Eight Excuses to Not Shoot HDR

OLED isn’t the holy Grail: Most reviewers, and more importantly, professional colorists I’ve read and listened to in podcasts and in interviews believe that OLED delivers near perfect picture quality. CEO and General Manager of Flanders Scientific Bram Desmet has gone on at length about the superior picture quality of OLED. At the risk of repeating myself, DisplayMate considers the recent line of OLED televisions from LG good enough to qualify as Studio Reference Quality.

Right now, it’s next to impossible to find the right use for HDR content – it’s a very limited market…our TV channels (the big ones) just this year became full HD, and we deliver in 1080, 4:2:2 8bit:  Technicolor, Samsung, Walt Disney Pictures, Netflix, DirecTV, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, Panasonic, Universal, Sharp, LG, Dolby, Sony, Philips, Amazon, DreamWorks, Microsoft, Arri, Intel, Hisense, THX, NVIDIA, and Toshiba are only just a few of the members of the UHD Alliance. Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and others are already streaming 4K HDR content today.

Production companies ain’t about to rework their hardware and their workflow to cater to the two people with HDR displays: Netflix alone, with over 104 million subscribers worldwide, rolled out over 150 hours of HDR content by the end of last year, and Amazon Prime had plans to double HDR content to 200 hours by early 2017. It would appear as though there are significantly more than two people in the world with HDR television sets.

Most people can’t see the difference between 1080p & 4K: They should sit a little closer to the set. They won’t get radiation sickness!  I don’t have to squint to see the dramatic difference in detail between my 2013 iMac and my 2017 5K iMac.  The same goes for my LG C7 compared to my dated Samsung HD television. And it’s not just about the number of pixels. HDR has higher local contrast, giving the impression of greater sharpness.

There are no computer monitors with true HDR: It will only be a matter of time before HDR grading monitors are plentiful and reasonably priced. Even calibration software priced in the thousands of dollars a few years ago is now available at no cost. Several companies, like Atomos and Small HD, have already released HDR capable external monitors and soon, all NLEs will also be on board, with FCP X entering the end of this month. Colorists over at liftgammagain scoff at the idea of using an Atomos Sumo or Ninja Inferno as an HDR grading monitor, but I imagine they’d be just as horrified to see the laptops and computer monitors many of us use to grade rec 709 footage right now!

To truly have a real 10bit HDR workflow takes an investment that no semi pro or amateur can afford right now, or next year I presume. No way: There are already numerous HDR videos being uploaded to YouTube every day by people like you and me. As far as cameras and lighting go, according to Hurkman, if you already own a camera with reasonably wide latitude, HDR won’t be an excuse to buy another one, and it seems to me that there’s nothing extra you need to buy for the camera or lighting departments if you want to shoot media for an HDR grade.

TV sales are plummeting and there are few devices that support the newer technologies:  At least one analyst forecasts that HDR TV shipments will grow from 12.2 million in 2017 to 47.9 million in 2021. Several smartphones by manufacturers like Sony, Samsung and LG already support HDR. It may come as a shock, but it’s entirely possible to watch movies and TV shows in HDR10 and Dolby Vision on the iPhone X.

Last but not least, if one exposes the image for HDR delivery then your video will not look as intended when shown on SDR: This is not accurate. Colorists make a trim pass for SDR delivery as well, so content can be viewed on your brand new HDR set in the living room or on the small SDR set in your kitchen. When uploading to YouTube, you can either use YouTube’s SDR Metadata Tool or your own cross conversion LUT. Unless you mean your HDR video won’t look as good on an SDR set, which is undeniably true!

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