TL; DR: Every Apple product has a maximum brightness capability. Most Mac products don’t exceed their set limit of 500 nits of brightness unless the content requires it. The folks at Vivid have created a solution to help users break through those limitations to achieve brighter screen displays. Vivid allows MacBook Pro and Pro Display XDR users to reach up to 1,000 nits of brightness without posing a risk to their existing hardware. We spoke with Ben Harraway, Co-Founder of Vivid, about the macOS app capabilities, use cases, and recent updates.
Vivid Co-Founders Jordi Bruin and Ben Harraway became business partners by chance. Jordi had the idea to enable HDR brightness within Mac devices but couldn’t solve it alone. While surfing X, formerly known as Twitter, Jordi happened upon a video of Ben tinkering with transparent videos in the macOS ecosystem. And their partnership turned out to be the perfect balance to crack the case.
“The original idea was Jordi’s, and it needed both of our brains to come together to solve these weird intricacies where you have to put different things together in the right way,” said Ben Harraway.
The duo first tried to unlock Apple’s full brightness capabilities with transparent HDR videos but couldn’t trigger it. Ben then used a combination of technologies, including Metal, Carbon, Cocoa, Swift, SwiftUI, and C code, as his next test.
“I’ll never forget. My kids were sitting there with their tea, and I was on my laptop. And then, all of a sudden, after I ran this little test version, the screen exploded with brightness. It just worked,” said Ben.
In April 2022, Jordi and Ben launched the Vivid macOS app for general availability on the App Store. Its app currently only works for MacBook Pro and Pro Display XDR devices. But users from any walk of life can find value in Vivid, whether they work outdoors or are creative video directors.
Take Your Mac Device’s Brightness to the Next Level
Apple built its Mac products to sustain 1,000 nits of brightness and peak at 1,600 nits of brightness. But macOS has kept a conservative approach and doesn’t allow screens to regularly go above 500 nits of brightness. If a video or a task requires going beyond these limitations, the Apple device will automatically increase brightness, but most content doesn’t fall into that category.
“We take the advice directly from Apple, in that it specifically says in all Apple’s marketing that your screen is able to sustain 1000 nits of brightness. We don’t enable the peak and only go up to the 1000 because Apple says your screen can maintain 1000,” said Ben.
Ben and Jordi keep users’ existing hardware in mind and ensure the brightness capabilities remain within Apple’s suggested technical limitations. This way, the Apple device won’t get maxed out and shorten its lifespan. The team also only relies on Apple frameworks to power its app, so there are no risks of private technologies damaging the hardware.
“We feel comfortable to promote Vivid as a product. And it’s been at least 18 months since the product has been on the market. We never had a single complaint or problem or issue. I run Vivid daily with the same machine since day one,” said Ben.
Vivid allows users to safely increase the brightness display of their computers, and all they have to do is use the same key they always have. Overall brightness can nearly double with desktop applications and not have a washed-out display. Vivid gives users multiple options to get the app: download Vivid from the App Store, purchase a license from the Vivid website, or try it for free.
Everyone Can Use Vivid, From Video Editors to Movie Directors
Vivid can be a valuable tool for people from all walks of life. Ben told us Vivid’s primary audience is people from creative spaces, such as video and photo editors, but the team gets reports from users in various industries.
One of the most interesting use cases was for scaffolding. Ben said the company received an email from a user in the UK who was a building surveyor and needed Vivid to improve the visibility of his screen in the daylight. “He said Vivid completely changed his life. As a building surveyor, he spent a lot of his time scaffolding with his laptop, surveying rooms. And he said he uses Vivid every single day,” said Ben.
Vivid has made a significant difference in users’ lives. Vivid can help solve all your brightness issues, whether you’re a digital nomad who works outdoors or a movie director who shoots throughout the day. Ben said he loves to hear customer feedback and keeps them in mind.
“We like to think we’re very good at customer support and listening to our customers. So if enough people make the same requests, we’ll definitely consider adding a feature,” said Ben.
Vivid can prove its dedication to customer support with its latest feature, Eclipse mode. Ben said customers had contacted Vivid asking for a way to make their screen dimmer than the allowed format. After going through customer requests, Ben and Jordi decided to add Eclipse mode to the Vivid app.
“Some people were saying they put their Mac down to minimum brightness, but in a dark room, it is still too bright. So we added Eclipse mode to let your Mac become dimmer than it would normally be able to become, which is the opposite of what Vivid,” said Ben.
Keeping Vivid True to Its Core
Users can try Vivid for free with its Splitscreen Mode. It allows users to see half of their screens in full brightness to determine whether Vivid will fit their use case before purchasing. And Vivid can remain in the Splitscreen Mode for as long as you need it.
Vivid has helped many users get their screen brightness above their regular maximums. Ben said improving screen brightness will remain the focus of Vivid. He said the team doesn’t plan to add new features but instead wants to keep the solution simple.
“We don’t want to keep adding features because that’s what we think software should do. The core functionality does what it does, and it’s simple. There are not tons of options and things you don’t need. It just does what it does,” said Ben.
The Vivid team has, however, added automation to the app. So, for instance, if a battery goes below 20% or a computer gets unplugged, the automation can immediately disable Vivid.
“Little quality of life improvements like that are coming through. But for us, to keep improving the app is to always ensure Vivid is working with the latest release of macOS. We’re still looking at supporting other monitor brands, but I don’t think we’ll be in any rush to implement it,” said Ben.