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NAGRA Blog: What does HDR really mean?

By Anthony Smith-Chaigneau, Senior Director Product Marketing, NAGRA​

Today, the average TV-buyer looking for a high-quality viewing experience has a lot of options.

4K UHD and HDR (High Dynamic Range) products are starting to enter the mainstream market and prices are falling. And 4K UHD content is everywhere, from OTT and SVOD services like Netflix to the latest Blu-ray blockbuster releases.

Now, we know that 4K UHD means four times the pixel count as 1080p. But what about HDR? What does a manufacturer actually mean when they talk about HDR?

In a nutshell, HDR is a technical feature that enables better pixels without necessarily requiring the panel to increase the pixel count.

Generally speaking, HDR will refer to wide colour gamut (WCG), meaning greener greens, redder reds, darker blacks and whiter whites. It'll also incorporate increased contrast ratio – peak brightness and black level (both measured in nits). For example, an HDR TV set could have a peak brightness of 1,000 nits (and a black level of 0.05 nits). For comparison, many LED-lit LCD screens only offer between 300 and 500 nits peak brightness.

But HDR as a term isn’t quite as simple as that. Why? Because there isn't just one kind of HDR.

All HDR screens can display what's referred to as HDR10. It's compulsory on all Ultra HD Blu-rays and it appears on popular HDR content produced by Netflix and Amazon.

But HDR10 isn't the only standard. There's also HLG, HDR10+, UHD Premium, plus even Dolby Vision (offering up to 10,000 nits peak brightness).

That’s a lot of options for someone browsing TV sets in-store – can we really expect them to have a clear understanding of the difference between them? Probably not.

Not that we should be too cynical – work is being done to provide a clearer picture. The UHD Alliance, for example, is working to ensure Premium UHD devices and content will be “clearly marked so consumers can easily identify them in-store.” So while there are plenty of (potentially confusing) options for the consumer, work is being done to standardise and clarify the HDR format.

So what does this all mean for the industry? Well, there are both pros and cons.

On the one hand, consumers have a fantastic range of options when they shop for 4K UHD and HDR TV sets. But on the other hand, it’s a dizzying range that potentially causes confusion for the customer.

The industry needs to continue collaborating to standardise and clarify the HDR format for everyone. For manufacturers, this can start with a simple, clear explanation of what HDR offers as a technical feature. That way, consumers can appreciate HDR (and its various incarnations), as not just a nebulous marketing gimmick, but something that truly enhances the TV-viewing experience.

If you wish to know more about the solutions and services we offer to help service providers deliver to their consumers a compelling, frictionless access to all content on all screens, please contact us at dtv@nagra.com.