.709, is the standard color space used for HDTV systems, essentially defining the quality of color reproduction in TVs. It establishes a limited range of colors for displays, containing the color's hues, saturation, and brightness.

When it comes to WCG, Rec.709 serves as the baseline that WCG leaps beyond. WCG transcends the constraints of the Rec.709 color space to embrace a more diverse and vibrant set of colors. This means that on WCG-enabled screens, viewers will experience colors far more dynamic and plentiful than what Rec.709 compliant displays offer, significantly enriching their viewing experiences.

Red Green Blue (RGB)

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Following the inclusion of quantum-dot technology, the vibrancy and color purity of RGB have been significantly amplified, aiding the realization of WCG on displays.

Red Green Blue (RGB) is a color model where Red, Green, and Blue hues are mingled in an array of combinations to produce a spectrum of colors. Originally devised for sensing and exhibiting images in digital systems, RGB forms the cornerstone of modern displays, from the TVs in our living room to the computers at our work stations.

When it comes to the Wide Color Gamut, RGB plays a pivotal role. WCG magnifies the standard RGB model by incorporating an expanded spectrum of each primary color. The result is a dramatically improved visual experience that is simultaneously more realistic and far more vibrant.

Spectral Power Distribution (SPD)


By controlling the SPD of a display, users can get the most realistic color representation possible on their viewing device.

Spectral Power Distribution (SPD) is a measure of the power emitted by a light source at different frequencies. Essentially, SPD captures the intensity of distinct colors within a light source, providing valuable information about the color characteristics of the light source.

Relating to WCG, SPD is key. WCG aims to significantly broaden the SPD. By expanding the range of intensities that a display can project, WCG technology can deliver deeper, more realistic colors. A WCG-enhanced display will leverage variations in SPD to replicate colors with stunning accuracy, ultimately offering viewers more immersive viewing experiences.

Blue Light Hazard Efficiency of Radiation (BLHER)

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Increasing the blues in a color gamut without raising the BLHER value presents a crucial balancing act in display technology.

This metric measures the potential damage caused by the short-wave blue light emitted by digital screens. The higher the Blue Light Hazard Efficiency of Radiation (BLHER) value, the more damaging the blue light emissions.

While WCG seeks to boost our visual experience, it also weighs health implications. In spite of extending the gamut of colors—including blues—WCG aims to manage BLHER effectively, ensuring enriched visual output while safeguarding viewer comfort and health.

Color Gamut Enhancement Ratio (CGER)

Color Gamut Enhancement Ratio (CGER) is a metric that measures a display system’s ability to enhance its perceptible color gamut range or capacity. To simplify, CGER is a quantitative measure, expressing the enhanced color gamut coverage of a visual display in ratios, to provide an interpretation of the color gamut expansion. Higher CGER values imply a larger expansion of the color gamut, meaning a broader array of colors is obtainable.

In Wide Color Gamut (WCG) technology, the CGER plays a central role in evaluating the effectiveness of the color enhancement. By delineating how much the display system's color gamut has expanded, it verifies if the WCG technology is living up to its promise of delivering an extensive spectrum of colors. Consequently, a WCG display with a high CGER value promises an exceptional viewing experience with an extensive range of vibrant colors.

Backlight Unit (BLU)

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With advancements in technology, the lighting performance of backlight units has improved exponentially, contributing to sharper and clearer images on LCD screens.

The Backlight Unit (BLU) is the component of LCD screens that provides them with lighting. This light source shines white light, which is then filtered and modulated to create colored pixels that we perceive on the screen.

As a pivotal component of WCG, backlights with a more pristine light source, such as those enhanced with quantum dots or RGB-LED backlights, are used. These advanced backlights facilitate a superior color gamut within LCD displays, boosting the depth and breadth of colors, which we experience and enjoy in our on-screen visuals.

Observer Metamerism (OM)

Observer Metamerism (OM), is a phenomenon that occurs when two colors that look identical under one light source appear different under another light. This occurs because of the dissimilar ways in which individual people can perceive colors, mainly due to age, health conditions, or color vision deficiency. As a result, the same colors can be interpreted differently by different viewers or even the same viewer under changing lighting conditions.

As it pertains to WCG, Observer Metamerism is a challenge that needs to be carefully managed. Ensuring consistent color representation across different light conditions is a critical consideration in the implementation of WCG technology. It is crucial that OM is minimized to ensure that viewers experience consistent, vibrant colors, regardless of their individual color sensing differences or varying light conditions.

