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Add a little color – Why movies look better in HDR

When you think of High Dynamic Range, you probably think of shooting videos and photos in HDR. Smartphones have long featured HDR as a camera option, allowing you to capture darker blacks and more vibrant colors. Up until recently, the idea of watching HDR content was only possible on high-caliber TVs with equally high price tags. Now that HDR viewing has made its way to the smartphone, you might be wondering why that matters.

Starting with the OnePlus 6T, all of our devices have supported HDR viewing. However, there’s still a big difference between viewing HDR videos on the OnePlus 6T’s display and watching those same videos on the OnePlus 8 Pro. First things first, what is a High Dynamic Range? On its most basic level, a video viewed in HDR features a wider, brighter, and more vivid color range. This means shadows are dark and imposing, sunrises are impressively bright, and every dress or flower bursts with color. Held side-by-side, SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) can look downright muted when compared to HDR.

Specifically, a dynamic range refers to the range of colors between the darkest black tones and lightest white tones a display is capable of producing. In practice, this means content viewed on an HDR-capable display looks more realistic, as a wider range of color means more colors are preserved during a video’s journey from its initial recording to your screen. Darker shadows and brighter highlights also offer more depth in video, making for a more immersive viewing experience. If you’ve ever wanted to know just how red blood in a Tarantino film can get, an HDR display is a must.

But, before you boot up an old favorite, don’t expect Robocop to suddenly look like a movie shot in 2020. That’s because a movie has to be specifically encoded with dynamic metadata to be viewable in HDR. While it’s still early days for HDR films and shows, we’re slowly starting to see more HDR-ready content on YouTube and Netflix. The variation of colors on display is what sets HDR content apart, further supported by outputting 10-bit color, which delivers 1,073,741,824 different color variations. Given that the human eye can identify up to a total of ten million colors, the OnePlus 8 Pro is technically capable of producing more detail than anyone will ever perceive.

Hardware alone doesn’t make for a pleasant viewing experience however, as a high color range can blow up the wrong colors, creating an unpleasant experience. This is where color accuracy comes into play, which determines how accurately a display shows every color. A display that is either too warm or too cold can wrongly tint an image or video, adversely affecting the realistic representation of a given scene. In order to show content the way it was intended, a display needs to closely match the color gamut standard used to shoot the content (with as little variance as possible.) Natural Mode on the OnePlus 8 Pro helps your display automatically determine what color gamut needs to be used to show your content correctly. Thanks to Natural Mode, the OnePlus 8 Pro’s colors are nearly indistinguishable from the most commonly used color gamuts (sRGB and DCI-P3).

Over the past couple of months and years, you’ve probably seen countless bold claims about display quality being thrown around. The true goal of advancing display technologies is to make our displays more and more capable of showing content the way it was intended. The reason content looks better with HDR turned on has less to do with the amount of colors being pushed, and everything to do with the fact that your favorite film almost indistinguishable from real life. At its finest, a great display can transport you to the scene of the film.


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