Game of Thrones upgraded to 4K HDR on HBO Max, not ‘too dark’ anymore

Game of Thrones followers had many issues with the present’s last season, and certainly one of their most vehement criticisms concerned a technical subject slightly than a priority about plot: Viewers complained that they couldn’t see the motion unfolding in the course of the Battle of Winterfell, as a result of the episode was simply “too dark.” Now, greater than three years after the episode aired, HBO is providing a brand new solution to stream the present which will assist.

HBO Max customers worldwide can now stream all eight seasons of Game of Thrones in 4K decision with HDR shade — each Dolby Vision and HDR10 — and Dolby Atmos encompass sound, HBO introduced Monday. These fashionable video and audio codecs symbolize the highest of the road, so far as the house viewing expertise is worried.

House of the Dragon, the primary Game of Thrones spinoff collection, can even be obtainable to stream in these codecs when it premieres on Aug. 21, HBO stated.

This marks a significant milestone for the corporate. Game of Thrones is the primary HBO collection to assist these cutting-edge codecs, and House of the Dragon would be the first one to debut with that assist. That will deliver the practically 50-year-old cable TV community as much as par with rivals like Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Video, and Hulu, every of which has supplied programming in 4K HDR for years. (HBO Max started supporting these codecs on the finish of 2020 with the premiere of Wonder Woman 1984, however till Monday, the service’s 4K catalog was restricted to movies, not TV collection — and solely about 30 of them.)

There are some caveats right here. For one factor, solely prospects who subscribe to the ad-free tier of HBO Max — which prices 50% greater than the model of the service with advertisements — can stream content material in 4K. (This type of function gating isn’t unique to HBO Max; 4K streaming is offered solely in the most costly Netflix plan.)

In addition, whereas HBO Max is accessible on all kinds of gadgets, not all of them assist 4K. The HBO Max assist web site lists the Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, and Xbox Series X as 4K-capable platforms, but it surely doesn’t point out the PlayStation 4 Pro or PlayStation 5 — which is curious, contemplating that the PS5 app was reportedly upgraded with 4K assist in mid-June. I loaded up an episode of Game of Thrones on my PS5, and it didn’t seem to play in 4K or HDR10. (Unlike Xbox gadgets, PlayStation consoles don’t assist Dolby Atmos or Dolby Vision.) We’ve requested HBO for clarification, and we’ll replace this text with any info we obtain.

I can’t stress sufficient how a lot your capability to observe Game of Thrones in these new codecs will rely in your setup. The solely manner I used to be in a position to get the present to play in 4K with each Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound was through the use of the HBO Max app on my LG C1 tv. When I attempted utilizing the app on my Chromecast with Google TV, I acquired 4K however in HDR10 slightly than Dolby Vision, albeit with Atmos. When I solid HBO Max from my cellphone to the Chromecast, I acquired 4K and Dolby Vision, however Dolby Digital Plus sound as a substitute of Atmos. And regardless of the data on HBO Max’s assist web site, my Xbox One X’s HBO Max app produced 4K HDR10 video with Dolby Digital Plus. (All of those apps/gadgets are presupposed to assist 4K, Dolby Vision, and Dolby Atmos.)

Assuming that you could efficiently stream Game of Thrones in 4K HDR at residence, it could be value loading up “The Long Night” — the notorious episode that was “too dark” — to see if in case you have a greater viewing expertise than you probably did again in April 2019. Now, watching the present in 4K HDR by way of HBO Max continues to be not the absolute very best expertise; to get that, you’d have to select up a duplicate of Game of Thrones on 4K Blu-ray, which would offer higher-quality video. But the brand new streaming possibility does present a marked improve over the usual HBO Max expertise, which is 1080p decision with Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio.

Days after the Game of Thrones finale aired, Polygon printed a prolonged article during which I investigated why “The Long Night” regarded so tough. The rationalization got here all the way down to a confluence of a number of components, together with the filmmakers’ inventive imaginative and prescient and the way it got here up towards the constraints of broadcast tv and streaming video expertise. You can learn the story for extra — like, a lot extra — particulars, however a key subject was the dearth of HDR.

One of the most important advantages that HDR affords over commonplace dynamic vary is a wider shade gamut, which vastly reduces a difficulty often called banding, during which easy gradations of shade get damaged up into distinct, nicely, bands. And certainly, I observed a lot much less banding (and far much less pixelation) after I watched “The Long Night” in 4K Dolby Vision. I nonetheless felt like I wanted to maintain the room darkish to provide myself the most effective probability at seeing the whole lot, however on this case, I may lastly make out the motion, unimpeded by video compression points.

In the aforementioned article, I stated that HDR “has the potential to be the most impactful advancement in TV technology since the introduction of HD resolution and digital television in the [2000s],” whereas lamenting that “it hasn’t yet reached widespread adoption on the content side or the consumer side.” I additionally stated, in a hopeful notice within the article’s conclusion, that “a lot can change in a relatively short period.” And I laid out a path ahead for HBO:

Now, HBO may begin mastering its content material in 4K HDR, like Netflix does with its live-action originals. That would permit the corporate to broadcast the present 1080i standard-dynamic-range model of Game of Thrones by way of the linear HBO tv channel, and ship a 4K HDR feed to streaming viewers by way of HBO Go/Now.

That was the spring of 2019. Now, in the summertime of 2022, that’s precisely what HBO might be doing with House of the Dragon. The long-awaited future is right here.

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