This term simply describes how much contrast your camera can see. I used to be way more into dynamic range tests in the past, but two major things changed:
- Cameras improved immensely. Where the dynamic range used to matter because it affected the end result image in a dramatic way the modern differences are far more subtle. If you’re exposing correctly, dynamic range differences between cameras generally affect areas where your audience isn’t so often paying attention anyway (especially if we’re talking narrative filmmaking).
- Highlight rolloff improved. While more subtle, this really has less to do directly with dynamic range and more about how the highlights in an image are processed. When the dynamic range was low cameras would clip to white very aggressively. There are areas of an image that should be white (think light sources and their reflections “direct specular reflections”). When those go white we don’t care. But there was an era not that long ago when you could easily overexpose broad swaths of skin tone into the clipping zone. Instead of gradually losing information as they approached clipping, the camera would record a monocolor white blob. Not appealing at all.