Why UHD Blu-rays aren’t actually 4K

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Kevin Collins

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  1. This video popped up in my Google feed the other day, and I kind of had to laugh, but the guy does *finally* make the point that UHD Blu-ray isn't all about the pixels, it's about the quality of them and how well HDR is used to increase depth, color, and contrast.

  2. I think the people in charge of branding were really dumb to call it 4K UHD instead of just UHD. If you call it just UHD, you get to define what that means (better colors, better compression, etc) instead of creating debates over whether a master is actually 2K or 4K.

  3. That being said, it's extremely frustrating that the major studios haven't moved to exclusively 4k workflows.

    At this point, something designed to be streamed via Netflix on a 40-inch screen is far more like to be completed at "real 4k" resolution than something designed to be projected onto a 40-foot screen in multiplexes.

    What really kills me is when they upscale 1080p content and release it on UHD, like Captain America: The First Avenger. Literally all of the "improvements" are artificially created after the fact.

  4. Adam Lenhardt

    That being said, it's extremely frustrating that the major studios haven't moved to exclusively 4k workflows.

    At this point, something designed to be streamed via Netflix on a 40-inch screen is far more like to be completed at "real 4k" resolution than something designed to be projected onto a 40-foot screen in multiplexes.

    What really kills me is when they upscale 1080p content and release it on UHD, like Captain America: The First Avenger. Literally all of the "improvements" are artificially created after the fact.

    4k isn’t necessary unless the project calls for it. And 2k works just fine theatrically, especially when projected in 4k.

    It’s an added unnecessary expense.

    8k, even more so.

    Sorry to be the naysayer, but the eyes have it.

  5. Robert Harris

    4k isn’t necessary unless the project calls for it. And 2k works just fine theatrically, especially when projected in 4k.

    It’s an added unnecessary expense.

    8k, even more so.

    Sorry to be the naysayer, but the eyes have it.

    Yeah, I would think adding that kind of expense would cut into the profit margin especially considering how much of a difference it would make presentation-wise for most of us. Furthermore, I seriously doubt many of us could see much of a difference on our displays.

  6. I think the 4K legend on the cover of Blu-rays help sales, which is no bad thing. The press release on the new Shout Factory, This Island Earth Blu-ray release says: Brand new 4K remaster of the film from an interpositive. Great, but it won't look any better than a 2K scan, but I'm sure it will help sell a few more copies.

  7. Robert Crawford

    Yeah, I would think adding that kind of expense would cut into the profit margin especially considering how much of a difference it would make presentation-wise for most of us. Furthermore, I seriously doubt many of us could see much of a difference on our displays.

    Well obviously not if the human eye can't even see 4k as has been pointed out here several times by others already.

  8. Lord Dalek

    Well obviously not if the human eye can't even see 4k as has been pointed out here several times by others already.

    Ha, well my 68 (soon to be 69) year old eyeballs certainly aren't 4K, I'd be surprised if they were even 2K by now.

  9. At times I wonder if the 8K "marketing" has more to do with something being a "status symbol", than anything technical based or practical reality. Basically something to attract first adopters for bragging rights among other technical nerdy/geeky types.

  10. jcroy

    At times I wonder if the 8K "marketing" has more to do with something being a "status symbol", than anything technical based or practical reality. Basically something to attract first adopters for bragging rights among other technical nerdy/geeky types.

    I can see a use for 8k in medical technology. Possibly.

  11. jcroy

    At times I wonder if the 8K "marketing" has more to do with something being a "status symbol", than anything technical based or practical reality. Basically something to attract first adopters for bragging rights among other technical nerdy/geeky types.

    Like 4K? :dance:

  12. Billy Batson

    Ha, well my 68 (soon to be 69) year old eyeballs certainly aren't 4K, I'd be surprised if they were even 2K by now.

    Technically your eye balls are older than that probably by up to 9 months unless you were only given them on the actual day of your birth, Tom Cruise Minority Report-style, and they didn't grow earlier.

  13. Josh Steinberg

    Theme park attractions. Extremely large billboards and commercial applications. Giant screens for touring acts who play 80,000 seat stadiums.

    Yeah, there's a ride at California Adventure that would benefit greatly from 8k, especially at 60 fps. It was a virtual flying tour of the state. I see that it was changed to a world tour. I have to admit, though, 8k might give me vertigo!

  14. Adam Lenhardt

    What really kills me is when they upscale 1080p content and release it on UHD, like Captain America: The First Avenger. Literally all of the "improvements" are artificially created after the fact.

