TV Settings

What is an HDR TV? – Understanding New Technology

Before we answer, “What is an HDR TV?”, we must understand the different parts of the answer.

First, Let’s Talk Contrast

High Contrast

Even back when TVs weighed 50 lbs, the contrast was part of the settings. Most people didn’t take the time to understand what it meant. They just played with the settings until the screen showed them their favourite shows in a way that didn’t have the actors in Trump Orange.

The simple truth is that contrast cannot be measured.

It is the best estimation of the difference in luminance (light emitted) between the lightest (white) and the darkest (black) part of an image.

Most televisions and monitors have two separate “measurements” for contrast: static and dynamic.

Static contrast would be the contrast of the screen you are using to read these words, the amount of light produced by the white elements on this page, compared to the amount of light produced by the black elements. It is a static contrast because it isn’t moving.

Dynamic contrast would be the contrast of the screen if you switched over to YouTube or Netflix and started watching moving content. It is the average of the static contrasts for each frame, taking into account the on/off cycle of each pixel.

The reason for the two types is that screens generally cannot produce the same level of contrast when the image is constantly changing, so for a TV, the dynamic is the more important value, and usually, the only one advertised.

How Does Brightness Affect Contrast?


Long ago, brightness was a knob or a simple setting in a TV, that would just turn up the luminance of every pixel, even black. This had the unfortunate effect of making black into gray and dulling the hue of all colours if it was set incorrectly. Now, with our wonderful technology advances and our excellent LED-backlit LCD screens that promptly destroyed the march of the plasma TV through technological history, we have “Brightness” and “Backlight“.

Brightness will still cause colour distortion if set incorrectly. However, in a bright room, we now have the ability to make the screen brighter and more vibrant without changing the colours (except for black).

So, if you adjust Brightness, the difference between white and black, or the contrast, loses a massive amount of potential. If you use Backlight, the colour of colours stay the same and reach a higher luminance. However, adding light to black will still make it not quite the real black you see in real life.

Enter Stage Left, HDR

SDR HDRHDR, or High Dynamic Range, takes what was originally limited to the “Contrast” knob, and expands it significantly.

When a film is released in theatres, the director knows that the technology used is top-of-the-line and the film is made to top specifications. This allows them much greater control of the colour schemes and brightness of highlighted areas, such as explosions or stars.

Since most people don’t own a television that can produce the visuals that the projector in the theatre can, part of the process of going from big screen to small screen is stripping away the things that cannot be reproduced.

HDR expands the contrast and colour vividness of a TV to near theatre quality. It allows for much brighter, cleaner colours and much deeper blacks and brighter whites, without distorting the original intent of the director (like the “Vibrant” setting in non-HDR TVs does).Dolby Vision

This allows TVs to display images much closer to what you would see in real life.

HDR, originally named HDR10, because it has a bit depth of 10 or higher compared to an 8-bit standard dynamic range, was released August 27th, 2015.

Since its inception, two newer versions of HDR have been released, HDR10+ (which adds dynamic metadata to the video signal, making it more efficient at changing the image and retaining high range and color), and Dolby Vision, which is a proprietary version of HDR that boasts a 12-bit color depth and 10,000 cd/m2 max brightness. Both are compatible with the new HDMI 2.1 standard.

For more information on how to put together an HDR setup, click here.

Posted in TV

13 thoughts on “What is an HDR TV? – Understanding New Technology

  1. I love the way you explained the meaning of HDR television. Even a layman like myself could understand this. In essence, purchase of this TV guarantees almost the same quality as is seen in the cinemas. Are HDR television also smart TV’s, or are there some HDR television that aren’t smart?  Expecting to hear from you soon.

    Warm regards.

    1. Even if there are non-smart HDR TVs available, I fully recommend getting the smart variety.

      When you use the built in streaming services, the HDR content is processed directly by the TV and you remove the requirement for special HDMI connection and an HDR BluRay player with streaming apps. It makes it MUCH easier to transition.

  2. Thanks for writing this article on what an hdr tv  is and understand the new technology. I must first comment you for the wonderful well done job for doing your findings and writing this article. I find it so full of information and educative things to know about this new hdr TV. This is my first thing of hearing about it. Reading this article really make me want to try this new product at home 

  3. Hi there. 

    This post is just a comprehensive tutorial about the general problem most people face while trying to adjust the colour to enjoy good visual pictures. I really never knew the separate measurement for contrast. It’s really pleasing to know how both works now. I will start enjoying quality visuals on set. But my concern is there little 4K videos out there

    1. We are getting a little closer to having mainstream 4k content. Netflix has been working pretty hard at getting their content updated, but you have to pay a higher membership fee to have access.

  4. This is the first time I’ve heard about HDR TV. I think it’s an incredible breakthrough to be able to bring theater quality visuals into the home. How much does a full setup you detail in the post cost? We have certainly come a long way from the 50lb behemoths you mention at the beginning…I’m old enough to remember. 🙂

    Thanks for this informative post.

    All the best,


    1. The cost entirely depends on the model level you are looking for. I have seen complete setups (at an expected lower quality) for under $1000 CAD, whereas the high end QLED and OLED TVs alone can be in the $2000-2500 range.

      It’s definitely worth the extra money, but I’ve done a review for three middle class TVs here:

      4k TV Reviews – Compare and Get The Best Fit

      All three of those are HDR compatible and are the top three choices for mid range quality.

  5. So Tyler, High Dynamic Range, helps us bring cinema theater home just as far as the television is HDR compatible. And according to your article, it does this to produce much brighter, cleaner colors and much deeper blacks and brighter whites, without distorting the original intent of the director (like the “Vibrant” setting in non-HDR TVs does).

    Since I’m not a going to the cinema type. It would be nice to bring the cinema to my home through this means. 

    So, if you don’t mind me asking, can this device be bought and shipped to Nigeria?

    1. Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to this. You would need the click the link of the product you are interested in above, and check through Amazon. I know Amazon does deliver most things to Nigeria, but I’m not sure of the limitations.

  6. HDR TV’s are cool. Most of the modern brand models getting into the market are now HDR Compatible. The advancement in technology has really opened to up not just to a better life in the health, agricultural etc sectors but it has made entertainment even more advanced and my intimate. Pictures and motion pictures become so real like they are happening right where you are. Its so cool to be living in this digital age.

  7. I do recall back then when we tune the TV to make it brighter,thinking about it now it makes me laugh and marvel at how far technology has gone. Now we have LED and LCD, although am just hearing of HDR its something i would wanna try thou.

  8. I do recall back then when we tune the TV to make it brighter it used to an annoying and stressful experience,thinking about it now it makes me laugh and marvel at how far technology has gone. Seems like this HDR is a cable plugged to the LCD and installing it doesnt seem that easy 

    1. The cable has very little to do with it. As long as your two devices (or one if streaming on a smart TV) are HDR compatible, and the HDMI cable is HDMI 2.0a or higher that is all you need.

      You may have to activate the HDR settings in the TV.

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