Netflix has begun rolling out high dynamic range content to customers, offering potentially dramatically improved picture quality – but only for those on the top tier subscription package.
High dynamic range, or HDR, is a format capable of displaying millions more shades of colour and greater brightness gradients per pixel. This results in crisper, more realistic looking video with richer colour depth. Ultra HD Blu-rays, which offer 4K picture quality and launched in the UK this week, also incorporate HDR technology.
The trade off is that you'll need a television or monitor capable of displaying the content, and in Netflix's case, an internet connection fast enough to stream the content. Netflix recommends at least a 25Mbps connection. HDR will also only be available to Premium subscribers – those paying £8.99 per month for the service.
Oddly, Netflix hasn't made much of a fuss over HDR's introduction. There hasn't been a formal announcement, but instead a quiet rollout. However, Yann Lafargue, Netflix's manager of corporate communications, confirmed to FlatPanelsHD that "We are indeed live with HDR. It works with compatible TVs, both in HDR10 and Dolby Vision."
The compatibility factor is likely contributing to Netflix's relative silence. Only the newest screens yet support the format, so it makes some sense not to brag too much about a feature most viewers won't even be able to see. However, this is expected to change rapidly.
"This year, pretty much all the mid- to high-range TV sets from the big manufacturers will support HDR. And, later this year, there will be software upgrades for some of the 2015 models to make them capable," analyst David Watkins told the BBC. "Within three years time, pretty much all screens that are 40in [101cm] or larger will support HDR."
"Content is going to be fairly limited in the short-term. There is a huge financial outlay to build up a solid library of material. But the studios are moving ahead with it."
The launch of HDR is the latest step in Netflix's path to higher quality streaming video. The firm introduced 4K resolution for its high-end subscribers in 2014, with series such as Daredevil shot in the format, and revealed plans for HDR in February.
Content-wise, the format will be supported by new and returning series, mostly Netflix Originals. "We just started streaming in HDR, with Marco Polo season one now available. We will continue to expand the offering," the BBC reports. Other shows, including Daredevil will take advantage of HDR in coming months.