HDMI HDR - All information about the new standard HDR 10 and Dolby Vision

High Dynamic Range (HDR) refers to a high contrast image that we believe has what it takes to revolutionize the television world and the HDMI universe. Why? That's what we'll explain in today's article. We'll also go into the differences between the de facto HDR 10 standard and Dolby Vision.

HDMI HDR advantages over SDR

What is HDMI HDR actually and what advantages does it offer?
Work on HDR technology has been going on since 1985. Thereby, HDR is not only used for cinemas or TVs but also in medicine and photography. Thanks to HDR, the representation of saturated bright and very dark colors in particular is improved in an image.

TVs without HDR have only low contrast
The human iris is adapted to an enormously wide spectrum of light, which until now could only be reproduced in a very small range by television screens. These usually only have a contrast ratio of 1:500 native. Future HDR TVs, on the other hand, are expected to allow a contrast ratio of 1:10,000!

Why HDMI HDR creates a better picture
Why HDR makes for better pictures is illustrated by a simple calculation. Non-HDR screens use a color depth of 8 bits per color (red, green and blue) with only 256 gradations each. This results in a total display capability of 16.7 million colors (256*256*256). HDR 10, on the other hand, uses 10 bits, as the name suggests, and thus 1024 gradations per color. Dolby Vision even manages 12 bits, which in turn allows 4,096 gradations per color and thus enables the display of almost 69 billion (4,096*4,096*4,096) colors.

The advantages of HDR at a glance:

more uniform illumination of the image
higher contrast
vivid colors
subjectively and obkjektiv better picture perception
HDMI HDR makes colors more vivid
With such a high contrast ratio, moving images look almost lifelike, which has a far more positive impact on image quality than simply increasing the resolution to 4K or 8K. Graphics card manufacturer AMD sees it similarly, as the company recently announced via a spokesperson:

"If you're a monitor enthusiast, HDR is just the revolution you've been waiting for. 1080p and High Dynamic Range just looks better than 4k and Standard Dynamic Range." (AMD)

Even though the statement refers to gaming, it can be applied 1:1 to the TV experience.

HDMI HDR vs Human Field of View
The comparison shows: HDR provides higher contrasts and thus a better picture. © RTG Technology Summit

Which HDR formats are available?
Currently, there are two formats that allow movies and series to be viewed in HDR: HDR 10 and Dolby Vision. Both formats differ on the one hand in the color depth and on the other hand in the use of metadata.

HDR 10
Use of static metadata
10 bit color depth
1.07 billion colors
Dolby Vision
Use of dynamic metadata
12 bit color depth
69 billion colors

Netflix and Amazon already use HDR 10 and Dolby Vision
The HDR 10 standard, which is currently used for HDR on Ultra HD Blue-rays, uses static metadata. The providers Netflix and Amazon also stream in the HDR 10 format (Netflix also in Dolby Vision). The format has a color depth of 10 bits and a maximum static contrast of 1:1,000. Therefore, the rule of thumb applies: If a manufacturer advertises with HDR, it usually means the HDR 10 format.

Only dynamic metadata allow maximum image quality
Only dynamic metadata allow HDR settings to be adapted to each individual scene. In addition, dynamic data also allows the capabilities of the existing hardware to be fully exploited. This is because every TV has its own characteristics in terms of brightness, color space and contrast.

And theoretically, even more is possible: With dynamic metadata, filmmakers can individually prepare scenes with HDR, which are then reproduced unaltered on the home device.

Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata
Currently, only the Dolby Vision format allows the use of dynamic data. However, there are only very few TV sets that support this format. If you are looking for a TV with dynamic HDR support, you should look for the Dolby Vision label. In Europe, for example, there are isolated devices distributed by LG.

TVs with support for dynamic HDR are currently still rare
TVs with support for dynamic HDR are rare.

Are there blue-rays with HDR?
Yes, so-called 4K Blue-rays usually use the HDR 10 format and can be recognized as such with the corresponding "HDR" designation on the packaging. "Normal" Blue-rays with Full HD footage are not yet available in HDR.

How can I use HDMI HDR?
HDMI devices such as TVs or Blueray players require the HDMI 2.0a standard to be able to transmit HDR. The technology cannot be retrofitted on older devices. Accordingly, when buying a TV and Blu-ray player, make sure that they have an HMDI 2.0a port.

However, the HDMI 2.0a standard can only transmit static data and thus only HDR 10. The HDMI 2.1 standard is already under discussion, which will also transmit dynamic data and thus Dolby Vision. However, it is still unclear when this will come. It is also unclear whether there will even be blue-rays with Dolby Vision.

Dolby Vision as the only standard with dynamic metadata is currently only possible via streaming services such as Netflix and streaming devices such as the new Google Chromecast Ultra (available from mid-November).

Prerequisite No.1: the TV must be HDR-capable.
In addition, the TV itself must always be HDR-capable. You can tell whether a TV can process HDR material by the designation HDR or HDR10 or Dolby Vision. HDR10 offers a maximum brightness of 1,000 candela per m², Dolby Vision even 10,000 candela. Accordingly, a TV set has to be able to display such a high brightness in the first place.

Therefore, even if consoles like the XBOX One S or streaming boxes like the Chromcast support Ultra HDR, you will always need a suitable TV or monitor.

How do I know if HDR is enabled?
If you are one of the lucky ones who owns an HDR TV with an HDR Blu-ray player and a Blu-ray with HDR footage, HDR is usually activated automatically.

With streaming providers, on the other hand, you have to pay attention to whether the respective picture material is also available in HDR. This is usually indicated by the HDR or Dolby Vision designation. If no material is available in HDR, HDR cannot be activated.

Conclusion: HDMI HDR delivers a better picture than 4K.
Due to the enormous contrast display, the TV experience improves far more with HDR than with 4K or 8k without HDR. However, so far only a few TVs are available that support the HDR or Dolby Vision standard. However, it can be assumed that devices will gradually follow in the next few years. The development of a new HDR HDMI standard also speaks in favor of this. Many TV enthusiasts should welcome this development of picture enhancement.

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