The use of HDR in video games originally kicked off in the middle of the previous console generation. At the time, new televisions were being sold that were capable of displaying more colors in a wider variety of luminance than ever before. Now that virtually all new televisions intended for the mid-range and high-end markets support HDR output, its propagation in video games is nearly ubiquitous. Microsoft launched its Xbox Series X console late last year and it came with a feature known as AutoHDR. It allowed games that were not explicitly designed for the wider dynamic range to take advantage of the new generation of displays. Today, Microsoft announced that AutoHDR is on its way to PC and is available for testing now via the Windows Insider Program.
HDR expands the available color palette and allows a greater scope of luminance or brightness of each color. AutoHDR analyzes a game scene and works to expand its dynamic range so that objects can be shown in bright light without causing darker objects or things in shadows from being washed out. While this automated process isn’t capable of expanding the color palette of a game made for 8-bit color space, it can greatly improve highlights.
On the Xbox Series X, the feature worked incredibly well in some titles and offered little to no improvement in others. The same should be expected for PC games as there are limits to what the technology is capable of. Microsoft says that AutoHDR will be available in all DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 titles.
Microsoft is currently letting PC gamers try out the new AutoHDR feature right now. To see it in action yourself, you must be a part of the Windows Insider Program and be using Windows 10 build 21337 or above. HDR must be enabled globally via the Windows display settings. Below that toggle, users will see a new option to enable AutoHDR. An HDR-capable display and GPU are required to enable these features.
The experience is designed around displays capable of showing 1000 nits of brightness. Many lower-priced gaming monitors and TVs will advertise HDR functionality but lack the brightness to show the images as intended. Certifications such as HDR400 or HDR600 indicate a display is capable of 400 nits or 600 nits, respectively.
Today’s announcement is exciting news for owners of HDR-capable displays. AutoHDR offers the chance to see older games with improved visuals. Additionally, new games without explicit HDR support should also see benefits.