Conceptually, 4K may appear to be a more impressive technology than high dynamic range (HDR), but only because it is easier to wrap your head around. Understanding that 3,840 x 2,160 pixels is more than 1,920 x 1,080 requires nothing more than a basic concept of how numbers work, but the actual perceived difference between 4K and Full HD usually isn’t so clear. HDR, on the other hand, is more difficult to explain, but the difference it makes in image quality is as clear as night and day.
Fortunately, 4K and HDR are being developed almost in tandem, though the latter has lagged a bit behind. As HDR televisions become more common, the problem shifts from the consumer to the creator; without HDR content, there’s nothing to watch. Sony recently outlined its plans for end-to-end HDR workflows at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, with plans for cinema, online video, and even live broadcasts.
While most of the new tech deals with the back end of production environments, Sony is keeping the lower-budget creators in mind as well. The compact FS5 cinema camera and Z150 camcorder both support Sony’s new Instant HDR workflow. Instant HDR gives lower-scale productions an efficient way to shoot, edit, and deliver HDR content without the need for color grading. This will be useful for corporate and event videos, news, and any other projects with quick turnaround times.
On the higher end, Sony unveiled an entirely new video file format, called X-OCN, that sort of bridges the gap between RAW and compressed formats. Available for the F55 cinema camera, X-OCN offers significant space savings over RAW and even professional compressed formats like Apple ProRes, while including the full tonal range of the sensor with 16-bit precision. While Sony stated it does not intend for X-OCN to replace RAW for large studios, the format should greatly help lower-budget productions which can’t afford the storage requirements for RAW video but still want to maximize image quality.
For more on how HDR works, check out our guide to the technology.