All About HDR and Why It’s the Future of Television
TV manufacturers are always looking for a new leap in picture quality that will make you watch TV as if you were looking through a crystal clear window. HDR is the latest trend in display technology and will stay here for a long time. Here’s everything you need to know about how it works and why you might want to take that into consideration when buying your next TV.
How HDR TVs work
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range , and while it shares the same name with photography technology on your smartphone’s camera, they are not really related at all. HDR televisions are designed to create a more lifelike picture by rendering colors more realistic. With more contrast between dark and bright colors and the use of more colors in general, HDR TVs can better show you what the camera was actually seeing when recording, and ideally what you would see if you were watching live. the air.
For example, in HDR-enabled nature videos, trees appear greener, skies bluer, and clouds are sharper because there are more colors to work with and more color contrast. HDR expands the overall color range of a TV display and increases the number of steps between each color in that range. If you go from, say, black to white, a standard 1080p or 4K TV can have about 10 different shades of gray in between. HDR TVs would have around 1000. According to Nandhu Nandhakumar , senior vice president of LG Electronics, a bright star twinkling in the night sky is agood example of how HDR does its best : the star will be bright white and the area around it will look like dark, black and does not wash off. The star will also be physically brighter because HDR screens take the upper end of the color range, or accentuate and increase the actual brightness of those pixels. This brightness or luminosity of each color is measured in “nits” or candelas per square meter . Depending on your HDR TV, colors can range from 0.0001 nits to nearly 10,000 nits or more (as shown in the flower image above). To put this in perspective, current HDTV and Blu-ray standards start at a minimum of 0.117 nits and caps maximum brightness to 100 nits, in addition to a much more limited color gamut.
In short, HDR really makes bright colors vivid and keeps dark colors dark. Therefore, if you see the sun on TV, it will be very bright, and it will seem to you that you are actually looking into the sky. Or, if you see a lit match in a dark room, the match will really feel like the only source of light. Basically, HDR technology improves pixels, rather than increasing their number or refresh rate, which is what TVs have done to improve picture quality over the past few years.
There are two competing standards: HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
When it comes to HDR TVs and HDR content, there are two main standards: HDR10 and Dolby Vision . HDR10 is an open standard for both OEMs and content creators in the TV industry, but you’ll never see it actually listed as “HDR10” when you buy TVs. Each manufacturer calls it their own way, but if you see that the TV supports HDR in some way, you can assume they mean HDR10. Since it is an open standard, content creators can use it without paying licensing fees.
Unlike HDR10, Dolby Vision is a proprietary HDR standard that offers more value for money. Dolby Vision supports a wider range of color brightness (up to 10,000 nits, HDR10 max 1000), and Dolby Vision content is processed at 12-bit color depth (HDR10 10-bit only). This means that Dolby Vision can use 68 billion colors, and HDR10 can use just over a billion. Modern TVs without HDR display about 16 million colors.
The biggest difference, however, is that every frame of Dolby Vision content has metadata that tells your HDR TV how to display that particular frame. HDR10 metadata doesn’t change from one frame to the next and contains the same instructions for all frames , so you won’t get the same level of visual fidelity as with Dolby Vision, especially if the movie bounces a lot. back and forth between light and dark environments. However, Dolby Vision requires its HDR content to play through a compatible player and output to a compatible display. Since manufacturers must pay for the custom Dolby Vision chip, certification process, and proprietary license fees, they must pass these additional costs on to you as a consumer.
For example, LG’s 55-inch HDR10 TV costs $ 800 . The same model with HDR10 and Dolby Vision costs around $ 1,300 . Overall, Dolby Vision has the best specs, and most would say it looks better than HDR10, but it’s not cheap and has been slower to roll out.
It is also important to know which manufacturers support which standards. You can find TVs that support both, but there are also TVs that only support one or the other. Vizio and LG HDR TVs support both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. However, some Vizio models only came with Dolby Vision support and are starting to receive HDR10 support via firmware updates. Not all TVs can support HDR10 after multiple firmware updates, but some, like Sony’s 2015 4K UHD TV lineup , can. Sony , Samsung , Hisense , Sharp and most other players only support HDR10. Luckily, just about any HDR TV will improve your picture quality over standard 1080p or 4K, so there is no way to completely skip a good upgrade. These two standards will coexist in much the same way as DTS andDolby Digital , the two main audio formats decoded by receivers. Keep in mind, however, that Dolby has always enjoyed a lot of support from Hollywood studios, so don’t be surprised if some future content is released just for Dolby Vision.
What you can see in HDR right now
HDR looks incredible, but before you rush into buying a new HDR TV, there are a few important things you need to know. First off, HDR won’t turn your old movies and TV shows into stunning reimagined versions. Next, the only thing you can watch in HDR is content crafted with HDR in mind. This list is pretty limited, but includes 4K or “Ultra HD” Blu-ray discs, as well as some streaming media on Netflix, Amazon, and Vudu.
Here’s what’s available now or coming soon in HDR on Netflix :
- A series of sad events
- Chef’s table
- Knights of Sidonia
- Marco Polo
- Daredevil Marvel
- Marvel’s iron fist
- Jessica Jones from Marvel
- Luke Cage from Marvel
- Marvel’s Defenders
- Ridiculous Six
If the movie or show is available in HDR, you will see the HDR or Dolby Vision logo next to the title as you watch it. More HDR content is on the way , though, so you can search for ‘HDR’ and find whatever they’ve got until they start listing things in the dedicated HDR section.
Here are HDR-enabled content that you can currently watch or buy digitally with Amazon Video :
- Bosch Seasons 1 and 2 (second season also available in Dolby Vision)
- Reservoir Dogs Season 1
- The Man in the High Castle Season 1
- Mozart in the Jungle Seasons 1 & 2
- Red Oaks Season 1
- Transparent seasons 1 and 2
- Rise of the good girls
- One Mississippi
- The Last Tycoon
- Z: The Beginning of Everything
- Coral reefs
- Living sea
- Van Gogh: brush with genius
- After Earth
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2
- Elvis and Nixon
- Men in Black III
- Pineapple Express
- The Smurfs 2
As with Netflix, more HDR content is coming soon and you can read more about Amazon Video HDR support here .
The Vudu digital movie service also supports some HDR content, but only movies created with Dolby Vision in mind . This means it will not support the general HDR10 standard. You can find a complete list of Dolby Vision supported movies here .
Some game consoles can also use HDR support. Microsoft Xbox One S supports HDR, but only with TVs that use the HDR10 standard. Dolby Vision-only models are out of luck. Sony will soon announce an update for PS4, codenamed Neo, which is rumored to also support 4K and HDR10 . We’ll know for sure that PSX is coming out in September .
Should you buy HDR? In short, yes, in the end . This is a pretty big deal, and it won’t go away anytime soon. And because it dramatically improves contrast and color, the move to HDR is considered by many to be a better improvement than the move from 1080p to 4K displays. However, there is nothing to look at with it yet. Except for some Ultra HD Blu-ray and what streaming services currently offer, that’s all there is for HDR content. TV and cable TV still streams mostly in 720p, 1080i, and sometimes 4K if you pay extra, but there are no HDR offerings yet.
So, no, you don’t need to finish and update your TV right now. Your current high definition TV is probably fine, especially if you’ve bought it in the past few years. However, if you’re looking to upgrade your TV, HDR should definitely be on your checklist – even more so if you’re a movie buff. Even if you’re upgrading from 1080p to a 4K display, it’s probably not worth it unless you also get a TV that at least supports HDR10. HDR is the future, so if you’re going to buy now, you might also get something to set you up for that.