Netflix Australia has announced plans to add 100 hours of High Dynamic Range (HDR) programming by August, with another 50 hours slated to appear by the end of 2016. If you're not a card-carrying videophile, you might be wondering what this announcement means and how it affects your Netflix viewing experience. We explain everything you need to know.
What is HDR?
HDR is a digital imaging technology that provides a greater dynamic range of luminosity than standard imaging techniques. This results in significant improvements to colour, contrast, and brightness without increasing the native pixel count.
As explained by Netflix:
"While 4k offers more pixels, HDR offers better pixels that have greater depth, and on HDR screens you get brighter highlights, more detail in dark scenes, and a wider color range that more closely matches the real world."
This higher level of contrast between light and dark results in increased realism that has been dubbed "true to life". The colours are extremely accurate and boast a higher range. Here's an example of the typical improvements HDR images bring:
Standard image (left) vs. HDR image (right) [Source: Business Insider]
If you care about how movies and TV shows look on your TV screen, this is a pretty big deal. According to Netflix, the technological leap forward is just as significant as the addition of surround sound or the introduction of HD and 4k.
When is HDR coming?
Netflix started providing HDR streams in mid-March, but the available content is set to increase dramatically in the months ahead. Original movies and TV shows that will be getting the HDR treatment include A Series of Unfortunate Events, Bloodline, Chef’s Table, Hibana, Knights of Sidonia, Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Defenders, The Do-Over and The Ridiculous Six.
What do I need?
While you don't need a 4K TV to enjoy HDR images, you do need a new and reasonably high-end TV model. The benefits of HDR can still be seen in 1080p resolution at bandwidths slightly higher than current HD, but you're going to need a television panel that supports either 2016 Dolby Vision or HDR. All 2016 TVs from every major manufacturer will support Netflix Dolby Vision or HDR, but support on earlier models is a lot patchier. If you're unsure, consult your manual.
To get HDR content on Netflix, you also need to be signed up the Ultra HD package, which runs for $14.95 per month. As we predicted earlier in the week, it seems Netflix is keen to upgrade its customers from the entry-level plan. This seems like a pretty smart way of going about it.
How do I find it on Netflix?
Moving forward, all HDR-compatible shows on Netflix will have the "Dolby vision" or "HDR" icon in the movie or show details. You can also bring up a full list of HDR content by typing "HDR" into the search box.