    Where did you read this? The reviews I’ve read say it was finished at 2K.

    And that the 4K is a definite improvement on the Blu.

  15. I’m curious, the examples he gave is for films that had their DI done at 2K and finished at the resolution. What about older films that were scanned at 4K (The Shining, 2001) and then delivered on a 4K Blu-Ray. Are those “true” 4k images or we still talking about a 2K DI that was upscaled to 4K for release on disc?

  16. owen35

    I'm curious, the examples he gave is for films that had their DI done at 2K and finished at the resolution. What about older films that were scanned at 4K (The Shining, 2001) and then delivered on a 4K Blu-Ray. Are those "true" 4k images or we still talking about a 2K DI that was upscaled to 4K for release on disc?

    These are real 4K, of course. Actual detail can vary from shot to shot depending on how it was shot. Kubrick films are technically top so detail will usually be as good as 35mm allows under the shooting conditions.

  17. Robert Harris

    All that matters, is the resolution in which it was completed.

    2k.

    And it didn’t need more.

    So then it’s (Captain America TFA) 2K upscaled to 4K and NOT upscaled 1080p correct?

  18. Tino

    So then it’s (Captain America TFA) 2K upscaled to 4K and NOT upscaled 1080p correct?

    2K is the source. But depending on how it's done it can be 1080p or not (a 1080p crop of the 2K or the whole 2K with non integer scaling factor). In any case it's >= 10 bit full colour data and and not to be confused with BD's 8bit 4:2:0 1080p.

  19. owen35

    I'm curious, the examples he gave is for films that had their DI done at 2K and finished at the resolution. What about older films that were scanned at 4K (The Shining, 2001) and then delivered on a 4K Blu-Ray. Are those "true" 4k images or we still talking about a 2K DI that was upscaled to 4K for release on disc?

    Older films don't have DIs. Anything that was shot on film prior to the year 2000 was entirely completed on film, so the negative can be scanned at any resolution. They could go back and rescan at 8K or higher, but in the case of 35mm, it's not going to yield results any better than 4K.

  20. From Panavision's own FAQ:

    What is the Genesis camera’s output?

    The 12.4 megapixels on the Genesis sensor are binned into a 6.2 megapixel, 14 bit per color linear signal which the camera electronics then converts to a 10 bit quasi-log, 1920 pixel by 1080 line signal. The output is available in RGB (4:4:4) or Y, Pb, Pr (4:2:2). Each frame is recorded on the VTR with 10 bits of information per pixel. Most productions shoot RGB 4:4:4.

    Translation: It may have a 35mm 4k sensor but the camera itself is not 4k (or 2k for that matter)

  21. Tino

    So then it’s (Captain America TFA) 2K upscaled to 4K and NOT upscaled 1080p correct?

    The movie was shot at 1080p (with the exception of some of shots that couldn't be accomplished with the Genesis, which were shot on film). The live action footage was then upscaled from 1080p to 2K for post-production. The visual effects elements were presumably rendered at 2k. The 2k DCI was then upscaled again to 4K for the UHD release.

    So I was oversimplifying a bit, when I said the movie was 1080p. The vast majority of the live action footage was 1080p. The source for the UHD release was 2K.

  22. moovtune

    Of 664 titles I looked at about five months ago on one of the "Real vs. Fake" 4K websites, 313 titles were real and 351 were upscaled.

    More importantly — playing those discs on a 4K TV — can most people reliably pick which is which without being told.
    If someone picked the 50-100 best/worst looking titles out of the 600 (from 2018-2019 since I'll give them 16-17 as a learning curve) would it be significantly more than 50% of each or is it more of Real 3D/Fake 3D where there is no reliable difference is good/bad looking (non-Golden-Silver Age titles).

    Also talking movies and not specialty titles like IMAX or BBC Documentary titles like Planet Earth II/Blue Planet II

  23. David Norman

    More importantly — playing those discs on a 4K TV — can most people reliably pick which is which without being told.
    If someone picked the 50-100 best/worst looking titles out of the 600 (from 2018-2019 since I'll give them 16-17 as a learning curve) would it be significantly more than 50% of each or is it more of Real 3D/Fake 3D where there is no reliable difference is good/bad looking (non-Golden-Silver Age titles).

    Trust me, I've did several comparisons and I couldn't tell for the most part.

