HDR, Why wasn’t dynamic range an issue before?

3 Stars

With the advent of UHD, it doesn’t surprise me about the desire for 4K. Ever since VHS we have sought out higher resolution to create a more theater like experience. As to what resolution is needed to fulfill that can be debated based on viewing size and distance.

My question is focused on HDR. Prior to HDR being implemented in UHD release, I do not recall discussions like “blu-ray is great but if we could only solve that dynamic range issue we would have it all”. Maybe, I didn’t pay attention to the right discussions, but does anyone else think it is a bit odd that an apparent problem was solved with HDR that many of us didn’t even know was a problem? I mean its not like it is being viewed by most as a simple incremental upgrade. Instead it is generally hailed as revolutionary.

To be forthright, I do not have UHD capabilities, and I’m not trying to create controversy. I’m just curious about the evolution of HDR for this next generation of releases. I also have to preface that I’m personally not into new productions but focus mostly on movies and TV pre-70’s and I’m curious how much impact HDR will have on those releases over time.

Published by

Kevin Collins

administrator

37 Comments

  1. Although I do remember comments from folks with much more knowledge of the physics of film itself discuss the dynamic range of film here and there ,I agree that this is a new discussion. I do believe that once you see the specular highlights very bright while still seeing shadow detail in an image it is compelling. If implemented well it is not gimmicky looking like much of the 3D nonsense. It then augments the viewing experience which is something we all want I think.

    I believe this is why it is now something people then want to see used as often as is practical.

  2. High-dynamic range been an area of interest preceding UHD for image creation. An image-scientist friend was researching it in graduate school in the early 2000's. I was reading about it in professional news magazines. It was clearly an opportunity for display-technology advancement that was/is needed for displaying more life-like images, as well as more accurate display of imagery.

    Also, the expanded color space that UHD brings is certainly something that people noticed lacking in blu-ray. Color banding and dithering in large gradients is quite obvious to anyone attentive to video quality details.

  3. For me, it is a non-starter right now just because the cost benefit isn't there to make the upgrade. My current interests don't go towards new films and I have no interest in revisiting the standard selection that come out during the first run of any new format. None of the releases I've purchased in the past year and none on my radar have a UHD version at this time. This time around, I'm not upgrading a title until i know i have a desire to watch it. I have way too may blu-ray double dips from DVD i have yet to experience.

    I'm sure if I saw a UHD release side by side with a standard blu-ray, I'd notice the difference immediate and may prefer it. However, I'm also a believer in the phenomenon that when you see images of films with different color grading side by side their differences can standout more than when watching them individually with no thought of looking for irregularity.

    So what i am trying to understand is whether HDR is closer to what we should have been seeing all along that was missing in blu-ray or if it is more of a different take that many find more enjoyable. My understanding from other discussions is that newer films taking the benefits of HDR into their production should always have an HDR release, but for older films the implementation of HDR may be less impactful due to the films original intent.

  4. smithbrad

    For me, it is a non-starter right now just because the cost benefit isn't there to make the upgrade. My current interests don't go towards new films and I have no interest in revisiting the standard selection that come out during the first run of any new format. None of the releases I've purchased in the past year and none on my radar have a UHD version at this time. This time around, I'm not upgrading a title until i know i have a desire to watch it. I have way too may blu-ray double dips from DVD i have yet to experience.

    I'm sure if I saw a UHD release side by side with a standard blu-ray, I'd notice the difference immediate and may prefer it. However, I'm also a believer in the phenomenon that when you see images of films with different color grading side by side their differences can standout more than when watching them individually with no thought of looking for irregularity.

    So what i am trying to understand is whether HDR is closer to what we should have been seeing all along that was missing in blu-ray or if it is more of a different take that many find more enjoyable. My understanding from other discussions is that newer films taking the benefits of HDR into their production should always have an HDR release, but for older films the implementation of HDR may be less impactful due to the films original intent.

    Yes and no. Depends on the film. Van Helsing came out a number of years ago, but the difference between the Bluray and 4K UHD with HDR is stunning. Under UHD and HDR the movie just jumps off the screen, I found it remarkable. As far as "older" films, the difference not as clear. The Bridge over the River Kwai, is not as noticeable, at least to my eye.

