Video Editing

What is HDR Video?

Posted May 12, 2021
Written by Clipchamp

Heads up! This content is relevant for Clipchamp for personal accounts. Try this link If you're looking for information about Clipchamp for work accounts.

Clipchamp is a free online video editorTry for free
Share this post

It seems like every single year there's a new image technology that you need to make sure your videos get optimized for. Remember when 4K was the newest imaging technology? Now we're looking at resolutions as high as 8K. It's insane how fast imaging technology evolves!

However, as nice as 4K and 8K are, they would be nothing without the support of High Dynamic Range or HDR. 

Landscape photo showcasing difference between HDR and SDR photos

What is HDR?

HDR is an abbreviation for High Dynamic Range, which has almost double the standard "color spaces" of Standard Dynamic Range. HDR produces darker blacks, whiter whites, and can show a greater range of greys between them, while also offering a wider spectrum of colors than SDR.

How does it do this? The usual way HDR works is by simultaneously applying three to four exposures of the same image and overlaying them to get the most accurate picture of an area.

This is how footage that was not filmed in HDR can obtain an HDR-like effect.

Why is it important to understand HDR?

When you look at a still from a movie filmed in HDR and SDR side by side, it's clear to see the difference between them.

In many SDR film clips, bright lights or dark shadows delete details.

When you film in HDR or use HDR-filmed footage, you'll be able to see more of the image as either you or the filmmaker originally saw it.

Plus, if you make your videos HDR friendly, those with HDR-compatible devices will be able to see more of the video you intended, while those with SDR will lose nothing in the process. If you film and edit with HDR devices in mind, you can ensure the best possible viewing experience for everyone.

When should you apply HDR in photos and videos?

Despite its many benefits, HDR is not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

While it's tempting to use the HDR setting on your camera or apply an HDR-like effect to everything you film, there are times when it might be better to stay your hand. Here are a few examples:

HDR to improve exposure 

When you're dealing with a background that's too bright or a subject that's too dim, filming in HDR or applying an HDR effect can help improve the image. 

It can reduce the overexposure in the background while making the details of the dimmed subject more visible.

Taking videos with HDR on a mobile phone

HDR on vivid backgrounds

HDR gets to shine when you use it on vivid scenes and backgrounds where it can bring all the colors and shadows to life. 

Backgrounds can look poorly lit, so if you film them in HDR or apply an HDR effect in post-production, they'll really pop.

When should you not apply HDR?

HDR to remove all shadows

As annoying as shadows can be in your shots, you shouldn't use HDR to eliminate every shadow from your image. If you remove all the shadows from the shot, you'll be left with an image that looks lower-contrast than where you began. Video footage and images need the full spectrum of light and shadows to create depth and dimension.

HDR in low contrast scenes

However, if the scene you're trying to improve is low-contrast, using HDR might not be your best call. While it will boost your colors and contrast, it can make the image feel artificial and lifeless. It might look cinematic but it won't look realistic.

How to edit in an HDR effect?

Now that we've discussed when you should and shouldn't use HDR, let's talk about how you can use it in your filming and editing. 

Fortunately, most phones and medium-to-high-end cameras have an HDR function that you can toggle on and off by default, so you should be able to see what effect it has before you begin filming.

If you didn’t have time to fiddle with the film settings, or you only have access to SDR footage, there are ways you can still get the HDR effect. 

Let's how to make great HDR footage 

Now that we know what is HDR video is, get started on creating videos that offer you a wider range of colors and depth of light and shadows than your everyday video. Play with the feature, and don’t forget to apply the rule of thirds and check on your white balance as you record. When you’re ready, just drag, drop and edit an amazing video in minutes with Clipchamp.

More from the Clipchamp blog

How to make an image transparent

April 29, 2024
Not sure how to make images transparent, or give your image a transparent background?…

How to change image background color

April 29, 2024
Want to change the background color of your images within a video in just a few seconds?…

How to make a logo transparent

April 29, 2024
From sales promo videos and hype reels to demo videos and online trainings , transparent…

Start creating free videos with Clipchamp