During CES at the beginning of this year, YouTube announced that support for HDR (High Dynamic Range) video would be coming to the platform. As the end of 2016 began to draw near, it looked like viewers might have to wait until 2017, but that isn’t the case, as YouTube officially launched HDR support on Monday.
While 4K might currently be the hot thing in TVs, HDR is quickly on the rise, and for good reason. Whereas 4K is simply higher resolution, HDR makes for darker blacks, brighter whites, and deeper color, meaning you don’t need to be eagle-eyed to notice the difference. “Simply put,” the YouTube blog post announcing the new feature reads, “HDR unlocks the most spectacular image quality we’ve ever streamed.”
Last month, Google unveiled the new Chromecast Ultra, which supports both 4K and HDR, which is likely part of the reason this feature is launching now. Right now, this is the only device that actually supports HDR playback on TVs, though YouTube’s announcement also mentioned that HDR playback will be coming to 2016 Samsung SUHD TVs and UHD TVs in the near future.
At least for now, YouTube HDR videos use HDR10 and Hybrid Log Gamma. The latter isn’t currently well supported, but HDR10 is an open standard supported by many companies, so most manufacturers are looking to support this format. If your TV only supports Dolby Vision — the other major HDR standard currently used — you’re currently out of luck, and there is no word on whether YouTube will support this format in the future.
Along with the launch of the new format support, YouTube also announced that new content will be available today to show off HDR, coming from creators like MysteryGuitarMan, Jacob + Katie Schwarz, and Abandon Visuals. All of this can be found in YouTube’s HDR launch playlist. The company has also worked with the creators of video color grading software DaVinci Resolve to make uploading HDR videos as easy as any other video.
If you want to know more, take a look at our guide to all things HDR, which runs down the differences between HDR and standard dynamic range, the different competing standards, and more.
Updated on 11-08-2016 by Kris Wouk: Edited to clarify that HDR playback on TVs is currently only available via the Chromecast Ultra.