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PlayStation developers on the difference HDR brings to their PS4 games

Featuring Insomniac Games, Santa Monica Studio, Guerrilla, Ninja Theory and more

Imagine! It’s been two years since every single PS4 model was upgraded to support HDR, thanks to system software update 4.0. Looking back, HDR has had a heckuva impact on game artistry, greatly elevating already beautiful-looking games like God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn.

As a primer, HDR, aka high dynamic range, is an image display technology that can generate more vivid and dynamic colours, deeper blacks, and brilliant highlights. It’s one of those rendering technologies that you need to see to believe, because it makes the colors and light you see on your screen more closely matched to reality than with a non-HDR compatible TV.

You’ll want to make sure your 2K or 4K HDR-capable TV supports the HDR10 format. On your PS4 or PS4 Pro, activate this feature by heading to Settings → Sound and Screen →Video Output Settings →HDR and click “Automatic”.

To mark the big day, we asked developers for their insights on how adding HDR brings brilliance to their games.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Marvel's Spider-Man

“We’ve tried to find the right balance with our HDR implementation such that the medium tones and dark tones in the image look the same as they would in non-HDR, but the brightest parts of the image really pop. Swinging around the city at night or in the rain shows off HDR nicely—the bright lights of the city really stand out against the darker background.

“As you progress through the game and meet up with some of the more colorful villains Spidey needs to contend with, there are some gorgeous night scenes with bright effects—but you’ll have to play the game to see what I mean.”

-Al Hastings, Chief Architect, Insomniac Games

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

“Our team worked very hard to fully support HDR, and revamped our entire pipeline to support HDR from the beginning. Our game offers realistic lights intensity calibration, HDR textures and global illumination energy conservation. Throughout the development of the game, we made sure to integrate HDR every step of the way.

“Thanks to this ongoing work, Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks more real and immersive, with more intensity and nuance. There are many areas we’re looking forward for you to experience in HDR, such as our jungle – which is especially amazing with the light on the sun coming through the dense foliage.”

-Frederic Robichaud, Programming Director, Eidos-Montréal

God of War

God of War

“Bringing to life the beautiful and fantastic world of Norse mythology is no easy feat, but in the latest God of War, Santa Monica Studio uses HDR to immerse players in a realm beyond imagining. HDR technology enhances the spectacular vistas you see in the game, and the realistic lighting that draws the players into a world of myth and legend.

“From inside Kratos’ home to the caves of Peaks Pass, there are a myriad of impressive examples in God of War of how HDR can take the gaming experience to a higher level of visual quality.”

– Florian Strauss, Technical Director, Santa Monica Studio

The Witness

The Witness

“Having our own in-house engine with a full HDR pipeline already in place made it easy to transition to HDR TVs. We just had to adapt the output image to this new standard… HDR allowed us to fully express the colourful, striking, visual art style of The Witness.

“Players can notice this immediately as soon as they exit the initial entry tunnel. The improved colour space brought out colours impossible to show before, as well as rendered scenes in extreme light and brightness conditions. Our main challenge came from the fact that colour in this game is an integral part of gameplay, and we couldn’t break any of the puzzles.”

– Salvador Bel Murciano, Programmer, Thekla

Horizon Zero Dawn and Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds

Horizon Zero Dawn

“Creating a lush, visually captivating game world was always one of the core development goals for Horizon Zero Dawn, and the HDR capabilities allowed the team at Guerrilla to really bring the brilliance to life.

“On HDR-compatible 4K displays, Horizon Zero Dawn’s environments truly stun, and the enhanced colour fidelity brings out the rich hues and subtle details of the wilderness. Sunsets are particularly breathtaking; the suffusion of deep reds and oranges are guaranteed to make players forget they’re surrounded by deadly machines.”

– Jeroen Roding, Community Manager, Guerrilla

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy XV

“Final Fantasy XV’s HDR support, mainly targeted toward 1,000 nits TVs, adjusts the tone curve when a screen filter is applied, so that the images are most beautifully displayed under the target environment.
While the tone curve is adjusted to stay within the colour value of 1.0 in LDR, the curve forms a more gentle shape in HDR. Gaming in HDR will allow players to experience the dazzling sun, lush forests and vast nature where living creatures exist, at resolutions that offers an enhanced sense of realism.

