Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

The new consoles from Sony and Microsoft came with several new technologies and some improvements from the last generation. Without deep technical details, we explain how HDR, VRR, SSD, Dolby Atmos and Tempest 3D work and how they work on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S.

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VRR. VARIABLE REFRESH RATE. VARIABLE FRAME

VRR technology has been available on the Xbox Series X|S since the start of the new generation, but on the PlayStation 5 it appeared in one update this spring. How it works. The frequency of the TV is synchronized with the frame rate of the game, which gives a smooth picture even if the FPS is far from stable. Of course, you must have an appropriate TV.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

How did it work before? All screens have a constant refresh rate, usually 60 Hz. Accordingly, for a smooth picture, the game should give out 60FPS, or 30 or 24, the main thing is that the frame rate is stable. As soon as the FPS sags, or vice versa, exceeds the performance of the monitor, tearing appears on the screen, that is, a frame break. This occurs because the monitor does not have time to process all the frames that the video card sends to it and it turns out that the previous frame is superimposed on the next one. To avoid this, vertical sync is used, which synchronizes the game’s frame rate with the monitor’s hertz. Its disadvantage is that the FPS must be very stable. As soon as he sags by 3-5-7 frames, the player will immediately see this and feel discomfort. That’s why they block 30FPS on consoles, even if the game can easily give out 40-45FPS. That is, in this case, we adjust the game to the screen.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

VRR technology on the fly synchronizes the refresh rate of the TV under the FPS that the game gives out, that is, it already adjusts the screen to the game. But it does this only within a specific range. On Xbox Series X|S, the minimum threshold for VRR is 40FPS, on PS5 it is 48FPS. If the game sags below these values, VRR stops working and tearing appears on the screen and you can forget about smoothness. The problem with PS5 is that games are much more likely to drop below 48FPS than drop to even 40FPS, so VRR on PS5 saves you from minor FPS fluctuations. If the developers scored on optimization, or it’s From Software with their engine, then VRR on PS5 will not save you much. And obviously VRR doesn’t work in 30FPS locked graphics modes. Well, PC adherents are ahead again here, because monitors with G-Sync and FreeSync support have been on sale for a long time, and these are nothing more than variations of VRR.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

The From Software engine has its own peculiarity, which manifests itself in the chaotic display of frames (frame pacing). For example, with a stable 60FPS for a smooth image, one frame should appear every 16 milliseconds (Frame Time – frame time). In From Software games (BloodBorne, Dark Souls, Elden Ring, etc.) frames are displayed at different rates, it can be either 33ms or 8ms. The arithmetic mean will still be 16ms, but since the frames appear at will, it seems that the FPS in the game sags and the picture twitches, although in fact there is a stable 60FPS. VRR also saves from such a chaotic output of frames.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

The technology has some more nuances in working with LCD TVs. Enabling VRR disables certain settings and the picture becomes pale and loses color, keep this in mind. OLED panels do not have this drawback.

As a bonus, for 120Hz TVs, Sony has started making games run at 40FPS. There are two such games so far, these are Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Horizon Forbidden West, but there will be more in the future.

HDR, HDR10, HDR10+, DOLBY VISION. HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE. EXPANDED DYNAMIC RANGE

HDR, HDR10 and Dolby Vision are all different stages of the same technology. HDR is the very first step, HDR10 is the next one, which is what Sony is developing in their games. The most technologically advanced are HDR10 + and Dolby Vision.

HDR allows you to make the picture more juicy and vibrant due to more information in the image. This is why HDR movies always have a color depth of 10 bits or more, rather than the standard 8 bits. Just to give you an idea of the difference, 8 bits is almost 17 million colors, 10 bits is just over a billion. Dolby Vision supports up to 12 bits and there are some awesome numbers – 68.7 billion colors. But there is still no TV with support for 12 bits, so they simply compress content in Dolby Vision from 12 bits to 10 bits.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

The trick is that the image really has more colors, and not just the saturation slider dragged to the ceiling. And of course, you will need an appropriate TV or monitor to convert the HDR signal.

I’ll show you how it works in games using movie frames as an example, because the principle is the same, but it’s easier to do it. An HDR image is presented in a “flat”, non-contrasting form with muted colors. This approach preserves more shadow, highlight, and color data. And already your TV returns all the colors to the image, the picture becomes brighter, richer, more contrast and does not lose detail in bright and dark areas. Therefore, good HDR TVs have high peak brightness.

These frames are software converted, the real picture on your TV will be better

The most amazing thing about this technology is that it has no ceiling in development. Even the coolest modern monitor with the price of a one-room apartment somewhere in Zhytomyr will not show all that this technology is capable of today. Not to mention mass models.

Please do not compare with HDR in photography, because it is terrible, I say as an amateur photographer (Terrible is not HDR itself, but the way it was used before).

