June 20, 2021

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Red Dead Redemption 2’s HDR support seems to serve no real purpose

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One of the most anticipated games of the year, Red Dead Redemption 2 launched last Friday – and it made quite the impact. As Digital Foundry posted recently, the final game represents a phenomenal achievement with few technical blemishes – but something doesn’t seem quite right with its HDR implementation.

Actually describing what’s going on and even basically communicating how high dynamic range works in any particular title isn’t easy. You’re almost certainly reading this on an SDR display, so HDR screenshots aren’t going to cut it.

But it is possible to visually demonstrate some of the benefits of HDR using a method I’ve developed that maps luminance, or brightness, into colour – a technique I’ve been using for some time for my HDR analysis posts on the ResetEra forums. Images throughout this article have been graded so anything that falls within 100 nits of luminance are grey, effectively demonstrating the bounds of standard dynamic range imagery. Once we bust out of this standard range, we shall see colour – though with Red Dead Redemption 2, not everything is as it seems.

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