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We explain what HDR TV is and how it works

hdr tv dolby vision head

It is almost impossible that you have not seen or heard about what HDR is, but do you really know what it means? HDR technology, known as TOlto Rango DImmune in Spanish, it is more advantageous than you think, since it provides a higher level of contrast between the light and dark images on the screen, creating a much more realistic image than we have seen in the past.

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Moreover, many industry experts believe that HDR represents a significantly greater leap in image quality than that of the past UHD revolution. But would you like to know how to act the HDR mode on your TV? Then we tell everything.

HDR: The Basics

The contrast is measured by the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks a television can show, measured in candles per square meter (cd / m2): the so-called nits. The ideal lower end is completely black (zero nits), currently possible only on OLED screens. On the high end, the story is different. Standard dynamic range televisions generally produce between 300 and 500 nits, but some HDR TVs aim higher, even at thousands of nits.

There are multiple formats in HDR, but currently there are two main players: the patented Dolby Vision format, and the open standard HDR10. Dolby was the first to join the party with a TV prototype capable of displaying up to 4,000 nits of brightness. For a short time, Dolby Vision was essentially synonymous with HDR, but not all manufacturers wanted to follow Dolby's rules (or pay their fees), and many began working on their own alternatives. Popular manufacturers, including LG, Samsung, Sharp, Sony and Vizio, agreed to an open standard called HDR10.

In April 2016, the UHD Alliance, an industrial group formed by companies such as Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic, Dolby and many others announced the Ultra HD Premium certification for UHD Blu-ray players. This point sets some benchmarks for HDR, such as the ability to display up to 1,000 nits of brightness and a minimum color depth of 10 bits. Both HDR10 and Dolby Vision meet the standards set by this certification, although in different ways.

HDR10 and HDR10 +

While Dolby Vision may have been the first, it is currently not the most popular format. The best known is HDR10, compatible with a good number of television manufacturers. The HDR10 standard was encoded by the Consumer Technology Association the same group responsible for the CES organization. The specification currently uses a 10-bit color depth, while Dolby Vision uses 12 bits. Both offer millions of colors per pxel, and the difference is difficult to detect.

The two main HDR formats use metadata that travels along the video signal over an HDMI cable, metadata that allows the source video to tell a TV how to display colors. HDR10 uses a fairly simple approach: send metadata at once and at the beginning of a video, saying something like: "This video is encoded using HDR, and you should treat it this way."

The HDR10 has become the most popular of the two formats. Above all, it is an open standard: TV manufacturers can implement it for free. It is also recommended by the UHD Alliance, which generally prefers open standards to proprietary rights formats, such as Dolby Vision.

Then there is the HDR10 +, which Samsung and Amazon announced in April 2017. Unlike the original HDR10, the HDR10 + offers features much closer to those provided by Dolby Vision, including dynamic metadata that allow TVs to adjust brightness scene by scene, and even frame by frame. Also like Dolby Vision, HDR10 + uses a color depth of 12 bits. Initially, it was only available on Samsung TVs, although now it will also be available on Panasonic's OLED 4K 2018 line, recently presented at CES 2018.

Dolby Vision

HDR10 is on more TVs, but this may not be the case in the future. In terms of pure technological power, Dolby Vision has a clear advantage, even with today's TVs. Looking to the future, the gap between Dolby Vision and HDR10 may widen.

As mentioned earlier, Dolby Vision supports a 12-bit color depth, as opposed to the 10-bit color depth supported by HDR10. It also has greater thermal brightness. HDR10 currently reaches a maximum of 1,000 nits while Dolby Vision can reach 4,000 nits. (Dolby says that in the future they can allow up to 10,000 nits of maximum brightness).

Color depth is not the only area where Dolby Vision has a theoretical advantage over HDR10. While HDR10 transmits only static metadata (when a video begins to play), Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata, which can vary by scene, or even by frame. The advantages here are mainly stubborn, but as content providers become more skilled at mastering cinema and television for HDR, dynamic metadata can be a great advantage.

