Autor: Tobias Wiedmer

HDR in shooting and grading 2 / 3

In-Depth and Best Practice for HDR.

When shooting for an HDR evaluation, you should pay attention to a few things when shooting, so that there are no problems later in postproduction. The camera should record either RAW or a logarithmic RGB image. Rec709 with Gamma 2.4 or a burned-in look should be avoided in any case. The sensor of the camera and the codec should work in a quantization of at least 10 bits. Using inferior cameras, such as many DSLRs, GoPros and most drones, can lead to banding and compression artifacts that can be seen much more clearly in HDR than in SDR. Ideally you should work with the Arri Alexa, a RED, Panasonic Varicam, Sony F55/F65/Venice, Blackmagic Ursa Mini, Canon C700/C300II or classic 35mm film.


When exposing, it is important to protect lights and shadows. This means using exposure and lighting to ensure that there is no clipping in the signal.

Pan speed

Due to the subjectively more strongly perceived image sharpness, pans can be visually more jerky. The differences are particularly noticeable in the brighter image areas, which do not attract as much attention with SDR because there are no longer as many differences in brightness.


Lighting for HDR is a very interesting topic. In particular, the fact that in the next few years you will have to continue to use the SDR format in addition to HDR and thus inevitably make compromises. In general, the cameramen for HDR can light up in the same way as for SDR. This is a good sign when it comes to the compatibility of the two standards. In detail, however, there are differences with considerable effects. These details and how to handle them in grading will be explained later in the article.

Grading in HDR

The basic prerequisite for grading in HDR is access to an HDR monitor. Without this device, which is relatively expensive to purchase, you cannot do HDR grading. Since both Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) and the PQ-based standards (e.g. HDR10) have to be used as standards, one should first consider for which color space one colors.

HDR10 has the big advantage that it uses Dolby's PQ curve, which provides a natural gradation of the lights.
HLG has a simpler design. Fortunately, you can visually convert from HDR10 to HLG without loss, so that you can take advantage of the good characteristics of the PQ curve, even if you deliver an HLG delivery for ZDF, for example.
Rec. 2100 is usually prescribed as the delivery gamut. However, you should avoid creating colors outside the P3 gamut, as these can lead to unpredictable clipping on TV sets whose gamut is too small. This can be achieved with Color Management.

For PQ Deliveries, the metadata MaxFALL (max. Average Light Level), MaxCLL (max. Content Light Level), Gamut, EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function), max. Luminance and min. Luminance must be calculated and specified after grading so that the display between the mastering display and the end device can be converted correctly.

Room brightness

Grading suites are divided into different room brightness levels. Cinema grading is performed in the dark environment - the only light source is the projected image on the screen. SDR TV grading is done on a monitor in a suite with background light. This background light should correspond exactly to the white point of the monitor, i.e. 6,500 K (D65) and on average 1/10 of the maximum luminance of the monitor; at 100 Nits this would correspond to 10 Nits. For HDR, the ambient luminance is again reduced to 5 Nits at D65 white point.

Color Managed Workflows

Many colorists are familiar with adapting a movie grading to a TV grading. In comparison to an adjustment between HDR and SDR this is comparatively simple, because only the gamut and the gamma are changed. With HDR10 we not only change the gamma adjustment, but also use a completely different curve. As a result, the lights are very different from each other. It is therefore not possible to convert a film colored for SDR into a high-quality HDR master with an adjustment. 

Through SDR grading, the material was already transferred from the logarithmic recording curve to a Gamma 2.4-compatible image through technical and creative grading. All differences in brightness of the lights in the scenery recorded by the camera are thus brought together. If one were now to convert to HDR10, the brightest lights would be at 100 Nits and one would only have a technical conversion without added value - an SDR image in an HDR container. You could try to stretch the brightest lights a bit brighter. But you don't have a good color in these areas, and access to the natural highlight graduation is no longer possible. 

An advantage of a delivery of SDR in an HDR container in comparison to the SDR delivery would be that the HDR metadata would be sent to the TV terminals and these would then communicate the picture settings, so that the content would probably look more correct than it was the case before. But if you want to create an HDR master from an SDR master that also has a visual added value, you either have to color it completely new, or you use Color Managed Workflows. They simplify these adjustments, among other things.

