Our Response to a Colorist Insisting HDR YouTube Videos Can’t Be Graded on a Mac

All we’ve got to say is how grateful we are for the handful of intrepid YouTubers working with less than Grade 1B reference monitors, because it seems the only ones who can justify purchasing $30,000 displays are post production houses working on multimillion dollar shows that are lit in an SDR environment and monitored in SDR; where the very first time anyone sees the footage on an HDR display is in the grading suite, after which it’s decided that the HDR version shouldn’t depart radically from the SDR version and the consumer is fooled into thinking they need a more expensive TV set to tell them apart.

Cullen Kelly – who thinks of HDR not as an enhancement, but as the removal of an artificial limitation – believes that AI and machine learning are going to be taking over many of the tasks currently performed by colorists, like shot matching and balancing color and that in order to survive, they’ve got to learn new skills or risk becoming obsolete. 

In an article entitled Three Predictions on the Future of Color Correction, Kelly touches on an issue that has long preoccupied us – the failure of filmmakers to recognize that HDR is an entirely new medium necessitating new ways of thinking. He writes:

“With the evolution of technologies like HDR, VR, and volumetric video, images are being released from their dim two-dimensional cages, creating new challenges and opportunities for the way we engage and guide the viewer’s eye. This is completely uncharted territory, and navigating it will require new ideas and new tools. The current playbook for capturing and mastering compelling images is going to become increasingly irrelevant, leaving those of us who are up to the task to write a new one.”

Whether this new way of thinking is embodied by a brigade of iPhone shooters grading on MacBook Pros or by established filmmakers working within the traditional studio system, we look forward to the day when we can watch HDR videos that aren’t just repackaged SDR.

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