  5. DaveF

    High-dynamic range been an area of interest preceding UHD for image creation. An image-scientist friend was researching it in graduate school in the early 2000's. I was reading about it in professional news magazines. It was clearly an opportunity for display-technology advancement that was/is needed for displaying more life-like images, as well as more accurate display of imagery.

    Also, the expanded color space that UHD brings is certainly something that people noticed lacking in blu-ray. Color banding and dithering in large gradients is quite obvious to anyone attentive to video quality details.

    Yes, I've see pictures where this has come into play to present a more life-like image, and it looks phenomenal. However, frame interpolation can make film look more life-like, but it isn't an effect I prefer to use.

    I agree color banding and dithering have been issues and it is great if they are fixed, but it seems like HDR is going much further than that. I guess I will have to see how it is implemented in older films.

  6. To quote Robert Harris from a couple of years ago:

    "It should not be included as a function for classic films, unless the filmmakers have a desire to re-visit, and create
    a new version, a re-imagining.

    It will not work well with most classic films, and can be problematic to those that have needed restoration based upon fade.

    Want to see 2001, or Lawrence, Ben-Hur, The Godfather, The Magnificent Seven, or Elvira Madigan in 4k?

    No problem.

    We're ready for it, and there's no reason why those films can't be released, except those which don't fit on the
    current sized discs.

    And NONE of them should be released with HDR."

  7. Richard V

    The Bridge over the River Kwai, is not as noticeable, at least to my eye.

    And that is kind of what I was expecting, a more incremental improvement in many case.

    I find it interesting in some forums/threads how with the advent of HDR that the push is to get into HDR somehow, some way, because you are missing out if you don't have it. It doesn't matter if you have a fancy 2K projection system, even a cheap 4K/HDR panel will blow you away. But, I guess that should be expected with a new technology.

  8. Worth

    To quote Robert Harris from a couple of years ago:

    "It should not be included as a function for classic films, unless the filmmakers have a desire to re-visit, and create
    a new version, a re-imagining.

    It will not work well with most classic films, and can be problematic to those that have needed restoration based upon fade.

    Want to see 2001, or Lawrence, Ben-Hur, The Godfather, The Magnificent Seven, or Elvira Madigan in 4k?

    No problem.

    We're ready for it, and there's no reason why those films can't be released, except those which don't fit on the
    current sized discs.

    And NONE of them should be released with HDR."

    Yes, I was going to ask Mr. Harris about what he thought of Spartacus being released with HDR implemented. I guess you answered that question.

  9. smithbrad

    Yes, I've see pictures where this has come into play to present a more life-like image, and it looks phenomenal. However, frame interpolation can make film look more life-like, but it isn't an effect I prefer to use

    That's because you're not used to it. Not because high frame rate (HFR) is "wrong".

    A recurring difficulty with these topics is getting stuck looking backwards when it's a matter of looking ahead. Should HDR retroactively be applied to existing movies? Maybe not. In the same way that artificially doing frame interpolation 24p movies is weird, or coloring back and white films is weird.

    HDR really matters for what's to come. It's a new display technology and offers new artistic expressions.

  10. CarlosMeat

    Although I do remember comments from folks with much more knowledge of the physics of film itself discuss the dynamic range of film here and there ,I agree that this is a new discussion. I do believe that once you see the specular highlights very bright while still seeing shadow detail in an image it is compelling. If implemented well it is not gimmicky looking like much of the 3D nonsense. It then augments the viewing experience which is something we all want I think.

    I believe this is why it is now something people then want to see used as often as is practical.

    You had me until you called 3D gimmicky nonsense. :wacko:

  11. DaveF

    That's because you're not used to it. Not because high frame rate (HFR) is "wrong".

    High Frame Rate and motion interpolation are two separate things, though. I would argue that motion interpolation aka the "soap opera effect" is wrong, because the software-generated intermediate frames, in addition to often being full of artifacts, distort the creators' intentions.

    High frame rate, like The Hobbit movies, are a different story. I still don't care for it, with 24 frames per second having been normalized over the course of my lifetime, but it's a valid creative choice.

  12. I was responding more to what I took as the general expression of, why would we want new technology that changes how video looks compared to the past century?

    But yes, HFR and motion interpolation are different things. 🙂

  13. Sam Posten

    @smithbrad you’ve made note of your disinterest in HDR in multiple threads. You continue to bring it up trying to poke holes in it. It’s not going away. It’s the best advance in this hobby since DVD.

