Google pretties up Google Play movies and TV shows with HDR

Now you'll be able to buy HDR versions of some titles, but you'll need a compatible device to enjoy them.

Just as high-dynamic range is supplanting 4K as the video format of the moment our televisions, monitors, and phone displays, Google has announced a big push to make us want it even more. Following in the footsteps of Netflix and Amazon, Google is bringing HDR playback to Play Store movies and TV shows to make your viewing experience more lifelike than ever.

While the post is light on the details, we have one confirmed title that will get the HDR treatment: the Harry Potter prequel, “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” Google says that “many of the movies our users love” will be gaining the coveted high-dynamic range capability, bringing “better contrast, greater brightness levels and sharper images than HD.”

Google already offers a smattering of 4K titles, which carry a premium to buy. New titles cost $30 and older titles such as the Transformers: Age of Extinction can be had for as low as $15.

Of course, to take advantage of HDR videos, you’ll need a device capable of displaying HDR visuals. For smartphones, that means a Galaxy S8 or LG G6 (and hopefully a Pixel 2 in a few months), or a Chromecast Ultra hooked up to an HDR-compatible TV set. Google says the new content will be first available to users in the U.S. and Canada.

The impact on you on the couch: It might seem like there’s a new video buzzword every year—4K, 5K, DolbyVison, etc.—but HDR is the real deal. In short, it focuses on the things that matter to your eyes: contrast, color, and sharpness. The results are pretty spectacular, even on small screens, and assuming there's a good library of content, Google’s support should go a long way toward making it more of a mainstream format. And perhaps now we’ll finally have a reason to pick up a Chromecast Ultra.

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Michael Simon

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