So you may of seen some of my other threads taking a look at the HDR output of various games, trying to understand why a game might look particularly good and which game are going to get the best out of a premium HDR TV.Well that's laughably bad if it's not just a glitch.
There have been great games ; Call of Duty WW2, Sea of Thieves
and some stinkers ; Monster Hunter World , Deus Ex.
But for the most part, the developers that have gone down the route of going to the effort of implementing HDR have done so with success.
Last week Nier Automata launched on Xbox One, alongside various improvements for the game on the X, HDR became an advertised new addition to the title as it belatedly came to Microsoft's platform.
Starting to play the game, it quickly became apparent the game didn't have the same wow effect that has I have become attuned to whilst playing other games, at first I thought this was maybe just the look of the game. Others online were commenting the game looked dim, even comparing screenshots of the game versus other version, noting the colours were further muted vs the PC/PS4 with the game looking a little washed out.
My first look at the game appeared as if the game was totally SDR, with not a glimmer of any peak brightness close to what we would expect.
Came for the HDR, stayed for the robots.— EvilBoris (@EvilBoris) June 25, 2018
Nier automata appears to have a very dissapointing implementation of HDR. Basically it's not HDR, I've yet to catch anything that breaches more than 150nits. pic.twitter.com/LZmGq8gHKj
Another look at the game made it clear that the game was so low in it's dynamic range, that using my current methods for determining the output actually didn't work on Nier, so I had to actually build some new tools to help identify the very low peaks
Tuning my tools to find the highest peak in an image led me to find that the game did have a very low contrast output, with the highest peaks I could find hitting 600ish nits. You can see them as red pixels in the image below.
So I went on to accept that the game had actually been mastered for 600nits, which seems like an odd value, however it's not unheard of (HDR favourite Planet Earth 2 is mastered to a similar level)
As you progress further through the game, the environments change and I started to reach greener , more foliage laden areas and the game triggered a cutscene, which looked almost entirely different to the game I was just playing (apart from being a poorly quality 1080p video) it was noticeably lighter, brighter and more colourful than the game I was just playing.
It's unusual for devs to encode in game FMVs in HDR and this was likely to been rendered from another version of the game, however I was confused as to why the tone and mood of the game looked so significantly different.
So I disabled HDR.....
Oh. The game offered more contrast, was brighter and more saturated. Essentially the exact opposite of what I would expect to happen.
So I started digging deeper.
First of all I needed to indentify whether this difference was simply a processing variation between SDR/HDR on my TV.
The simplest way to double check this is to take some raw screenshots with HDR enabled and disabled and compare them, which was what I did.
It became almost immediately obvious that the 2 screenshots I had taken were almost identical, with some very minor differences in black level, white level and exposure.
In the below image your can see the 2 Raw screenshots from the Xbox (labeled SDR and HDR output) The SDR image is PNG from the Xbox and the HDR image is a 10bit JXR image from the xbox.
You can then see that I have converted each image to match the other output.
Spending some more time looking at Nier's HDR output. It's a sneaky conversion from SDR... watch as a magically convert an SDR output to HDR and an HDR output to SDR! Shazam pic.twitter.com/xnUAMlpwlf— EvilBoris (@EvilBoris) July 1, 2018
The game is entirely in SDR and is expanded from 8bit to 10bit and then adjusted to fit into the appropriate place within an HDR output.
Nothing is gained, in fact things that would have previously been darker now become lighter than then should be, resulting in a lower contrast, washed out image.
This is the HDR equivalent of upscaling and claiming the game is a higher resolution than it actually is. But then actually up-scaling it incorrectly and reducing the resolution a bit
It's super disappointing that a developer has done this and we should expect better. HDR is already a total mess of a format with such varied support and capability. It's clearly possible at this point in time with such a new technology for a developer to misunderstand and produce poor results, but this feels more like an effort to deceive.
Nier Automata has "fake" HDR on Xbox. Please Devs, don't make this a thing. | ResetEra