Although Netflix’s recent output often has all the modern technological trappings such as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos for an improved audio visual experience, it appears now that movies featuring HDR will be standard practice for the company’s productions.A recent report in Variety stated that, though welcomed by cinematographers, the directive to include HDR as part a film's production has not been communicated as clearly as it could have been. This situation was revealed during the most recent EnergaCamerimage festival in Poland, where DP Roberto Schaefer explained that the production on The Red Sea Diving Resort was almost negatively affected by the dictat since the production team were only made aware of the HDR requirement just as filming was about to start. Ideally, the creative and technological considerations of including HDR in a movie’s production should be addressed as part of the preproduction phase (or even earlier), which can often be months before principal photography.
Jimmy Fusil, Netflix manager of creative technologies and infrastructure, agreed that communications could have been improved but stated that the streaming giant respects cinematographers’ work and is invested in getting its viewers “authenticity in the representation” of their vision.
Some general concerns around how HDR is integrated into a film’s production were aired at the cinematography focussed festival. These included the way the previous day’s footage (called dailies - used to assess the quality of captured scenes both technically and creatively) is now streamed to the production crew’s mobile devices for assessment and how issues surrounding slow Wi-Fi at remote locations can affect this. Additionally, if footage is viewed on non calibrated monitors or devices, incorrect decisions about lighting could result. In fact, the overall technical complexity of baking in HDR to a film shoot has led to the rise of digital imaging technicians (DIT), specialist crew who advise on workflow, camera settings and image manipulation. According to the filmmakers, many producers still don’t budget for DITs.
Perhaps Netflix’s new HDR filming rule has the feeling of a hastily reached decision, since it has come to light in the immediate aftermath of the launch of the Apple TV+ and Disney+ streaming services, both of which feature 4K HDR content, and it feels like a reaction to that. Indeed, Apple’s implementation of Dolby Vision is receiving praise for shows such as For All Mankind, while Disney’s announcement of the original Star Wars trilogy being available on their streaming service in 4K HDR for the first time ever would only seem like another preemptive nail in Netflix’s coffin.
But the truth is that The Red Sea Diving Resort was released back in July of this year and, even if it had a ridiculously speedy production cycle of 6 months, it would mean that Netflix’s decision must have been made around the end of 2018/start of 2019, so it’s clearly part of the company’s creative strategy and not just a knee jerk reaction to keep up with the Jones (and Cooks and Igers).
Nonetheless, the commitment to HDR by Netflix helps engender an environment whereby HDR content becomes the norm and is expected by an image-savvy audience.
Do you welcome this approach? What do AVForums members think of the Netflix HDR experience so far? Is it up to the standard of the newer services and does it improve the overall viewing experience? Why not see what others think in the discussion thread?
Image Source: Netflix
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