Version: 2019.4
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HDR color picker

High dynamic range

High dynamic range (HDR) is a technique that produces images with a greater dynamic range of luminosity than standard dynamic range (SDR) images, allowing for realistic depictions of color and brightness.

How HDR works

In standard renderingThe process of drawing graphics to the screen (or to a render texture). By default, the main camera in Unity renders its view to the screen. More info
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, the red, green, and blue values of a pixelThe smallest unit in a computer image. Pixel size depends on your screen resolution. Pixel lighting is calculated at every screen pixel. More info
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are stored using an 8-bit value between 0 and 1, where 0 represents zero intensity and 1 represents the maximum intensity for the display device. This limited range of values doesn’t accurately reflect the way that we perceive light in real life and leads to unrealistic images when very bright or very dark elements are present.

In HDRhigh dymanic range
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rendering, the pixel values are stored using floating point numbers. This allows for a much larger range of values, which more accurately represents the way that the human eye perceives color and brightness.

HDR in Unity

In Unity, you can use HDR images for internal rendering calculations. This feature is called HDR rendering. When HDR rendering is enabled, Unity renders the sceneA Scene contains the environments and menus of your game. Think of each unique Scene file as a unique level. In each Scene, you place your environments, obstacles, and decorations, essentially designing and building your game in pieces. More info
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to an HDR image buffer, and performs rendering operations, such as post-processingA process that improves product visuals by applying filters and effects before the image appears on screen. You can use post-processing effects to simulate physical camera and film properties, for example Bloom and Depth of Field. More info post processing, postprocessing, postprocess
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effects, using that HDR image. This means that the calculations are carried out using realistic values, which can lead to more realistic results.

On certain compatible platforms, Unity supports sending that HDR image to the display device. This feature is called HDR output.

Advantages of using HDR

  • Colors are not lost in high intensity areas
  • Better bloom and glow support
  • Reduction of banding in low frequency lighting areas

Disadvantages of using HDR

  • Increased VRAM usage
  • Additional computational cost of tonemappingThe process of remapping HDR values of an image into a range suitable to be displayed on screen. More info
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    , when used
  • Hardware anti-aliasing is not compatible with HDR rendering

Render pipeline compatibility

Render pipeline HDR rendering HDR output
Built-in Render Pipeline Yes

Enable HDR rendering per-Camera in the Inspector, or using the Camera.allowHDR API.

Enable HDR rendering and configure the format of the HDR buffer for each tier in the Graphics settings window.
Yes, on certain console platforms only

See platform-specific documentation for further details.
Universal Render Pipeline (URP) Yes

Enable HDR rendering per-Camera in the Inspector or using the Camera.allowHDR API.

Enable HDR rendering for all Cameras using the Universal Render Pipeline Asset.
In research

The development team are researching how to implement this feature. It does not yet have a planned release date.
High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP) Yes

HDR rendering is enabled for all Cameras by default. You cannot disable it.
In research

The development team are researching how to implement this feature. It does not yet have a planned release date.

Tonemapping

Tonemapping is the process of mapping color values from one range to another. When working with HDR, you must use tonemapping to convert the colors in the HDR image buffer so that the values are within a range that your display device can handle. If you do not use tonemapping, you can lose much of the detail and color information from the image, especially in very bright areas.

An exceptionally bright scene rendered in HDR and output to SDR. Without tonemapping, most pixels appear out of range.
An exceptionally bright scene rendered in HDR and output to SDR. Without tonemapping, most pixels appear out of range.
The same scene as above. But this time, tonemapping is bringing most intensities into a more plausible range. Note that adaptive tonemapping can even blend between above and this image thus simulating the adaptive nature of capturing media (e.g. eyes, cameras).
The same scene as above. But this time, tonemapping is bringing most intensities into a more plausible range. Note that adaptive tonemapping can even blend between above and this image thus simulating the adaptive nature of capturing media (e.g. eyes, cameras).

When using HDR rendering with SDR output, you must use tonemapping to convert the HDR image buffer to an SDR image for display. Unity provides tonemapping post-processing effects that let you do this: the Post-Processing Stack V2 package, the URP integrated post-processing solution, and HDRP integrated post-processing solution all contain tonemapping effects.

For information on using HDR rendering with HDR output on supported console platforms, see the platform-specific documentation.

Using HDR rendering in the Built-in Render Pipeline

In the Forward renderingA rendering path that renders each object in one or more passes, depending on lights that affect the object. Lights themselves are also treated differently by Forward Rendering, depending on their settings and intensity. More info
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path, a CameraA component which creates an image of a particular viewpoint in your scene. The output is either drawn to the screen or captured as a texture. More info
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only supports HDR if you have a post-processing effect on the Camera. This is due to performance considerations. If you have no post-processing effect on the Camera, the scene will be rendered directly to the back buffer where HDR is not supported.

In the Deferred ShadingA rendering path in the Built-in Render Pipeline that places no limit on the number of Lights that can affect a GameObject. All Lights are evaluated per-pixel, which means that they all interact correctly with normal maps and so on. Additionally, all Lights can have cookies and shadows. More info
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rendering pathThe technique Unity uses to render graphics. Choosing a different path affects the performance of your game, and how lighting and shading are calculated. Some paths are more suited to different platforms and hardware than others. More info
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, when HDR is enabled for a Camera the lighting buffer is also allocated as a floating point buffer. This reduces banding in the lighting buffer.

Projector
HDR color picker