Samsung TVs too dark when watching 4K HDR

Eric

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I have three newer model Samsung smart tvs and they all have the same problem with 4K HDR content, dark scenes are almost blacked out to the point of being unwatchable. Because of this the main struggle I have is finding content that I can watch in 1080p, on Netlix the only way was to downgrade my account and all of the other apps force it on you with no option to downgrade, so I found using an older Roku device (without 4K) is the best solution.

Wondering if anyone else has ran into it, since it's happening on all of my TVs I figure it's more than just a one-off. I have tried all the different configurations and modes but none really seem to work and I shouldn't have to do all of that just to make a show watchable anyway. Really, you should just be able to turn it on and go.
 

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I have three newer model Samsung smart tvs and they all have the same problem with 4K HDR content, dark scenes are almost blacked out to the point of being unwatchable. Because of this the main struggle I have is finding content that I can watch in 1080p, on Netlix the only way was to downgrade my account and all of the other apps force it on you with no option to downgrade, so I found using an older Roku device (without 4K) is the best solution.

Wondering if anyone else has ran into it, since it's happening on all of my TVs I figure it's more than just a one-off. I have tried all the different configurations and modes but none really seem to work and I shouldn't have to do all of that just to make a show watchable anyway. Really, you should just be able to turn it on and go.
Did you try adjusting the gamma? Also what is the max brightness on your TV in knits?

I have a Roku TV (TCL) which has really shitty contrast, so dark stuff is barely enjoyable. The OLED we have is similarly dark if I use Dolby Vision+, but a little tweak on the gamma does the trick.
 
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Eric

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Did you try adjusting the gamma? Also what is the max brightness on your TV in knits?

I have a Roku TV (TCL) which has really shitty contrast, so dark stuff is barely enjoyable. The OLED we have is similarly dark if I use Dolby Vision+, but a little tweak on the gamma does the trick.
I did, I also tried various combinations with backlighting, gaming mode, etc and none of it really dials it in. I don't recall the knit count but I feel like I shouldn't have to troubleshoot this stuff on TVs that are all less than 5 years old that have 4K and HDR built-in. I know when I've researched that it seems like a lot of others have this issue with a variety of TVs with no solution as of yet, was just sort of hoping maybe someone here knows something I don't yet.
 

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I did, I also tried various combinations with backlighting, gaming mode, etc and none of it really dials it in. I don't recall the knit count but I feel like I shouldn't have to troubleshoot this stuff on TVs that are all less than 5 years old that have 4K and HDR built-in. I know when I've researched that it seems like a lot of others have this issue with a variety of TVs with no solution as of yet, was just sort of hoping maybe someone here knows something I don't yet.
It may be an issue with the actual backlighting. Many people say HDR becomes very dark as the dynamic range otherwise cannot be reproduced. I'll give you an audio example, for you to be able to hear the entire dynamic range of a 24 bit recording (144 dB) you would have to have a super quiet room and speakers that can go 144 dB loud. In reality, the 96dB of 16bit audio works just fine because everything is compressed these days. So when we try to convert this back to visual, this would mean a pitch dark room and a screen that can get insanely bright to be able to reproduce this spectrum.
 

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Samsung 65" - TU700D Series - 4K UHD - I've got this - snagged it last year from Costco for $479. Always thought it was just me but it is really dark for some scenes. I was watching Home Before Dark and couldn't see anything for portions of the episode. Thought it was just me.
 

thekev

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Did you try adjusting the gamma? Also what is the max brightness on your TV in knits?

I have a Roku TV (TCL) which has really shitty contrast, so dark stuff is barely enjoyable. The OLED we have is similarly dark if I use Dolby Vision+, but a little tweak on the gamma does the trick.

Noooooooo...........


As a TLDR, if you really really must do this, give the thing at least 30 minutes to warm up before you mess with it, and if possible, block out all ambient light. You can always adjust brightness a bit to accommodate for normal viewing conditions, but really... if you spot even a small hint of such an issue early on, return the television.

I'm going to omit the full explanation and just say, if this happens when new, return the thing. Gamma is largely baked into the hardware with LCD type panels. Unlikely the ancient CRT monoliths, these do not have meaningful hardware controls for such features. I would say if possible, catch this stuff when initially purchasing and look for brand reviews on how the hardware ages.

In reality, even when assisted by a spectrometer type device, the controls just aren't very good for this kind of thing, beyond very minor adjustments. All they can really do is estimate the hardware response, build a profile that models that, then build a transform (via LUT or matrix) which remaps the unadjusted output to the hardware specific target. Getting a really good mapping takes much more though, and since this redistributes the addressable values (noting that you may not even have the full numeric range available), you can just end up with banding or crushing details in certain ranges.

Note that some hardware really just ages terribly. If it doesn't look great out of the box, return rather than calibrate. If it looks like any pixels are swimming/pulsating, they cheaped out on some of the supporting electronics. Again return it if you observe this.


