Is there a direct relationship between higher video bit depth (10-bit vs 8-bit, for example) and higher dynamic range, i.e. HDR?

I'm somewhat confused regarding this particular aspect of bit depth. I know that more bits allows us to capture and recreate more colors and their shades, but where exactly does dynamic range come in?

  • 1
    Good question. Higher bit depth allows but does not guarantee greater dynamic range.
    – Jim Mack
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 13:59

2 Answers 2


More bits mean more possible values for each channel. So each channel in an 8 bit image has 256 possible values, from 0 to 255, while a 10 bit channel has 4 times as many: 0 to 1024.

Dynamic range however is the range between the brightest sample a sensor chip can encode and the darkest - it is a property of the sensor. So you could conceivably have an 8 bit sensor with a wider dynamic range than a 10 bit sensor if it could resolve very bright and dark images, it would just have fewer steps between these than a 10 bit sensor with the same dynamic range.


Dynamic range is the difference between extreme light and extreme dark, whereas bit depth defines the number of steps in between.

There is a practical relationship between the two, not a theoretical:

When you do some color grading on these videos (and with high dynamic range videos you will probably do some extreme grades), then you will easily introduce banding with 8 bit video. Only 10 or more bits give you enough headroom to avoid banding.

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