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Apple TV is one of the more confusing applications. That’s because its streaming service and its operating system are named the same thing. You never know which one you’re in. Apple TV also has a tendency to play movies and series so dark that you can’t make out the details.

This is most likely a case of HDR content. Whether you are accessing Apple TV through an Apple TV device or through another streaming platform, HDR content is foremost when it comes to Apple TV programs. It’s a matter of making the right changes in Settings. 

If you’re particularly fond of Apple and have an iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple TV device, iMac, or Macbook, you’re more than aware of Apple’s emphasis on fantastic resolution and display brightness capabilities. Sometimes, all of that hardware under the hood is a bit too much.

Is HDR Problematic Only with Apple?

HDR is ironic, in its own way. The older SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) was problematic because it was too dim. HDR entered the scene when standards were raised to 300 nits or more, yet HDR’s incredible brightness also makes for extremely dark viewing. 

You can see the irony here and it’s not just an Apple TV problem. Apple places such an emphasis on HDR that the settings giving you problems are most likely default settings.

Plus, devices like the Apple TV 4k take full advantage of a premium TV, with nits reaching 1,000 or more in brightness. That sounds wrong. How can something pushing 1,000 nits be too dark? Well, in everything there is balance, whether you can actively see the balance or not.

The balance here is the contrast. The contrast between dark and light scenes in High Dynamic Range is huge. Most 4k TV sets probably default to the highest brightness setting and a high or very high contrast setting. This is problematic when using HDR.

Although cheaper TVs may look fantastic for regular viewing, they can’t match the enormous color range. Keep in mind, just because a TV is marketed as capable of HDR, doesn’t mean it’s good at it. Some people are good at baseball but not all can play for the MLB.

How to Adjust the HDR Settings on Your Apple TV Device

We could run you through the methods for changing HDR settings on your TV but that would take a book and a half worth of writing since there are seemingly a million different TVs out there. All Apple TV devices are the same, however, whether it’s a 4k or HD.

Keep that in mind as we go through the Settings on your Apple TV device, because you will have to explore your own TV settings as well, especially if changing the Apple TV settings doesn’t fix the problem 100%.

  1. Turn on your TV and Apple TV device
  2. Go to ‘Settings’ on your Apple TV
  3. Select Menu
  4. Locate ‘Video and Audio’
  5. Select ‘Format’
  6. Switch to 4k SDR or just SDR if you don’t have a 4k Apple TV

HDR is supposed to have a similar “average” brightness range to that of SDR but the difference is, HDR’s highlights can become far brighter. Of course, that’s assuming your TV can go that bright.

Switching to SDR is the ultimate fix, neglecting all of the other settings adjustment possibilities in favor of a quick fix. However, if you love HDR and want to take full advantage of it, you may want to make subtle changes with various other settings.

If nothing else, it will familiarize you with the various settings on your Apple TV and may even make watching HDR content a lot of fun again. This time, without all of the dark, gloomy views.

How to Adjust the Brightness on an Apple TV Device

Brightness has a lot to do with HDR, hence the ‘high’ in the acronym. Fiddling with the brightness settings may just get the picture where you want it so it’s worth a try.

  1. Return to the ‘Settings’ menu
  2. Select ‘Accessibility’
  3. Select ‘Display Accommodations
  4. Select ‘Reduce White Point’
  5. Select ‘Intensity’
  6. Adjust the percentage up or down as needed

Now, you’re obviously not going to tell how well it worked just by looking at the screen with the Apple Settings menu up. You’ll need to toy with the White Point, switch to a movie or show, and switch back again to adjust it more.

The best thing to do is watch a movie or TV show that’s mostly filmed at night or simply features a dark and gloomy setting. This will give you a better idea of how the dark scenes look with White Point adjustments.

How to Change the Color Differentiation on an Apple TV

Last but not least is the color settings. As mentioned above, some TVs don’t support enough colors to match HDR programming. Oftentimes, though it has little to do with brightness, changing the color settings will help.

  1. Return to the ‘Settings’ menu
  2. Select ‘Accessibility’
  3. Select ‘Display Accommodations’
  4. Select ‘Color Filters’
  5. Select a color filter from a variety of choices

These color filter options may be the solution you’re looking for and, like the White Point adjustments, you may have to fiddle with a variety of color filter choices until you approach something you prefer.

Before you do anything, it’s a good idea to research your TV. A simple Google check will give you all the specs you need for your brand and model. Specifically check for HDR support, though your Apple 4k TV would probably default to SDR if your TV lacks HDR support.

Check out how many nits of brightness your TV model is capable of. As mentioned before, just because your TV supports HDR doesn’t mean it’s the best at it.

Apple TV also has a color balance feature that you just need to use your iPhone. Below is a helpful video regarding that!

Bottom Line

Apple TV devices or the Apple TV streaming service are both well worth the time. Just keep in mind that if HDR is what you want, then your TV should have the capability for supporting it. If it does but the images are still dark, it may take some time spent in the settings to  straighten things out