For those of you who played Shadow of the Tomb Raider and had a bad HDR experience, you may have done what I did and set the brightness too low. Typically HDR games have controls for black level and white level brightness. I assumed that the brightness control was for black level, and so in an attempt to get the deepest shadow detail near black as possible, I ended up turning brightness all the way down, and I ended up with a result that made things appear super washed out, with significant banding in shadows as well. Today, I figured out why this is. It turns out brightness is actually affecting exposure, not black levels. As I play in a dark room, a darker overall image is not really something I typically notice, as my eyes adjust to any brightness level. So the image didn't appear dark to me in the dark room. But while it affects exposure, black levels remain constant, and they're not 100% perfect in this game. So what happens is you bring down the midtones, while shadows stay at the same level of dark grey they were before, which is pretty dark, but not perfectly black. As your eyes adjust to the new exposure, this dark grey becomes more visible, making the game look like it's washed over in a haze, and also compressing the bit depth in the shadows as well, making the steps between brightness levels in those shadows more apparent.
When I turned the brightness up to default, everything immediately appeared more vibrant, and I played for a few minutes to allow my eyes to adjust to the new exposure, and guess what? Shadows actually look much, much better doing this. I think my initial confusion is because the brightness control does in fact control black levels in SDR mode, but that's not the case in HDR.
I was doing some research on the game in case things had changed with HDR, because I was planning to make a video on my youtube channel about the game and wanted to know whether to record in HDR or not, if SDR provided a better picture. Turns out, the HDR wasn't bad, my settings were. I'm usually really good at understanding game HDR calibration settings, but I messed that one up it seems.
I'm actually somewhat interested in testing whether the SDR brightness control, which affects black levels in SDR, also happens to affect black levels in HDR, since I could tell that HDR and SDR brightness are saved separately. Probably unlikely, but I might test that just in case.
Living Room: Sony XBR65X930D, Sony HT-Z9F, Philips BDP7501
Bedroom: LG OLED55C6P, Denon AVR-X1300W (5.1.2), PS4 Pro, Sony UBP-X700, Chromecast Ultra
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