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

With games, the situation is also quite interesting. Almost all modern projects come out of HDR10. Dolby Vision only works on the Xbox and there are just over a hundred games that support it. But the interesting thing is that when you open the page of these games in the store, only HDR10 support is noted everywhere, although the same Dolby Atmos (another technology from Dolby) is a separate item. By launching any of these games, the TV will show that the image is still being broadcast in Dolby Vision. I don’t know why Microsoft doesn’t mention Dolby Vision even in their titular games like Gears 5 and Halo Infinity, it’s just another marketing plus.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

The Dolby website itself lists games both with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos support, and there are no more than two dozen of them.

As I already said, Sony makes their games with HDR10, but it is very well implemented and many advise you to start your acquaintance with HDR with Sony games: Gran Turismo 7, Horizon, Ratchet & Clank, etc. But as Dolby Vision technology is better and it is only supported on Xbox.

Xbox Series consoles have an Auto HDR feature. Like all AUTO, it works with varying degrees of success. Some games literally get a new life, while in others it is better not to enable it due to the specifics of HDR. The brightness in many games gets out almost to the maximum, it just blinds you and it is physically impossible to play it.

Promotional material from dolby.com. Standard picture and Dolby Vision

DOLBY ATMOS TA TEMPEST 3D AUDIOTECH

Both consoles have a separate audio chip. In the Xbox Series X|S, this is just an audio chip, but Sony makes a separate bet on it and even came up with its own name – Tempest 3D AudioTech.

The main task of the audio chip is, oddly enough, to process sound and relieve the load from the main processor.

Tempest 3D AudioTech technology is a symbiosis of an audio processor and a sound engine. If the developers are not too lazy, then the sound in the game will become better than reality, all the nuances of the environment will be heard, and what is important for competitive games is an extremely high level of positioning in space. In addition, you can choose one of the profiles depending on the ears, because this affects the perception of sound. At the time of the announcement, Sony wanted to do customization, but doing it at home is not so easy, so the creators set the three most common profiles.

On Xbox, the audio chip works in conjunction with Dolby Atmos. And the first thing you should know is that you will have to buy a license to use Dolby Atmos separately. Xbox does not have settings for your ears, but it works with headphones, TV speakers and acoustic systems. Tempest 3D only worked with headphones at first and has recently added TV speakers.

For filmmakers, Dolby Atmos is special in that it does not work with sound channels, but with objects that emit sound. For games, this is not relevant, because we already have sound tied to objects. Still, hearing the rustle of the mouse somewhere in the upper left behind it changes the gaming experience dramatically, especially in atmospheric games.

SSD. SOLID STATE DRIVE. SOLID NAKOPICHUVACH

Newer consoles are finally getting SSDs, and compared to slower HDDs, it’s like moving from a car to a supercar. Inside the Xbox Series is a regular NVMe M.2 SSD, which improves its maintainability. In PS5, the drive is soldered on the board. But with storage expansion, the opposite is true, the PlayStation 5 uses an NVMe M.2 slot, but the Xbox has a proprietary one and is inserted from the back like a flash drive.

Both consoles’ SSDs are fast, the PS5’s is twice as fast, but games load equally quickly, and it’s all about the intricacies of how they work.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

The main feature of the work of console SSDs is the access of the video card to the data located on the drive with minimal delay. I will immediately reassure PC adherents that this algorithm is just appearing in your country and, more importantly, it does not have a single standard.

Each console has its own SSD operation protocol. On Xbox, it’s called the DirectStorage API and is part of DirectX 12 Ultimate. The essence of his work is that textures and other data are broken into pieces and loaded very quickly when they become necessary.

The PS5 technology is called Kraken and it allows you to compress all data very strongly, and a separate decoder chip, quickly decompress it all and give it to the video card. That’s why games on PS5 sometimes take up less space compared to Xbox Series X|S, sometimes even half as much. Thus, the difference in the volume of the PS5, which has 825 GB, and the Xbox Series X, which has 1 TB, is leveled.

Sony simply licenses the Kraken technology itself and theoretically Microsoft can also use it, but then there is a problem with the decoder chip, because the Xbox has a completely different one.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

Mark Cerny, PS4 and PS5 architect, protagonist of SSD memes

In fact, there are many technical subtleties, but we do not need it. The main thing is that the essence of console SSDs is not only in their speed, but also in the principles of working with data.

As with other technologies, they do not work on their own, so developers must use all its functionality, otherwise the SSD will just be like a fast drive and will not be any different from the same SSDs in a PC.

Briefly and clearly about HDR, VRR, Dolby Vision, SSD

All of these technologies, one way or another, improve our perception of content, movies or games. The only thing that causes concern is VRR. As soon as the technology is firmly settled in the homes of the players, the developers can completely give up on optimization, because our TVs compensate for everything. And it’s sad.

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