HDR games analysed

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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
Wow this is amazing effort and great thread!

I knew Monster Hunter was fucked lol. I really hope they get that fixed. Even though the shadows are borked, I noticed that HDR pretty much eliminates color banding so I leave it on.

So to setup HDR properly you first turn it on in-game, and then adjust in-game brightness for black levels? See, I never understood that part. The games always ask you to adjust brightness to make something "barely visible" but I never knew if you were suppossed to do that before or after turning HDR on. Now I know, and this will probably help a whole bunch with my perception of HDR.
yes for the most part, however I have come across a game where the brightness control is linked directly to the SDR version of the game.

Hitman for exampe has gamma locked out, but if you disable HDR and alter it, it carries across into the HDR mode.
I had increased this at some point prior to having an HDR TV and the game always kind looked a bit washed out in HDR and I couldn't quite pinpoint the problem.
 

FinKL

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
1,118
Awesome thread! Can finally put numbers against implementation. No more "HDR is a game changer!" or "HDR makes it look worse!" It looks like it literally changes on a game by game basis, but not only that TV by TV basis as not everyone has a TV that can display the full luminous spectrum
 

Bloodforge

Member
Oct 25, 2017
184
Earth
Wow this is amazing effort and great thread!

I knew Monster Hunter was fucked lol. I really hope they get that fixed. Even though the shadows are borked, I noticed that HDR pretty much eliminates color banding so I leave it on.

So to setup HDR properly you first turn it on in-game, and then adjust in-game brightness for black levels? See, I never understood that part. The games always ask you to adjust brightness to make something "barely visible" but I never knew if you were suppossed to do that before or after turning HDR on. Now I know, and this will probably help a whole bunch with my perception of HDR.
Yeah I never touched the brightness settings in games and just left it alone and only changed the hdr setting. Lowering the brightness in game makes it look even better. They should just default the brightness in hdr mode to lowest and have the user raise it if they want.
 

freeradical

Member
Oct 27, 2017
386
Fantastic! I always wondered why games had HDR sliders. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

In regards to Forza Horizon 3 and HDR, I believe some users were experiencing issues (myself included) with the image being "too dark"
which was confirmed by the developer https://forums.forzamotorsport.net/turn10_postsm863545_HDR-improper-exposure-with-Xbox-One-X-Enhanced-update.aspx
A fix was rolled out, but users have not noticed any improvement.
I take it your luminescence map of FH3 was with the latest patch? 1.0.117
 

Sky87

Member
Oct 27, 2017
887
This makes me excited for next week when i get my LG C7, got Horizon Frozen Wilds and UC4 Lost Legacy in my backlog to test it out with.
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
Yeah I never touched the brightness settings in games and just left it alone and only changed the hdr setting. Lowering the brightness in game makes it look even better. They should just default the brightness in hdr mode to lowest and have the user raise it if they want.
Fantastic! I always wondered why games had HDR sliders. Thanks for the detailed explanation.

In regards to Forza Horizon 3 and HDR, I believe some users were experiencing issues (myself included) with the image being "too dark"
which was confirmed by the developer https://forums.forzamotorsport.net/turn10_postsm863545_HDR-improper-exposure-with-Xbox-One-X-Enhanced-update.aspx
A fix was rolled out, but users have not noticed any improvement.
I take it your luminescence map of FH3 was with the latest patch? 1.0.117
Whilst I agree that it makes it better, each person does need to do it based upon their viewing environment too.
That low brightness setting will look great for some late night gaming, but as soon as you have a light on or the curtains open you will simply lose a load of detail to your eyes and you will feel the need to raise that slider up.

How the game deals with the difference in those black points is really important, Forza sometimes looks flat out weird (on the sunny day levels), I think because it takes too many mid tones down with it.

But then there is also that issue of HDR10/Dolby vision being "too dim" for consumers setups, which is widely documented in the video world.

PUBG is very similar, it presents a native HDR image, mastered to 1000nits but allows no adjustment. Just as a UHD movie would, users also complain it is too dim.

However the image actually looks really natural
 
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Kyle Cross

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,958
So, for games with just a brightness slider should it be turned all the way up, or all the way down? I've been turning them all the way up cause they seem to just control the brightness of light sources.
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
So, for games with just a brightness slider should it be turned all the way up, or all the way down? I've been turning them all the way up cause they seem to just control the brightness of light sources.
it depends on the game, some games the brightness is only changing the darkest point of the game (Final Fantasy, Shadow or Mordor), some games it is changing the entire image between the darkest and lightest points as defined by the developer (Destiny 2 is like this)

If a game has a standalone HDR slider, then this typically only controls the light sources.
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
If that is a bright day there should not be those totally dark spots, right?
Let me have a look at this one again, I took a million screenshots and sometimes lost track of what I had actually changed. Laos appreciate I have manually (quick and dirty) tone mapped the HDR screenshots to give you an idea of what the luma map would look like normally, so this may have unintended consequences in some images.
 

HououinKyouma

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,979
Out of curiosity, does HDR have any effect on input lag? Right now I have it turned off on my Xbox, as it's my primary multiplayer console.
 

