With an estimated 160 million subscribers worldwide much of what Netflix streams is viewed on tablets or phones, where image quality is compromised. This issue is not new and one widely recognized by cinematographers. Therefore, last week, Netflix made it a requirement that all of their original content be captured in HDR, or high dynamic range.
HDR is a technique which improves the range of color and contrast in a digital image vs. the use of standard digital imaging.
For example, in the days of film, dailies were screened at the start of each production day - offering a chance for the director and other members of the 'key' crew to review freshly printed footage shot the previous day to help them evaluate image quality and spot and correct technical problems.
Now, dailies are streamed to separate crew member's tablets or phones, where slow wifi on remote locations means they are not seeing a meaningful representation of the footage. Worse still, producers back at the studio often see digital dailies on non-calibrated monitors in bright rooms and complain that the images are too dark.
The other issue Netflix wanted to address was the concern over whether Digital Imaging Technicians should be present on set during filming to advise on workflow, camera settings and image manipulation. Many producers do not want to budget for 'on-set' DITs. This lack of imaging expertise, on the set, makes the work of the cinematographer very difficult.
I think Netflix is ahead of the curve on this issue. Times have changed and many consumers don't view content on large screens at home but are on the go and oft times view via a tablet or other mobile device. HDR is here and it will become the standard for digital image capture.
Jim Lavorato, President
Entertainment Equipment Corp.