HDR At CES

HDR At CES

Besides 8K at CES, high dynamic range (HDR) was also being shouted about from the rooftops. I saw a lot of HDR displays. I saw some good HDR footage. I saw some bad HDR footage. I also saw SDR footage playing on HDR displays. And I saw two spectacular HDR clips. Two.

All the hype and the poor ratio of great to not great footage reminded me a little of the 3D era. One reason was hearing again the term “immersive.” (It was also used to talk about 8K.) Besides HDR, I’ve looked at a lot of VR and 360. But, so far, the only immersive experience I’ve had is scuba diving.

Kidding aside, well done HDR is great to look at. But well done HDR isn’t commonplace. I’m not talking about the screaming bright highlights of battle armaments, I’m talking about the full breadth of color and contrast that HDR offers, from a creative perspective.

For me, there are two obstacles to HDR. First, affordable HDR workflow is critical. How often is HDR relegated to a couple of days of grading after weeks of SDR grading? Is HDR being displayed at checkpoints during the postproduction workflow or is HDR monitoring prohibitively expensive or overly complicated?

Another obstacle is consumer confusion. Certainly, technology like Filmmaker Mode that I wrote about previously will help home viewers. With the push of one button, they can set up their TV to match the content creators’ intent, rather than wading through menu upon menu of settings.

However, the plethora of HDR standards and terms is creeping up to confusing levels. Consumers are bombarded with terms like HDR, HDR10, HDR10+, Advanced HDR, HLG, Dolby Vision, DisplayHDR (400-1400), DisplayHDR True Black, PQ, SL-HDR1, Rec. 2010, Nits, Deep Color, Technicolor. Not all are true HDR standards or even specifically HDR, but they’re bandied about. And I won’t even bring up the various flavors of HDMI!

HDR At CES
100-inch display with 4000 nits. (But who’s counting?)

On the other hand, obstacles like this aren’t new. A lot of new technology introductions experience this. And, in a way, this can be good because it slows things down a bit. That allows us to get it right in terms of workflow and finishing. Happily, most cinema cameras, in the right hands, can capture footage suitable for HDR finishing.

Also, the fact that more and more consumer sets support HDR means that alternatives to expensive displays can make their way into the workflow—when calibrated properly.

So, CES had a lot of hype about 8K and HDR. I spent a lot of time looking at both. After the pixels settled, my final reaction is that I’ll let others push 8K as the next big thing while I hone my skills on finishing in HDR.

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