Tip #1409: Does H.264 support HDR?

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #1409: Does H.264 support HDR?

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

When in doubt, encode H.264 media using the High profile.

The AVC/H.264 logo.

Topic $TipTopic

I’ve said for years that H.264 is a limited codec – it doesn’t support frame sizes beyond 4K nor bit depths greater than 8-bit. But, recently I started wondering whether those statements are still true. So, I went to Wikipedia (linked below) to learn more.

H.264’s official name is AVC (for Advanced Video Codec). It is the most popular format for recording, compression and distribution in the world. (HEVC is #2.)

The H.264 standard can be viewed as a “family of standards” composed of a number of different profiles, although its “High profile” is by far the mostly commonly used format.

H.264 is the most commonly used format for Blu-ray Discs, where it is one of the three mandatory video compression formats.

According to Wikipedia, H.264 supports:

  • Frame sizes up to 8K, depending upon profile.
  • YUV 422 and 4:4:4 color sampling, depending upon profile
  • Stereoscopic 3D video
  • Depth maps
  • HLG HDR, provided the High-10 profile is used.

Color sampling and bit-depth support are determined by the profile used when encoding a file.

  • The High Profile, which is the most commonly used format, supports up to 4K images with 8-bit depth.
  • The High-10 profile supports 10-bit depth media, but not all software offers this option.
  • Only the High 4:4:4 Predictive Profile supports color sampling beyond 4:2:2 and bit-depths greater than 10-bit.

So, the answer to the question: “Does H.264 support HDR?” the answer is:

  • No, if you are using any of the H.264 profiles in Apple Compressor or Handbrake.
  • Yes, but only if you use the High10 profile in Adobe Media Encoder.


Here’s the Wikipedia article I used to learn more.

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