High Dynamic Range–The Alphabet Soup of Flat Panels

  • Triad
  • |
  • May 20th, 2017

All of us have gone to the local big box and have seen dozens of flat panels on display. You will see lots of abbreviations in use today.  OLED, LCD, 1080p, 4K and now a new(er) one…HDR.


HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. The dynamic range of a scene tells you how different the brightest parts of the scene (the highlights) are from the darkest parts of the scene (the shadows). The human eye can see a much greater dynamic range than any camera. The HDR software then processes the image to expand the contrast image. Done well HDR is remarkable. The flat panels look richer in detail and the video images are remarkably sharp.


But like all things Video HDR has a few moving pieces.


The below is from Geoffrey Morrison of CNET who I recommend people read. CNET.com


How does it work?

There are two parts of the HDR system: the TV and the source.

The first part, the TV, is actually the easier part. To be HDR-compatible, the TV should be able to produce more light than a normal TV in certain areas of the image. This is basically just like local dimming, but to an even greater range.

Tied in with HDR is wide color gamut, or WCG. For years, TVs have been capable of a greater range of colors than what’s possible in Blu-ray or HD downloads/streaming. The problem is, you don’t really want the TV just creating those colors willy-nilly. It’s best left to the director to decide how they want the colors of their movie or TV show to look, not a TV whose color expanding process might have been designed in a few days 6,000 miles from Hollywood. More on this in a moment.

Of course, making TVs brighter and more colorful costs money, and some HDR TVs will deliver better picture quality than others. Just because a TV is HDR-compatible doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to outperform non-HDR TVs. The only thing the HDR label really means is that the TV will be able to display HDR movies and TV shows, not how well.

The content is the hard part. To truly look good, the HDR TV needs HDR content. Fortunately, the amount of HDR content is growing fast. The major 4K streaming services like Netflix and Amazon both have HDR content. As do many others.

Another source of HDR will be physical discs. Ultra HD Blu-ray is the latest physical disc format. You’ll need a new UHDBD player to play these discs, but your current Blu-ray and DVDs will play on the new players. Not all UHDBD discs have HDR, but many do.

So the thumbnail is if you’re thinking about buying a new Flat Panel, buy a model with HDR.  These flat panels will not be the ones found in the lower price points at this time. In the future yes.

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