HDR and the industry that cried “wolf”
At its core, High Dynamic Range offers a breadth in luminance between absolute black and peak white. The bigger the delta, the higher the (real) contrast ratio.
However, the HDR coming our way will be far more than that.
We could have limited the implementation of HDR to all the other standard picture metrics we had only a couple years ago. We could have had plain 1080 resolution, Rec. 709 color space and 8-bit color and simply added the ability to "blast" certain pixels brighter.
Thankfully, the industry did much more. Indeed, we took a giant step.
ISF studies of color science for over 20 years have concluded that consumer "careabouts" start with contrast (dynamic range), followed by breadth of color (WCG, or wide color gamut), then color accuracy and, finally, resolution (4K for now and the UHD roadmap calls for 8K one day).
At the strong urging of leading video professionals, we took a massive step with this iteration of video technology and made several simultaneous improvements. Consequently, the current meaning of HDR is now wrapped with higher resolution, 10-bit color and wider color gamut (better color, called DCI or P3, is already in movie theatres and is clearly better).
In order to ensure you will get all this wonderfulness, a UHD Alliance was formed to set some standards for all these features and provide a "seal of approval," essentially guaranteeing some minimal level of performance for all the metrics wrapped up in the term "HDR".
While there are 35 companies (and counting) in the UHD Alliance, notable influencers include DirecTV, Dolby Laboratories, LG Electronics, Netflix, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, Technicolor, The Walt Disney Studios, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.
An ulterior motive (actually, maybe primary) was to reduce the chance of yet another format war which would invariably cause consumers to postpone purchases.