What Is HDR Video Capture?
Updated: Feb 23
Once an obscure photography and videography abbreviation, HDR has become a household term in recent years. For the everyday consumer, HDR typically refers to a certain type of Ultra HD television that is comparable to the popular 4K Ultra HD television models.
While one may intuitively think that HDR means “high definition (blank)”, it actually means “high dynamic range.” HDR content offers a larger color gamut and contrast range than SDR, or “standard dynamic range” devices. Modern televisions that use HDR technology can also produce a wider range of luminance than those that use SDR.
This means that, while they are brighter, these devices can also produce a deeper range of blacks. Like any technological enhancement, it is exciting to witness new standards of Ultra HD displays in commercial and consumer markets. However, it does beg the question: what is HDR video capture?
In layman’s terms: High-dynamic range images offer more visual information in the shadows, as well as more information in the highlights, than standard dynamic range images.
How Does HDR Work?
Understanding the general concept of a dynamic range is integral to understanding what HDR means to you and your potential audio visual experience. Every photograph or video ever taken has a dynamic range, which refers to the ratio between the minimum and maximum tonal value of an image. This can be summarized by a more familiar term: contrast.
Many techniques have been used to balance the tones and contrast of images. One such technique developed in the mid 20th century is known as “dodging and burning,” in which the exposure in various regions of the photograph are selectively increased or decreased to yield a higher dynamic range in the final product.
HDR is a computational method that accomplishes a similar end result as the dodging and burning method. However, it combines multiple photos with different exposure levels and tone maps to accomplish the high-dynamic range.
How to Use HDR Video Capture?
Many in the creative industry still grapple with what HDR means in the context of their field, as well as when and how to use it. Film producers create multiple exposures of the same image by recording two simultaneous frames using a special camera. The primary exposure is normal, using the normal aperture and shutter settings.
The secondary exposure uses a much shorter exposure to increase the highlight definition. When the video is in post-production, the two image streams are combined to achieve a higher dynamic range. A standard camera can record only one frame during an identical interval of time, thus reducing its capacity to produce the desired high-dynamic range images.
HDR video capture gives filmmakers more cinematic control in post-production and is often used as a tool to tell the story in a visually-striking way. While one benefit of HDR content includes the capacity for bright imagery, producers rarely utilize the full potential of 1,000 nits of brightness as a stylistic choice. Some well-known examples of films that demonstrate Ultra HDR capabilities include Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), Mad Max Fury Road (2015), and The Matrix (1999).
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