    My lack of interest in HDR prior to this point has been related to the number of titles of interest to me, personally, and the cost to upgrade my system to support it for the return I would receive. I don't watch current productions, preferring films from the 20's through 50's mostly, as well as 50's and 60's TV shows. I have nothing against the catalog films that have been released in HDR (from 70's forward), it's just that many I have seen multiple times, and I prefer not to double/triple dip this time until ready to revisit. Especially, given that many of the blu-ray upgrades still haven't been watched. Besides, I have stacks of films from earlier era's that are first time watches to get through.

    My posts have not been to poke holes on HDR or to hope it goes away. But, to better understand it with regards to older films (pre-60's) and what impact it will have. I know it is an automatic for new productions that planned for it, but is it so wrong to ask questions about its impact and use on older films? At some point my 2K Sony projector will fail, do i purchase another Sony 2K to replace it (for hopefully another 10 years), or hold out for a Sony (or JVC) UHD model to come down in price. With my TV collection primarily DVD and my film collection 60% DVD (even though I have purchased the blu-ray upgrades available), I will always be top heavy DVD and standard blu-ray.

    I thought this would be a good place to ask such questions, and that there may be others in a similar predicament. But if that is not valid enough, feel free to delete the thread, I have an answer. I won't post another UHD related post. Believe me.

  14. smithbrad

    To the others that responded. My thanks. Your comments have been helpful. Moderator you can close the thread now.

    If you're done with this thread that's fine. However, I'm not going to close this thread as I feel it belongs to the membership now and they can come here and post their thoughts about HDR in this thread. RAH just reviewed the 4K disc of Forrest Gump and questioned if HDR should have been applied to it. That's a topic that can be discussed here for Forrest Gump or any other catalog title.

  15. smithbrad

    My understanding from other discussions is that newer films taking the benefits of HDR into their production should always have an HDR release, but for older films the implementation of HDR may be less impactful due to the films original intent.

    I can tell you that if you are interested in classic films like Blade Runner, E.T., and one I think benefits the most from HDR – Close Encounters of the Third Kind it is much better than the standard BD because of the HDR. the contrast of light, and dark is so much better, and thus making the film more immersive, if that makes any sense?

    Saving Private Ryan is another that is pretty impressive. I have not yet purchased the 1993 Jurassic Park(I refuse to buy t it because I don't care for a couple of the films in the package) but I am looking forward to an individual release.

    I'm sure we will get 'Jaws" at some point with HDR added, that should be a beautiful disc.

  16. When I was supervising the Twilight Zone transfers I was discovering that the technology (about ten years ago) in telecine was not allowing me to keep bright items like street lights and car headlights from going in to the 'clip' during night scenes. Similarly in daylight scenes where you have a situation with extreme bright sky and a character walking in shadow in the same shot. To handle this I asked the grader to reduce the 'luminance' to the point where the sky was well below the clip until you could see detail within it, regardless of how much the sky took up frame space, then let the dark shadowy area find its own level without going into 'crush'. I was battling this kind of situation throughout as I am sure all the high and low detail was properly exposed in the 35mm original negative and fought to get as much of the resolution out of it as possible.
    Presumably the HDR technology would now glide over all these issues.
    If one would want to encode these transfers with this new technology you would have to return to the original film source material as the transfers would contain areas where 'clipping' of highlights etc. embedded in the transfers was unavoidable.

  17. Stephen PI

    When I was supervising the Twilight Zone transfers I was discovering that the technology (about ten years ago) in telecine was not allowing me to keep bright items like street lights and car headlights from going in to the 'clip' during night scenes. Similarly in daylight scenes where you have a situation with extreme bright sky and a character walking in shadow in the same shot. To handle this I asked the grader to reduce the 'luminance' to the point where the sky was well below the clip until you could see detail within it, regardless of how much the sky took up frame space, then let the dark shadowy area find its own level without going into 'crush'. I was battling this kind of situation throughout as I am sure all the high and low detail was properly exposed in the 35mm original negative and fought to get as much of the resolution out of it as possible.
    Presumably the HDR technology would now glide over all these issues.
    If one would want to encode these transfers with this new technology you would have to return to the original film source material as the transfers would contain areas where 'clipping' of highlights etc. embedded in the transfers was unavoidable.

