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What is HDR and why would it revolutionize the world of video games?

This revolutionary technology is present in the world of photography, but it will also have enormous value for the field of video games.

Frame from a video game

This technique, which is already used in photography, can change the perception of video games. / Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Ariel Cipolla

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Leer en español: ¿Qué es el HDR y por qué revolucionaría el mundo de los videojuegos?

When new technological devices come out, in addition to hardware improvements, we see that new technology is incorporated into software. For example, we were able to discover that the new iPhone 12 allows recording in HDR Dolby Vision in real-time, being a unique novelty because it allows the user to record videos with professional quality.

Although HDR in particular is being used a lot in the photographic field of smartphones, the reality is that it is also being used more and more in the field of video games. For example, the automatic HDR mode of the new Xbox Series X is an incredible change in terms of graphics, as it seems to revolutionize the way in which the details of each character are perceived.

In other words, the new generations of consoles would take advantage of their innovative hardware to implement improvements at the software level. Given this scenario, we decided to investigate more about HDR technology. 

HDR in video games

The first thing to do is obviously define HDR technology. At first, we could characterize it as the part that is responsible for delivering scenes with more realistic colors and higher contrast, representing a significantly greater leap in image quality than that of the last UHD revolution.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, that is, High Dynamic Range. The idea is that the widest possible range of exposure levels can be covered in all areas of the image. For example, in mobile photography, it is common to want to take photos in which the amount of light is very different in each area. 

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Hence, with the passage of time and the graphical improvement that the new generation of consoles and the titles that are released with them grant, HDR can be a qualitative leap that represents that improvement that we expect over previous generations. 

For example, this can be seen when the light contrast is enhanced on the stage. In this way, we get whiter whites, blacker blacks and a better tonality of colors. So the colors look closer to how our eyes perceive them in the real world. Hence, for example, a watermelon in a game commonly looks a different shade from real life.

This, of course, implies qualitative leaps for some genres, as is the case with terror. In titles of this style, there are dark scenes where there are light sources, where parts light up and parts go out. Another example is open-world titles with beautiful outdoor landscapes, where the ocean reflects part of the scenery.

Logically, there are several types of HDR. From Xataka they indicate that, mainly, there are the following: HDR10, HDR10 +, HDR HLG, HDR Dolby Vision and dynamic HDR. It is precisely the latter that allows you to adjust the different parameters in real-time, something that is ideal for video games. Unlike cinema, for example, where the tape is "predefined", in games, according to our progress, different scenarios will be loaded, so the graphics must adapt to our movements.

In addition to the power of the consoles, the quality of the HDR content will depend on the signal obtained, the contrast of the panel and its color depth. Then, depending on the television you have, you can obtain a greater range of tones, which will vary in the representation of the color that you will see on the screen.

If you are interested in knowing the technological revolution that HDR  will bring, you can already try some titles of excellent quality. For example, Star Wars Battlefront II, Call of Duty WWII, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Gears of War 4 or also Horizon: Zero Dawn The Frozen Wilds. Over time, HDR will be a determining factor in having a complete gaming experience.