What is HDR? Comparison between their formats and more

HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG and Technicolor: everything you need to know

If you're shopping for a new 4K ultra-high definition TV, it almost certainly supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) video. But what is HDR and what is the difference between competing formats? Should you take this into account in your purchase? High dynamic range (HDR) video is one of the biggest markers of 4K TV capabilities. It can elevate video content beyond the (now non-existent) limitations that broadcast standards and other media have adhered to for decades.

It's impressive to see on TVs that can handle this, but it's also a pretty confusing technical feature with several variations with differences that aren't very well established. That's why we're here to explain them to you. If you have any doubts, leave it in the comments!

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what is hdr
HDR screens have incredible image quality

What is HDR?

But then what is HDR? HDR stands for Wide Dynamic Range. It refers to the visual presentation of movies, TV shows, video games or images. In essence, HDR provides a better, brighter image with more detail than a standard definition video or image.

To understand what HDR is, you have to know that Dynamic Range is the term used to describe the amount of detail visible between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks. The higher the dynamic range, the more detail is preserved in shadows and highlights. HDR video requires the use of an HDR-compatible display, capable of achieving a much higher peak brightness than a standard SDR television.

Dynamic range is measured in dots, a photographic term commonly associated with the value of light. While SDR monitors are capable of displaying between 6 and 10 dots, HDR monitors can display at least 13 dots with many exceeding 20. This means more detail on screen and more detail preserved in highlights and shadows, not just midtones.

HDR video also uses 10-bit color as the baseline (with some standards supporting a 12-bit color space). As a result, HDR video uses Expanded Rec. 2020 color gamut covering about 75% of the visible color spectrum. In comparison, the Rec. 709 standard used in SDR content covers about 36% of the visible spectrum.

More screen colors and much higher peak brightness contribute to a more realistic and immersive viewing experience. This doesn't necessarily mean that all scenes will be much brighter or more saturated than SDR video. Individual elements like the sun or the flash of an explosion will benefit from the added peak brightness, while more color variations make the image more realistic.

To really understand what HDR is and how much better your video is compared to SDR, you need to see it for yourself. Live and in color.

HDR10: The "Standard" Implementation

Once you understand what HDR is, know that HDR10 is the basic standard on most HDR compatible TVs. If you buy a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray with an “HDR” sticker, there's a good chance it will be presented in HDR10. This has made HDR10 a kind of “compatibility mode” that most modern TVs can use.

Content produced for HDR10 is mastered at up to 1.000 nits of maximum brightness. It uses static metadata to set the frame's average light levels and maximum brightness, which means the average and maximum light values ​​do not vary from scene to scene. Although HDR10 is one of the most basic HDR formats, it can still look significantly better than SDR content.

what is hdr
The first image is the original photo, without HDR. Gradually, in the following photos, HDR is applied, giving an idea of ​​the differences between HDR10 and Dolby Vision, respectively.

As the HDR10 is an open format, it also has a wide range of support from TV and monitor manufacturers and content producers. As a result, you'll find HDR10 content everywhere, including many free YouTube videos. While the standards for HDR gaming are still emerging, consoles and Windows also use HDR10 to deliver games with great dynamic range.

HDR10+: Enhanced HDR with Dynamic Metadata

HDR10+ is another input standard, but it is produced by Samsung and Amazon Video. It enhances HDR10 using dynamic metadata that can adjust luminance by scene or frame by frame. Content produced in HDR10+ is currently mastered at up to 4.000 nits of maximum brightness. Dynamic metadata helps preserve detail in highlights and shadows.

Currently, one of the best models with this entry and technology is Samsung's Smart TV 55″ 4K, which, in addition to being huge, has the company's state-of-the-art Crystal UHD imaging technology, which will make your experience in an exceptional gaming TV.

Smart TV 55" 4K Samsung UN55TU8000GXZD, Crystal UHD, Infinite Edge, Alexa Built In, Cable-Free Visual, Photo Environment Mode, Single Control
  • Display: Resolution 3.840 x 2.160, 4K Ultra HD, Screen Frequency 60Hz, Infinite Edges, Clear Motion Rate 120,
  • Functionality: Tizen Operating System, Crystal 4K UHD Processor, Bixby Assistant and Alexa Built In, Smartphone Mirroring for TV, Voice Command, HDR 10+, HLG, HDR Premium, PQI 2.100, Micro Dimming
  • Audio: Dolby Digital Plus, Speaker Type 2.0 channel, Multiroom Link, Ambient Mode, Game Mode,
  • Connections: 3 HDM, 2 USB, 1 Composite Input (AV), 1 Ethernet (LAN), 1 Optical Digital Audio Output, 1 RF Input
  • Includes Unique Crystal UHD Remote Control

Unfortunately, the HDR10+ doesn't take into account the capabilities of the device it's being displayed on (just like the normal HDR10). This limitation has been addressed in other standards, notably Dolby Vision. When certain scenes exceed the display's capabilities, it's up to the display itself to decide how to map the image by tone. This may vary depending on the view.

