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What is Dolby Vision for games?



A person holding an Xbox Series X controller.
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Dolby Vision for games has officially landed on Xbox, bringing Dolby̵

7;s proprietary HDR approach to a new medium. Today we explore what it’s all about and what you need to enjoy Dolby Vision for games in your living room.

Bringing Dolby Vision to Games

Dolby Vision is Dolby’s proprietary format for high dynamic range (HDR) video content. It is one of the few formats that allows you to experience brighter, more colorful and more powerful images that take advantage of the latest display technology.

HDR is now a standard feature on most new TVs, with HDR10 being the dominant “baseline” format. There are many benefits to HDR video: wider color gamut, better shadow detail, 10-bit color, and eye-catching highlights that take advantage of the higher peak brightness on the latest compatible displays.

Dolby Vision logo
Dolby

Metadata in the HDR container tells the TV how to display an image, including how bright it should be. With HDR10, peak brightness is defined as a static maximum value for the entire presentation. Dolby Vision improves on this with dynamic metadata, defining peak brightness per frame or per scene. This gives content creators more control over the image displayed on the screen.

Dolby Vision also has other advantages, including a maximum peak brightness of 4000 nits (as opposed to 1000 nits in the HDR10 container), and is compatible with 12-bit video sources. Currently, no consumer displays can reach 4000 nits or display true 12-bit content, so the format will be ready for the next generation of TV technology when they arrive.

Dolby wants to bring the benefits of its HDR format to games through Dolby Vision for games. For gamers, there’s more to it than an expanded dynamic range and more colors on the screen. Dolby Vision for games also aims to solve the lingering problem of HDR calibration for games.

Dolby Vision infographic
Dolby

On the Dolby Vision for games website, the company promises that gamers can “say goodbye to adjustment sliders” because “games are automatically mapped to your Dolby Vision screen as you play, so you always see the full picture.”

HDR is something gamers struggle with because there is little standardization between titles. The HDR Gaming Interest Group (HGIG) was founded for this very reason, but few games support the custom HGIG mode. Those that do still require calibration and a TV that supports HGIG.

Simplified calibration is possible because Dolby acts as an intermediary and ensures that the image displayed on the screen is an accurate representation of the creator’s vision.

What you need to enjoy Dolby Vision for games

Dolby Vision for games is still in beta testing on the Xbox platform at the time of writing in May 2021. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and S consoles are (currently) the only consoles that support the format. Sony has yet to announce Dolby Vision for games support on the PlayStation 5. Dolby Vision could theoretically land on Sony’s platform with a software update, but there are no plans for that.

Xbox

To enjoy Dolby Vision for games, you need a Series X or S console and a TV or monitor that supports Dolby Vision. Microsoft hasn’t announced support for the format coming to Windows yet, so PC gamers will have to make do with HDR10 and HGIG for now.

Teething teeth have appeared as Dolby Vision started rolling out for games. While the format is theoretically compatible with HDMI 2.1-compatible displays in full 4K resolution at 120 Hz, many models (including the latest LG OLEDs) currently only support 4K at 60 Hz. Vincent Teoh of HDTVTest reports that LG is working on a patch for the company’s newer TV models from May 2021, such as the C1 and G1. Hopefully LG will also bring that update to older models.

Due to the MediaTek chipset used in some Dolby Vision compatible TVs (including Sony’s 2020 and 2021 models), 120Hz gaming with 4K resolution is not possible on some models where enabling Dolby Vision disables 120Hz support. If you’re bothered, you can still play games at 4K resolution with 120Hz enabled with HDR10.

Unfortunately, Samsung TV owners can’t use Dolby Vision for gaming, as the South Korean tech giant doesn’t support the format on any of their screens.

Find out if your TV is compatible with Dolby Vision

You can check if your TV is compatible with Dolby Vision for gaming through Xbox Preferences. Turn on your console and press the Xbox button to display the guide. Use the bumper buttons (LB and RB) to go to the ‘Profile and System’ tab. Scroll down and select Settings followed by “TV and display options”.

Then select “4K TV Details” and the Xbox will inform you which modes are supported by your TV. If you have green ticks across the board, you might as well turn on 120Hz right away. Go back out of the menu then select “Refresh Rate” and set it to “120Hz” if you haven’t already.

Which games support Dolby Vision?

While Xbox Insiders are still figuring out Dolby Vision, some have noted that the technology could be applied system-wide to all games as a pass-through container for HDR titles. It’s not clear if this is an improvement over simply using HDR10 with Microsoft’s Auto-HDR booster.

For best results, games should be optimized for Dolby Vision. The technology has so far made its way to Microsoft giants Gears 5 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection, as well as indie racer wreck party.

Ditching reports that “games that natively support the technology provide much more impressive results than games that simply use it as a pass-through.”

This suggests that while Dolby Vision for games can be used as a container for other HDR content, you’ll want to look at optimized games for the best results. With many game boxes and digital store descriptions now marking HDR10 and Dolby Atmos support, expect Dolby Vision to appear on boxes and marketplace listings soon.

It’s also worth noting that just because you’ve enabled 120Hz support at the Xbox system level doesn’t mean all games will use it by default. Many games that support 120Hz modes have a toggle under the game settings. This setting is often referred to as “frame rate” or “performance” mode, as it prioritizes smooth gameplay over visual splendor.

RELATED: Enable 120 Hz on Xbox Series X and S

The Future of HDR Gaming

While HDR support came to last-generation consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the implementation left a lot to be desired. It is hoped that Dolby Vision will deliver a new HDR standard for gaming with a foolproof setup process for a truly next-generation experience.

Don’t have a Dolby Vision TV and want to upgrade? Check out our guide to buying a TV for gaming.

RELATED: Buying a TV for gaming in 2020




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