Update: High-Dynamic Range Media (HDR)

workflowRecently, the folks at Technicolor ran a webinar featuring Tim Vincent, one of the key colorists behind “Mad Men,” “White Collar,” “The Killing,” “Portlandia,” and the 2016 Golden Globe winner: “Mozart in the Jungle,” providing an update to how high-dynamic range media (HDR) is being used in media today.

Because I think HDR has the potential to change our industry as much, or more, than HD, I wanted to share some highlights from his presentation. (Thanks to Lane Cooper, VP Corporate Communications at Technicolor, for sharing a transcript of Tim’s remarks.)

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Tim: I would say the creative community is adjusting to HDR and what it is and how it looks. Everyone has been used to viewing [media] in a particular way for a long time, and it is taking time for people to learn how to embrace or take advantage of the wide range that comes with HDR. At this point, regardless of the range available in HDR, producing the creatives’ desired visual story is our first priority.

Tim: Regardless of the creative intent, I would advise people to create their HDR versions at the same time as their SDR because you still have the full range of the original captured files to make your creative choices. Down the road, shows that were only done in SDR are not all going to be recreated from scratch and you’ll have to work within the limits of a color corrected picture. This is never my first choice.

Question: What is the biggest challenge today for a colorist?

Tim:  I would say trying to stay up on the latest delivery technologies and tool sets to deliver those would be the biggest responsibility of a colorist. Creatives rely on you to represent them and look out for them in all mediums. The biggest challenge in television will be as the majority of viewers gain HDR as an option on their televisions, creatives will have to be as concerned with the HDR pass as the SDR pass.

Question: Given the variety of TVs that are out there…some that are HD…some UHD…some SDR…some HDR…etc…how much of your work in HDR actually makes it to audiences?

Tim: Currently there are not a lot of home televisions with the capability to view all different formats, but within a couple of years, it will be a large amount. Some of the material that’s being created is available for streaming already. For example, on Amazon Prime when Mozart in the Jungle posted its latest season, both SDR and HDR were available. So far this year all the HDR content, I’ve created was available to the public at the same time as the SDR version.

Question: Are there specific things that you do to ensure that viewers are getting the experience intended by the filmmaker, cinematographer and colorist?

Tim: First off, I try to view my sample content on as many different platforms as I can myself: different high definition TV’s, tablets, laptops, and smartphones. This gives me an idea of how pictures translate to the different mediums. That way I can give an educated opinion and guidance on decision-making depending on the delivery vehicle. [Also, ] making sure my main grading monitor is properly set up consistently is extremely important in having confidence in what you’re making is correct.

Larry adds: HDR is not yet here for all of us. It is evolving quickly. But that doesn’t mean we can afford to ignore it. Where possible, for projects you want to convert to HDR, record camera native media in 4K using at least a 10-bit video codec. Keep your eyes on the UHD Premium standard – UHD Alliance – for consumer support of HDR media in the home. And expect all OS’s and NLEs to display and support HDR in some form in the coming months.

As always, let me know your thoughts.

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