JordianKnot

Member
Oct 27, 2017
305
Great thread, OP.
I feel like I have trouble truly distinguishing HDR sometimes.

For example, AC:Origins is a game im constantly seeing referenced as a good implantation of HDR. However, playing it on my PS4 pro on a Samsung 8series 4K tv I can’t really see a drastic difference when I toggle HDR on and off via the in game menu. Particularly during the day sections. The game already looks vibrant and beautiful in SDR, and whenever I enable HDR I don’t see much of a difference. There’s one exception though, and that’s during the night sections. At night I can see a clear difference with HDR on or off. With it off, the game basically has a blue hue at night on the whole screen. Whereas, wih HDR on I can clearly see different vibrant colors and a beautiful night sky.

On the fipside in Horizon, the game is definitely more vibrant and colorful during the day time in HDR. However in the night/dark areas I can tell that the colors are deeper, but the image itself becomes too dark. Especially if I’m standing face a ligh source such as fire, everything surrounding it becomes darkened and sillouhted that it can become difficult to see details.

Do I need to still mess around with my TV settings or is this generally what I should be seeing? I’ve heard so much hype around HDR and I just want to be sure I’m seeing what I’m supposed to be seeing.
 

Shaneus

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Oct 27, 2017
3,557
So does the Xbox One S have HDR even in HD? Obviously it does 4K video, but I'd love to see what Horizon 3 looks like in HDR without having to shell out for an X.

Edit: And it doesn't have any CPU/GPU overhead at all, does it? Just basically a colour setting?
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
Out of curiosity, does HDR have any effect on input lag? Right now I have it turned off on my Xbox, as it's my primary multiplayer console.
It's going to depend on your TV, the actual signal is more densely packed than SDR content, so the bandwidth is greater and the TV's processors need to be faster to deal with it. There has been a period of time where perhaps the TVs didn't have proportionally faster processors than the ones that were only dealing with 1080p or non HDR 4k?
 

Wiped

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Nov 2, 2017
2,031
So does the Xbox One S have HDR even in HD? Obviously it does 4K video, but I'd love to see what Horizon 3 looks like in HDR without having to shell out for an X.

Edit: And it doesn't have any CPU/GPU overhead at all, does it? Just basically a colour setting?
Yes. I get HDR on Forza Horizon 3 on my Xbox One S. It outputs at 4K too (not native though - it sends a 4K signal to your TV, but it's an upscale like Wii on Wii U. Looks very very good, because 1080p upscales to 4K beautifully)
 

darkazcura

Member
Oct 25, 2017
548
Do I choose limited/low black level for HDR on the PS4? I've been wondering that. I've read else where that you should not choose full/high black level for HDR on the PS4. Dunno how accurate that is. I have the base PS4 by the way, not the Pro.
 

MisterCrow

Member
Nov 8, 2017
120
You planning on testing Hitman? I've got a low budget HDR TV (TCL S-series) with a pretty low peak brightness and a narrower color gamut, but Forza Horizon 3 still looks incredible. Hitman by comparison is more of a muted effect on the TV.

Also: Amazing work, thanks!
 

AndrewDean84

Member
Oct 25, 2017
3,014
Fontana, California
Great thread, and it's very cool that you put the work in. I wish I could give you a +1 or something.

My phone takes HDR images, and the only difference I can see between the HDR photo and the non-HDR is the HDR seems slightly brighter. I wish I could see more of a difference. I feel the same way with my 4k HDR tv at home.
 

Toriko

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Dec 29, 2017
3,062
Awesome thread. I might be one of the few people who actually thinks Uncharted 4's HDR solution is much better than Horizon. If OP can analyze Chapter 14 in Uncharted 4 that will be amazing because that never fails to leave me gobsmacked each time!
 

PLASTICA-MAN

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Oct 26, 2017
7,529
How was OP capable of calculating the nits of each game? Keep in mind that there isn't any released TV yet that reached 2000 nits.
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
You planning on testing Hitman? I've got a low budget HDR TV (TCL S-series) with a pretty low peak brightness and a narrower color gamut, but Forza Horizon 3 still looks incredible. Hitman by comparison is more of a muted effect on the TV.
Hitman has a quirk, but try this and see if it helps.

Disable HDR and boot the game. Adjust the Gamma slider to 0.8 , save quit and then boot with with HDR enabled.
Then readjust the HDR slider in game. I think when it is set to the lowest in HDR mode it's outputting 800nit values, that set has less than that, so hopefully the TV will deal with it.

As the TV doesn't have wide color and caps out at 200nits, I would personally just turn it off altogether, you aren't gaining anything and a few games do weird things in HDR anyway :)
 

Zappy

Member
Nov 2, 2017
3,172
Fantastic analysis thanks!

What I’m interested to know is how much tone mapping the HDR game mode on the 2016 LG OLEDs does. It clearly does compress the range a lot comparing to the old mode. But that means that setting games to the theoretical max nits of the set is almost certainly going to produce poor results.
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
Will be interesting to see How Ubi have done this, Ghost Recon is a stand out for HDR for me with its time of day changes.
Ghost Recon does it super simply, it is locked at 1000nit and you cannot change anything in the image. The image adjustments literally don't work in HDR mode.

