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High Dynamic Range (HDR) Technology Overview


It seems that every time a new technology comes out, there’s a slew of new vocabulary to learn. Recently, the term HDR entered the home theater vocabulary, and without an explanation of what dynamic range is, it’s difficult to understand what high dynamic range is. Luckily, we’re here to explain all the new terminology associated with HDR and the source content that each format supports.

Dynamic Range

In general, dynamic range can be defined as the ratio of the highest to the lowest frequency level that can be transmitted or reproduced. In the case of TVs and projectors, with regard to dynamic range, the frequency being referenced is the color spectrum, since each shade corresponds to a specific wavelength on this spectrum. As such, dynamic range can be thought of as the range of possible color reproduction.

Standard Dynamic Range

The term “standard dynamic range,” or SDR, didn’t enter the home theater vernacular until HDR came about. SDR simply refers to displays and projectors that aren’t HDR compatible.

High Dynamic Range

High dynamic range, as you would guess, indicates a higher dynamic range than SDR; more specifically, an HDR display will be able produce a wider color gamut than an SDR display. What this means for you is a more vibrant image with more detail and less, if any, color banding. To achieve this higher dynamic range, some requirements must be met, which vary by technology.


HDR10: HDR10 was developed by the Consumer Technology Association and was the first HDR display technology released. Generally found in Blu-ray Discs, HDR10 uses static metadata to transmit color information to the display; this means that when you load your HDR10 Blu-ray Disc into your HDR10-compatible Blu-ray player, a signal is sent from the player to your HDR10-compatible display that represents the darkest black level and brightest white level of the contents of the disc. The TV then uses that data as a measuring stick to determine each color tone for every frame on that disc.

It’s important to note that, to view HDR10 video on your display, your source content (Blu-ray Disc or streaming video), source device (Blu-ray player or streaming media device), HDMI cable, display, and anything else connected in that chain (receiver or soundbar, if you play through those) must be HDR10 compatible.

Popular HDR10-compatible displays include the LG UJ6300-series, the LG UJ6470-series, and the VIZIO E-series, all available in multiple sizes.

LG UJ6300-Series 43"-Class HDR UHD Smart IPS LED TV

Dolby Vision: Developed by Dolby Laboratories (yes, as in Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, etc.), Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata. With dynamic metadata, a measuring stick for the color tone is encoded and transmitted for each individual scene, creating the potential for more accurate color reproduction than HDR10. Dolby Vision is found in some Blu-ray Discs, but is also used in broadcast TV and streaming media services.

Note that Dolby Vision requires a display or projector to be built with an onboard Dolby Vision processor, so there’s no firmware update to make your display Dolby Vision compatible. You’ll see shortly why I mention this. Also, just like HDR10, everything in the video chain from content and source device to display must be Dolby Vision compatible.

Most displays that support Dolby Vision will also support HDR10. Popular models include the VIZIO M-series.

VIZIO M-Series 50"-Class HDR UHD SmartCast XLED Plus Home Theater Display

HDR10+: HDR10+ is an update to HDR10 that adds dynamic metadata designed to adjust brightness levels on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis, putting it on par with Dolby Vision. As an open standard, it is possible for HDR10 displays to be upgraded to HDR10+ via a firmware update, though that would be implemented on a per-manufacturer, per-model basis. Panasonic’s recently announced OLED TVs and Blu-ray players will feature HDR10+ support.

HLG: HLG, which stands for hybrid log-gamma, was the first HDR format to work on SDR displays. It does this by using a nonlinear transfer function and a logarithmic curve for a portion of the gamma curve of the incoming signal, perceptibly increasing the overall dynamic range and contrast ratio. It sounds complicated, but all it means is that metadata isn’t required, but the signal still needs to be encoded in HDR. HLG is typically used for broadcast TV.

Nearly all HLG-compatible displays will also support HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Popular models include the LG C7P-series and the LG E7P-series.

LG E7P-Series 55"-Class UHD Smart OLED TV

Advanced HDR by Technicolor: Another relatively new technology, Advanced HDR by Technicolor, allows for the transmission of HDR and SDR content over the same stream, enabling compatibility with all HDR formats, though it promises enhanced image quality for content labeled, “Presented in Technicolor HDR.” Advanced HDR by Technicolor is purported to be able to adapt to any display’s peak brightness on a frame-by-frame basis, delivering more vibrant, detailed images on any TV or projector. While no models currently on the US market support this format, we eagerly anticipate some that do.

And in Conclusion… Ultimately, you’ll want to get a display device that has HDR technology that matches up with the content you’ll be watching. If all you’re watching are Blu-ray Discs and streaming content, then HDR10 and Dolby Vision compatibility will probably be all you need. If you’re a fan of broadcast TV, then you should probably include HLG in your search for your new TV or projector.

I hope that this guide has explained what HDR technology is, the differences between each technology, and the types of media supported by each. As always, if you’re shopping for a new TV, home theater display, or projector, come into the B&H SuperStore to see them for yourself, or contact us by phone at 800-606-6969, chat, or email for friendly, knowledgeable advice.

Are you looking for a new HDR-compatible device? Is HDR something you feel you need in your display technology? Let us know in the Comments section, below and join the conversation!


B&H, does anybody over there curate these articles? The author confuses dynamic range with color gamut. Dynamic range in imaging refers to the ratio between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks. HDR and wide color gamut are distinct concepts.

Hi Marian,

Thank you for your comment! You are correct that in imaging, dynamic range refers to the ratio between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks, but if that were all of the equation in the display/projection field, it would simply be called contrast ratio. This brightness of a display device directly affects the range of possible colors it can create, as the additional brightness makes it easier for the device to create more vibrant hues. So while I didn’t mention brightness, it is a key component in HDR; I simply decided to stick to the primary and most noticeable benefit that the end user is looking for, which is more vibrant color.

Thanks for your question, and thanks for reading B&H Explora!