What is HDR in TVs
Televisions with High dynamic range (HDR) support are no longer uncommon, as is the corresponding HDR content. This technology has become a real trend of late. Should you pay attention to it when choosing a TV?
TV sets surprise us with almost everything (remember the defunct 3D), but recently the discussion was mainly about resolution. The 4K format is undoubtedly good, but on its own, it does not provide a dramatic increase in picture quality – especially if you are watching from a long distance. That is why manufacturers switched to a more significant innovation: the HDR format, which is designed to improve not the number of pixels, but their quality, bringing the image on the screen closer to reality.
Does this technology justify the hype associated with it? In short, yes! Experts agree that this is the first significant leap forward since the transition from standard definition (SD) to high-definition television (HDTV).
What is a wide dynamic range (HDR)?
The two most important components of an image are contrast, or the ratio of the brightest and darkest areas that the TV can show, and color rendering — how realistic the hues are reproduced on the screen. This is what determines how good the picture will look to the viewer’s eyes.
If you put two televisions next to each other, one with better contrast and color rendering, and one with a higher resolution, then the higher contrast model will seem like a winner to everyone. Despite the difference in resolution, the picture on it will be more realistic, with a sense of “depth”. In other words, having high natural contrast and correct color rendering is much more important than having 4K with unimportant indicators.
To understand why this feature is needed, you should first consider that contrast and the ratio of bright to dark areas are the criteria on which the quality of the picture on the screen depends. Color rendering will also be important, which will be responsible for its realism. It is these factors that affect the level of comfort while watching content on TV.
Let’s imagine for a moment that one TV has an excellent contrast ratio and a rich color palette, and the other has a high resolution. But it is the first model that we will give preference to, given that the picture on it will be displayed as naturally as possible. The screen resolution is also important, but the contrast will be a much higher priority. After all, it determines the realism of the image, as already mentioned.
The idea of the technology in question is to expand contrast and color palette. That is, bright areas will look more believable on TV models that support HDR, compared to conventional counterparts. The picture on the display will have more depth and naturalness. In essence, HDR technology adds more realism to the picture, making it look deeper, brighter, and clearer.
Along with HDR came a new color palette standard, Rec. 2020, which contains such shades that they simply couldn’t be reproduced on a regular TV. Ferrari’s signature red is one such example. You may not have been paying attention to it, but such intense colors used to look nothing like they do in reality.
How does it work?
For full HDR you need two things: the right TV and the right image source.
To ensure a high dynamic range, HDR televisions use advanced backlighting, the brightness of which is controlled in certain areas of the screen. This allows you to produce large peaks exactly where you need them — for example, if the sun is shining brightly in the frame. At the same time, the maximum brightness margin is many times greater than conventional TVs: up to 1,000-1,500 nit in HDR against 300-400 nit for standard models.
The extended color gamut also requires the use of special technologies from the TV — for example, backlighting on quantum dots. Whereas previously such models simply “thought up” colors beyond the standard palette, now filmmakers can select the desired shades and use them to the benefit of the viewer.
How do you connect HDR equipment?
You won’t need new cables to support HDR. Current HDMI cables labeled High Speed will do the job just fine. To pass the HDR signal, the source and the TV must have HDMI 2.0a. If you are connecting through an AV receiver, make sure it has HDMI 2.0a ports. Fortunately, many manufacturers have been able to programmatically upgrade HDMI 2.0 interfaces to 2.0a, so check for the latest firmware.
A couple of years ago, the HDR format was still a little-known exotic for trade shows. Now, this feature is getting more and more support from TV manufacturers and content providers. Moreover, HDR is a real trend complementary to the transition to 4K, because the advantages of such a combination are obvious: a more lively and realistic image, not available anywhere before. So when choosing a TV we advise giving preference to models that support HDR, because they will remain relevant for a long time!