HDR10 may currently have better support, both in terms of televisions and content, but Dolby is working hard to change this. Initially, Dolby Vision needed specific hardware to function, which means that it could not be added later, through a firmware update. That changed in February 2017, and Blu-ray and Ultra HD TV manufacturers can theoretically add support later. And although HDR10 was the first format compatible with Ultra HD Blu-ray players, LG and Philips announced UHD players with Dolby Vision at CES 2017.

Other actors

Dolby Vision and HDR10 are currently considered the two main protagonists in HDR, but there are other companies working with their own HDR solutions, with two new emerging formats

Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) is a format of the BBC and the Japanese broadcaster NHK. HLG was developed with a focus on live streaming, although it can also be used for pre-recorded content. Unlike HDR10 and Dolby Vision, HLG does not use metadata, which could be an advantage, depending on how TV manufacturers implement it.

Technicolor was one of the first in HDR, and at CES 2016, the company announced that she and Philips had combined their efforts in HDR and were working on a new format. Like HLG, this format is intended to be compatible with SDR screens, which according to the companies in a press release "simplify HDR implementations for distributors, and can send a signal to all their customers, regardless of the TV they have". “At CES 2018, Philips has just announced that its 2019 televisions will support Technicolor HDR and the standard ATSC 3.0 broadcast.

So what do we see?

Even if your TV has the latest and best compatibility with HDR, color reproduction and 4K UHD technology, much of what you see cannot take advantage of all that wonder. HDR content is currently even more limited than 4K content, although Hollywood is working to remedy this situation. Next, we tell you about some ways to get HDR.

Ultra HD Blu-ray

UHD Blu-ray allows 4K UHD resolution, HDR and color expansion, along with codecs Revolutionary surround sound like Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. The update of the HDMI 2.0a format was intended to pave the way for HDR devices, including new Blu-ray players and other devices.

The versions of Ultra HD Blu-ray with HDR have become the new standard, and HDR10 is currently the leader here, although Dolby Vision is working hard to catch up. Something good to see? Check out our selection of the best versions of 4K UHD on Blu-Ray.


It is probably not surprising that Netflix was one of the first companies to announce HDR support. To his first HDR title, Marco Polo, he was joined by several other Netflix originals, such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones Y Luke Cage from Marvel, as well as original movies like The do-over Y The Ridiculous Six. Netflix HDR titles are currently available in HDR10 and / or Dolby Vision.


Amazon also announced HDR support promptly. A series of HDR movies are available through Amazon Prime Video, along with many of its original series, such as Jack ryan (in Dolby Vision), Man in the High Castle, Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle Y The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. It is likely that most if not all of Amazon's original programming is available soon in HDR.

Amazon initially only supported HDR10, but in June 2016 the company added support for Dolby Vision. At that time, the company said there will be more titles available in HDR10, with a subset available in Dolby Vision, but it added more than 100 hours of HDR content in both formats by the end of 2016.

In December 2017, Amazon added more than 100 titles to the HDR10 + format, including series such as The Man in the High Castle, The tick Y The Grand Tour. The company plans to add more titles in HDR10 + very soon.


Along with the launch of Apple TV 4K in 2017, the iTunes Store was updated to offer HDR movies and programs. The HDR10 and Dolby Vision titles are available, with a cone that marks the movies that use a certain format.

An advantage for those who are rooted in the Apple ecosystem is that the eligible titles you already own are automatically updated to the HDR version, so you don't have to buy a movie or a TV show twice. If you are an Apple fan who has just bought a new 4K HDR TV and an Apple 4K TV, this could be a great way to enjoy them without spending more money.

Google Play Movies & TV

Google Play also added HDR movies and TV shows in 2017. Unlike Apple's offer, Dolby Vision was absent at launch, even though Google’s Chromecast Ultra is compatible with this technology. Google promised that Dolby Vision will arrive, but so far, only HDR10 titles are available.

Google was initially associated with companies such as Sony Pictures and Warner Bros, so more movies and TV shows will follow. Unfortunately, Google's interface is not as advanced as Apple's, and it does not mark or mark the programs and movies available in HDR, so you will have to make a small search.


As one of the first providers of 4K programming, Vudu also offers HDR support. The service has one of the largest libraries of 4K movies and TV programs available for rent or purchase, many with HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound.

