Glossary:High dynamic range (HDR)

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For a list of games, see games with high dynamic range support.

Key points

Expanded dynamic range allows for more vibrant colors and greater contrast in supported games on HDR-compatible displays.
Support is still low; new games are not guaranteed to support it, wrappers/injectors/overlays without support will look bland and washed out in HDR mode, and tools/features without support won't function properly, such as the inability to capture screenshots using Steam in HDR mode.[1]

General information

High dynamic range at Wikipedia
In-depth UHDTV (HDR and WCG) explanation

HDR rendering[edit]

This was typically known as "HDR" in relation to gaming in the 2000s before the arrival of HDR output compatible TVs and monitors in the 2010s.

High-dynamic-range rendering at Wikipedia

High-dynamic-range rendering (HDRR, HDR rendering or high-dynamic-range lighting) is the process of generating computer graphics scenes using lighting calculations done in high dynamic range (HDR). This allows preservation of details that may be lost due to limiting contrast ratios, by mimicking the way cameras and even eyes handle light exposure. It is especially helpful when rendering scenes with multi-layer surfaces, especially when the surface is using normal and specular maps or even highly reflective surfaces (like the water), which can not be rendered correctly in Standard Dynamic Range.[2]

Another important area where HDRR is useful are exceptionally dark and exceptionally bright areas as well as transitions between them. Using a dynamic tone-mapping, HDRR can adjust the exposure of a scene based on the amount of light in it to simulate a camera lens adjusting to the light.[2] But games rendering in HDR don't necessarily output that image in HDR display compatible range. Due to technical limitations of SDR monitors of the 2000s when HDR rendering became more common, game developers had to map that vastly bigger dynamic range back onto what consumer displays commonly support. Since the introduction of HDR monitors in the 2010s, games that supports HDR output does not need to perform this unless the game and monitor is running in SDR mode.

HDR output on a HDR display[edit]

This is the modern definition of "HDR" in relation to gaming after the arrival of HDR output compatible TVs and monitors in the 2010s.

High Dynamic Range output or High Dynamic Range is a technology that first and foremost enables a screen to display an image at a much greater range of contrast. In practice this usually goes hand in hand with an increased color bit depth from standard 8-bits per color to 10-bits per color or more. In any case, both the software, graphics card (incl. driver), connection and display need to support this technology in order to actually be able to put a HDR image onto a HDR display.

According to the Ultra HD Alliance's UHD Premium certification, HDR displays must have either a peak brightness of over 1000 cd/m² and a black level less than 0.05 cd/m2 (a contrast ratio of at least 20,000:1) or a peak brightness of over 540 cd/m² and a black level less than 0.0005 cd/m² (a contrast ratio of at least 1,080,000:1).

More recently VESA has published a certification of its own, called DisplayHDR, breaking the market down into 3 segments of 400, 600 and 1000cd/m² required max brightness by the display among other details.

Support in games[edit]

For a list of games, see games with high dynamic range support.

This refers to support in games for providing HDR output on a HDR display. It does not refer to HDR rendering. Games released before 2017 have no support for HDR output, unless it was patched in later.
Windows 10 v1703 ("Creators Update") or later as well as a HDR compatible graphics card, connection, and display are required in order to actually be able to show HDR content inside of only a window. Refer to the game-specific articles for details on how to enable HDR support. Applications running in fullscreen mode do not rely on Windows but can use the graphics card drivers and proprietary APIs to bypass the OS.


  1. Verified by User:Aemony on 2018-04-09
    This is the state of the thing now, at least. I hope that Microsoft/Nvidia/someone comes up with an automatic SDR->HDR translation layer soon, because currently it's quite bad.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Half-Life 2: Lost Coast Developer Commentary