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What is High Dynamic Range (HDR) on a TV or Blu-ray disc?

In recent years we have been presented with various new terms in the field of home cinema. In this article we look at HDR, or High Dynamic Range. We see this term on TVs and Blu-ray players as well as Blu-ray discs, but what exactly does it mean and is it something to keep an eye on?

What is HDR (High Dynamic Range)?

The High Dynamic Range technique originates from photography; you know from the HDR image. This image can, simply put, display a higher level of brightness and has a higher contrast (brighter white and deeper black, but also more gradations in between so that, for example, more details appear in dark parts). This should ensure a picture that is closer to reality, that which the eye can perceive. The same applies to an HDR display of video; the contrast is higher, so that light objects are much brighter and dark objects are closer to deep black. This without sacrificing range in between and even increasing this range so that subtle details are more visible. Regarding the brightness, the level is currently on average around 200 cd / m2 (or nits), but with High Dynamic Range this is achieved by manufacturers and content providers up to 1,000 or even 2,000 cd / m2. However, this brightness is not for the whole screen but for the lightest parts of the screen, or the lightest objects on the screen, so that the overall contrast increases.

But, it’s not all about contrast; the color reproduction is also better with HDR video. Colors should provide more detail and the color range is wider. Without going deep into it; High Dynamic Range material must meet the Rec.2020 color rendering standard, which means that more color can be displayed. Together with a higher contrast, this should provide a more natural and realistic picture. Since manufacturers have indicated that they will combine the larger color range and the higher contrast (HDR), and these will also be combined in the new Ultra HD Blu-ray standard , we place them both under the HDR heading.

How can you watch High Dynamic Range?

High Dynamic Range is a technology that does make demands on a TV or Blu-ray player in terms of hardware, in the form of processors that can process it, but does not require any other type of display or an adjustment to it. Both an LCD LED and an OLED TV can support High Dynamic Range, provided that the processing is adjusted by the manufacturer. In addition, content providers, in the form of film studios and TV broadcasters, must master and release the content in HDR quality, something that is already possible with streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs.

Standards and terms

The biggest disadvantage of High Dynamic Range is that there are several standards. HDR10 is the most widely used standard at the moment. Content released with this standard can be displayed on all HDR compatible players and TVs. We see HDR10 on Ultra HD Blu-ray discs and via streaming services such as Netflix. In addition, Dolby has developed its own Dolby Vision technology , a standard that requires a special chip and for which manufacturers of display equipment must be paid. LG and Sony, among others, currently offer support for Dolby Vision on certain TVs, and there are a select number of films on Ultra HD Blu-ray and via streaming services that are distributed in Dolby Vision. A third standard is HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), a standard created specifically for the broadcasting of HDR material, via cable, streaming or satellite. This standard has been supported on most HDR-compatible devices since 2016 and makes it possible to watch HDR TV broadcasts in the future.

HDR hardware and media

As mentioned, HDR is combined with 4K Ultra HD , so we have seen the first HDR 4K content since 2016. Many large parties in a film world have started working with the technology and manufacturers have already shown that they fully commit to High Dynamic Range. For example, most Ultra HD TVs in 2017 LCD TVs have full support.

A lot of content is already offered in HDR via streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon, in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. In addition, the range of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs (with High Dynamic Range) in the shops is constantly increasing.

Should you go for a TV with HDR?

It now seems certain that the High Dynamic Range technology is catching on, especially because you can actually no longer ignore it. Most TVs have it (although the maximum brightness differs between cheaper and more expensive models) and the range of content is growing steadily. As a consumer you must of course have (or stream) the right hardware and media to enjoy them. The benefit is immediately clear to many; higher brightness, higher contrast and more natural colors. If you really want to be ready for the future, you can go for a TV with HDR, but keep in mind that you also need a Blu-ray player with this support and Blu-ray discs (or streaming content) that are in HDR mastered must purchase. It must be said that although TVs today offer support for HDR, not all models can handle the peak brightness of, say, 2,000 cd / m2. The brightness is quite different, with of course the maximum brightness for the top models. Many manufacturers offer cheaper models with High Dynamic Range support, but for these models (so pay attention to the specifications) can often only display HDR material, but do not let you take advantage of the higher brightness. So they are purely compatible but without the high brightness. Many manufacturers offer cheaper models with High Dynamic Range support, but for these models (so pay attention to the specifications) can often only display HDR material, but do not let you take advantage of the higher brightness. So they are purely compatible but without the high brightness. Many manufacturers offer cheaper models with High Dynamic Range support, but for these models (so pay attention to the specifications) can often only display HDR material, but do not let you take advantage of the higher brightness. So they are purely compatible but without the high brightness.

The question you may be asking yourself is whether your new 4K Ultra HD TV is already old if it doesn’t have HDR. That is of course a question you can keep asking, but the fact is that with that model, provided it is simply equipped with HDMI 2.0 and HEVC, you can view all types of 4K content. And if broadcasters start using the HLG standard for HDR, you can continue to watch TV broadcasts on your regular Ultra HD TV. Please note; currently no broadcaster broadcasts in High Dynamic Range.

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