But it looks really great. It's a good example of how the actual peak values, metadata blah blah blah mean very little as to how the end product looks, but how it's moreso how the developers deal with the countless aspects of lighting and colour grading to function within a something as dynamic as a videogame.
 

Hawk269

Member
Oct 26, 2017
2,320
Hey OP can you look into Elder Scrolls On-Line on Xbox One X? That games HDR is questionable at best and just wondering what your thoughts on it?
 

iosef

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Oct 28, 2017
55
1) Wow this is great!

2) Let me add to the chorus of requests by asking nicely and politely for RE7
 

Kage Maru

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Oct 27, 2017
3,563
Excellent work EvilBoris, really appreciate the work you put into this. So regarding the in game brightness, are you suggesting we turn that down all the way or just until we experience crushing blacks? Admittedly, I always only adjust the HDR slider and left the general brightness alone.

Also could you possibly look at some BC games that enable HDR values like Mirrors Edge or Halo 3? I understand these games don't enjoy full HDR but I'm curious to what is exactly going on there. Is the tonemapping just being scaled back or a wider color gamut put through?

Great work again.
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
Excellent work EvilBoris, really appreciate the work you put into this. So regarding the in game brightness, are you suggesting we turn that down all the way or just until we experience crushing blacks? Admittedly, I always only adjust the HDR slider and left the general brightness alone.
It depends on the the game, many of them raise the overall image brightness by default for ease of viewing (which is why they provide those instructions to adjust it accordingly)

Typically when you adjust this, the non adjustable part of that guide image is set at 0 (total black) and you should be telling the game "this is what I define as black" to both my eyes, my lighting conditions and my display.

Some games use this to adjust the overall exposure, others use it to move the black point. Based upon what I know now, I will go as low as I can go, the increase it until I'm comfortable.
 

Echo

Member
Oct 29, 2017
5,309
Mt. Whatever
The rainbow color pictures really highlight the importance of having an HDR TV/Monitor which actually supports local dimming or is an OLED.

Unfortunately my Sony X800D doesn't have local dimming, so the HDR is easily ruined in dark scenes/areas. I want to upgrade to an OLED so bad, but HDMI 2.1 is right around the corner so gotta wait just a little longer.
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
Also could you possibly look at some BC games that enable HDR values like Mirrors Edge or Halo 3? I understand these games don't enjoy full HDR but I'm curious to what is exactly going on there. Is the tonemapping just being scaled back or a wider color gamut put through?

Great work again.
I was going to include them in the original post, but it was getting pretty lengthy as it was

I was really skeptical about what they were doing with the HDR in the BC games, but it appears to be just as fantastic as many other titles.
Halo 3' appears to be targeting 1000nits as the peak brightness, on the default (normal) brightness setting you get a wonderfully exposed image with all the extra luma from the HDR.

It was always a good looking game, but it really is amazing how good it looks with 4K and HDR.
I want to go and trigger a few of the cutscenes on one of the levels, there is one in particular where they lighting was amazing and I would love to see how that looks now.





I need to look harder at Mirrors edge, as it appears to be hitting 1000 also, but a lot of details are being clipped out before it leaves the console. I'm not sure if this is because some of the lighting is baked in or I'm looking at 8bit textures which are overexposed on purpose that then have lighting on top.
 

borges

Banned
Oct 28, 2017
1,668
Argentina
Man, thanks a lot. Digital Foundry should really think in hiring you, at least as a freelancer! Having such complimentary analysis for games would be awesome.
I've just bought an LG B7 55 and the X, and can just definitely says after many hours that HDR is a no way back once you taste it.
Theres some games that just look next gen, specially Gears 4. Simply cant believe how good that game looks. Easily the most impressive showcase of this generation by a wide distant, no matter the platform.
 

DanteLinkX

The Fallen
Oct 27, 2017
2,882
I have a 49" Sony XBR700D that got a patch last year to be able to support HDR, here its the catch, its supposedly not full hdr10 or something, so I always turn it off and dont use it since its not "the real deal", I once toyed around on FFXV with it and while it made things look "brighter" it also made them look more washed out, so I just stopped using it, how do I know how many nits does my tv support? is this "patched in not-hdr10-thing" any good? or should I just leave it turned off?
 
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EvilBoris

EvilBoris

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Oct 29, 2017
5,606
I have a 49" Sony XBR700D that got a patch last year to be able to support HDR, here its the catch, its supposedly not full hdr10 or something, so I always turn it off and dont use it since its not "the real deal", I once toyed around on FFXV with it and while it made things look "brighter" it also made them look more washed out, so I just stopped using it, how do I know how many nits does my tv support? is this "patched in not-hdr10-thing" any good? or should I just leave it turned off?
You TV can do 450nits, but it does that across the whole screen at all times, so blacks will be very grey for you.

FFXV has that fixed 1000nit output in HDR so it makes sense it causes problems.

Other games that let you adjust the peak level (to the lowest) may look fractionally better with the HDR enabled, but I imagine it will be more hassle than it's worth.