Observer Metamerism Magnitude (OMM)

Observer Metamerism Magnitude (OMM) is the term used to denote the degree or extent of the observer metamerism phenomenon. It helps measure the difference in color perception between different observers for the same color.

In the context of WCG, the goal is to keep the OMM to a minimum. This way, all viewers of a WCG-enhanced screen can experience the same range of vibrant and lifelike colors, regardless of personal differences in color perception. Minimizing OMM enhances color consistency across different viewers, augmenting the overall visual experience delivered by WCG.

CIE 1931


The CIE 1931 chromaticity diagram features boundary colors representing the spectral colors, and all the colors within the diagram are the possible colors that an average human eye can see.

The CIE 1931 color space, defined by the International Commission on Illumination (CIE), acted as a pioneer in the arena of systematic color representation in electronic devices. It essentially provided a mathematical model that plots color based on human color perception, forming a universally accepted standard.

WCG builds upon this foundational standard, stretching the boundaries of the color range that our screens can produce. In simple terms, the Wide Color Gamut uses the foundation stone laid by CIE 1931 and pushes beyond it to exhibit a more breathtaking array of vibrant colors.

CIE 1976


The CIE 1976 color space adjusts for the non-linearity observed at low light levels, leading to more accurate color reproduction at these levels.

An updated adaptation of the CIE 1931 color space is the CIE 1976. It offers a more linear representation of color differences, ironing out some of the issues identified with its predecessor. It provides an even more refined model for presenting and understanding a more extensive range of colors.

Similar to the CIE 1931, the CIE 1976 forms a basis for the WCG, laying down the groundwork for showing a substantially wider color gamut. The enhancements of our screens’ color-reproducing capabilities owe a considerable amount to the standards set by CIE 1976.

Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED)

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OLEDs have self-lighting property, allowing each pixel to emit its own light and color, which makes them more energy-efficient and capable of displaying the deepest black levels.

Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) technology functions based on organic compounds that emit light in response to an electric current. It stands in marked contrast with LCDs that require backlighting. Since each pixel in an OLED screen functions as a tiny organic LED, it results in fantastically deep black levels and better contrast ratios.

WCG works in tandem with OLED by boosting its already impressive color display capabilities. By raising the color volume—or the range of colors that can be displayed at different brightness levels—WCG brings an added layer of color sprightliness and precision to OLED screens, further enhancing their image quality.



DCI.P3 offers nearly 50% more color space compared to the standard Rec.709, offering richer saturation for a more immersive viewing experience.

Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) came up with the DCI.P3 color space for digital movie projection in the film industry. DCI.P3 has a significantly larger color gamut than the conventional sRGB/Rec. 709 color space used in standard HDTVs, making it capable of portraying more lively and realistic colors.

When it comes to Wide Color Gamut (WCG), DCI.P3 features predominately. WCG technology seeks to extend a display's color gamut beyond the traditional Rec. 709 boundaries towards the more extensive DCI.P3 standards. Therefore, WCG-powered TVs and digital devices offering DCI.P3 color space can emit a much broader spectrum of colors, rendering visuals that are far more dynamic and lifelike.

Color Matching Function (CMF)

Color Matching Functions (CMF) are mathematical models that relate to each spectral power distribution in the visible spectrum with the perceived color it produces in the human vision. CMFs help define the range of physical colors that a typical human eye can accurately recognize.

With WCG, managing CMFs is of primary importance. To achieve the wide spectrum of vibrant colors that WCG enables, the display technology must correctly apply CMF concepts. As such, calibrating CMFs appropriately makes it possible for WCG displays to achieve an extensive range of perceivable colors, along with better color accuracy.

Total Light Efficiency (TLE)

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Enhanced TLE in a device not only improves its power consumption but can also lead to an increased lifespan for the device.

Total Light Efficiency (TLE) is a measure of a lighting system’s efficacy, evaluating how well it converts power into visible light. In other words, TLE makes an assessment of the energy efficiency of devices.

On the WCG stage, power efficiency plays an important role. Striking a balance between enlarging a screen’s color gamut and maintaining an economical power usage is the key. More efficient lighting systems ensure a remarkable color performance while ensuring the device remains budget-friendly in terms of power utilization. The balance between vibrant colors and power conservation is indeed a grand act pulled off beautifully by WCG technology.

Color Gamut Coverage (CGC)

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CGC measurement heavily influences screen calibration during the manufacturing process by aiding manufacturers' optimization of color rendering capacity.