One of the biggest problems with HDR10+ is the lack of availability. Currently, Samsung is the only reputable manufacturer to bet everything on it, although there has been limited support from Panasonic, Vizio and Oppo. The content is also sparse - so far, only the Amazon Video offers streaming content in HDR10+.

Dolby Vision: a proprietary format with dynamic metadata

What is HDR? Comparison between your formats and more | ee2b3e62 dolby vision | dolby, dolby vision, hdr, hdr10, hdr10+, lg, samsung, technology | what is hdr technology, tips/guides

O Dolby Vision is a direct competitor to the HDR10+ and shares many similarities from a technical point of view. Current Dolby Vision content is mastered with brightness up to 4.000 nits, with support for up to 10.000 nits, 8K resolution and 12-bit color in the future. It also uses dynamic metadata for scene-by-scene adjustments to improve overall image quality.

A significant benefit over HDR10+ is that Dolby Vision takes into account the monitor's capabilities when presenting content. This can result in a viewing experience closer to the creator's intent, regardless of how bright or dark the screen may be.

As Dolby Vision is a proprietary format, TV manufacturers have to pay to implement it. It's mostly found on high-end TVs, but has been widely adopted by LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense, Panasonic and Philips. Samsung is the only notable manufacturer that has completely eschewed Dolby Vision in favor of the HDR10+.

Having a modern TV in your living room or bedroom is making sure you don't go through problems or be left behind. With technology always updating, having a TV with Dolby Vision is essential to enjoy the best of games, movies and streaming. Check out Philips' super-modern 55′ SmartTV for yourself.

Smart TV Philips 55" 4K UHD, P5, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, Bluetooth, WiFi, 3 HDMI, 2 USB - Black Ultra-thin edges - 55PUG7625/78
  • Smart TV PHILIPS 55" 55PUG7625 4K (Ultra HD)
  • P5 UHD Image Processor: The new generation of image processor from Philips reproduces all the images on the screen with more depth, color and contrast to make everything even more real, providing an innovative visual experience. The P5 reduces image jitter, has undistorted content resizing, color and contrast enhancement, thus bringing a sharper image
  • HDR10+: depth and contrast in details. Contrast of mountains, textures hidden in flowers, depth of clouds. HDR10+ technology fine-tunes the details to deliver a high-quality image
  • Dolby Vision and Atmos: With Dolby Vision technology, brightness, color and contrast levels are automatically raised to deliver superb quality in every detail of the images. Dolby Atmos captures and reproduces movement in a 360° setting to create a surprising sound immersion
  • Saphi: the smart way to enjoy TV. This operating system is fast and intuitive. The clear, objective menu is icon-based, allowing quick access to major applications such as Youtube, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix

If you really research what HDR is, there are TVs that support all formats. However, HDR10+ is noticeably harder to find than Dolby Vision. There is also a lot more content available in Dolby Vision. Many programs on Netflix and Disney+ are produced in Dolby Vision, with support for some programs on services such as Amazon Prime Video and VUDU.

Dolby Vision is also supported on Xbox Series X and Series S, which promise to deliver the first Dolby Vision gaming experiences in 2021. We'll have to wait and see how this plays out, but it's something to keep in mind if you're buying an Xbox anytime soon.

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Hybrid Log-Gamma: the broadcast standard

What is HDR? Comparison between your formats and more | a484a50c hybrid log gamma | dolby, dolby vision, hdr, hdr10, hdr10+, lg, samsung, technology | what is hdr technology, tips/guides

Broadcast standards and what is HDR evolve differently from production standards, but that doesn't mean keeping SDR forever. Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) is an open broadcast format developed by the BBC in the UK and public TV NHK in Japan. It is a backward-compatible format that implements HDR video over broadcast. The HLG specifically targets a peak brightness of 1.000 nits, like HDR10.

As broadcasts need to take into account a wide range of devices with different capabilities, it is essential to ensure that modern HDR broadcasts display correctly on older SDR displays. The HLG achieves this by providing a signal that allows modern HDR displays to achieve greater dynamic range without closing the door to older technologies.

While this format was created for broadcasting, it is also compatible with streaming services including YouTube and BBC iPlayer. Broadcasters already using HLG include Eutelsat, DirecTV and Sky UK.

Technicolor Advanced HDR

What is HDR? Comparison between your formats and more | aa0980ef technicolor | dolby, dolby vision, hdr, hdr10, hdr10+, lg, samsung, technology | what is hdr technology, tips/guides

One HDR format that has so far failed to capture the audience is Technicolor's Advanced HDR. Launched by LG and Technicolor, the format first appeared around 2016. It made its way to LG televisions until 2019, when the company abruptly removed support for the format from its 2020 lineup. This effectively killed the technology (for a while).

