Unless you've been living in a cave the last few years like this guy, chances are you've probably heard buzzwords like 4K and Ultra HD thrown around as a major selling point when it comes to purchasing a TV. While it's true that higher resolution is key for improved picture quality, perhaps what's most important is the way that color information and dynamic range are displayed. What's dynamic range? Glad you asked. Let's jump in.
Dynamic range describes the measurement between maximum and minimum values. While not specific to photography, we can interpret dynamic range as the measurement between the whitest whites and the blackest blacks in an image, or the lowest and highest values of density and luminance.
The essence of HDR imagery is increased brightness accompanied by a significant expansion of dynamic range – where both the brightness of the highlights and all their associated details are elevated to better emulate the real world. While an image's overall brightness is increased, details remain in darkest portions of a scene as well. The results are images that have a far higher contrast ratio than any previous viewing experience. Still following me? Take a look at this photo for a visual representation of what's happening in an HDR image:
The image on the left represents a standard dynamic range image or SDR. The image on the right is simulating what an HDR image looks like. Notice that the brightness and overall contrast are greatly improved, and there appears to be a gain in resolution as a result.
HDR is not simply a dramatic elevation in screen brightness and contrast, and you won't get the same results if you crank up the values on your SDR display (trust me I've tried). It is about the enhanced detail the viewer is able to perceive in those bright and dark areas that makes the technology so special. And this can only be achieved through an HDR capable display. So do yourself a favor and crank down the brightness – your TV will thank you.
As of November 7th, you can now watch YouTube videos in HDR on supported devices, such as HDR TVs with the new Chromecast Ultra, and on all 2016 Samsung SUHD and UHD TVs. This is a large step for the video streaming behemoth to take, and it solidifies HDR's role in resolution enhancements for years to come. Here's a playlist of HDR content that YouTube is already supporting.