I wrote this some while back, when Benjamin Button came on our small screens - and then forgot to post - but here it is anyway:I work with data or digital cinematography, but I'm a film sympathiser, or should I say cinema sympathiser? It's an aesthetic thing and there's some Digital Cinematography footage I see that looks like video in its worst most 'live' state. Benjamin Button for instance. Or maybe it was the re-interlacing it went through to get to TV that did it, but it was painful to watch even though it was lit well.
As digital cinematography develops the new HDR function is ok but it's represented in standard viewing space on any normal display and there's the rub. If light in the visible spectrum can be said to be of (say) 15 orders of magnitude and the eyes in the human system are instantly capable of 5 orders of instantaneous magnitude (and this is utilised throughout the 15 orders depending on time of day, levels of luminance and a lot of other factors - like a searchlight of conscious perception sliding up and down the scale) then the average standardly available display is around 2 - 3 orders of magnitude (at best).
With new HDRx on Red, If you shoot 5 orders of magnitude then compress it into standard display space, then everything is lost. The HDR display technology that Dolby is working with, is around 5 orders so HDR capture - 10 levels of black and 30 levels of white above normal displays - correctly displays all of the gathered light. This is far better than exhibiting a conjuring trick: 'look no lights to achieve what was only possible by lighting'. If you are looking at a CRT, LCD or Plasma when you view the now famous red barn shot: http://camerarentalz.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/hdrx-barn.jpg you'll see that everything that HDR truly is - is missing.
In 5 years proper HDR will be available generally (given Moore's law). When you see real HDR Display, that doorway in the shot is hard to look at because it's 2 orders of magnitude higher than what you're looking at in standard display space. People originally got excited about HDRx for the wrong reasons which were to do with an advance in their technique that would be made possible - almost as if the average DP is searching simply for natural light to solve their basic aesthetic problem - and for me that basic problem lay closer to the experiments and work of people like Dziga Vertov than it does to, say, Billy Bitzer. I buy Conrad Hall's assessment of the necessary search of the longtime cinematographer that is to find the photographic moment in every frame of the still - not it's technicalities, but in the aesthetic demand to make every frame as good as every other.