Developers fake HDR in games!

Another day, another bullshit is happening in the video games industry! HDR or High Dynamic Range is kind of new thing in audio video market at the moment and of course, it has landed to the land video and computer (which are all the same in my books) games as well.

What is HDR? Well, it’s technical but the short answer would be it’s a bigger color space for your entertainment. The industry is moving on from traditional 8-bit depth 16,7 million colors to the 10-bit depth and over 1 billion colors and in not so distant future to the 12-bit depth (Dolby Vision standard) and almost 68 billion colors. You get my drift already?

In practice, this means we can see more detail in our content and it will look more life-like. This means more detail in dark and bright portions of the image and more color. Don’t worry I’m not going more into technical details. Let’s get to the topic itself.

So I disabled HDR…..
Oh. The game offered more contrast, was brighter and more saturated. Essentially the exact opposite of what I would expect to happen.

– EvilBoris 2018

Faked HDR?

So, what’s faked HDR then? You might ask. Basically, it’s the traditional SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) image converted to the HDR color space without actually getting any more detail, only making the image even brighter (more HDR like for untrained eye) or darker. Basically, you even elevate or crush black level. Elevated blacks make the image look washed out and crushed black levels make the image look too dark and lose shadow detail. I noticed this immediately when I first started playing Rockstar’s latest masterpiece Red Dead Redemption 2. Yes, RDR2 is one of those games that fake HDR and we shouldn’t give them a free pass for it.

The brilliant Youtube TV review channel HDTVTest confirmed this by putting out the video below. I highly recommend you watch it. Even though this video concentrates on Xbox One X, it’s the same thing on PS4 Pro and most likely on every Xbox One and PS4 console that supports HDR.

Are there other games with faked HDR?

Yes, there is. To my knowledge at the moment when this article was written, there are few games confirmed the have fake HDR. You can find the list of these games below and I’ll be updating this list in the future. So, stay tuned! Special thanks to EvilBoris and HDTVTest doing this important work!

Games with faked HDR confirmed:

  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Fallout 76
  • NieR: Automata

I hope EvilBoris and HDTVTest and likes of Digital Foundry will continue testing different games with advertised HDR so we can grow this list as needed. I’ll put all my games to test even though I can’t scientifically confirm if a game has faked HDR or not.

Developers and publishers, don’t do this! Gamers are not stupid. If this continues the HDR may even suffer the fate of 3D. If people are underwhelmed and disappointed by HDR, like they were early 3D they don’t want to be any part of it.

Only if those 3D haters based on their crappy 3D TV and poorly implemented content would see it in action on 4K OLED TV with LG’s passive 3D and so lightweight glasses you forget you are wearing them after a minute. Add to that proper implementation not a gimmicky way and they’d change their minds.

Good read on 4K and HDR: https://dgit.com/4k-hdr-guide-45905/

EvilBoris’ post about HDR in NieR: Automata: https://www.resetera.com/threads/nier-automata-has-fake-hdr-on-xbox-please-devs-dont-make-this-a-thing.52740/

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