What is high dynamic range, or HDR, and just how relevant is it in TVs and monitors?
High dynamic range, or abbreviated to just HDR, refers to an image or a screen, such as a PC monitor or TV, that is able to produce much darker shadows and much brighter and whiter highlights, but also maintains image detail in both. A lot of this has to do with the rendering of the images displayed on the screens as well. A cinema production camera, such as an Arri Alexa, has a very high dynamic range unlike a video camera you would find on a cellphone. Have you ever noticed that if you take a portrait shot of someone with the sun behind them that they appear to be very dark, almost a silhouette? This is due to your camera not having a high dynamic range.
A cellphone has a dynamic range of around 3-4 F-Stops of dynamic range, which means that at any given exposure, it is able to maintain detail in highlights and shadows that are within a margin of 3-4 F-Stops of exposure difference, which isn't a lot at all. Another example of this is with DSLR cameras. When you look through the viewfinder, it shows you a light meter indication of your predicted exposure based on the light value (the intensity of the light in which you are shooting), as well as your shutter speed, aperture and ISO (sensitivity of your sensor to light) settings. However, it will only show you a scale of -3 to +3, which means beyond 6 F-Stops of light, there will be no detail in the highlights or shadows, thus a relatively low dynamic range.
However, high-end cinema cameras like those from Blackmagic Design, Red and Arri offer cameras with a dynamic range of between 13-16 F-Stops of change of light, which drastically enhances the detail in high contrast lighting environments.
There is one downside though, an image with a very high dynamic range looks incredibly faded and washed out due to the ability of these cameras to capture a lot more detail in the highlights and shadows. The uspide, though, is that in post-production editing, you have the ability to add more contrast to your images to create the desired look and feel because there is so much detail to work with.
TVs and PC monitors that offer a high dynamic range are able to display much darker shadows and lighter highlights, while still maintaining image detail in those areas which offers a much more "punchy" and exciting looking image. However, with HDR, there is no standard from brand to brand of TV, so there is no way to compare monitors effectively as yet.
Take a look at the video below by YouTube channel, Linus Tech Tips, on their video titled, "Does HDR finally mean something?"