HDR TV
Credit: Samsung

High dynamic range or HDR content availability is increasing with each passing day. If you own a modern television or a smartphone, the chances are that you have already experienced some HDR content. But not all HDR content is the same. There are multiple HDR formats, with each offering different features. And Dolby Vision is one of the most prominent ones. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

But before we talk about Dolby Vision, here’s a quick primer on HDR. 

What is HDR? 

High dynamic range is a term that originated with photography. But in the case of video, it is a technology that allows content creators to cover a bigger range of contrast and colors between the darkest of blacks and whitest of whites. This allows a piece of content to have higher brightness, more accurate colors, and better contrast than standard dynamic range or SDR. 

Typically, SDR can only reach 100 nits of brightness and 8-bit or 16.67 million colors. But even the base HDR, known as HDR10, can offer 1000 to 4000 nits peak brightness and 10-bit or 1.07 billion colors.

As mentioned, HDR10 is the base HDR format. It is open, and any display that supports HDR comes with it. However, it is paired with static metadata. Metadata is sort of an instruction manual for a TV on how to show a piece of HDR content. In the case of static metadata, fixed brightness and color range information is provided based on the brightest frame in the whole video. And, there is no information about how to adjust content to suit the capabilities of a display. So while you still get a better experience than SDR, there is no guarantee what you are seeing is close to the creator’s intent.

On the other hand, Dolby Vision is a dynamic HDR format, meaning it comes with dynamic metadata. So let’s talk about it now. 

Dynamic HDR

Dolby Vision HDR (left) vs SDR. Credit: Dolby

Dolby Vision is a proprietary HDR format created by Dolby Labs. As mentioned, it comes with dynamic metadata. Meaning, it includes instructions for the display to adjust its brightness and color levels on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis. As a result, what you see is as close to the creator’s intent as is possible on your TV. 

It also has a few more differences from HDR10. For example, it supports 12-bit color, meaning it can show 68.7 billion colors, far more than HDR10. But there are no 12-bit color depth capable televisions on the market. So the most you can get is 10-bit, which is still 1.07 billion colors. 

Moreover, Dolby Vision content can be mastered at 10,000 nits, but as no displays can reach that level, Dolby Vision content currently tops out at 4,000 nits.  

What is Dolby Vision IQ?

Credit: Dolby

Dolby Vision IQ is an update to the Dolby Vision format, and it’s a feature meant for TVs and displays. It brings the ability to adjust the HDR picture based on the ambient lighting conditions and the content genre. 

It’s no secret that different homes have different lighting conditions. So Dolby wanted to make sure everyone gets the best HDR performance, regardless of the ambient light in their TV room.

Dolby Vision IQ uses an ambient light sensor present in the TV to capture the room’s lighting conditions, and then it dynamically adjusts the picture while keeping the creative intent. For example, if there is a lot of ambient light, it’ll increase the content’s brightness to make sure no darker details are lost.  

It works with all content that is mastered for Dolby Vision. But not every device that comes with Dolby Vision supports it. You have to specifically look for its support in any hardware.

Also read: What is a QLED TV

What is Dolby Vision for Games?

Credit: Dolby

As its name suggests, Dolby Vision for Games brings the HDR format to gaming. But gaming is a little more tricky than regular video content. So Dolby Vision for Games offers all the benefits that are available as a part of Dolby Vision and brings a few extras.

For example, Dolby Vision for Games removes the need to calibrate your display for HDR manually. Instead, the games mastered for Dolby Vision automatically map to your Dolby Vision capable TV, monitor, or display.

Additionally, even when you are playing games mastered for HDR10 or Auto-HDR on Dolby Vision-capable devices, Dolby Vision for Games will improve the experience. It’s not a lot but still more than nothing.

Dolby Vision for Games is available on Xbox Series X and Series S consoles. And there are dozens of gaming titles mastered for it. 

How can you experience Dolby Vision?  

You’ll need a Dolby Vision-ready display or TV and a compatible piece of content. Dolby Vision-ready TV shows and movies are available on streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Apple TV+. Additionally, you can buy Blu-ray releases with Dolby Vision or digital copies from iTunes, Google Play Movies, etc. 

TV manufacturers like LG, Sony, Panasonic, TCL, Vizio, and Hisense sell Dolby Vision-capable TVs. 

Best TVs with Dolby Vision

LG G1 LG C1 Sony A90J Sony A8H Hisense U8G Hisense U7G Vizio OLED 2020
Starts around $1,700 Starts around $1,300 Starts around $2,500 Starts around $1,800 Starts around $750 Starts around $650 Starts around $1,200

I hope this explains Dolby Vision to you. If you’re in the market for a new TV, make sure to check my recommendations on the best OLED TVs.

Gaurav Shukla

Gaurav Shukla is a journalist with over 12 years of experience covering the consumer technology space. He started his career with a self-published Android blog and has since worked with Microsoft's MSN.com,...

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