How to capture and edit HDR video

12 cameras and editing applications that already support capture and post-production of HDR video

As you’ve learned from our guide to HDR video, HDR video is very much the future of TV, cinema and experiential – alongside 4K/UHD and unlike 3D. It offers wider colour gamuts and more detail in highlights and shadows for a more pleasing, exciting and/or immersive experience. 

So how do you create content that can be displayed on HDR-capable screens, TV sets and projectors?

First off, video needs to be captured using cameras that can match the dynamic range of film – which is approximately 13 stops of exposure.

How to capture HDR video

Here are the current range of professional video/digital film cameras that offer similar or even wider dynamic range than negative film.

Arri’s Alexa offers over 14 stops of dynamic range, with with special consideration given to highlight treatment. “Alexa’s wide exposure latitude translates into a 'thick' digital negative,” claims Arri. “There is more detail information in the highlights and in the dark areas than any of the current display technologies can disclose.”

Blackmagic Design’s Ursa cameras offer 15 stops of dynamic range, with prices starting at £3,355 (the company’s relatively affordable Cinema Camera line offers 13 stops of exposure). All Blackmagic’s cameras come supplied with Da Vinci Resolve for grading the footage on Mac and Windows.

Red’s lineup offers a choice for HDR capture. The company claims those equipped with the Dragon sensor are capable of 16.5 stops, while Red’s Epic and Scarlet cameras offer a native dynamic range of 13.5 stops.

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Canon’s Cinema EOS System also offers HDR capability. The EOS C300 Mark II for example can record 4K video with 15-stops of dynamic range at high bitrates to internal CFast 2.0 cards.

Panasonic’s 4K VariCam 35 has a 14-stop range, as does Sony’s 4K F5, F55 and the 8K F65, with their Super 35mm CMOS sensors. Sony also has a collection of cameras suitable for HDR live capture. Four of its HDC-4300 4K cameras were deployed in September to capture the 2015 Octo British Grand Prix MotoGP in both HDR and at High Frame Rate (HFR), while the Vatican Television Centre will be using eight of the HDC-4300 cameras in a mobile unit in December to record the opening ceremony of the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, in HDR.

Grass Valley’s LDX Series cameras have also been in trials for live HDR coverage.

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HDR doesn’t all cost megabucks. Recent tests have also claim to show that Sony’s £1,500-ish A7S interchangeable-lens camera can offer over 14 stops of usable dynamic range, though it doesn’t offer the full filmmaking capabilities of the pro video cameras.

How to edit HDR video

As display technology lags behind capture technology, many feel that HDR will find more use in postproduction for the time being, allowing colourists to exploit the wider exposure range for creative purposes. Indeed, post production has been able to handle higher dynamic range for some time, after ILM created the OpenEXR HDR image file format and shared it with the VFX industry.

The latest version of Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC has new support for HDR video, as well as the Rec. 2020 colour space. There are extra Lumetri Color control panels for handling HDR footage and the application offers a HDR specular colour wheel. The Lumetri Color settings users make in Premiere Pro carry also over to After Effects, while Speedgrade CC uses the Lumetri Deep Color Engine to pull details from blacks and highlights in HDR content that might otherwise be lost. Adobe said that with a supported external HD monitoring system, RAW camera formats and OpenEXR media, alongside the Dolby Vision codec, can be edited and graded with much greater dynamic range than conventional video, by using the HDR controls.

SGO's Mistika colour grading and postproduction system, deployed on films like The Hobbit trilogy, also supports Dolby Vision. Mistika has regularly been used by Canon in demonstrations of ‘glass-to-glass’ Ultra HD/HDR workflows.

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DaVinci Resolve from Ursa manufacturer Blackmagic Design is another option. Due to its wide native camera file support, users can edit and grade directly from the wide dynamic range camera originals.

FilmLight claims all of its solutions deliver HDR and Ultra HD 4K content. These include the FLIP image processor for on set checking of HDR camera capture, the Daylight system for dailies and transcoding, the Baselight colour grading system and Baselight Editions, which bring the Baselight toolset directly into the Avid Media Composer, Avid Symphony, Apple Final Cut Pro and Nuke pipelines.

Out this month the Flame Family 2016 Extension 2 brings support for the Rec 2020 colour space in Autodesk Flame, Lustre, Flare and Flame Assist. With Flame’s VFX finishing power to be available on the Mac for the first time, and it and the Dolby Vision-enabled Lustre 2016 grading suite now available as monthly subscription desktop products, the HDR offering from major software vendors is becoming much more accessible.

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