Higher contrast, vibrant colors and brighter images!
HDR originated in the world of photography , but has since become a fixture on TVs, smartphones and monitors, from the most expensive to the cheapest models. But what exactly is HDR, what does it do and how does it benefit what you’re watching? I’ll tell you that below! 🙋♂️
What is HDR?
High dynamic range – more commonly known as HDR – describes images with a wider range of brightness levels than conventional standard dynamic range (SDR) content.
Imagine shooting outdoors in brightly lit conditions, with a high-contrast scene that includes both bright and dark areas. With SDR, details in the shadows are often lost, while the bright parts of the image appear washed out or whitened.
With HDR shooting, both the brightest tones and deep shadow details are faithfully captured and reproduced – just as if you were viewing the scene with the naked eye. Below I give you some more advantages of HDR in specific situations:
- When making movies , HDR allows the director to evoke a wider range of emotions with delicate nuances of light, shadow and color.
- In live sports productions , HDR provides an immersive viewing experience with a clear reproduction of bright and dark details – as if you were in the stadium.
- At live concerts , HDR authentically captures the richness and colors of the lighting effects on stage, revealing all the details of the performers’ costumes.
- In documentaries and wildlife productions , HDR displays a huge range of colors, tones and textures, from the bright brilliance of water to the beautiful plumage of a bird.
HDR Technical Specifications
HDR technology is mainly about improved brightness, a wider color gamut and higher contrast. To view HDR content, you need a compatible display with the technology.
For many, for example, this is the best OLED TV , QLED TV or a smart TV , although in recent years you have also seen HDR technology in laptops, tablets and smartphones.
HDR displays consist of backlight systems that output 1000 nits peak brightness or more . This is a huge leap from the 100 nits typical of Blu-ray and standard TV.
When measuring brightness, TV manufacturers use a unit called ‘nit’. This is the brightness that the screen radiates. A nit is equal to one candela, or candle power, per square meter. One candela is approximately equal to the light emitted by one candle.
The color standards of a regular HDTV offer an 8-bit video specification, also known as Rec. 709 or BT .709. As for the HDR TV, one is aiming for a 10- or 12-bit Rec.2020 or BT.2020. In simpler terms, this means almost 60 times more color combinations and smoother gradations than you see with 8-bit.
The different HDR formats
HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are the more established technologies, while Technicolor’s HLG and Advanced HDR are emerging technologies. Vesa DisplayHDR has recently emerged as a standard specifically aimed at the PC monitor market.
Dolby Vision and HDR10+ are advanced versions of HDR, as they are more interactive forms of HDR; they use dynamic metadata instead of static metadata. They optimize an image either scene by scene or shot by shot for a more precise HDR performance.
HDR10 is the native form of HDR. It is an open standard that has been adopted by numerous manufacturers, streaming services (Amazon, Netflix, Apple and Disney+) and the Blu-ray disc association (BDA).
HDR10 complies with certain standards, including 4:2:0 color subsampling , 10-bit depth and the BT.2020 color space. It applies those specific standards to the image your TV displays , say a good 65 inch TV or 55 inch TV .
With 10-bit panels, each pixel can display up to 1024 versions of each primary color, or 1.07 million possible colors! A 10-bit panel thus displays images with exponentially greater accuracy than an 8-bit screen.
With HDR10 content, your HDR TV will only receive static metadata ; relatively simple general information about the content being displayed, and that applies to the entire movie or TV show.
Static metadata does not provide a display with updates on how each specific shot or scene should be displayed. HDR10 also does not have the ability to continuously optimize the image for the capabilities of the screen on which it is displayed.
The main advantage of Dolby Vision HDR over HDR10 is the addition of dynamic metadata to the core data of HDR images.
This metadata contains scene-by-scene instructions that a Dolby Vision-enabled display uses to display the content as accurately as possible. Dolby Vision compatible TVs combine scene-by-scene information from the source with their own brightness, contrast and color performance capabilities.
Dolby Vision is based on the same core as HDR10, making it relatively easy for content producers to create HDR10 and Dolby Vision masters together. This means that you can also play a Dolby Vision-enabled Ultra HD Blu-ray in HDR10 on TVs that only support that format.
Dolby Vision offers content producers the option of applying one or two layers of data: one with only an HDR signal and one with an SDR signal. This single HDR/SDR workflow approach makes Dolby Vision a useful tool for content creators and broadcasters.
The minimum specification for Dolby Vision mastering requires the use of reference monitors with a contrast ratio of 200,000:1, a peak brightness of 1000 nits and a color gamut approaching the BT.2020 standard.
However, Dolby has also developed a reference monitor with a contrast ratio of 800,000:1, peak brightness of 4,000 nits and the P3 color gamut used in digital cinema applications.
P3 color gamut
P3, a wide-gamut color space for video, is becoming increasingly popular, even being used on smartphones and all-in-one computers. It offers as wide a gamut as Adobe RGB (about 25% larger than sRGB), but it expands more in the red and yellow areas and less in the cyan and green areas.
