What is contrast and why is important for home cinema projectors?

Contrast refers to the difference between white and black, or light and dark. In home cinema projectors, contrast contributes to the vibrancy and detail of the picture you see. A higher contrast ratio results in better picture quality, making the blacks look black and not just a shade of grey.

Home cinema projectors often display their contrast ratios as a figure like 10,000:1. This means that a white image on the screen would appear to be 10,000 times brighter than the darkest black image. Some projectors can achieve a dynamic contrast of ∞:1, which is an infinite dynamic ratio between the whitest whites and the blackest blacks.

However, using the term “infinite” can be misleading because it is a more of a lab-tested scenario than a real-world one. This is why native contrast ratios are a more accurate way of measuring a projector’s contrast capabilities.
It is important to note that ambient light affects contrast for projectors, muting and diluting the picture. This is why it’s recommended to treat your theatre room or space by blocking out as much ambient light as possible, including painting your walls and ceiling a darker shade to reduce reflective light.

What is HDR, HDR10, etc?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and it’s the technology used to transmit the information to give contrast instructions to the projector or display unit. HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision are examples of high dynamic range video formats used to adjust and optimize the picture quality being produced by your home projector. They all use something called metadata, which is data that describes and gives information to other data. It’s similar to searching for a book at a library; you look for it in the catalogue or directory – this is the metadata.

HDR10 uses static metadata, which averages out the contrast data across the content you are watching. HDR10+ uses dynamic metadata, which adjusts and optimizes each frame of HDR content to achieve the relative picture brightness/dimness that the director wants you to see. The metadata used for these reference points is often created during post-production and tells your projector how bright or dark each frame needs to be.

All this data is sent around your room via the HDMI cable. It’s why we provide a minimum 18Gbps HDMI connection with all our home cinema installations – you need that level of bandwidth to carry all the data needed to recreate the picture.

Some projectors may not be capable of displaying the full dynamic HDR ranges, such as HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. However, other projectors, such as Sony and JVC, have onboard technology that fully understands the HDR information being sent to them. In cases where there is limited HDR data, they have the ability to upscale the contrast data to give a much better picture depth than the original source material.

Visit our store at Fountain Gate to see our wide selection of home cinema projectors on display. We can show you just how important contrast is when enjoying your home movie experience!