Color Gamut Coverage (CGC) refers to the portion of colors within a designated color space that a screen or a device can reproduce. The higher the CGC, the wider and more varied is the sphere of colors that the device can display.

The Wide Color Gamut directly affects the CGC by enhancing the assortment of colors that can be portrayed. This gives viewers a richer visual experience, as screens equipped with WCG can emit vivid hues that closely mirror the vibrancy and diversity of the real world.

Chroma Subsampling


The level of Chroma Subsampling can greatly impact the overall bandwidth and storage requirements of video files, making it an essential consideration in video processing.

Chroma Subsampling is a method used in image and video processing, which reduces the color information in a signal in favor of luminance data. This reduction results in less data to be processed and stored, making it a valuable tool for reducing file sizes in media storage and broadcast.

In relation to Wide Color Gamut (WCG), Chroma Subsampling can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, 4:4:4 Chroma Subsampling (which keeps color information intact) allows screens to leverage the entire gamut of colors that WCG offers. On the other hand, if the Chroma Subsampling rate is low (like 4:2:0 or 4:2:2), it can limit a display's ability to take full advantage of WCG's broad spectrum of colors.

Color Depth

Color Depth, also known as bit depth, is the number of bits used to represent the color of a single pixel in a bitmapped image or video frame buffer. It is essentially an indicator of how many distinct colors can be produced. For instance, an 8-bit image can represent a maximum of 256 colors, while a 10-bit image can represent up to 1,024 colors.

When it comes to Wide Color Gamut (WCG), color depth is critical. A higher bit depth allows a display to take full advantage of the extended color gamut, achieving an array of finely-tuned, vibrant hues that result in a more lifelike and dynamic image.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)

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Although LCDs inherently have a limited color gamut, technology developments have now evolved LCDs to display nearly the entire sRGB color space.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is a flat-panel display or other electronically modulated optical device that uses the light-modulating properties of liquid crystals combined with polarizers. This screen technology, which you'll find in widespread use in TVs, computer monitors, and smartphones, offers clear and sharp images but can sometimes fall short in rendering highly vibrant colors.

WCG drastically improves color rendering on LCD screens. It enhances the color spectrum that LCDs can deliver, taking the traditionally conservative color output and overdosing it with color depth, saturation, and vibrancy that make images on LCD screens come alive with an almost real-world aesthetic.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

High Dynamic Range (HDR) refers to a technique used in imaging and photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than what is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques. HDR works by enhancing the contrast between the bright and dark sections of an image, thereby revealing more detail in both sections.

In terms of Wide Color Gamut (WCG), HDR is a significant contributor. WCG combined with HDR can deliver superior brightness and contrast levels, along with a broader color palette. This result in images that are more vibrant, realistic, and richer in detail, thus transforming the viewing experience.


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Wide Color Gamut balances expanding the color spectrum against the device's power efficiency and limits blue light emissions, hence, achieving superior color representation while maintaining healthy viewing standards and sustainability.

In the realm of digital imaging, Wide Color Gamut is not just an ornamental feature, but an integral aspect of modern visual technology. Its contributions spill over to fields as diverse as computer graphics, virtual reality, digital cameras, and scientifical visualization. It's not about just amplifying the captivating colors on our displays, but also about introducing a greater level of realism that could significantly improve digital diagnostics, simulators, mobile and AR/VR applications.

As the future engineers, technicians, and innovators of tomorrow, understanding and mastering the functionalities and implications of Wide Color Gamut is pivotal. It's not just about creating visually stunning products, but ensuring efficiency, precision and color truthfulness. Considering developments like quantum dot technique, more precise color matching functions and standards like Rec. 2020, we are stepping into an era focused on consumer satisfaction, health-friendly solutions, and energy efficiency. Therefore, gaining a comprehensive understanding of Wide Color Gamut is a profound step for digital media students, researchers, and enthusiasts. The future is here—and it echoes in a Wide Color Gamut.

Hannah Lincoln-Abbott

Hannah Lincoln-Abbott

Hello! I'm Hannah Lincoln-Abbott, your go-to source for all things at the intersection of optics, photonics, and mesoscopic physics. When my eyes aren't locked onto the microscopic marvels of light, I enjoy submerging myself into the expansive worlds contained within the pages of books and the frames of films. In a universe governed by constants and variables, I invite you to explore with me the unknown wonders and complex simplicity of the science surrounding us each and every day. 📚🔬🎞️