If you haven’t heard of High Dynamic Range (HDR), you must have been living under a rock. This term is frequently mentioned in television marketing, especially in recent years. Although HDR is said to offer a better viewing experience, there is confusion regarding the difference between Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HDR10+.
This guide clarifies the distinctions between the three HDR formats and how one can easily make a wise decision while choosing one of these. Before we jump into the details of these HDR formats, let’s just understand what HDR technology is and what it does.
On This Page
What is HDR?
The term “HDR” refers to an imaging standard that grades display (such as monitors and TVs) and content, based on their ability to adjust brightness and contrast. HDR, if done correctly, can significantly improve the viewing experience compared to Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content.
HDR content enhances the colors, brightness, and contrast between bright and dark areas to make images look more vibrant and realistic compared to SDR. This is possible due to the extra information or “metadata” included in all HDR content that communicates with HDR-capable TVs or monitors.
Learn how to calibrate your HDR displays.
The extra details provide instructions for adjusting the display settings like brightness, contrast, and backlight dimming for specific movies or scenes. However, to truly experience HDR, you need a good-quality display and high-quality HDR content.
Just having an HDR label on your display won’t improve your viewing experience unless it has a high brightness level of at least 1000 nits and enough dimming zones.
HDR content uses different formats to optimize the display for the best experience. Now that you have understood what HDR is, let’s discuss the different formats of HDR and how to distinguish between them.
Types of HDR Formats
There are many different types of HDR formats present today. However, only 3 of them are popular and more commonly-used than the rest of them.
Dolby Vision is an HDR standard developed by Dolby in 2014, which was available to display manufacturers and production companies before HDR10 – another HDR format discussed ahead in this article.
TV manufacturers and production houses must pay a license fee to use Dolby Vision in their products and marketing promotions, making it a premium HDR standard.
Dolby Vision Features
Dolby Vision content can achieve peak brightness levels of up to 10,000 nits, which is a lot higher than the 1,000 nits limit of HDR10. As a result, more vibrant highlights and better contrast are shown in the picture. This HDR experience is particularly impressive on modern televisions equipped with high brightness levels and per-pixel dimming, such as OLED TVs.
It can display up to 68.7 billion colors because it has a higher bit depth of 12 bits. This means it can produce a wider range of shades for a single color, creating a more realistic and vivid picture on your screen.
Dolby Vision utilizes dynamic metadata, which permits the constant transmission of metadata to the TV for each scene and occasionally even every frame. This implies that Dolby Vision has an improved ability to adjust the image to account for variations between different frames within the same content.
The Consumer Electronics Association released the open-source standard HDR10 in 2015. It includes a wide color gamut and 10-bit color and is the most popular HDR format. HDR10 indicates that a screen can display high dynamic range images with ample detail in bright and dark areas, as well as good contrast. These monitors are ideal for photo editing.
An HDR10 screen’s color gamut should adhere to the Rec. 2020 specification. However, it is important to note that even if a monitor is adhering to this gamut, it may not be capable of displaying all of the colors within it.
HDR10 uses static metadata, which means that the brightness level is set at the beginning of the movie and remains the same throughout, regardless of whether the scene is bright or dark.
The film studio determines these brightness levels during the mastering process, which can sometimes result in dark scenes appearing too light because they cannot fully utilize the TV’s brightness range.
HDR10+ is built on similar technology as the HDR10 format. It was made to enhance the end-user experience by improving on the existing technology. The Amazon Video streaming service and Samsung have introduced HDR10+ for enhancing picture quality which works similarly to HDR10 but with a different approach.
HDR 10+ Features
HDR10+ uses dynamic metadata to constantly adjust the brightness and color levels of each frame, resulting in a more realistic picture. HDR10+ offers up to 4000 nits of brightness and also has a royalty-free HDR standard.
Even though it doesn’t require any royalty fees, manufacturers and streaming services are not adopting it as much as other formats. Although some titles on Amazon Prime Video support HDR10+, it is not widely used.
Comparison of HDR Formats: Dolby Vision vs. HDR10 vs. HDR10+
Before choosing a device between the three HDR formats, you must understand how each differs from the other. Let’s find out.
|Peak brightness||10,000 nits||1,000 nits||4,000 nits|
|Metadata||Dynamic metadata||Static metadata||Dynamic metadata|
|Backward compatibility||With HDR10||None||With HDR10|
|Streaming support||Netflix, Paramount+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, (US), Disney+, HBO Max (US), and more.||Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Rakuten TV, Apple TV Plus and Disney Plus||Amazon Prime Video, Paramount+, Apple TV|
Dolby Vision vs. HDR10
Dolby Vision is a proprietary technology owned by Dolby that offers higher color depth than HDR10, which is a free and open standard that does not require TV producers or content creators to pay for implementation. Dolby Vision can display 12-bit color depth, which translates to 68.7 billion colors, whereas HDR10 is limited to 10-bit color depth and 1.07 billion colors.
In comparison, Dolby Vision is superior in terms of quality when compared to HDR 10. However, the content creators will need to pay a premium to the Dolby company to give the true HDR experience to the end users.
Dolby Vision vs. HDR10+
Dolby Vision has a peak brightness of 10,000-nit and a peak resolution of 8K, whereas HDR10+ only offers a max brightness of 4,000 nits. Dolby Vision surpasses HDR10+ in terms of color depth as it has a depth of 12 bits. The difference between the two may not seem significant, but it actually means a lot. The 10-bit color of the HDR10+ translates to around 1 billion colors while the 12-bit of Dolby Vision translates to a huge 68 billion colors.
Both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ use their own dynamic metadata. However, Dolby Vision’s metadata is unique and specifies exactly how each frame of an HDR video should be adjusted to match the display’s capabilities, including black levels, brightness levels, and color gamut. It’s essential to note that Dolby Vision’s dynamic metadata is exclusive to them.
The two dynamic metadata for color volume transform standards, SMPTE ST 2094-10 and SMPTE ST 2094-40, define Dolby Vision and HDR10+, respectively. Dolby Vision offers a greater maximum color depth of 12 bits compared to HDR10+’s 10 bits. Additionally, Dolby Vision has a more established brand name and is considered more future-proof than HDR10+.
HDR10 vs. HDR10+
HDR and HDR10 use static metadata, meaning that the brightness levels are set at the beginning of the movie/video and remain the same throughout. Even if there are scenes with different lighting, such as a bright daylight scene followed by one set in a dark cave, the brightness won’t change.
Film studios set the brightness levels during mastering, which can result in dark scenes appearing lighter than true blacks because of the limited brightness range of the TV.
To address this issue, HDR10+ adjusts the brightness level of each frame using metadata provided by the film studio. By doing so, it can better display the gradations of brightness in scenes with varying levels of light, such as bright daylight and dark caves.
As a result, each scene can have a tailored brightness range that brings out subtle gradations and enhances details.
When it comes to Dolby Vision and HDR10+, there isn’t a clear technical superiority between the two since they both use dynamic metadata to enhance quality. HDR10+ almost matches Dolby Vision’s abilities but has limited content and TV support. On the other hand, HDR10 has an edge because it has more available content and is supported by all 4K TVs.
The difference between the three formats is not very significant. The quality of the TV has a greater effect on HDR. Both formats can produce more dynamic images than we are used to seeing, and HDR provides a more immersive movie experience if the TV displays it correctly.
However, there are certain limitations to consider, as not all TVs can reach the maximum brightness of 10,000 nits or display all HDR colors.