The company first announced that HDR video support was coming to YouTube at CES 2016 in January. Google has now pushed the button and says that you can enjoy HDR video on the new Chromecast Ultra and soon 2016 Samsung TVs.
YouTube in HDR
YouTube has been steadily adding support for high-end video formats, including 4K, 8K and HFR (High Frame Rate). It is now adding support for HDR, short for “High Dynamic Range”.
- “Today we are adding support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) videos on YouTube. HDR videos have higher contrast, revealing precise, detailed shadows and stunning highlights with more clarity than ever. Support for wide color gamut means colors are more vibrant. Simply put, HDR unlocks the most spectacular image quality we've ever streamed,” said Google.
"Simply put, HDR unlocks the most spectacular image quality we've ever streamed"
The new video format covers two recent developments. The first is expanded dynamic range with deeper blacks, brighter whites, and improved highlights and shadow details. The second is a wider color space that covers more of the visible colors - up to Rec.2020 color gamut - than standard Rec.709.
To enjoy HDR video you need a HDR TV. HDR video is not comparable to HDR photography so the display needs specific hardware to reproduce the demanding video format. Google says that YouTube’s HDR streaming is available on the new ‘Chromecast Ultra’ and “soon” on Samsung 2016 “SUHD” and UHD TVs.
If you own another device you are out of luck for now but Google says that it “will work with partners to enable streaming of the HDR version”. The HDR videos are not available to watch on PCs yet.
Google did specify why that is but told FlatpanelsHD at CES 2016 that HDR streaming via YouTube requires VP9 Profile2, which is a compression format and a free alternative to the HEVC format. VP9 Profile 2 requires upgraded hardware so that is why only 2016 products appear to support YouTube in HDR. TV products with VP9 Profile1 were first launched in late 2014.
So unless anything has changed in the meantime, Google is using the HDR10 format compressed in VP9 (Profile2).
You can also upload your own HDR videos to YouTube. You can learn more about how here. Google says that it should be as simple to upload HDR videos as SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) videos.
- “HDR adds a whole new dimension of creative freedom and visual spectacle, and we've barely scratched the surface of what this means for storytelling. We can't wait to see the amazing videos you're going to make with HDR,” says Google.