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What is HDR for TV, and why should you bother?


HDR can deliver brighter highlights, seen on the TV to the right.

Geoffrey Morrison

HDR, or high dynamic range, is the current "must-have" TV feature. TVs that support it can usually offer brighter highlights and a wider range of color details, giving a punchier picture overall.

HDR compatible TVs are now very common. Almost all mid-range and high-end TVs have HDR. At the same time, HDR TV programs and movies become more common both on streaming services such as Netflix and Ultra HD Blu-ray disc.

Is this new technology worth hype? In two words: basically yes. I'm pretty tired when it comes to new TV technology, and I'm very happy about HDR.

  • HDR images can achieve brighter highlights with more contrast .
  • Many HDR televisions also have a wide color range resulting in deeper, richer colors with content that supports it.
  • HDR on an HDR TV and HDR on an expensive HDR TV may look very different .
  • There is a large number of HDR formats . There is 4K resolution .

    Almost all HDR content today is also available in including "generic" HDR (aka HDR10), Dolby Vision, HDR10 + and more.

  • What is high dynamic range?

    The two most important factors for how a TV looks are contrast ratio or how light and dark the TV can get and color accuracy which is basically how close the colors on the screen are to the real life (or which palette the director refers to). This is not only my opinion, but also that of almost all other TV reviewers, people who have participated in multi-TV off-line in stores and websites / magazines and industry experts such as the Imaging Science Foundation.

    If you put two TVs next to each other, one with a better contrast ratio and more accurate color and the other with only a higher resolution (more pixels ($ 316 on Amazon) ), the one who has Greater contrast ratio is picked by pretty much every viewer. It will look more natural, "pop" more and just seem more "real", even though it has lower resolution.

    HDR significantly expands the range of both contrast and color. Bright parts of the picture can be much brighter, so the picture seems to have more "depth". The colors are expanded to show more bright blues, greens, reds and everything in between.

    Wide color gamut (WCG) is on its way with HDR, and it gives even more colors to the table. Colors that so far were not reproducible on any television. Red of a fire truck, the deep violet of an eggplant, even green of many street signs. You may never have noticed until this was not exactly how they looked in real life, but you probably do that now. WCG will bring these colors and millions to your eye balls.

    For a lot of background information on how color works on your TV, check out Ultra HD 4K TV Color, Part I: Red, Green, Blue and Beyond and Ultra HD 4K TV color, part II: The near future .

      23-lg-c9 series oled-tv oled65c9p

    Dolby Vision is one of a handful of HDR formats.

    Sarah Tew / CNET

    Photo HDR is not TV HDR

    One of the most important things to know about HDR TV is that TV HDR is not the same as photo HDR . Every article I've written about HDR has comments from people who complain about the hyper-realistic look that is common with HDR photography. These are two very different things that, unfortunately and confusingly, just happen to share the same name.

    I wrote an entire article on the difference but the most important download is that HDR for TV is not an image-degrading gimmick (like the [2] runner effect ). It is definitely not it.

    TV HDR : Expand the TV's contrast ratio and color palette to give a more realistic, natural picture than is possible with today's HDTV.

    Photo HDR : Combine multiple images with different exposures to create a single image that mimics a larger dynamic range.

      photo-hdr-example.jpg "height =" 578 ​​"width =" 770 "data-original =" https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/CZAgXbTn5MHLsJNJNxSnfQteocw=/770x578/2015/09/17 /e77cf429-7282-4380-b934-2d67492da47a/photo-hdr-example.jpg [19659029] photo-hdr-example.jpg "height =" 578 ​​"width =" 770

    Photo HDR: Takes two or more images (left and center) and combine them to show some aspects of both (right). [19659003] Geoffrey Morrison

    HDR for TVs aims to show you a more realistic picture, one with more contrast, brightness and color than before.

    An HDR photo is not "high dynamic range" in that sense. The image does not have the dynamic range possible in true HDR. It is still a standard dynamic range, it only has additional information in it because of the additional exposures.

    A TV HDR image will not see differently how an image HDR image does. It just looks better .

    I hate to work the point, but because of the two processes that share the same name, this understanding is really the biggest obstacle of the HDR faces. Those with an open mind can search HDR to find out what it is and be blown away by a demo – and the demos are amazing. Those who are convinced that HDR is not worth their time will never interfere with the demo and will poison the well (so to speak).

      ciechartwith709and2020-and-p3.jpg "height =" 0 "width =" 370 "data original =" https://cnet4.cbsistatic.com/img/D6qssmVbkbBj51awlMWzTwjn2Gk=/370x0/2015/03/16/ead019af- 65bf-407c-a1e6-2dece38fe59c / ciechartwith709and2020-and-p3.jpg

    In this color chart, the smallest triangle (circles in corners) is the standard SDR color. The two closest largest represent P3 and Rec 2020 color, both parts of the HDR.

    Geoffrey Morrison / CNET / Sakurambo

    How does it work?

    There are two parts of the HDR system: the TV and the source.

    The first part, the TV, is actually the easier part. To be HDR compatible, the TV should be able to produce more light than a regular TV in some parts of the picture. This is basically just like [local] dimming but even more so.