“Another great part of this is that they can witness Final Fantasy’s whimsical and beautiful world with greater clarity.”

– Yuji Shinoda, Producer for Final Fantasy XV, Luminous Productions

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

“With the HDR update to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, we re-generated a lot of our sky textures from an HDR source to get the best range of lighting possible. Hellblade will detect when a player has an HDR TV and optimise its lighting and art accordingly, resulting in a much better range of brightness – the weather and atmospheric effects in Hellblade are particularly noticeable in this regard.

“Additionally, we tweaked the interface colours to maintain their detail and vibrancy within more extreme lighting. The moment when the golden sunset breaks through the clouds as you approach the bridge to Helheim for the first time is made all the more breathtaking with HDR.”

– Francesca Mead, Product Manager, Ninja Theory

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

“Deus Ex: Mankind Divided came out just before PS4 Pro launched. It was an interesting challenge for our team, as our game was completed and we couldn’t go back and tweak the non-HDR visual experience. On the other hand, creating the HDR version wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch – as you can imagine!

“As a first step, we had to take frames from our game in sRGB colour space (regular TVs), and apply the necessary transformations to display the same frames in Rec. 2020 color space (HDR TVs), with an average luminance level. We could then see for ourselves how tints varied, following colour rotations between the two spaces. For the final luminance curve to apply, we simply used the same Brightness calibration menu we already had in our game. The same asset, displayed in a different colour space, allows an HDR player to help us identify the maximum luminance level of his TV.

“Finally, we bet on the fact that players would be particularly impressed by the brilliancy of certain colours, compared to non-HDR visuals. We added an artificial curve to our final image, in order to boost brilliant pixels. It was kind of an empiric process, but it allowed us to obtain the best results considering our constraints.

“One of our favourite areas of the game to appreciate in HDR is Golem City, with all its neon lights that contrast with the darkness of the environment itself.”

– Jean-François Dufort, Lead Graphics Programmer, Eidos-Montréal

There are plenty more games to come that we can’t wait to play through in HDR, including Days Gone, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and more.

What game do you think shows HDR off best? Let us know in the comments below!

26 Comments
0 Author replies

“PlayStation PSVR owners on the difference HDR would bring to their PS4 games if they could actually use it”.

A pity that a few million PSVR owners don’t have HDR due to the lack of passthrough in their first gen PSVR sets, wasting your HD television with HDR potential :-(

aren’t you looking into your VR headset?

I have a PSVR and a 10bit HDR TV, I simply swap the hdmi cable, you don’t seriously think PSVR users play without HDR?

HDR is wasted as there are not many affordable 4K screens that actually support it.

There’s plenty of screens to choose from, and they get cheaper with each passing year (as they are working on even higher resolutions).

You don’t need a high-end 4k to enjoy the image and features like HDR.

Well I prefer 4K to slightly brighter colours.

What is an affordable price range when it comes to TV’s if you don’t mind me asking? I got got a 55″ Hisense 4K HDR TV in a sale for £550 not cheap but not exactly expensive for a 55″ 4K HDR TV. It might only do max 550 nits but the HDR is amazing.

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HDR implemented well is gorgeous. Horizon Zero Dawn and The Witcher 3 for example benefitted massively due to it. The colour of their worlds really pop.

After playing games with both the pros simulated 4K and HDR I’d still choose HDR over it any day. Gorgeous rich colours and lighting really improve a lot of games.

You know that games run much better on ps4 pro? Right? Not only do them run better. You pay the same amount of money as 4k hdr ps4 pro owners for game but at the end of the day you only get 1/4 of what ps4 pro owners get pixel wise. And the games run better on it. Spiderman runs like a dream on pro but its buggy on ps4 lite.

