What is HDR?

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Sony brought us the 4K smartphone, and now its delivered the first HDR display...
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What is HDR?

What does HDR mean and what does it do?

HDR, or high dynamic range, has been making headlines as the next big thing for our TVs and smartphones. But what exactly is it, and how will it affect the way we watch and enjoy video?

What is HDR video?

On the face of it, HDR puts a wider range of colours and greater contrast into movies. That means HDR cameras are able to capture video that looks more like what we see with our eyes.

HDR technology is already used a lot when taking photos – even your camera phone might have a HDR mode – which means you can get an idea of what HDR video can do by snapping your own shots now.

Try it at home

Try taking a photo during the day, indoors, of someone in front of a window. Without HDR mode on you’ll probably find you’re looking at a silhouette, and the only detail in the photo is what’s outside. Or that you can see the person and everything outside is a blown out white mess.

Turn on HDR (you should be able to find this in your settings, simply stated at ‘HDR’) and your phone will take a few photos at different exposure levels before combining them into one image. This lets the phone capture the detail of your subject, as well as everything outside. The idea is exactly the same for HDR video.

Of course, as you’re capturing moving images in high dynamic range the system is more sophisticated than simply blending different exposure levels. HDR video, therefore, actually captures more colours.

Stuart Bowling, Dolby's director of content and creative relations, told T3 Magazine: "This allows [filmmakers] to deliver content with brighter highlights … we can make things more natural, more life-like. Things like reflections, halation of light, specular highlights, glint off a car, things that we see day-to-day."

The example below shows standard HDR compared to the latest HDR video tech. With HDR photos, the four small images are combined to create the big photo on the left. With HDR video, you end up with the more colourful picture on the right.

Because there are more colours, however, you’re going to need a HDR-ready screen to enjoy HDR video.

HDR on your smartphone

Sony’s upcoming Xperia XZ Premium is the first smartphone to feature a 4K HDR display, announced at Mobile World Congress this February. And with a planned partnership with Amazon Prime Video, you’ll be able to take advantage of the impressive new screen technology.

Some of the top shows available in 4K HDR on Amazon Prime, at time of writing, include:

  • Bosch
  • Alpha House
  • Transparent
  • Mozart in the Jungle
  • Red Oaks
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Hitch
  • Philadelphia

It’s only a matter of time before we see more smartphones supporting the new technology. But for now, Sony has proved its expertise in big screen TVs is more than ready to be shared with the smartphone market.

Got any questions, or want to start a conversation? Drop us a comment below.

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