The main problem with the Technicolor effort was the lack of content. As of September 2020, we couldn't find a single movie for sale mastered in advanced HDR or any streaming service that supports it.

What you need to enjoy HDR

HDR is not simply 4K. A 4K TV can support HDR, but this does not apply to all devices. If your TV does not support HDR, it will not take advantage of the additional information in the signal and the panel is not calibrated to handle this information, even if it has been read correctly. Even if the TV can handle the signal, it may not produce a particularly better picture, especially if it's a cheaper TV.

Most major streaming services like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Vudu and YouTube now support HDR for some of their 4K content. HDR10 is pretty universal on these services, while some also have Dolby Vision or other formats. Of course, there are also UHD Blu-ray discs, which often feature HDR10 or occasionally Dolby Vision HDR.

If your TV supports HDR, it will likely have access to at least some HDR-capable streaming services. However, you might not have them all, so you might want to get a separate media streamer. The Amazon Fire TV Cube and Fire TV Stick 4K support HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and HLG. Roku Ultra supports HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG, while Premiere+ only supports HDR10.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X support HDR10 and Dolby Vision, for UHD Blu-ray playback and streaming apps. Of course, the fully digital versions of the consoles, without optical drives, cannot play UHD Blu-ray discs, but they can still stream 4K HDR content.

Think carefully about which format you should invest

If you're buying an HDR TV in 2022 (or later), it will support HDR10, which is a huge leap in dynamic range and brightness over standard definition content. If you haven't tried HDR10 content yet, you'll be delighted! To benefit from this, you'll need a TV that has about 1.000 nits of brightness and mastered content to take advantage of this.

In addition to HDR10, Dolby Vision has the broadest support among content producers and television manufacturers. More Blu-rays and streaming services are available on Dolby Vision. The format is also very future-proof as we won't see the best it has to offer until the display technology matures further. However, both Roku and Google will release streaming boxes that support Dolby Vision this year.

Samsung's Smart TV 4K QLED 50 has one of the best cost-benefit ratios on the market, in addition to guaranteeing 60Hz in 4k. Make sure yours right away, it's a great value for money.

Smart TV 4K QLED 50” Samsung QN50Q60TAGXZD
  • Video: Quantum Processor Lite, Screen Frequency 60hz, Dual LED, Quantum HDR, Auto Motion Plus, 100% color volume with quantum dots
  • Audio: Dolby Digital Plus, Multiroom Link, 2 channel, Power (RMS) 20W
  • Connectivity: Wi-fi, Bluetooth (BT4.2), HDMI 3, USB 2, Composite Input (AV) 1, Ethernet (LAN), Digital Audio Output (Optical) 1, RF Input (terrestrial/cable input) ) 1 / 1 (Normal Use for Terrestrial) / 0, eARC, Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC)
  • Smart Device: Tizen Operating System with voice interaction (Alexa and Bixby)
  • bivolt

You also have many TVs to choose from that support Dolby Vision, while HDR10+ support is mainly limited to Samsung. Vizio and Hisense produce TVs that support both but not all models. Also, few movies are mastered in HDR10+ and only Amazon produces streaming content for it.

As HLG is a broadcast standard, most modern TVs will support it in the future. However, your display does not need to be HLG-compatible to receive broadcasts. If you don't watch a lot of TV or cable networks, you might put HLG lower on your priority list.

Quick FAQ

Is HDR better than 4K?

HDR offers a higher contrast – or wider range of colors and brightness – than Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) and is more visually impactful than 4K. That said, 4K offers a sharper, more defined image. Both standards are increasingly common among premium digital televisions and both offer stellar picture quality.

Is HDR only for 4K?

As a general rule of thumb, all 4K TVs currently on the market and going forward must support HDR10. That means your TV will be compatible with the most widely available 4K Blu-ray Discs, 4K players and 4K streaming content – ​​and it should deliver a much better picture than a 4K TV without HDR.

Why is HDR so dark on my TV?

4K HDR is so dark because HDR is trying to make greater contrast between dark and light scenes. HDR stands for high dynamic range. As HDR makes dark places even darker, it tends to get too dark to see anything. Also, 4K is harder to lighten than HD in general.

Is Netflix HDR?

Netflix supports 2 HDR streaming formats, Dolby Vision and HDR10. To watch Netflix in these formats, you need: A Netflix plan that supports Ultra HD streaming.

Do I need HDR on my TV?

If you want to go one step further when buying a new TV and get even more vibrant picture quality, you'll need HDR, which allows you to display more realistic and distinct colors.

In most cases, the TV you choose will dictate the standards you can enjoy, so knowing what HDR is is paramount. So, do a lot of research and see which one will be the best for your use. Now, talk to us in the comments: What kind of TV do you use? Do you have any preferences? Leave it in the comments and take the opportunity to read more about tech on our website.

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Paulo Fabris is a journalist, writer, RPG player, gamer, cosplayer, nerd and fan of anime since the time of TV Manchete.