HOW HAS THE FINISHING OF COLOR EVOLVED MOST RECENTLY?
SDR grading in Rec. 709 and 2.4 Gamma is still here, still looks great, and will be prominent for a long time. However, I think we're becoming more aware of how exciting grading in HDR is, and how many creative doors it opens. I've noticed a feeling of disappointment when switching from an HDR to an SDR version of a project, and wondered for a second, if I'm accidentally viewing the ungraded raw footage, or if my final SDR grade is actually as flat as it appears to my eyes. There is a dramatic difference between the two formats.
HDR is incredible because you can make the highlights blisteringly hot, saturate a color to nuclear levels, or keep things mundane and save those heavier-handed tools in your pocket for choice moments in the edit where you might want some extra visceral impact.
In one sense, cinematographers don't need to do anything differently. Colorists are able to create high quality SDR and HDR interpretations of the exact same source footage, so long as it was captured in a high bit-depth raw format and exposed well. We're even seeing modern HDR reimaginings of classic films. Movies as varied in subject matter as Saving Private Ryan and the original Blade Runner are coming back to life because the latitude of classic film stocks allows it. However, HDR has the power to greatly exaggerate details that may have otherwise been subtle or invisible in SDR formats, so some extra care should be taken in projects destined for HDR.
Extra contrast and shadow detail mean that noise is far more apparent in HDR projects, so ISO and exposure should be adjusted on set accordingly. Also, the increased highlight range has some interesting consequences in HDR. For example, large blown out highlights, such as overexposed skies, can look particularly bad. HDR can also retain more detail and color in the upper ranges in a way that may not be desirable. An unremarkable, desaturated background in SDR can become a bright, busy, colorful background in HDR. It might prove distracting to the point that the DP may want to increase his or her key lighting on the foreground subjects to refocus our attention on them.
I foresee a more widespread adoption of HDR—in a way that I don't with 3D and VR—because there’s no headset device required to feel and enjoy it. Having some HDR nature footage running on a loop is a great way to sell a TV in Best Buy, to boot. Where the benefits of another recent innovation, 4K, are really only detectable on larger screens, and begin to deteriorate with the slightest bit of compression in the image pipeline, HDR's magic is apparent from the first glance.
I think we'll first start to see HDR and SDR orders on everything, then a gradual phasing out of the SDR deliverables as the technology becomes more ubiquitous, just like we saw with the Standard Definition transition to HD.
For the long-range, I wouldn't be surprised to see a phasing out of projectors as LED walls become more common for theater exhibitions due to their deeper black levels. This would effectively blur the line between technologies available for theater and home, for good.
A lack of a clear standard makes workflow decisions a little tricky, at the moment. One glaring issue is that consumer HDR displays don't replicate the maximum brightness of professional monitors, so there is a question of mastering one's work for the present, or for the near future when that higher capability will be more widely available. And where does this evolution stop? 4,000 nits? 10,000 nits?
Maybe a more pertinent creative challenge in the crossover period is which version to grade first, SDR or HDR, and how to produce the other version. There are a couple of ways to go about it, from using LUTs, to initiating the conversion all the way back at the source and starting fresh in the new format.
WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF WORK THAT YOU'VE SEEN THAT YOU DIDN'T WORK ON?
Chef's Table on Netflix was one of the first things I saw in HDR, I still think it looks great!