HDR is an imaging technology. With HDR, light and dark areas of an image can both display fine detail. In other words, the same exposure does not need to be used across the entire image. A wider range between the whitest whites and blackest blacks means more detail, better contrast, and overall an amazing image.
We know this matters for movies and for broadcast, where image quality is paramount and viewers are willing to seek out good-looking content. But when and how does it matter for more general AV applications?
Sander Phipps’s recent piece for AV Network addresses this exact question. Phipps writes, “In a classroom or corporate environment, for example, where information is simply being presented … HDR is not a factor. However, for more-involved applications where the goal is to grab the viewer’s attention and keep him or her engaged, HDR is emerging as more of a consideration.”
That’s exactly what we’ve been hearing from end users and other industry experts. Applications like simple lecture capture may not need the highest quality images and thus woudln’t necessarily incorporate HDR. Digital signs that are very information-heavy and not as visually interesting probably don’t need HDR either. But applications that are designed to be eye-catching, like big digital signage displays, video walls, stadium installations, etc., do need HDR.
There are also applications where the information being presented is, itself, highly visual and thus would benefit from HDR. A perfect example is educational content that’s demonstrating hands-on procedures–picture demonstrations of surgery or technical processes. Much more than lecture capture, AV streaming in those scenarios needs the absolute highest quality video.
Phipps points out one complication with adding features like HDR into an AV system: “One issue to keep in mind is that HDR produces a higher-bandwidth signal, so it may be more of a challenge to distribute. The entire backend infrastructure … needs to be high-bandwidth, too. But, as in the broadcast and production industry, where more efficient distribution pipelines are successfully being developed, the AV market will also keep pace.”
He’s right; infrastructures will have to accommodate features like HDR. And as with other video improvements (think HD), after seeing it in movies and TV for a while, consumers will start to expect it everywhere. So while HDR doesn’t need to be in all AV applications just yet, it has a place in AV–and that place is only going to grow over the next few years.