All Netflix films are now required to be shot in HDR. High definition programming has been a literal game changer in terms of home entertainment over the past decade, just as the rise of subscription streaming services like Netflix has consistently increased. As competition in the growing streaming service marketplace is typically dependent on content and licensing, each service is now doing what it can to gain leverage. The recent launch of Disney+ has undoubtedly made long time industry leader Netflix stand up and take notice.
Though Disney+ currently only has 3% of the number of subscribers as Netflix, the new family-friendly service is sitting quite confidently with some 10 million users – a number which exceeds previous estimates. It is, of course, very early days in terms of Disney’s most recent offering, but many still have no trouble imagining a future in which Disney, not Netflix, is the new benchmark for streaming content. Given Disney+’s colossal potential, competing services must do everything they can to make their services as attractive as possible to consumers.
For Netflix, a part of that effort comes down to the overall image quality of its programming. According to Variety, Netflix has officially made it clear that all of its films must now be shot in HDR, or high dynamic range. This directive will ultimately result in higher quality imagery for customers, but at present, the streaming giant’s decision is being criticized by some Hollywood cinematographers who have received the news last minute from Netflix executives.
Though Netflix's Manager of Creative Technologies and Infrastructure Jimmy Fusil has insisted Netflix wants only to provide “authenticity in the representation” of a cinematographer’s vision, that authenticity requires a great deal of planning. For Roberto Schaefer, his work as director of photography on the recent Chris Evans Netflix film, The Red Sea Diving Resort was slightly hampered by the new rules to shoot in HDR, since the veteran cinematographer learned of the decision to do so at the last minute. According to Schaefer, as well as other DPs, the process needs to be decided on upon at the very start of a production. Maintaining open and clear communication lines is essential on any production, and although Netflix admits this could be better the streaming giant still maintains it wants what DPs want in terms of image and quality.
The rush to create new content in a timely, superior manner will likely only grow as the streaming wars further intensify. This degree of determination on the part of Netflix and other services is great news for subscribers. However, at the same time Netflix has to be sure in the process of trying to maintain their service’s dominant status they aren’t short-changing those who create content. Placing demands on the aesthetic of a production could be a potentially problematic issue for some filmmakers. If clear communication begins to take a backseat to the constant need to get the upper hand on their competition, Netflix could very well end up being the architects of their own problems.