Pulse contrast is a crucial parameter of high peak-power lasers since the prepulse noise may disturb laser–plasma interactions. Contrast measurement is thus a prerequisite to tackle the contrast challenge in high peak-power lasers. This paper presents the progress review of single-shot cross-correlator (SSCC) for real-time contrast characterization. We begin with the key technologies that enable an SSCC to simultaneously possess high dynamic range (
), large temporal window (50–70 ps) and high fidelity. We also summarize the instrumentation of SSCC prototypes and their applications on five sets of petawatt laser facilities in China. Finally, we discuss how to extend contrast measurements from time domain to spatiotemporal domain. Real-time and high-dynamic-range contrast measurements, provided by SSCC, can not only characterize various complex noises in high peak-power lasers but also guide the system optimization.