HDR - High Dynamic Range
What is HDR - High Dynamic Range?
When you walk into a store selling TVs, and they have model upon model lined up next to each other, playing the same content, take a second to ask yourself what makes you pick one TV over the other as having a better picture quality? The answer may seem obvious and surprising at the same time. It isn't resolution - rather more accurate colours and better contrast Ratio.
TVs with accurate colour reproduction and better dark scene reproduction (Contrast Ratio) produce more natural, life-like images and give us a greater improvement in picture quality than just resolution. Go and have a look at a 1080p OLED TV next to a 4K LED TV and see for yourself.
HDR provides a huge improvement on the range of both Contrast and colour, meaning simply that the brightest parts of the image can be much brighter than normal, so the image seems to have a lot more depth. The expanded colour range means that Red, Green and Blue colours, as well as everything in between - are brighter and much
WCG - Wide Colour Gamut
Another processing enhancement which will be found with High Dynamic Range enabled TVs is WCG - Wide Colour Gamut. Have you seen those image loops on TVs in stores, showing things like bright paints, chameleons, Crayons, Fruits and Fire Trucks and thought - WOW! HDR with Wide Colour Gamut will take that to the next level - bringing millions and millions of colours into images such as Mountain Scenery, Night time City Skylines and Traffic Lights. You will certainly see an immediate and obvious improvement in picture quality.
As with many new technology features, without a proper demonstration of it's capabilities and enhancements, many may feel that HDR isn't worth the investment. Do you remember the first time you saw High Definition TV? This is the same experience you will get when you see HDR for the first time.
So we know what HDR is now, but How does it work?
To be able to experience HDR, you will need two things - a compatible HDR TV and HDR Content. Just like we need a High Definition TV, and High Definition content to be able to experience High Definition, to experience the performance of HDR we need a compatible TV and source.
Basically, a compatible HDR TV is able to produce more light than a normal TV in parts of the screen, just like the Local Dimming feature found on many high end LED TVs of the past couple of years. Local dimming dims the backlight behind some areas of the screen that are displaying a black image. This makes the blacks appear deeper and darker on those parts of the screen, because there is no light coming from behind the panel in that area. HDR is similar to local dimming in this respect, but on a much greater scale.
Back when we first started seeing Full HD 1080P Panels and Blu-Ray players arrive on the market, the hardware was on the shelves and being sold for months and months before we actually had a wide array of content available to us, so we could actually make use of the panels resolution, and therefore see the benefits.
The same issue is evident with HDR TVs. To appreciate the full potential of HDR, the HDR TV needs HDR content, which right now is scarce. There is plenty of 4k content on available on YouTube for us to sample, however when it comes to 4k/UHD or TV shows or Videos - there are only a handful of titles available through Netflix - such as Bloodline, Chef’s Table, Daredevil, Iron Fist, The Defenders and The Ridiculous Six to name a few. But with around 150 hours of HDR content on it's way this year through Netflix - the options will become much larger as time goes on.
What about Blu-Ray Discs?
Another source of HDR content will be on physical Blu-Ray discs. What we watch today, whether it be on Full HD Blu-Ray discs or TV, is basically altered from the original content (the way the director and cinematographer want the scene to look) so it can be reproduced for playback on our "older" devices. This dramatically reduces the range of colors, contrast and brightness from that captured by modern 4K HDR cameras. HDR TVs playing HDR content allow us to experience truly vivid and lifelike image without any compromise.
Thanks to the additional storage and streaming capabilities of 4K Blu Ray Discs and streaming video from Netflix and others, additional data, called metadata, can be added to the signal. This lets HDR TVs know automatically that a HDR/Wide Colour Gamut signal is present, and that puts the TV in a certain picture mode. This means that the TV is showing the image exactly how it should look, showing the exact deeper colors intended, and exactly how bright a moon, a star, a window or reflection, should look. It can even adjust picture settings or put the TV in a certain picture mode automatically. Gone are the days when you need to fiddle with your picture settings such as backlight, Brightness or presets like Vivid, Cinema or Natural.
There are six 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray movies available right now - Kingsman: The Secret Service, Life of Pi, Maze Runner, The Scorch Trials, The Martian and X-Men: Days Of Future Past. These are all HDR discs.
Planned for release very soon is The Revenant(HDR), Deadpool(HDR), The 5th Wave, The Amazing Spiderman 2: The Rise Of Electro, Mad Max: Fury Road(HDR), and The Lego Movie(HDR).
What about my HDMI Cables?
The good news is that you won't need to upgrade your HDMI cables to play High Dynamic Range. Your regular High Speed HDMI Cables will be able to carry the High Dynamic Range signal. But, the source device (eg 4k Blu Ray Player) and the TV will need to have a HDMI 2.0a port to transmit the data. See our article on HDMI 2.0a here. The same goes for any receiver / amplifier you intend to use - it needs to have HDMI 2.0a ports.
Many of our current TVs and the content we watch on them may seem fantastic to us, but their true potential is limited by our "old" technologies. Altering of the original content before it can be reproduced on our Full HD screens dramatically reduces the range of colors, brightness, and contrast from that captured by modern cameras.
High Dynamic Range changes all of that. High Dynamic Range allows the movies we see and the TV we watch to be experienced in truly immersive fashion, without any compromise. High Dynamic Range provides a huge improvement on the range of both Contrast and colour, meaning simply that the brightest parts of the image can be much brighter than normal, so the image seems to have a lot more depth. The expanded colour range means that Red, Green and Blue colours, as well as everything in between - are brighter and much more "dynamic".