Also,

Hdr looks much better if you bought a tv 2017-2018 and hdr looks much better in 4k than it does on 1080p, because thats just the way it is.

if you really care for graphics why are you guys not on a pc?

i always cared way more for good gameplay originality in games and stuff than looks. most of these games dont have any of that

5.1

Yes, the sad truth about most these “pretty” games is their gameplay is horrendously boring and stale. What makes it worse is some of these don’t even look that good.

GerardoSalinas11 16 September, 2018 @ 05:18
6

Amazing title

Brought PS4 slim when it came out and i gotta say the HDR really showed some games at their finest. The level of details is amazing and the worlds just feel more alive then ever before.Its just amazing what developers and PlayStation as platform were able to do…

The next playstation console better be focused on full hd and 60 frames on all games. No one cares about these [DELETED] features. And btw, Deus Ex has the worst console port ever. Laggy camera handling in a fps game is unforgiveable.

8.1

Classic ignorance right here. Troll much ?

Have you ever played the game for at least 1 minutes where you have to aim and shoot?

Games just run much better in a pro and in 4k (cb) hdr. Dont kid yourself, if you dont own a 4k tv you cannot tell the amazing difference.

I played Deus Ex on ps4 pro for over 200 hours, runs like butter and looks 10 times better than on ps4 lite.

So the grass is greener….

I’m surprised that the PS4 doesnt have an inbuilt calibration tool set. So many people dont bother calibrating their expensive 2k, 4k and HDR sets – There are plenty of tools available to assist in getting the job done without using a Calman Meter. AVS HD 709 and Spears & Munsil Bluray Benchmark are two off the top of my head. Calman X-Rite is a great bit of hardware if you can justify it.

10.1

Probably because it doesn’t actually matter at all and is a bit of a scheme to sell people pointless things. The only time you really need to calibrate a monitor is when you’re either using multiple or doing color sensitive work, neither of which apply to playing a game.

It doesn’t matter if the green is “wrong” or if the contrast isn’t “perfect” all you actually need to do is make the TV look good to you, no software or hardware needed.

10.2

I am not talking about calibrating monitors, I am talking about TVs that most Playstation systems are connected to. Also the 709 disk is free, so where you get this “scheme to sell people pointless things” idea from is a total mystery. FYI, calibrating your TV is very important if you want to see the content in the manner it was intended. A lot of TVs are never adjusted/calibrated by their owners and have awful image quality / colour. I guess you are one of these people ? Enjoy your badly calibrated TV. For the others….. Enjoy your 2k, 4k sets (with or without HDR), but have a crack at setting it up correctly you might be surprised at the results.

10.3

You kind of completely missed the point.

Basically as you’re not using the monitor (or TV) to reference anything it doesn’t actually matter at all what the color is as long as it looks “right” to you. Consumer level TVs aren’t really capable of “accurate” color, at least to any high or technical level, so the whole process is basically silly to start with. You can have it “more” accurate, perhaps, but it doesn’t matter as you’re not using it to reference anything else. So “bad”/”good”/”terrible” calibration doesn’t matter, only if it looks good to you.

Basically all of this nonsense is trying to con people that they’re doing something technical or “right”, when it actually doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter if the red on your TV is what some guy in some other place wanted or “intended”, but if it’s a red you want it to be. So as all of these calibration tools are basically pointless in a non technical environment, free is all you should ever pay.

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You kind of completely missed the point.

Basically as you’re not using the monitor (or TV) to reference anything it doesn’t actually matter at all what the color is as long as it looks “right” to you. Consumer level TVs aren’t really capable of “accurate” color, at least to any high or technical level, so the whole process is basically silly to start with. You can have it “more” accurate, perhaps, but it doesn’t matter as you’re not using it to reference anything else. So “bad”/”good”/”terrible” calibration doesn’t matter, only if it looks good to you.

Basically all of this nonsense is trying to con people that they’re doing something technical or “right”, when it actually doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter if the red on your TV is what some guy in some other place wanted or “intended”, but if it’s a red you want it to be. So as all of these calibration tools are basically pointless in a non technical environment, free is all you should ever pay.

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