Wide Color Gamut – What is it?

Updated: Feb 15, 2024 7:33 AM

Wide Color Gamut (WCG) refers to a display technology where the screen reproduces a wider range of colors than the Rec. 709 color space that is most commonly used for displays, allowing viewers to observe images with colors that are closer to real life.

WCG is often associated with High Dynamic Range (HDR), but they are two different technologies that together help improve the image you see on your TV.

Below we will expand on what WCG is and how it improves your viewing while briefly touching on how HDR, together with WCG, are used with some of the best TVs on the market to deliver a more immersive and pleasing visual experience.

Is a wide color gamut important?

For TVs, different color gamuts refer to the colors that can be represented accurately on the TV. Therefore, TVs with WCG show more colors than those in the previous color spaces on television.

standard image vs wide color gamut

In fact, a wider gamut allows for more accurate color generation, bringing out more saturated and vibrant colors than previously possible. This can be seen by looking at the CIE 1931 chromaticity diagram.

cie 1931 chromaticity diagram of a Samsung S95C TV

The CIE 1931 chromaticity diagram quantifies all the colors the average human eye can perceive. below is a table showing how much of this model some of the common color spaces cover.

Color SpacePercentage of CIE 1931 coveredUsage
Rec. 2020 75.8%Film and broadcast of ultra-high-definition content (4K & 8K)
DCI-P345.5%Specifically designed for digital cinema projection and used for digital movies in theaters
Rec. 709 (sRGB)35.9%Standard for HD television and has been widely used for TV broadcasts for many years
sRGB and Rec. 709 share the same primaries and white point, but sRGB has a different gamma that’s better suited for brighter conditions.

Rec. 709 is the standardized specification for HD content but only covers 35.9% of what the human eye can see.

Rec. 2020 is the current standardized specification for 4K and 8K content and covers 75.8%.

Rec. 2100 expands on Rec. 2020 with added HDR capabilities.

The actual colors, color depth, and color on the screen are determined by the TV’s hardware. A higher number of actual colors means that the eye can see more subtle differences in shades and tones, creating a more immersive viewing experience.

Often, broadcast TV does not utilize the expanded color space, choosing instead to use the Rec. 709 standards. However, if you notice an area on your screen that has no color, you want to learn how to repair a black spot on the TV.

WCG also increases the bit depth. Think of this as an increase in the amount of shades between two colors, and with more shades comes more total colors available.

differences in color options from 8bit and 10bit
  • Rec. 709 usually has an 8-bit color depth. This means that an image has 256 intensity values of each primary color (red, green, and blue,) which results in roughly 16.7 million (256x256x256) shades.
  • Rec. 2020 usually has a bit depth of 10 bit. This results in 1024 intensity values of each primary, resulting in over 1.07 billion (1024x1024x1024) shades.

So as you can see, a wider color gamut greatly increases the colors and shades we see on our TVs vs normal HD content. Additionally, with HDR, the brightness, contrast, and color are further increased for a truly immersive experience.

What Is High Dynamic Range?

HDR (High Dynamic Range) enables an image to represent a more natural illumination of content. HDR TVs, unlike non-HDR TVs, require extra headroom in terms of brightness to showcase different elements.

With HDR, you may be able to see more detail in the images on the TV as it can have significantly brighter highlights, darker shadows, and more vivid colors.

Because of the different contrast between aspects of the image, viewers should also experience increased in-depth perception, which aids the eye’s observation of dimensions like 2D or 3D imagery.

HDR-enabled TVs often have high brightness, contrast, and color capabilities. HDR TVs are available that do not include WCG, but they often go hand-in-hand.

Additionally, scenes filmed in different lighting have a more significant variation. To maintain the artists’ visions, companies have created several formats of HDR, including HDR10, HDR10+, HLG10, and PQ10.

Each format helps to preserve the image when the dynamic range is less than what was created. In addition, some of these formats feature dynamic metadata that adjusts the image throughout the content instead of only at the beginning.

HDR will usually be on widescreen TVs. As such, if you notice there are black bars on your screen, you can check out our guide on how to get rid of black bars on the top and bottom of the TV.

Additionally, if you notice your picture appears to be fuzzy, there are a number of culprits it could be. Don’t worry; we have a guide you can follow on troubleshooting why your TV is fuzzy.

And if you are in the market for a new TV, you will notice there are a ton of options to choose from. You may wonder what an OLED TV is or if you should invest in new TV technology or not.

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