  24. Worth

    Older films don't have DIs. Anything that was shot on film prior to the year 2000 was entirely completed on film, so the negative can be scanned at any resolution. They could go back and rescan at 8K or higher, but in the case of 35mm, it's not going to yield results any better than 4K.

    More than likely I misunderstood what the person was saying, but once a film is scanned at 4K, those digital files are then used for color grading, etc., and then finally exported for disc. The production house would continue to work with those 4k files, not smaller files to expedite the process and reduce render time, correct?

  25. Lord Dalek

    You know what's overkill? Toy Story. That was actually rendered at LESS than 1920×1080 (actually 1536×922!) in 1994-95. So even the regular blu-ray is an upscale!

    And yet most people who have seen it have been impressed with the improvement over the BD and 3DBD. Much of that may be related to HDR, some of it just a better encode, but overkill to me means 4K for the sake of 4K with no upside

  26. Lord Dalek

    You know what's overkill? Toy Story. That was actually rendered at LESS than 1920×1080 (actually 1536×922!) in 1994-95. So even the regular blu-ray is an upscale!

    Which just goes to show how unimportant resolution really is.

  27. owen35

    More than likely I misunderstood what the person was saying, but once a film is scanned at 4K, those digital files are then used for color grading, etc., and then finally exported for disc. The production house would continue to work with those 4k files, not smaller files to expedite the process and reduce render time, correct?

    A 4K scan is the first step to creating a new, digital 4K master. So the 35mm negative is scanned at 4K, then cleaned up, colour graded etc. to create a 4K master. That is then used as the source for 4K and 2K DCPs for theatrical presentations, UHD discs and blu-rays, DVDs, digital sales and rentals, television, streaming, and so on.

  28. The very first disc I purchased in 4K UHD back in the day was Life of Pi. It falls in the “fake” side on that obnoxious website. When I bought it, I did A/B comparisons with the Blu-ray where I synced them up on two different players (Oppo 103 for the Blu-ray and early Samsung for the 4K, watching on an early LG 65” OLED) and the differences were immediately obvious in the opening shots of the zoo. Not only in respect to HDR, where the deeper colors on the 4K made the Blu-ray appear flat and lifeless, but also in resolution. There is a scene that pans across tree branches against a sky background where the improvement in resolution was obvious. So, right from the start, I was never too concerned about that “real” vs “fake” distinction because “fake” still offered great improvement.

  29. Adam Lenhardt

    Don't get me wrong, I think it's a beautifully shot movie. I just don't know that it needed the UHD treatment.

    The problem is, and this is a problem with Disney and Fox and even Sony, if you want the Dolby Atmos track, you have to get the new 4k disc as Disney never puts an Atmos track on the blu rays, only the 4K blu rays.

  30. Mike2001

    The very first disc I purchased in 4K UHD back in the day was Life of Pi. It falls in the “fake” side on that obnoxious website. When I bought it, I did A/B comparisons with the Blu-ray where I synced them up on two different players (Oppo 103 for the Blu-ray and early Samsung for the 4K, watching on an early LG 65” OLED) and the differences were immediately obvious in the opening shots of the zoo. Not only in respect to HDR, where the deeper colors on the 4K made the Blu-ray appear flat and lifeless, but also in resolution. There is a scene that pans across tree branches against a sky background where the improvement in resolution was obvious. So, right from the start, I was never too concerned about that “real” vs “fake” distinction because “fake” still offered great improvement.

    The 4K disc was also mastered at a much higher bitrate using a much more efficient codec, so much more detail from the DI is likely to be retained than on the Blu-ray.

  31. Brian Husar

    The problem is, and this is a problem with Disney and Fox and even Sony, if you want the Dolby Atmos track, you have to get the new 4k disc as Disney never puts an Atmos track on the blu rays, only the 4K blu rays.

    As a post note to this, the companies that are good for putting Atmos or DTS:X on non-4K titles are Warner and Universal, with the sole caveat that for whatever reason, Warner refuses to put Atmos on its 3D discs, which is ironic considering they did it early on and released some impressive tracks. Mad Max: Fury Road comes to mind.

  32. Stephen_J_H

    As a post note to this, the companies that are good for putting Atmos or DTS:X on non-4K titles are Warner and Universal, with the sole caveat that for whatever reason, Warner refuses to put Atmos on its 3D discs, which is ironic considering they did it early on and released some impressive tracks. Mad Max: Fury Road comes to mind.

    Paramount is pretty good as well with putting the Atmos track of atleast newer movies on Blu ray.

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