If you were keeping up with the news from the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month then you will already know just how many journalists and companies alike - ourselves included - were talking about HDR, or High Dynamic Range.
But what exactly is HDR, how does it work, and why should people sit up and pay attention?
What is HDR?
It’s no exaggeration to say that HDR is the most exciting thing to happen to TV since...well, since TV was invented. It marks a whole new era for picture quality, with images more life-like than anything else that has come before it.
Mike Fasulo, President & COO of Sony Electronics, couldn’t have put it better at CES when he talked about how HDR is “the new standard in contrast and colour”, and how it can deliver a “next-generation, emotionally compelling experience”.
How does HDR work?
High Dynamic Range technology works by increasing the contrast ratio and colour accuracy on a TV’s display to levels that were previously impossible. The difference is immediately noticeable; blacks are deep enough to swim in, lights are gloriously bright, and everything looks so real that it’s hard to resist trying to step into the scene itself.
“It’s the difference between looking at a printed photo and looking out of the window at the original image,” says Pablo Garcia Soriano, a colour-grading specialist at Sony’s Digital Motion Picture Centre Europe who has spent endless amounts of time working with HDR footage. “It has a similar effect to 3D, being a very immersive experience but without being overly intrusive.”
Both HDR TV and HDR photography are similar in the way that they both set out to achieve the same goal - to produce an image that’s as realistic as possible.
HDR photography has been around for years now, but it may have given the term a bad reputation due to the unrealistic results that are prevalent across the Internet. However, in the hands of someone who knows how to properly capture and process HDR images, it can produce stunning, lifelike visuals - and this is what we’re looking to do with our HDR TVs.
Despite TVs only just adopting this technology, professional camcorders have actually been capable of filming in HDR for quite a few years now, and so technically there’s already a lot of HDR-ready content. Most recently, our Sony F55 camcorder was used to film the Netflix series Marco Polo, and while on-set the crew experimented extensively with HDR and discovered the almost limitless potential that it offers.
Vanja Černjul ASC, one of the three cinematographers who worked on the series, said: “We’ve already done some tests on set, and it looks amazing. HDR gives you brighter highlights, and that extra dynamic range gives you the chance to push your material harder."
Much like 4K and HD before it, it’s naturally going to take some time before HDR films and TV shows are widely available. But with a new Sony app included on our 4K HDR TVs, we’re working to speed up the process.
The Sony Ultra app lets you download or stream HDR films and TV shows from Sony Pictures. Launching first in the US with plans to roll out into other countries, the app will initially have about 50 different HDR options to choose from, including Elysium, Salt, Pineapple Express and Men In Black.
It’s received backing from all the major Hollywood film studios as well as other streaming services including Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, so we can expect to see an ever-increasing amount of compatible content over the coming weeks and months.
We’ve previously shared our unique ‘lens to living room’ story around 4K, and HDR is the next chapter. Pablo said: “Sony is the only company that has an end-to-end solution regarding HDR, which includes cameras, professional monitors and consumer displays.”
As well as HDR cameras and the Sony Ultra app, we’ve also invented Slim Backlight Drive, a new LED backlight technology. It’s been specifically designed to optimise HDR content and works by guiding the light to the areas of the picture that need it most.
The Perfect Partner for 4K Ultra HD
While 4K is about increasing the number of pixels on-screen, HDR is about making each of those pixels better. With this in mind, we’ve made sure that all of our HDR TVs are also 4K-compatible, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
But much like 4K, HDR needs to be seen first-hand to be believed, so head in-store and see what all the commotion is about for yourself.