Netflix adding HDR image support, hints at support for AV1 format

Netflix's HDR images will initially only be available for "The Innocents" and "Iron Fist." (Netflix)

Netflix is adding HDR image support to its platform browsing experience to match up with the HDR streaming support it’s featured for some time now.

The SVOD provider is starting small and testing HDR images with only two shows: “The Innocents” and “Marvel’s Iron Fist.” The company said that members with HDR-capable TVs using Netflix on an HDR-enabled PS4 Pro, Xbox One S or X will have a chance to see these experimental images.

Netflix acknowledged that its HDR still images are showing up years after the service began streaming in HDR, but said the process was more difficult than it would seem.

“It turns out that compositing and displaying HDR graphics along with video is harder than you’d think — there are a variety of technical hurdles yet to clear, and it will take some time for the hardware that can do this compositing to find its way into reasonably priced TVs and streaming accessories. Also, it wasn’t even initially clear to us how to create or store HDR images,” the company wrote in a blog post.

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Netflix also said that while HDR video standards like Dolby Vision, HDR10, HDR10+, Hybrid Log-Gamma and more are in the market, there is still no clear standard defined yet for HDR images.

The decision to use 16-bit PNG and JPEG2000 in its first experiments with HDR images is “by no means final.” The company said that new emerging formats may become more standard in the future.

“One such format is HEIF, which can store single frames (among other things) from HEVC encoded HDR video. However, due to its relative infancy there is still lack of support for it in terms of license-friendly open source decoders, device hardware decoder support, and authoring tools that can import/export HEIF,” Netflix wrote. “There is also work being done on a new AV1 image format that looks promising, and we’re hopeful this royalty-free format will continue to make progress and gain the adoption needed for widespread use.”

Netflix is a member of the Alliance for Open Media, the industry organization promoting development and adoption of the open-source AV1 codec.