The HDR module optimises local dynamic range allocation for small to medium areas than the Contrast module. As such it ideally complements a prior application of the Contrast module.
The HDR module combines multiple strategies/algorithms into one signal flow;
The HDR module operates exclusively on the luminance component of your image, retaining any coloring from the input image.
Depending on the size (X * Y resolution) of the dataset at hand, the once-off initial processing/analysis may take some time, particularly at high resolution datasets and high 'Context Size' settings. Note that this processing/analysis is repeated every time the 'Context Size' parameter is changed, or when a new preview area is specified. Processing times may be cut by opting for a lower precision local gamma correction solving stage via the 'Quality' parameter.
However, once this initial processing/analysis has completed any parameter modification that does not involve 'Context Size', will complete virtually in real-time.
As with most modules in StarTools, the HDR module comes with a number of universally applicable presets that demonstrate settings for various use case;
Evaluating the effect of the above presets, the intuitive nature of the parameters become clear;
The 'Highlights Detail Boost' and 'Shadows Detail Boost' parameters generally provide a means to accentuate existing detail without affecting the brightness of larger contiguous areas, preserving that context.
The 'Gamma Highlights' and 'Gamma Shadows' parameters generally provide a great dynamic range management solution for larger contiguous areas that are very bright (or dim), however contain smaller scale detail.
The 'Gamma Smoothen' parameter controls the smoothness of the transition between differently locally stretched areas. Thought the default value tends to be applicable to most situation, you can increase this value if any clear boundaries can be seen, or you decrease this value to get a clearer idea of which areas are modified (and how).
The 'Signal Flow' parameter specifies the signal sources for the algorithm stack.;
The 'Context Size' parameter controls the upper size of the detail/structures that may provide context for smaller detail. For example, reducing this parameter will see increasingly smaller detail being accentuated, with less and less concern for larger detail. A smaller 'Context Size' value may be appropriate in cases where resolving small detail is of higher priority and larger scale context is ideally ignored (for example globular clusters). The previously mentioned caveats for changing this parameter apply; high values tend to help preserving large scale context well, but may incur longer initial processing times. Processing times may be cut by opting for a lower precision local gamma correction solving stage via the 'Quality' parameter.
Results from the HDR module are generally artifact-free, unless using rather extreme values. This third iteration of the module was specifically engineered to further minimise the artifacts of alternative implementations (such as HDRWT and AHE/CLAHE). Star "bloat" or ringing artifacts should be negligible under normal operating conditions, while noise-induced "detail" development is suppressed through the incorporation of signal evolution Tracking statistics. Highlights vs Shadows manipulations are available independently, and applying just one or the other should not yield any detectable sharp transitions.
More caution should be exercised when using extreme values far outside of the defaults or presets.
As with all modules in StarTools, the Wipe module is designed around robust data analysis and algorithmic reconstruction principles.
The Heal module incorporates an algorithm that is content aware and is able to synthesise extremely plausible substitution pixels for even the large areas.
The two aspects - colour and luminance - of your image are neatly separated thanks to StarTools' signal evolution Tracking engine.
Any decisions you make affecting your detail does not affect the colouring of said detail, and vice-versa.
You can convert everything you see to a format you find convenient. Give it a try!