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HDR for video is the all-new TV format

Aug 27, 2016 5:50 AM

HIGH Dynamic Range, or HDR, is a term used mostly with photography but it has now been co-opted by the video industry as well. And their meanings are very different.

While every new generation of television sets promise to deliver brighter colours and deeper blacks, HDR content can actually do the deed because it was created to highlight the details in instances of brightness and darkness.

So expect to see details in the shadows, and better contrast when there are both outdoor and indoor elements mixed in a scene. This is something that the human eye can perceive easily, and TV makers are hoping to replicate that effect.

With HDR content, the combination of colours will look more realistic, giving images an overall boost in vibrancy. There are currently two formats of HDR content in the market - HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

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HDR10 is an open source format adopted by TV makers such as Samsung, LG and Sony, while Dolby Vision is a proprietary format from Dolby Labs, the folks behind Dolby Audio. LG is also a backer of this format.

Because of Dolby's involvement, a special processor in the TV is needed for Dolby Vision certification. So while some Dolby Vision enabled TVs can also also play HDR10 content, HDR10 enabled TVs lack the processor to play Dolby Vision content.

On paper, Dolby Vision is ahead because it has been designed to do more. But those performance elements are theoretical, as current hardware is not capable of performing at those levels yet. HDR10 is also more widely adopted by the industry, so there are no clear indicators on which format has a clear lead.

Some content service providers, such as Netflix, are offering both Dolby Vision and HDR10 content. Currently, movies such as The Do-Over and The Ridiculous 6, as well as TV series Marco Polo are available in HDR on Netflix. Upcoming titles slated to receive the HDR treatment include A Series of Unfortunate Events, Bloodline, Chef's Table, Hibana, Knights of Sidonia and Marvel's Daredevil, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones.

To access HDR content in the local Netflix service, subscribers should be signed up for the highest subscription tier for 4K content. Search the Netflix menu for 4K content and scroll through the selection. This special 4K menu will appear only if Netflix is accessed on a compatible 4K TV.

On a Samsung or Sony TV, an HDR icon will appear just under the main title for 4K HDR shows. On LG TVs, a Dolby Vision icon will be displayed. Playback of HDR 4K content across both formats are done by default and again, HDR content will only show up on a compatible 4K HDR enabled TV set.