If you’ve tried to observe an HDR video on YouTube by way of your fancy new PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or Xbox Series S and puzzled why it isn’t enjoying in HDR, the reply is, sadly, that the YouTube apps on the brand new consoles don’t at the moment assist HDR playback.
We examined this by enjoying a 4K HDR clip from the Will Smith film Gemini Man on each PS5 and Xbox Series X. YouTube makes it simple to confirm HDR playback: Just pull up the “Stats for nerds” overlay whereas watching an HDR video on a tool the place the YouTube app helps HDR. If the video in query is encoded with HDR shade and is enjoying in HDR, the Color line of the stats window will say “bt2020” somewhat than “bt709.” (A simplified rationalization of these codes is that they confer with worldwide requirements for 4K/8K video and HD video, respectively, and on this particular case, to their related shade gamuts — HDR and SDR.)
What’s unusual about that is that for PlayStation house owners, no less than, it represents a step backward: The YouTube app on PlayStation 4 has supported HDR playback since late 2019. (HDR has by no means been out there within the Xbox One app.) Reached for remark, a YouTube spokesperson instructed Polygon that the corporate is planning so as to add HDR assist to its apps on PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/Series S. There’s no indication of when that function would possibly arrive, nevertheless.
YouTube has supported HDR uploads for 4 years now, however the overwhelming majority of movies on the platform aren’t in HDR. An educated guess on the share could be within the low single digits, if that. (We’ve requested YouTube for extra particulars, and we’ll replace this text with any data we obtain.) And whereas we’ve gotten to the purpose with new tv units the place 4K is the usual and HDR is turning into an more and more frequent function, there are nonetheless loads of individuals who don’t but personal gadgets that may show 4K HDR content material.
At the identical time, that is undeniably disappointing — and never only for individuals like me, who care about getting access to the newest and best know-how at their fingertips. It’s one other indication of simply how fragmented the HDR ecosystem stays whilst we strategy the tip of 2020, and the way difficult it may well nonetheless be to seek out dependable avenues to entry and watch HDR content material.
Here’s an instance. I purchased a Vizio P-Series 4K TV in mid-2016 that helps HDR10 and Dolby Vision. It has Google Chromecast in-built, permitting me to solid streaming media apps to it from my telephone. However, for some cause, casting YouTube to the TV is proscribed to 1080p at 60 frames per second in SDR; if I exploit the YouTube app that’s put in on the TV, playback is additional restricted to 1080p30 SDR. The YouTube app on my Xbox One X can play movies at 4K, however not in HDR. If I need to watch a 4K HDR video, my choices are to plug in my Chromecast Ultra — besides that every one 5 of the HDMI ports on my TV are at the moment in use, so I’d need to disconnect one thing first — or boot up my PlayStation 4 Pro and use its YouTube app, which is a extra annoying (and slower) possibility due to the way in which the PS4 interface handles streaming video apps.
Frankly, I anticipated that each the PS5 and Xbox Series X would tick the entire video and audio bins, effectively, out of the field. They’re forward-looking machines designed to ship gaming experiences that haven’t been doable till now, and each launched with all kinds of streaming leisure apps. The PS5’s whole interface is rendered in native 4K, with HDR enabled all through by default, which means that Sony needed to lift the bar and speed up the transition to a wonderful 4K HDR future. And each the Xbox Series X and PS5 can seize 4K 60 fps gameplay footage in HDR. But as an alternative of with the ability to retire my 4-year-old PS4 Pro — for the reason that PS5 can play all my PS4 video games — I’ve to maintain it hooked as much as my TV.
It’s not simply recreation consoles, both. The Apple TV 4K — a stand-alone streaming media field that, y’know, has “4K” in its title — only got 4K support in its YouTube app last month, greater than three years after the system launched. But even then, it’s half-baked: The body charge is proscribed to 30 fps, and there’s no HDR assist. Now, the holdup with 4K was apparently a problem on Apple’s half somewhat than Google’s: Apple had long refused to support the VP9 codec, which is the format by which YouTube encodes 4K content material. (While Google owns and develops VP9, it’s an open and royalty-free codec.)
Either manner, although, the consequence is identical for customers: frustratingly spotty assist of 4K and HDR. YouTube is probably the most ubiquitous video platform on the planet, and it’s free, which makes it maybe the only most dependable and simply accessible supply of HDR movies on the market. Otherwise, persons are restricted to choices corresponding to video video games, 4K Blu-ray Discs, streaming companies like Disney Plus and Netflix, and leases or purchases from digital film platforms corresponding to Vudu and Google Play.
But even for those who’ve discovered some HDR content material, and you’ve got a tool that may play HDR movies and a display screen that may show them in HDR, you’re nonetheless not essentially assured of getting the complete HDR expertise. TV producers and others can sing the praises of HDR all they need, however it’s exhausting for individuals to know what they’re lacking if they will’t see it for themselves.