Color Volume: Everything You Need to Know

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color volume
The best monitors out there seem to have it all; having one of those top-of-the-line 1440p monitors seems to ensure perfect visuals and cutting-edge technology all in exchange for a few hundred dollars.

You might already know, however, that this is not always true. Of the many factors that influence the overall quality of a monitor, such as color depth and image quality, even the most expensive monitors seem to have trade-offs, and some overlook certain very important factors.

As monitors become increasingly adept at doubling for televisions, with entertainment moving from cable and network television to streaming, let us talk about something that many consumers don’t seem to know much about and how it affects their enjoyment of what they’re watching, playing or creating and editing.

What Is Color Volume?

Excusing the Jeopardy-style introduction of the topic, let’s talk about color volume and why it’s important.

Color volume is, in fact, an amalgamation of three very important factors that go into image quality; color depth, color gamut, and the dynamic range. You might have come across many of these terms if ever you’ve learned about, or had experience in how to calibrate your monitor, but let’s explain them very simply and quickly first.

The Coming Together of Chromaticity and Brightness

Color depth (also known as “bit depth”) allows for distinct tones and shades of color that can be viewed on any display and how distinct these are, and the color gamut then helps determine the range of color (meaning which specific colors) that can be drawn from the given color space.

Lastly, the dynamic range – which you might practically know as SDR or HDR – governs each specific color’s luminosity range; the darkest black and the brightest white that a “color” can express. The ratio of luminance between them is known as the contrast ratio.

Color volume is the coming together of the entire range from the color gamut to the dynamic range. It determines both which colors are displayed and how luminous, meaning it governs both intensity and saturation, brightness, and the range of color.

Thus, the chromaticity and brightness of colors are both dependent on the color volume in an integrated fashion, where chromaticity means the essential “nature” of a color regardless of luminance (in the sense that “grey” is simply a darker “white”; the brightness changes, but the chromaticity is the same).

The Importance of Color Volume

As displays have evolved over the years, luminance has come to be of utmost importance. The traditional color gamut has been two-dimensional for decades since before this concept was brought into the mix; the 3D color gamut integrates luminance for better measurement of the color rendering capacity of any display. It’s here that the concept of “volume”, as traditionally understood in the physics of a 3D shape, comes into play.

In simple words, this means that all values of any color space can be expressed at their full capacity at any level of brightness – color depth and color accuracy are not only preserved across mediums but presented as exactly as intended. Higher color volume simply means a wide range and a dazzling array of more vivid colors with higher color accuracy; the realization of the full potential of the DCI-P3 color space.

This is what has helped HDR become the household standard that it currently is and has even shaped entertainment (think of the ultra-dark and gritty films and television shows of the last decade). A larger range, with greater peaks, of luminance levels, a wider color gamut, and higher contrast are all achieved.

Achieving 100% Color Volume

The world’s first televisions with a “hundred percent” color volume roared into the market in early 2017.

Samsung, with its pioneering QLED technology (Quantum Dot LED), had its QLED TVs verified as having a 100% color volume by Verband Deutscher Elektrotechniker (VDE), a German testing association.

In conclusion, the exciting (and currently “normal” world) of home entertainment owes a lot to color volume; think to older televisions with overexposed brightness and color distortion – or, in some cases, an inability to display some colors at all! With better color volume (in this case, a hundred percent color volume), colors can be displayed up to peak brightness, regardless of the display, with more consistent color quality, regardless of the viewing angle, and more vibrant and realistic images, regardless of the viewing setup.

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