Sony enters the HDR battle

By François Reumont for l’AFC

[ English ] [ français ]

Sony, already very active in the field of visual recording, especially with its line of Cinéalta cameras or its A7 digital cameras, is now interested in high-dynamic-range (HDR) imagery generated by these products.
Richard Lewis, of Sony England, and Pablo Garcia, DIT based in London (having worked in the past on a number of television series like Mr. Sloane or Fleming) came to promote the new HDR Oled BVMX 300 monitor.
Pablo Garcia et Richard Lewis - Photo AFC
Pablo Garcia et Richard Lewis
Photo AFC

“First of all”, explains Richard Lewis, “one must realize the gap that exists between the recording and the display of images in a cinema or on a television screen. Indeed, although almost all current digital cinema cameras are capable of recording HDR images (with the range of luminosity going from 14 stops for the F65 or 12 stops on the A7 in Slog mode), we are currently incapable in most cases of reproducing this wide dynamic range of light on cinema screens. And Sony has decided to attack this problem head-on”.
The solution is therefore using HDR display devices, either via monitors during shooting and postproduction, or in theatres with its new range of projectors, and of course at home, too, with its new consumer HDR TVs that should be available on the market within the next 5 years.
“The enormous advantage of working with HDR monitors”, explains Pablo Garcia, “is that you no longer need LUTs to literally force a HDR image onto a device that can’t display it. Either in terms of contrast (current cinema projectors and non-HDR monitors are limited to displaying a range of 6 stops between blacks and whites), or interms of colour (based on Rec 2020 colorimetry, which is much broader than REC 709, which dates from the time of cathode-ray tubes), the colourist directly displays the image issued from the camera and can see it without post-treatment”.

This approach might seem a bit premature for the time being, since French consumers don’t seem to be quickly updating their television sets, but according to Richard Lewis, “we’re really about to begin a radical change in that area due to the growing availability of consumer-grade HDR television sets”.
He adds, “HDR will no longer be just a way to watch new programmes, but will also be a way to rediscover all of the classic films shot using the HDR standards of their time – film stock – which have, up to now, never been seen with their full dynamic range”.
As for the criticism of those who dislike the overly-realistic side of HDR images and their overly video quality, Pablo Garcia answers that nothing forces a cinematographer or a director to always use the full HDR range on his film. They can decide to deliberately limit the range of luminosity and colour on certain scenes, and cause the light to explode at another time… It’s a question of dosage, an extra tool that helps tell a story.” But what remains to be done is to reach an agreement between all of the players on the market in terms of a new standard for HDR, especially in terms of colorimetry.
The question is currently controversial…

Amongst the first films mastered and released in HDR are the Netflix Marco Polo series, produced by Weinstein, and Disney’s What Tomorrow Isn’t, starring George Clooney (screened in the USA in the Dolby Vision chain of cinemas, which are currently the only ones equipped to project in HDR).

Written by François Reumont for the AFC, and translated from French by Alex Raiffe.

  • More information about HDR.
    infos HDR_X300_Version_anglaise