In the natural world, the human eye is confronted with a wide range of colors and luminances. A surface lit by moonlight might have a luminance level of around 10−3 cd/m2, while surfaces lit during a sunny day could reach values larger than 105 cd/m2. A good quality CRT (cathode ray tube) or LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor is only able to achieve a maximum luminance of around 200 to 300 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of not more than two orders of magnitude. In this context the contrast ratio or dynamic range is defined as the ratio of the highest to the lowest luminance. We call high dynamic range (HDR) images, those images (or scenes) in which the contrast ratio is larger than what a display can reproduce. In practice, any scene that contains some sort of light source and shadows is HDR. The main problem with HDR images is that they cannot be displayed, therefore although methods to create them do exist (by taking multiple photographs at different exposure times or using computer graphics 3D software for example) it is not possible to see both bright and dark areas simultaneously. (See Figure 1.) There is data that suggests that our eyes can see detail at any given adaptation level within a contrast of 10,000:1 between the brightest and darkest regions of a scene. Therefore an ideal display should be able to reproduce this range.
In this review, we present two high dynamic range displays developed by Brightside Technologies (formerly Sunnybrook Technologies) which are capable, for the first time, of linearly displaying high contrast images. These displays are of great use for both researchers in the vision/graphics/VR/medical fields as well as professionals in the VFX/gaming/architectural industry.