    This is such an interesting post ! The Twilight Zone is quite gorgeous so let me commend you on the effort. As I stated earlier the fact that I can see almost blinding bright lights or sunlit areas in films while shadow detail is still present with HDR seems to be it's biggest uptick in quality I see. I like the use of the WCG also but a scene like in Lucy when she is in the operating room holding out the gun under the operating table lights her hand is so bright I can feel my pupils constricting while all the dark background details are still visible …very very engaging.

  18. Film has a higher dynamic range and color gamut than HD video, so HDR used correctly can better represent the film look. Most HD film transfers are overly brightened compared to how they would look projected, and the highlight areas are reduced and dulled so they don't blow out. This definitely changes the look of a film. HDR has the capability of changing that. Unfortunately it seems to be used more as a gimmick in a lot of films.

  19. gadgtfreek

    Die Hard and Close Encounters are prime examples of how older films can benefit from HDR. Having only a 65" display, HDR is more important to me vs 2160p.

    Close Encounters HDR rocks!! Love the blinding bright lights throughout.

  20. CarlosMeat

    I personally see it as such , I think it's death is a testament to the fact that I'm far from alone.

    You’re certainly not alone in your opinion.

    It’s hanging on by a slim thread for sure but I am also definitely far from alone in thinking it is NOT gimmicky nonsense.

  21. CarlosMeat

    I personally see it as such , I think it's death is a testament to the fact that I'm far from alone.

    I don't see how it's dead unless your sole basis for such a statement is that you cannot currently buy a 3D HDTV in the US.

    You can still buy 3D HD projectors, several for a price less than the larger sized HDTV's.

    Some studios are still releasing 3D blu-rays in the US of recent blockbusters (Warner, Universal) or catalog titles (Kino, Twilight Time). You can import many region-free releases from other countries where all the major studios (including Disney/Pixar) are still releasing 3D titles. Home 3D seems to be doing just fine outside the US.

    New 3D titles are still coming to theaters. Two of this weekend's releases, Hotel Transylvania 3 and Skyscraper are both available in 3D, and most every major recent animated or action/adventure release has been available in 3D.

    Aside from the lack of current 3D HDTV's, there still seem to be available 3D options.

    3D was dead after the 1950's. 3D was dead after the 1980's. Yet here we are again watching 3D in the 2010's. 🙂

  22. Got it. I will say that in my opinion HDR is not gimmicky and seems to add to everything in which I've seen it used. I believe that it takes advantage of the ability of both displays and film to a degree we've not seen before.

    I'm pleased that this is where studios and manufacturers are putting emphasis right now.

  23. And while it's been said that some films are candidates for HDR, while other are not, I was wondering if its known in advance as to which ones are which? Or, maybe, does HDR film compatibility become a case by case discovery midway through the process, or at its end? At what point(s) does it all become known to the technicians?

  24. Robert Crawford

    Studios are releasing their some of their catalog titles at a more rapid pace like Superman (1978) from Warner. I'm not sure HDR will work well with this title.

    As I tried to explain clearly in my previous post, HDR, if I interpret the technology correctly, could be applied to any film in any era at best when applied to the nearest original film element eg. OCN, IP, Fine-grain.
    In theory, if it is applied correctly it should reproduce all the dynamic range captured by the exposure level of the film element.
    No more tendency for clipped highlights and crushed blacks. Despite that, I still see on some releases these problems. It seems that in many cases in newer films I'm under the impression it is a trend and, as a result, creates a huge misunderstanding of its purpose.

  25. I note Robert Harris' comments about not applying HDR to older films such as Ben Hur, etc,. However with 2001 coming with HDR and its application to Bridge on the River…, I am looking forward to his comments on these and other similar releases.

  26. Stephen PI

    As I tried to explain clearly in my previous post, HDR, if I interpret the technology correctly, could be applied to any film in any era at best when applied to the nearest original film element eg. OCN, IP, Fine-grain.
    In theory, if it is applied correctly it should reproduce all the dynamic range captured by the exposure level of the film element.
    No more tendency for clipped highlights and crushed blacks. Despite that, I still see on some releases these problems. It seems that in many cases in newer films I'm under the impression it is a trend and, as a result, creates a huge misunderstanding of its purpose.

    Also working with IPs, fine grains and OCNs, I agree 100% with your assessment. With these titles, we'll see some conservatively using HDR for this purpose, while others deciding if it's getting an HDR grade, that means (to them) needing a certain grading "look".

Leave a Reply