HDR Gets Real: First HDR Film Titles Announced

Hollywood firms up support for the next generation of picture quality

The push towards a high dynamic range (HDR) TV future has taken another significant step forward with the announcement by Fox Home Entertainment of the first movie titles to be released in the HDR picture format.

Fox first revealed its commitment to wide-contrast HDR technology (explained in detail here) in May 2015, when it told the Hollywood Reporter that it was intending to make HDR versions of all its new 4K Ultra High Definition home entertainment releases.

Now it’s taken its HDR support a step further by actually naming its debut HDR releases. And they are: Life Of Pi, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Exodus: Gods and Kings, and The Maze Runner.

It has to be said that this quartet makes for something of a mixed bag in terms of the quality of the films involved. But they are all certainly handsome looking films that should all do a good job of selling the extra picture quality that HDR - together with 4K Ultra High Definition - can deliver. 

HDR Really Works

I’ve already been lucky enough to watch HDR clips from Life of Pi and Exodus while reviewing the Samsung UN65JS9500 TV, and I can confirm that the addition of HDR’s much-expanded luminance and colour range really does take picture quality to the next level. I’d actually argue that it makes even more of a difference than 4K UHD resolution.

The new Fox HDR/4K titles are going to be released initially on streaming service M-GO, from where owners of Samsung’s SUHD televisions will be able to download them to Samsung Video Pack hard disc players.

 

The fact that we’re talking about downloads rather than streams here is important, as it means you won’t necessarily have to have a super-fast broadband connection to enjoy the HDR movies (so long as you’re prepared for a lengthy initial download process).

It’s not clear at this stage how much the films might cost, though it’s possible some or all of them may be offered free as a promotion to people who buy Samsung’s SUHD TVs over a certain sales period.

I’ll update this story when the pricing situation becomes clearer.

Also coming to a UHD Blu-ray near you soon

If you’re not planning to buy a Samsung SUHD in the coming weeks and months, though, don’t worry: the four HDR films will also almost certainly appear on the new UHD Blu-ray format when that launches towards the end of 2015. (More information on this new UHD Blu-ray format can be found here.)

The formal announcement of these first HDR titles will come as welcome news to the TV manufacturers, most of whom have already invested heavily into making their new televisions capable of playing the HDR format despite the previous complete lack of HDR content. 

Samsung’s SUHD HDR-ready TVs have been in shops for a couple of months now, while Sony, LG and Panasonic are all going to be adding HDR to some of their high end TVs via over-the-air software updates in the next few months.

There are still significant questions at the time of writing over exactly what specifications - especially when it comes to brightness and colour - a TV ought to be able to offer in order to really do the HDR format justice. What’s more, as a further complication there are also multiple HDR video formats the content creators can work to.

And wherever there's so much confusion there’s always the possibility that consumers will just not ‘get’ a new technology, or feel too scared by it to adopt it. 

Now that a content creator as signifiant as Fox has come out so solidly in support of it, though, it really does look as if HDR is going to become much more than just another flash in the TV technology pan.

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