Update: Netflix has now announced some of the first titles that will be released in HDR on the site. See the list below.
Netflix has officially begun streaming High Dynamic Range video.
The news that the VOD giant has started to roll out HDR support arrives in a week full of Netflix announcements, as the company holds a promotional event in Paris. HDR, though, has been curiously absent from the list of announcements, with a spokesperson confirming that they’ve just started streaming in HDR, as if it were no big deal.
HDR, for those who think it is no big deal, is another step up the visual quality ladder from HD. While 4K is the buzzword of the day, offering four times the 1080p (1K) resolution of a Full HD screen, HDR is slightly different: it means that the pixels are able to show a greater range of brightness between black and white – an improvement that, unlike 4K, is noticeable no matter how big the screen is.
HDR is already thought to be the next big thing in the online video game, with YouTube and Netflix both announcing their intent to support the format.
Neil Hunt, chief product officer at Netflix, first outlined their plans for HDR at 2015’s CES: “With 4K, there are enough pixels on the screen that your eyeball can’t really perceive any more detail, so now the quest for more realism turns into, can we put better pixels on the screen?”
At CES this year, Netflix revealed that it had already mastered Daredevil in the format ready for release later this year. The first show officially out of the HDR gate, though, is Marco Polo, with Season 1 now available.
“We will continue to expand the offering,” a spokesman for the firm told the BBC today.
HDR streaming, though, will only be available to Netflix subscribers on the top tier package. At present, the VOD service offers three levels of pricing: £5.99 a month, for standard definition streaming on a maximum of one screen at a time; £7.49 a month, for HD streaming on a maximum of two screens at the same time; and £8.99 a month, for up to 4K streaming and HDR with up to four screens streaming simultaneously.
While HDR content is limited, though, analysts expect the number of compatible devices to increase. David Watkins of Strategy Analytics told the Beeb: “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.
“And, within three years time, pretty much all screens that are 40in [101cm] or larger will support HDR.”
Indeed, Netflix’s website says that HDR is available on supported devices from LG, Samsung, Sharp and Sony. If you have an HDR capable TV and the four-screen Netflix streaming plan, available titles will display an HDR logo next to their description.
“Content is going to be fairly limited in the short-term,” added Watkins. “There is a huge financial outlay to build up a solid library of material. But the studios are moving ahead with it.”
Amazon certainly is: while Netflix is only just introducing HDR streaming, the online retailer introduced HDR support last summer. Season 1 of Amazon’s original series Mozart in the Jungle was the first show available in the higher picture quality, at no extra cost to subscribers.
Coming soon in HDR
Some of the additional titles Netflix plans to make available in both Dolby Vision and HDR formats:
A Series of Unfortunate Events
Knights of Sidonia
Marvel’s Iron Fist
Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Marvel’s Luke Cage
Marvel’s The Defenders
The Ridiculous Six