What is HDR?

HDR playstation pro

Microsoft and Sony have now officially unveiled their new consoles. Both have been advertising HDR as a core feature that separates itself from the competition. High Dynamic Range or HDR is not new at all.

In fact, the first reported use of HDR was as early as 1850 when Gustave Le Gray needed a method of showing the sky and sea in pictures. He used one negative for the sky and a negative with a longer exposure for the sea. Then he combined the two into one picture. The result was an image that no photographer at the time was able to achieve.

High Dynamic Range in the simplest of terms is combining multiple images at different exposures together to recreate what the human eye sees in real time. Right now, your eyes can adjust the exposure on a wide range of objects at the same time. When you pay attention, you’ll notice that a light source affects objects different angles and creates multiple shadows and colors.

Up until very recently, photos and video typically had just one exposure based on what the camera thought was appropriate. This means that it has to pick one object and adjust accordingly leaving some objects very dark or some very washed out. Most of the time, the camera meets somewhere in the middle to create a photo that illuminates all the objects, but typically washes out any shadows making the image feeling different from what you actually saw. High Dynamic Range aims to bridge that gap between an image and your eyeball.

HDR in Photography

High Dynamic Range photography has been mainstream since the iPhone 4S and even before that with third party applications that simplified the process. Before that it was possible to produce a high dynamic range image, but only with a DSLR or camera that allowed you to shoot multiple exposures. The feature is so prevalent on newer phones that if it doesn’t have it, it’s surprising. HDR has been done so effortlessly with the current processing power that videographers and game developers can add High Dynamic Range in real time to deliver a truer to life experience. The iPhone 7 has a display that can offer a higher dynamic range which means that photos and videos with HDR effect will be more profound.

High Dynamic Range Photography

HDR photography, when done well, can translate what your eye sees to print

HDR in Video Games

HDR in Video Games works differently than photography. Where in photographs exposures are layered on top of each other, the HDR in video games and video are generated within the pixels themselves creating a higher contrast and clarity that represents real-life color. Using this in video games will make them appear more lifelike without actually including high resolution textures and calculations for shadows and lighting. Making your game HDR compatible will ultimately make the game look better without the developer having to put in extra work.

High Dynamic Range compare

The only real way to show what the difference HDR can do for gaming is to compare

What do I need for HDR gaming?

HDR is only going to be noticeable when you get a television that has a High Dynamic Range display. If you don’t have a TV with that feature, you’re not going to notice anything different and you’ll think that HDR is one big gimmick. High Dynamic Range is the future in television and adds an extra layer of depth to your 4K experience. The colors will be deeper and you’ll get more detail from content that’s encoded for High Dynamic Range.

The good news is that HDR on televisions isn’t that much more expensive than 4k sets without it so if you’re in the market for a new 4k television you should spend the extra money and get one with High Dynamic Range. You’ll thank yourself later.