Dynamic Contrast And Color Enhancements: AMD Versus Nvidia
Nvidia has implemented dynamic contrast and color enhancements since the beginning of last year on all GeForce 9-series cards, in addition to higher-end GeForce 8-series cards. It is only now that AMD has caught up by releasing similar features.
What are these features for? The idea is that during de-saturated or low-contrast scenes, the driver will automatically boost the contrast and color saturation in order to make the image as vivid as possible.
On the surface, this sounds like a great idea, until you realize that contrast and color are two areas that directors and other film professionals spend countless hours perfecting. Every scene has a lot of thought put into it, with conscious decisions applied to how things look in order to draw a precise mood and feeling from the viewer. Once a movie is mastered, the contrast and color settings are far from a haphazard mistake that needs to be fixed.
To put it in perspective, imagine watching Batman: The Dark Knight with happy, bright oversaturated colors. It just wouldn't work. The movie was designed with a gritty, de-saturated feel for a certain effect, and brightening it up with color doesn't suit the mood.
With this in mind, our recommendation would be to have your television calibrated properly in order to enjoy your movies the way they were truly meant to be seen. Having said that, there are folks who enjoy the over-bright, over-saturated look to which we're exposed in electronics stores. In addition, these enhancements might prove useful if you watch older films of poorer quality. For folks who might want to use them, let's have a short look at how these features work.
We'll begin with the GeForce boards, since they had a solid head start in implementing the dynamic contrast feature. Now, the GeForce 8200 chipset doesn't support this capability, but the GeForce 9300/9400 does, so that's the platform with which we'll work.
We did experience a slight problem with the GeForce drivers in that we couldn't find the feature in the 190.38 package. We had to revert to an older driver set to test dynamic contrast (version 178.13). Apparently, this problem isn't unheard of, and switching to other drivers can sometimes rectify it. But if you're big on using the feature, it might be a pain.
AMD's version of dynamic contrast has an interesting limitation in that it can only be enabled when noise reduction is turned off. This means that when dynamic contrast is enabled, the Radeon HQV HD video-quality score drops from 80 to 55 in one fell swoop. In its presentation, AMD also suggests that the dynamic contrast option will negate both the detail-enhancement option and HD Pulldown. But when we tried it out, HD Pulldown seemed to work without issue.