Actually building some of these mappings properly requires a bit of an optimization process to avoid undesirable rounding and poor distribution along gamut edges. It's detailed per profile (televisions don't use many) in the corresponding spec sheets, issued by standards bodies, particularly for commonly used integer pipelines, but implementing it is mildly annoying.
 
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Eric

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It may be an issue with the actual backlighting. Many people say HDR becomes very dark as the dynamic range otherwise cannot be reproduced. I'll give you an audio example, for you to be able to hear the entire dynamic range of a 24 bit recording (144 dB) you would have to have a super quiet room and speakers that can go 144 dB loud. In reality, the 96dB of 16bit audio works just fine because everything is compressed these days. So when we try to convert this back to visual, this would mean a pitch dark room and a screen that can get insanely bright to be able to reproduce this spectrum.
Would love to see them work it out.

Samsung 65" - TU700D Series - 4K UHD - I've got this - snagged it last year from Costco for $479. Always thought it was just me but it is really dark for some scenes. I was watching Home Before Dark and couldn't see anything for portions of the episode. Thought it was just me.
The challenge is finding a way to watch in standard HD because Samsung offers no way to truly turn it off. Otherwise, shows like you mention just aren't worth attempting to watch.
 

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Would love to see them work it out.


The challenge is finding a way to watch in standard HD because Samsung offers no way to truly turn it off. Otherwise, shows like you mention just aren't worth attempting to watch.
Yeah we had to relegate watching that show at night - no surrounding light - with all the lights off, then it's a bit better, LOL.
 
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Yeah we had to relegate watching that show at night - no surrounding light - with all the lights off, then it's a bit better, LOL.
Yeah I admit to watching DareDevil like that but seriously had no idea what was going on during the dark fight and night scenes, which was most of the show. That's when I learned if you paid the lower monthly rate on Netflix it would downgrade you to HD only, never looked back and it's been awesome ever since.
 

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Noooooooo...........


As a TLDR, if you really really must do this, give the thing at least 30 minutes to warm up before you mess with it, and if possible, block out all ambient light. You can always adjust brightness a bit to accommodate for normal viewing conditions, but really... if you spot even a small hint of such an issue early on, return the television.

I'm going to omit the full explanation and just say, if this happens when new, return the thing. Gamma is largely baked into the hardware with LCD type panels. Unlikely the ancient CRT monoliths, these do not have meaningful hardware controls for such features. I would say if possible, catch this stuff when initially purchasing and look for brand reviews on how the hardware ages.

In reality, even when assisted by a spectrometer type device, the controls just aren't very good for this kind of thing, beyond very minor adjustments. All they can really do is estimate the hardware response, build a profile that models that, then build a transform (via LUT or matrix) which remaps the unadjusted output to the hardware specific target. Getting a really good mapping takes much more though, and since this redistributes the addressable values (noting that you may not even have the full numeric range available), you can just end up with banding or crushing details in certain ranges.

Note that some hardware really just ages terribly. If it doesn't look great out of the box, return rather than calibrate. If it looks like any pixels are swimming/pulsating, they cheaped out on some of the supporting electronics. Again return it if you observe this.


Actually building some of these mappings properly requires a bit of an optimization process to avoid undesirable rounding and poor distribution along gamut edges. It's detailed per profile (televisions don't use many) in the corresponding spec sheets, issued by standards bodies, particularly for commonly used integer pipelines, but implementing it is mildly annoying.
Nah, the 55-inch Roku TV was $242. It would be insane to believe it could do real HDR. My OLED is just fine, it's more like I try to keep the nits down to <50% because I get migraines from strong LED light.

Love the technical description though. You clearly know more about these than I do.
 

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I'd also add that one of the reasons I got an OLED is because it emits less blue light, you can watch it at much lower brightness levels given the perfect blacks and as a result it is a lot less bad on sleep than an old LED TV.
 
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Eric

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I'd also add that one of the reasons I got an OLED is because it emits less blue light, you can watch it at much lower brightness levels given the perfect blacks and as a result it is a lot less bad on sleep than an old LED TV.
Sounds like OLED is getting cheaper and it doesn't have this issue, I'll likely make that move next time I upgrade. It's too bad that the technology is ahead of the standard LED TV though and I get that this is often the case when it comes to hardware but they should at least give the option to disable it.
 

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Nah, the 55-inch Roku TV was $242. It would be insane to believe it could do real HDR. My OLED is just fine, it's more like I try to keep the nits down to <50% because I get migraines from strong LED light.

Love the technical description though. You clearly know more about these than I do.

At $242, I'm guessing it uses considerable dithering to give the appearance of a sufficient number of levels for HDR. It's crazy to me that they can even sell them for so little. On televisions at that level, every adjustment it makes is through software, and you're just remapping values, typically with 256 or fewer available per channel. This means if you want to emulate a lower color temperature in kelvins, you do so by only using a portion of your already limited blue channel range (internally they're using RGB, input signals may differ, because chroma subsampling means you can transport less data).