Given the wider creative palette and the pursuit of consumer TVs that offer ever-increasing brightness, you can see this reference monitor from Dolby as a foretaste of HDR in the future.
Samsung decided to add to the confusion by developing its own standard for dynamic HDR: HDR10+.
Like Dolby Vision HDR, Samsung’s technology uses dynamic metadata to amplify HDR images frame-by-frame. Unlike Dolby Vision, HDR10+ is an open, royalty-free platform (although most brands pay an annual fee) and has its own certification and logos.
Almost all of Samsung’s latest TVs feature HDR10+, but since HDR10+ is intended to be a direct competitor to Dolby, no Samsung TV supports Dolby Vision.
However, Samsung is not the only manufacturer that supports HDR10 +, because Philips and Panasonic offer HDR10 + and Dolby Vision in a large part of their new TVs. There are now also some Ultra HD Blu-ray discs with HDR10+ on the market.
Three streaming services – Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten and Google’s pay-as-you-go movie and TV offerings on YouTube – support HDR10+, although a lack of signposts in these apps and often in the TV’s user interface makes it very difficult to find out whether you are looking at the format or not.
HLG (hybrid log gamma) is a HDR format of all that TV broadcasters use. HLG is the result of a joint research project between the BBC and Japanese broadcaster NHK and is designed to provide a more convenient HDR solution for the broadcasting world.
HLG combines standard dynamic range and high dynamic range images into a single image, with HLG compatible 4K televisions able to decode and display HDR images in all their glory.
Most major manufacturers now have HLG capable devices and there is a lot of material available to view in this format.
Advanced HDR from Technicolor is the least known format of HDR. It is the result of a collaboration between LG and video specialists Technicolor, but LG is so far the only manufacturer to support the format.
As with other HDR formats, the material must be mastered into the format, played back by a source that can read the Advanced HDR data, and then displayed by a compatible television or projector.
However, no official information is yet available on material mastered in Advanced HDR by Technicolor. Despite this, a number of LG TVs (both 4K OLED and LCD) are compatible with the format.
VESA (video electronics standards association) defined new HDR standards in 2017. The DisplayHDR certifications are divided into LED monitors and OLED (DisplayHDR True Black) displays, depending on the quality level.
This way you know exactly what the HDR specification entails in terms of performance quality, rather than relying on the ‘HDR compatible’ and similar labels from certain monitor manufacturers.
Plus, you can download the exclusive DisplayHDR software and run your own tests for the specified color gamut, peak brightness and contrast.
Monitors that do not have any of the certifications listed below, but do label them as “HDR-ready,” will accept the HDR10 signal and deliver HDR image quality via software manipulation. This is also known as pseudo or “fake” HDR.
The DisplayHDR 400 certificate is the only thing that doesn’t require the display to have a wide color gamut or local dimming , so it doesn’t really make much sense.
Local dimming is intended to increase contrast by making blacks appear deeper in dark scenes. The dark parts of the screen become extra dark with this technique. A TV with good local dimming is most noticeable when watching content in a dark room.
Compared to a regular non-HDR monitor, an HDR400 certified monitor only has a higher peak brightness and the ability to accept the HDR signal. So the HDR image will not have improved colors or contrast, but only a higher peak brightness.
Which HDMI cable do you need for HDR
High Speed HDMI cables can handle any device and any content, up to 4K resolution video at 30Hz. 3D video, deep colors and 1080p HD are also supported.
Static HDR (like HDR10) will also work, although I don’t recommend this kind of cable if you want to experience Dolby Vision HDR. As a dynamic version of HDR, it uses much more data and thus benefits from a faster cable.
A Premium High Speed HDMI cable is guaranteed to provide 18 Gbps, which is what HDMI 2.0b devices need to perform at their best. This premium HDMI cable supports 4K resolution up to 60Hz, all versions of HDR, including Dolby Vision and HDR10+, and audio return channel (ARC), so you can simplify cabling to your TV with just one connection.
ARC vs. eARC
The audio return channel (ARC) connects a TV and audio system with a single high-speed HDMI cable, eliminating the need for an additional composite audio or optical cable. By connecting an ARC-compatible audio system to an ARC-compatible TV, you send audio from the TV to the audio system.
The main differences between ARC and eARC ( enhanced audio return channel ) lie in bandwidth and speed. eARC has a much larger bandwidth than its predecessor. As a result, an eARC channel lets you enjoy the depth of cinema-quality surround sound through formats such as DTS:X and Dolby Atmos.
Ultra High Speed HDMI is for people who want the ultimate in future-proofing. Ultra-certified cables deliver the full 48 Gbps enabling all the advanced features in the HDMI 2.1 specification, including 8K/60Hz and 4K/120Hz video, eARC, and all versions of HDR.
HDR, or high dynamic range, is today’s must have TV feature! Displays that support this feature faithfully reproduce both the brightest tones and deep shadow details, and have a wider range of color details. So if you have a laptop with HDR display make it your second monitor.
Do you still have questions after reading this article or do you want to add something? Feel free to let me know below! 😉