For some time, Vudu HDR offers were only available in Dolby Vision. In November 2017, the company announced full support for HDR10, making its HDR title library available on a much wider range of devices.


Like Vudu, FandangoNow offers movies and TV shows to rent or buy in 4K, and some are also available in HDR. Like Vudu, the FandangoNow HDR movie and TV program library is available on HDR10. FandangoNow is also useful for HDR TV owners, as it lists all the movies that are available in HDR in a specially dedicated section of their website.


It doesn't have much in common with the previous services, but YouTube s streams in HDR. Like Google Play Movies & TV, YouTube currently only supports streaming on HDR10. However, Google hasn't said much about whether YouTube ever supports Dolby Vision.

In terms of content, there are a lot of videos that show the power of HDR, there is even a special HDR channel. This is great to watch on your TV and, in the future, we are sure there will be more content. For now, it is mainly a fun novelty.

What about video games?

While most guides focus on passive visualization experiences for HDR, game consoles are an important part of this issue. With the PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox One S and Xbox One X, Sony and Microsoft have put their flags on the HDR mountain, although it can be much more complicated to access all the benefits that you can expect.

Xbox One S and Xbox One X

We started with the update from Microsoft to the Xbox One because it is a much simpler story in general. While the first generation of Xbox One did not have support for 4K or HDR, the revamped version features both. In addition to 4K compatibility (complete with HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2), HDR10 is compatible for both games and general entertainment, although Dolby Vision is not.

Xbox streaming on HDR is currently limited to Netflix, but Microsoft has gone one step further by including a built-in Ultra HD Blu-ray disc, which means you get twice as much for your investment, especially considering that the Xbox One S It has a fairly competitive price.

Xbox One S does not support native 4K Ultra HD content for games. Xbox One X supports 4K natives, while HDR is supported on any of the consoles for multiple games, including Battlefield 1, Gears of War 4 Y Forza Horizon 3.

PlayStation 4 Pro

Sony added HDR to the original PS4, but without 4K Ultra HD support. That means not being very useful as a transmission device for HDR, especially since applications like Netflix and Amazon currently only support HDR along with 4K. Onboard HDR support here will only be useful for a select number of games that include HDR, although more are expected to be implemented soon.

The PlayStation 4 Pro has HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2, which allows the PS4 Pro to offer both 4K and HDR10, but does not offer Dolby Vision. Like the previous point, this is currently only useful for games, since Playstation applications for Amazon and Netflix are not compatible with 4K or HDR.

Unlike Xbox One S and Xbox One X and this is key for Sony home theater enthusiasts, I don't include a UHD Blu-ray drive in the PS4 Pro (even though Sony invented the Blu-ray!). This is quite surprising, considering that the built-in DVD drive helped sales of the PlayStation 2, while the PlayStation 3 helped Sony's Blu-ray format win the high-definition hardware war over HD-DVD.

The native 4K game is possible on the PS4 Pro, although it is a complicated situation, since some games are native while others are improved. HDR games are compatible with a variety of titles, including Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, The Last of Us: Remastered, Thumper and many more.

Then there is the complication of RV. Sony has also focused heavily on virtual reality with its PSVR hardware, but this presents a problem for those who would like to play in HDR, since the two are mutually exclusive. "If you are playing a normal game, without VR on your PS4 Pro, the PS VR Processor Unit will issue a 4K signal to a 4K TV," reads the Sony blog post. “The processor unit does not support the passage of HDR,” the publication continues, which means that you will have to go directly to the TV from the PS4 Pro to view the HDR content.

In other words, you cannot watch HDR on your TV with the PSVR connected. This is not ideal, but both consoles are dealing with problems related to 4K and HDR. As time passes, errors are likely to be fixed, although it remains to be seen if it is possible to solve the problem with PSVR.

Worth it?

This is. The high dynamic range is much more complex than just the three little words it summarizes. But it is also a very exciting technology, which creates more realistic images than ever. If you're wondering if the next TV you buy should be compatible with HDR, our answer is flat: yes, of course.

HDR is the most significant update to the experience of viewing domestic videos from the jump to high definition, and it is definitely the core of the future of television.

* Updated on May 31, 2019 by Mara Teresa Lopes.

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