I have a small amount of experience in this general area, and I've had to go through both literature on the scientific side of it and formal specifications from various standards bodies (ISO, Fogra, ITU-R, etc). You would be surprised by the amount of disagreement in handling of these things that actually appears in the wild.
 
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While you shouldn't have to do this, you can adjust the white balance in the hidden service menu on samsung TVs (note it may brick your TV or void your warranty if you change other non-WB settings).

The sequence for the latest models to access the secret menu is Info, Menu, Mute, Power when TV is off in standby.

You can make the display much darker, or brighter, to your taste (make sure to note down the original values to go back to original factory settings).

I think HDR is obviously a matter of taste and still a work in progress as displays catch up to the spec in terms of becoming capable of far more brightness.

I wonder if the contrast enhancer feature of Samsung TVs has any effect on dark scenes? Maybe Samsung needs an equivalent to LG's Dynamic Tone Mapping (although I despise LG LED TVs).

Also don't assume Samsung is at fault. Maybe Netflix just sucks at mastering HDR content.
 
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Eric

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While you shouldn't have to do this, you can adjust the white balance in the hidden service menu on samsung TVs (note it may brick your TV or void your warranty if you change other non-WB settings).

The sequence for the latest models to access the secret menu is Info, Menu, Mute, Power when TV is off in standby.

You can make the display much darker, or brighter, to your taste.

I think HDR is obviously a matter of taste and still a work in progress as displays catch up to the spec in terms of becoming capable of far more brightness.

I wonder if the contrast enhancer feature of Samsung TVs has any effect on dark scenes? Maybe Samsung needs an equivalent to LG's Dynamic Tone Mapping (although I despise LG LED TVs).

Also don't assume Samsung is at fault. Maybe Netflix just sucks at mastering HDR content.
My biggest concern with this type of change is blowing out my brightness for all other programming, it really should work out of the box by today's standards. It's not just Netflix, it happens on every service that offers 4K (HDR) so my workaround has been to use an older Roku box that doesn't support it.

If there was a way to allow 4K but disable HDR that would be a better way to manage it but so far from everything I have seen there is no way to disassociate the two.

BTW welcome to the site and thanks for the input.
 

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Is your HDR content HDR10 or DV a mix? What's your source, internal app or an Apple TV?

I've noted some TVs have the issue you're describing with DV, but not with HDR10 (or any non-DV output). If you're using an AppleTV I believe you can turn off DV in the Video/HDMI menu.
 
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Eric

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Is your HDR content HDR10 or DV a mix? What's your source, internal app or an Apple TV?

I've noted some TVs have the issue you're describing with DV, but not with HDR10 (or any non-DV output). If you're using an AppleTV I believe you can turn off DV in the Video/HDMI menu.
Not sure about the content but it happens from any source on all of my Samsung TVs, Roku, Amazon Firestick and Apple TV, all 4K devices. When the content comes on it's simply too dark to watch on any of them, if you google it there's a ton of others with the same issue and a bunch of "fixes" but none that really work.

My biggest issue with it is that it should work out of the box on a $2500 - $3000 TV, not sure if it's the technology that's ahead of the TV or the TVs themselves but going forward I won't be buying Samsung again until it's resolved. I'll do better research and buy a TV that can actually support it.
 

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Oh geez, yeah, I'd come over and hack around with you if I could (assuming a liability waiver in case I wrecked your TV :D)

One reason I went with the Vizio P65QX (vs. OLED [in general] or another brand), it has spectacular brightness while retaining outstand black levels (and balancing proper white point, gamma, contrast, etc.) Right now, the ladies are watching Hereditary, which has all sorts of dark scenes, with low bright points, and with all the blinds open (basically a whole wall of windows/glass doors), it's still super bright / super dark in the right places.
 

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Not sure about the content but it happens from any source on all of my Samsung TVs, Roku, Amazon Firestick and Apple TV, all 4K devices. When the content comes on it's simply too dark to watch on any of them, if you google it there's a ton of others with the same issue and a bunch of "fixes" but none that really work.

My biggest issue with it is that it should work out of the box on a $2500 - $3000 TV, not sure if it's the technology that's ahead of the TV or the TVs themselves but going forward I won't be buying Samsung again until it's resolved. I'll do better research and buy a TV that can actually support it.

The protocols for this stuff are pretty annoying due to the sheer number of different directions companies have gone with it over time.

Note the differences in linearization methods. Then there are display gamuts, which dictate how far off what the display considers neutral grey you can go in any direction.


It's an annoying topic, due to the amount of fragmentation and a desire to still work acceptably on SDR type devices. You can also quantize SDR signals using 10 or 12 bits, but this never really caught on as a common practice. It was used a little in an earlier generation of Adobe RGB gamut displays about a decade ago.
 
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Eric

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Bumping this because I'm getting ready to upgrade my TV and would like to get the input of anyone who is satisfied with HDR and their current TV. Unless something has notably changed with Samsung I won't be going back to them.
 
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