HDR is of course 'high dynamic range'. But the big gains from an HDR workflow are not actually just a brighter image. There are two main gains for well-graded HDR content:
a far more colorful overall image, especially in bright areas,
and ... better, "deeper" shadows, with far more detail and gradations.
But to get those in your image reliably takes a monitor that shows you what you're actually getting. So how do we go about getting a decent HDR monitor setup right now within Premiere Pro?
Well ... you had to be expecting this! ... it ... depends.
On a lot of things. How serious are you, is as always, the first question.
The Quick Answer with ... potential issues.
The 2022 version of Premiere Pro does allow us to simply set a monitor to its HDR settings and see an HDR-ish (at least) version of the image on that screen. You don't have to have the BlackMagic or AJA output device simply to get HDR onto a screen.
To just "play" with HDR work, or get some practice working with HDR tonalities, or to maybe put up a personal thing on YouTube, hey, go for it!
And yes, please do make sure the "Display Color Managemen" option in the preferences is checked! Along with the project setting of "Graphics White" to 203 nits for HDR work, the far more used option.
But ... what are you actually seeing? And are there problems that you can't see? This is where it goes far down the rabbit hole, and quickly.
My BenQ PD2720U for instance claims HDR10 support. I've heavily calibrated that to both Rec.709 (which uses sRGB color primaries) and for HDR ... using the P3 primaries. At least, as much HDR as that monitor can do.
I've run calibrations and profiles of that monitor in both spaces. Set for Rec.709, I'm well within pro specs on deltaE variances on both tonality and color. It's actually pretty solid there, and is useful against a Grade 1 Reference monitor as long as I don't try for broadcast work.
But remember, for HDR, it's about both brightness/contrast and color, right?
My BenQ is only capable of 358 nits brightness after setting the white point to D65, not nearly the 1,000 nits minimum normally listed as required for a pro grading HDR monitor. And that's not a lot more than the 100 nits of the Rec.709 calibration. Many TV's go way past my BenQ!
What about the color though? The monitor 'claims' 96% of P3 color space, but after calibration the profile suggests reality is more like only 94% or so of P3.
But here is where the HDR really hits home. Even with only 94% of the P3 colors, the image is so much more colorful than the same clip viewed as Rec.709!
So clearly, if your monitor has HDR capabilities, and you turn them on, you can at least sort of work in HDR within Premiere 2022 without the expensive connecting kit previously required.
And yea, I really, really want to be working in HDR. But ... I don't really do much yet. Why? It's because ... I know I don't know that much about what I'm getting when I change something in Lumetri. And I've got a lot more color grading experience than the average bear.
So what are we missing?
Well ... rather a lot, actually. Welcome to the rabbit hole!
All HDR screens produced for consumer use mess with the image constantly. Why?
First, to remap the image content to the hardware limitations of that screen.
Second, to match that manufacturer's "Ideal Viewing Experience".
Third, to prevent "burn-in" of brighter parts of an image actually physically damaging or destroying the pixels of the screen.
Even when we turn off everything we can, even if we have the 'tech remote' allowing access to the tech settings most users can't see, this still happens in the software and hardware of that screen.
And we never, ever, know exactly what's going on. Other than ... it is messing with the image. Everything from total contrast, shadow contrast, highlight contrast, shadow color, highlight color, midtones gray-scale & color, everything.
The blackest black 'here' may be X, but a few frames later it's ... Q. The whitest bright specular will shift scene to scene, and within a scene, frame to frame. And all this, no matter what we do with the color controls in Lumetri. Yes, we can change things ... and then the monitor does it's thing to what we've done.
So ... how do we know exactly what we've done then? It's ... crazy.
How do pro colorists work with this?
The pro Grade 1 Reference monitors are built to show a constant image, without the changes of the consumer gear. There may be "dimming zones" in some pro color grading monitors, small segments of the screen that can go 'blacker' than other parts of the screen. This is to maintain that incredibly wide 1,000 nits or better dynamic range.
But if there are dimming zones on pro grading monitors, there are thousands of very small zones that greatly minimize "starfield blooming".
There are no other changes being applied by the monitor to the image. No modification of any tonal or color detail whatever. At all. And they can maintain 1,000 nits or better hour after hour. With highly calibrated and accurate color.
So the pro's know exactly what they're seeing every moment. They know exactly what happens to the image with any touch of their controls. And that's why all the pro HDR monitors are well over $20,000 USD at this time. Way out of the range for most of us to even consider.
And the pro colorist's I work with daily tell me it can be very informative, to see the differences between their screen and a TV. Because they often have a large-screen TV set for their client's viewing screen in the room. Most typically they're the LG C9, CX, or C1 series TVs.
When looking between the two screens, they can tell when the client screen shifts image data at times. For some moments, image data shifting is between hard to tell to non-visible. Yet at other moments, yea ... it's pretty easy to see what's changed.
We all want the pro reference monitor at a prosumer price. And want it now.
That isn't going to happen, but again ... if your expectations and needs are within those rather severe limitations, yes, you can work in HDR without spending a mint.