Samsung and Amazon have announced a new open standard for high dynamic range video called HDR10+.
The companies are describing it as updated version of the HDR10 standard, with the major addition being “Dynamic Tone Mapping.” What that actually means is that the metadata attached to a video is dynamic based on individual scenes, allowing the brightness levels to shift depending on whether the particular scene is brightly lit or dark. That’s a change from HDR10, which mastered video content as a single unit with static data — meaning that if a movie was mostly dark with just a few brighter scenes, for example, then those scenes would have previously been oversaturated relative to the rest of the film.
Dynamic metadata is a particularly important addition in HDR10+ as it closes the gap between the open HDR standard and the closed Dolby Vision spec, which had previously touted dynamic metadata as one of its main differentiators over the original HDR10 standard. (Although Dolby still leads the pack when it comes to the highest color and brightness requirements, at least for now.)
And of course, I’d be remiss in noting that unfortunately, the addition of HDR10+ now marks the fifth major HDR standard vying for industry support, along with the original HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, and Advanced HDR, because clearly four different versions were not quite enough for anyone yet.
Fortunately, you probably won’t need to buy a new TV to take advantage of HDR10+ — the new standard is already supported on all of Samsung’s 2017 UHD sets, and will be rolling out to the company’s 2016 line via a firmware update later this year, meaning that other companies looking to support it should (in theory) be able to add it fairly easily. In terms of content, Amazon Video is set to support HDR10+ later this year, but its the only major company signed on so far.
HDR standards are going to continue to be a sliding scale of different qualities
Ultimately, HDR10+ is yet another example that shows that HDR standards are going to continue to be a sliding scale of different qualities, rather than a direct head-on format war like Blu-ray and HD-DVD or VHS and Betamax. Which is ultimately a good thing for consumers looking to avoid complicated hardware decisions, but also means that what we actually refer to as “HDR video” is going to refer to an increasingly wider range of things.