R 1. It’s actually quite simple.
HDR sounds complex, and at a technical level it is. Abstractly, however, it involves just five
First, to acquire the expanded brightness
and color palette needed for HDR display, you
have to capture and maintain your video in 10-
bit or higher formats. Second, you’ll need to color grade your video to fully utilize the expanded
palette. Third, you’ll have to choose and support one or more HDR technologies to reach the
broadest number of viewers. Fourth, for several
of these technologies, you’ll need to manage color and other metadata through the production
workflow to optimize display on your endpoints.
Finally, although you’ll be using the same codecs and adaptive bitrate (ABR) formats as before, you’ll have to change a few encoding settings to ensure compatibility with your selected
HDR TVs and other devices.
I don’t mean to oversimplify, and you should
know that VIVE Lifestyle Networks, which debuted a live HDR service at the NAB show in
March, advised that it took “months of R&D”
to finalize its workflow. However, we’ll cover
these five steps in the discussion that follows,
which should leave you with a high-level overview of the issues you’ll face when attempting
to produce and distribute HDR video.
2. All that said, you probably
don’t care in the short term.
Hey, I appreciate your reading this article
and all, but unless your target customers have
HDR displays, there’s no sense producing HDR
content. Today, and for the short-term future,
the only significant concentrations of HDR displays are in the living room. If you’re producing premium content, you may want to shoot
longtail content in an HDR-compatible format,
but if you’re distributing primarily to computers and mobile devices, it will be several years
before a critical mass exists. If you’re not producing premium content, it will be years before
you should consider producing garden-variety
training, news, marketing, or other corporate-type videos in HDR.
On the other hand, if you’re a premium pub-
lisher targeting OTT, you should be well on
your way with HDR plans and workflows. Ac-
cording to IHS Markit, about 4 million HDR TVs
shipped in 2016, and 30 million units are ex-
pected by 2020 ( go2sm.com/markithdr). Since
HDR content is coming from Netflix, VUDU, and
most other premium content distributors, it’s
becoming table stakes for high-end OTT.
3. There are two fundamental problems.
First, your production software is inadequate,
at least in the short term. Second, your display hardware is inadequate. Why? Because of
the expanded color and brightness discussed
earlier. For years, we’ve been working with the
Rec. 709 color gamut shown in Figure 1, the
smallest square in the RGB color spectrum. We
shot, captured, encoded, and displayed our videos in Rec. 709. It’s the color gamut in most Win-dows-based monitors, and while 2015 and later
Macs expanded to the Digital Cinema (P3) format, even that is still much less than the colors
represented by Rec. 2020. Trying to color grade
video footage bound for a Rec. 2020 display in a
Rec. 709 or even a P3 color space is like trying to
paint with colors that you can’t see.
The same holds true for brightness, which
is measured in nits. SDR displays and computer monitors display at between 300 and 500 nits,
while HDR displays target 1,000 nits or higher.
Again, you can’t adjust your brightest brights
without using hardware and software that shows
an accurate preview. For these reasons, at some
point in the workflow, you’ll need to grade your
color and brightness on hardware that displays
it and in software that can drive the display.
You won’t have start from scratch, though.
Many hardware and software components of
your existing workflow will continue to work as
before. For example, Adobe Premiere Pro can’t
display HDR at this point (though it’s coming
soon), but can pass through HDR-related metadata. So you can still edit in Premiere Pro (or
Final Cut Pro X), but you probably will need a
color grading program to optimize the colors
and contrast in your video.
4. You can probably use your
existing camera (for VOD anyway).
There are two requirements necessary to
shoot video that can be produced as HDR. First,
the camera must shoot HDR video, which means
between 11 and 15 stops of dynamic range, a
wide color gamut, 4K resolution, and preferably
60 fps. Second, it has to store that information in
a raw or logarithmic format that preserves the
full dynamic range of the sensors. This means
that many older, yet high-quality digital cinema