    Hardcover with HDR is wide color field or WCG . For years, televisions have been able to get a wider range of colors than is possible in Blu-ray or downloads / streaming. The problem is that you really don't want the TV to just create these colors. It's best to let the director decide how to look at the movie or TV show's colors, not a TV whose color expansion process would have been constructed in a few days 6,000 miles from Hollywood. More about this in an instant.

    Of course, televisions make lighter and more colorful money, and some HDR televisions will provide better picture quality than others. Just because a TV is HDR compatible does not necessarily mean that it will outperform non-HDR TVs. The only thing that the HDR brand really means is that the TV will be able to display HDR movies and TV shows. It has nothing to do with how good it can display these images.

    the content is the difficult part. In order to really look good, an HDR TV needs HDR content. Fortunately, the HDR content is growing rapidly. The large 4K streaming services, like Netflix and Amazon, have both HDR content. Like many others .

    Another source of HDR is physical disks. Ultra HD Blu-ray is the latest physical disc format. You will need a new 4K BD player to play these discs, but your current Blu-ray and DVDs will play on the new players. Most 4K Blu-ray discs have HDR.

    HDR content (key)

    When a movie or TV show is created, the director and the filmmaker work with a dye to give the program the right look. Take the subdued, cool tones of Winterfell in the game of Thrones for Wealth and Heat in King's Landing. If you have lived in a cave without HBO or the Internet, then I mean:

      game-of-thrones-cool-and-warm.jpg "height =" 578 ​​"width =" 770 "data original = "https://cnet2.cbsistatic.com/img/dR6uigGaQM8onA_ESMjF3W-an8k=/770x578/2015/09/17/6dac9303-4006-47ac-85c9-25e55d170137/game-of-thrones-cool-and-warm.jpg


    It is quite possible that if you were on the set for these two scenes they would have looked at the same color. Post-production tweaking can introduce a scene with a certain aesthetics and feel, only with color.

    When making movies, the team can use the wide palette of Digital Cinema P3 color space to create wonderful plates, oranges and violet.

    But then the time will make these movies on TV. To do so, the team basically dusts the image, removes dynamic range and limiting color. They make it see how they want, given the HDTV system, and the limited version is what you get on Blu-ray or a download.

      http://www.cnet.com/ "height =" 110 "width =" 196

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    If your TV is set to movie or movie mode, it's about what you get at home. If you are in the live or dynamic mode, the TV will exaggerate the colors that it fits. It creates something that is not there, for the director and her team, the mastering scene had to take everything out. Is the "Living" version close to what they saw or what was it in the theater? Questionable, and there is no way to know because it is your television creation.

    Thanks to the extra storage and transmission capabilities of 4K BD and streaming video from Amazon, Netflix and other additional data, called metadata, can be added to the signal. It tells HDR / WCG TV exactly how to see, exactly what deeper colors are to be displayed, and exactly how bright a particular highlight, reflection, star, sun, explosion or whatever should be. This is a great step forward in how we can see pictures on TV.

    An example of how this is down is Technicolor's Intelligent Tone Mapping tool for content creators. It's design to let creators easier (like in, more cheaply) create HDR content. I've seen it in action, and the results are very promising . This is a good thing, because it means that creating HDR versions of movies and shows is not labor intensive. If it took lots of time and time equal to money, we would never get any HDR content. This is just an example of the process.

    How about cables and connectors?

    You do not need new cables for HDR … probably . Even if you need new cables, they are very cheap . Current high speed HDMI cables can carry HDR. Your source device (a 4K Blu-Ray player or media streamer, says) and your TV must be HDR compatible, regardless of the cables you use. If you are using a receiver, it must also be HDR compatible to be able to transmit the signals from the source to the TV.

    If you purchased your gear in recent years, it is probably HDR compatible. If you're not sure, set the model number to Google with "HDR" after that and see what's going on.

    The next generation of HDMI connection is named 2.1 and it adds a number of new features, including some improvements to how HDR is handled. It is something to consider for your next purchase, but it does not make your current gear obsolete and will largely be backwards compatible (other than the new features).

    Bottom line

    Most experts I have spoken often say something in line with "More pixels are cool, but better pixels would be amazing." That is, 4K and 8K resolutions are good, but HDR and WCG are much more interesting. What we have seen, now that we have had a few generations of HDR TVs to sort out the bugs, is a general improvement in image quality, but perhaps not quite to the extent that many of us (I accompany) originally expected. That said, a good HDR TV showing HDR content will look better than the TVs just a few years ago. In some cases they are considerably brighter and with a much larger number of colors, which is quite a sight to see. Check out our reviews that are the best TV right now.

    If you are curious about how HDR works, check out the appropriate name How HDR works .

    Note! The article was originally published in 2015 but was updated in 2019 with current info and links.

    Do you have a question for Geoff? First, look at all the other articles he wrote on topics like why all HDMI cables are the same TV resolutions are explained LED LCD vs OLED and more.

    Do you still have a question? Tweet on him @TechWriterGeoff then check out his travel photography on Instagram. He also believes that you should check out his best-selling sci-fi novel and its sequel.

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