By Will Harris, Flame Family Product Manager, Autodesk
Some say HDR is the future of TV, while others think it’s a gimmick to boost TV set sales. Debate aside, High Dynamic Range (HDR) imagery for moving video is becoming increasingly popular and will be a key focus at NAB 2017. Not only do Netflix, Amazon and other streaming video on demand (SVOD) platforms offer HDR content to consumers, but we’re also seeing an increased demand for HDR-ready tools from our production and post customers.
HDR can dramatically change the look of a delivery across all media forms. With a properly calibrated monitor, the distinction between HDR and SDR content is almost as dramatic as HD versus SD resolution. Although SDR (aka REC709 video) currently reigns supreme, we’re beginning to see more of an industry shift toward HDR. In the coming months, we’ll likely begin to see more professionals opting for HDR formats across film and TV productions – both natively and with remastered content. With this change, we’ll also see a difference in the way post production professionals approach projects in terms of primary deliverables.
Posting in HDR can seem daunting at the outset, especially when factoring in new and foreign standards and deliverables, and the apparent need for color science experts on every project. Even though SMPTE has established a set of useful HDR standards, it’s still perceived as the Wild West. That said, navigating the new frontier doesn’t have to be complicated for post pros, if they start with smart choices. Working within a format with the greatest color latitude will provide an ideal base to build all your derivatives, meaning HDR and SDR flavors. Autodesk Flame 2017 includes the automated Autodesk colour management system designed to intuitively guide our users through these choices.HDR doesn’t just impact color, however. It will also hugely influence how certain VFX are created and delivered. Any lens flares, glints, glows, blooming effects, etc. that feature highly saturated, bright areas may look drastically different on an HDR monitor versus a standard TV. More detail is naturally visible, so that trendy ‘clipped’ contrast look, used artistically in a lot of movies and commercials, may go out of fashion. In its place, a clean, beautiful life-like picture could emerge. Artistically, this presents opportunities and challenges. As the shift continues, we predict certain titles will ‘have to be watched’ in HDR.
HDR is top of mind at Autodesk; the growth of the format impacts how we think about post and the tools we’re developing. We’ve already integrated HDR format support (HDR 10, Dolby Vision PQ and SMPTE 2020, among others) into our Flame Family of products and recently introduced our new unified color management workflow, a framework designed to help people navigate HDR. Going forward, we’ll be looking at how we might create new tools tuned to dynamic range, color correction and VFX that work differently in HDR versus SDR. And, at this year’s NAB, I think we’re going to see a lot of technology vendors coming out with new solutions designed to simplify HDR post workflows.