Basically, these workflows work in a similar way. The camera material has to be characterized by the recording gamut and the recording curve and then transformed into a working color space with the right transform. Alternatively, this can also be done using color grading. By choosing the working color spaces, you can influence how the color tools work, and choose one that best fits your grading style. Then there is a target transform into a target color space.

The target color spaces should be able to cover as many color ranges as possible and for HDR10 many maximum brightness levels. The officially available system, which is probably the best on the market, is the Color Management System (CMS) in Baselight from Filmlight. It automatically diagnoses the camera material and automatically converts it into the working color space. If a conversion or setting is not optimal, the system warns the user. With the DRT (Display Rendering Transform) Family Truelight CAM you can realize different target transformations, e.g. for HDR10 1.000 Nits P3 D65, HDR10 600 Nits P3 D65 and SDR Gamma 2,4 100 Nits Rec709.

However, the possible trim passes are very limited in comparison to a free adjustment with all grading tools, and depending on the look, it can be very difficult to generate an SDR variant corresponding to the HDR master. Read more about HDR workflows in Baselight on page 22.

At Cine Chromatix we use a self-developed system with Assimilate Scratch, which is very similar to the Filmlight system. In Resovle there is the Resolve Color Management (RCM). As a platform-independent CMS ACES should be mentioned in any case. The camera formats are converted into the ACES working color space using IDT (Input Device Transform) and are then given a technical transform that is supposed to reproduce the image as realistically as possible (RRT - Reference Rendering Transform). This is followed by ODT (Output Device Transform), which can be used to cover various target color spaces. In the HDR area, there are not yet all the necessary transformations. However, work is underway to enable parameterized ODTs for all uses (color spaces, maximum luminance, black levels, viewing room brightness). You can read what this looks like in practice from page 40 onwards.

Dolby Vision Workflow is a special form of Color Managed Workflow. You either need a hardware box for this, or you can work with a software solution with reduced possibilities. In contrast to HDR10, this box, which is called CMU (Content Management Unit), performs the trim passes from e.g. 4,000 Nits to 1,000 Nits as optimally as possible. For individual adjustments one has now special functions within the CMU. These are stored as metadata shot by shot and can thus be called up by the TV terminals.

A visual advantage of Dolby Vision, in addition to the greater bit depth (12 bits instead of 10 bits), is that the consumer TVs are certified by Dolby and are set so that they visually reproduce the result of the mastering monitor in the best possible way. With HDR10, the display itself is responsible for mapping content that is too bright, for example, so dark that the content looks as similar in colour as possible.

This is done from manufacturer to manufacturer with different approaches. Sony maintains the color representation rather and uses only a small rolloff. This may result in a slight white clipping. LG, on the other hand, avoids white clipping. However, the disadvantage is that the picture can be darker than the creative wanted it to be.
Grading techniques for HDR

If you're grading your first project for HDR, you should plan a little more time. The color space is completely different from SDR, and it takes some time to find your way around. What's new about SDR is the brilliance of the lights. This does not only mean direct light sources in the picture, but above all also the Effect of light on the skin of actors. Edge lights have a much stronger effect in HDR. Even a guide light has much more power on one half of the face. This makes the gradation feel different. 

One sees the structures of the skin more, impure skin appears more. Changes in light (e.g. due to clouds) have a stronger effect. When you start grading, you should build a Layer-Tree / Node-Tree that already has the appropriate tools ready to control the lights. If you wouldn't see the lights a little weakened during matching, then you would always expect your eyes to have especially bright lights, which can easily be as high as 1,000 Nits. This puts a strain on the eyes when working for several hours, especially with the lower room brightness.

By weakening the lights you can slow down the enormous power of HDR a bit and feel the picture impression a bit more natural. The potential to give more power to the lights remains and this can be used. Shots that do not contain special lights should not necessarily be colored much brighter than diffuse white (100 Nits). HDR lives from the fact that one can draw attention with the potential. This gives you more means to support the narratives in terms of colour. In the following I will name some scenarios that are challenging in a way and describe how to deal with them.

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