YouTube Adds HDR Option for Live Streams

By Bill Toulas / December 9, 2020

YouTube has just become the first major video platform to offer users the option of HRD (high dynamic range) in live streaming. The video platform first added support for the technology back in 2016, which enabled content creators to share mesmerizing videos that featured vivid colors like the following clip that shows the wildlife of Costa Rica.

But adding HDR for live streams is an entirely different and a lot more challenging thing, as everything needs to happen on the fly. YouTube’s engineers found a way to do it by implementing an HDR-enhancing system for compatible encoders (10-bit HEVC). Of course, an HDR display or TV is needed to actually enjoy these realistic-looking colors - otherwise, the stream will look like it’s using the “standard” palette.

Source: YouTube

If you’re unsure about whether you should enable HDR or not, consider the setting and your goals. When you’re streaming landscape scenes, and you want to highlight everything, HDR can help you a great deal. Also, if you are streaming for a low-light room or from a room that’s literally bathed in sunlight, enabling HDR will make everything appear better as it will even out the extremes.

On the other side, if you already stream something with vivid colors, HDR could make these appear blunter than they really are. High-contrast scenes could also suffer if that’s what you were going for. Finally, if you’re covering sports or stuff with a lot of movement and speedy scene changes, HDR may be better left to “off” to reduce the risk of blurriness.

YouTube invites creators to experiment with the new option and see if it matches their live streams or not. Soon, the platform will add more encoder and device options, including Android phones.

For now, an “HDR” option will be added on the video quality settings menu, which is typically at the bottom right. If you don’t see that badge, it means that your device doesn’t support HDR, and the stream will be shown to SDR. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 10-series or later, AMD Radeon RX 5700 or later, and Intel 10th gen GPUs or later are all considered compatible.

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