4K made in Hollywood
With more and more 4K Flatpanel TVs pouring in from manufacturers we took a look at the state of 4K usage in Hollywood Films.
But first for a little Hollywood fairytale …
Many movies are shot on film and pretty all of them has been transfered to broadcast video which then have been used for VHS tape and DVD until 2006 when HD-DVD and Bluray were of to fight against each other for the throne of the future HD-Home-Entertainment-Medium. We all know who went out as a winner and we are piling up Bluray’s of our faforite movies in glorious HD qaulity. But at the beginning of 2016 the industry gave us a predecessor of HD. This time it’s UltraHD, a Bluray with more storage to be played on the new UltraHD Bluray players capable of showing movies with a resolution of 3840×2160 pixels, richer color gamuts like BT.2020 or DCI-P3 and even Hollywoods new High-Dynamic-Range (HDR).
Now we have glorious UHD-4K for our home-cinemas. But there’s a catch, as always.
The Cows Are Not What They Seem
At the times of DVD’s there were a lot of great movies which had great new digital sourround sound and an never seen sharpness for home video. But there were also a few which did not have that great quality on dvd, espicially the image looked soft, with off-looking colors. The production companies seem to not really care or invest in good transfers on some of the DVD releases.
But then there came Bluray and everything was much better now! Right? Wrong. Well, sort of. It’s not that bad actually.
With the success of the new Bluray format, nearly five times the resolution of standard definition DVD, the major Hollywood distribution companies released newly scanned masters for the new HD format discs. These new digital masters are mostly scanned as 2K Digitial Intermediate Masters (2048×1080 pixel) or only as HD Masters (1920×1080 pixel) and most of them looked good, some of them great, but sadly many of them are masterd badly and despite it’s HD resolution do not look good, are soft, the image is noisy, the colors dull and sometimes even the sound is not really great in some Bluray releases.
Now with UHD-4K on the rise. What can we expect?
Most certainly a mixed bag of good and bad surprises.
Some distribution companies like Sony market their upcoming 4K content with normal Bluray disks but with the “Mastered in 4K” tag on it. These movies should be mastered with great care and sharop image quality, downscaled to HD and put on these disks. Sony also also implemented his “Mastered in 4K” upscaling algorythm in their recent Sony XD93 UHD-4K line of LCD-TV bigscreen TV, which in theory should upscale these kind of movies to a pristine 4K experience, right? Well not entirely. In this case I review the “Ghosbusters” Bluray with the “Mastered in 4K” tag on it, but what can I say, it’s a sad, bad quality, pourly made Bluray that is soft, and far far away from 4K, not even HD sharp. So again, it depends on many factors in the filmmaking process if the material is treated like it deserves.
There are very good quality HD Blurays out there without a question, but not all of them are deserve to be on a Bluray, or even on a UltraHD 4K Bluray.
There are four steps in the process of a movie from filming to distribution in a theater and then releasing it on a media like Bluray or nowadays on a VOD platform like Netflix or Amazon Prime which are important for a seamless 4K workflow to achieve the most satisfying cinema expierience in cinema theater or at the personal home cinema.
1. Filming: Ideally the material is film either with a digital cinema camera capable of at least 4K resolution or with analog film material which is later scanned as 4K Digital Intermediate.
2. Post-Production: Editing and mastering in 4K with highest possible resolution, ideally with the cameras native format to prevent any quality degration due to file conversions. In case of analog film, the post-production must be handled with great care because many things can go wrong when transferring film to a digital intermediate.
3. Theater Distribution: Most films nowadays are released via digital intermediate stream over satelite or a harddisk with the film on it. These DI’s are mostly 2K but some of them are already 4K if the theater is capable of projecting a movie in 4K.
4. Home Media Release: You would think with 4K TV’s already available and some cinema theaters playing movies in 4K that the release of UltraHD-4K Blurays must be the norm now. Unfortunately this is more like an exception. There have been released a handfull of UltraHD Blurays which claim to show the movie in 4K, well they showing it in 4K with a propper 4K UntraHD Bluray player, but the movies on the Blurays are mostly upscaled from 2K DI masters, not as ine might think from 4K masters. Why is that you might ask? Demand and Money. Most people still watching movies on DVD and they are happy.
Film production studios will eventually upgrading to a 4K workflow and most big ones already have upgraded and will be used on new movies if there is enough budget available, but all other older movies are still stored in 2K digitial intermediate format, or even only in SD video masters for video. Hollywood have to spend money on new 4K DI scans, eventually restore bad 35mm prints, which is not cheap and easy at all, so it will take it’s time until there is a significant number of UltraHD Bluray’s available that are not upscaled from 2K masters. Until that, it’s not 4K what you watching on your 4K TV with your UltraHD Bluray player, sorry.
There is an interresting side effect on 4K content production for independent film productions compared to the big majors. Filmmakers with independent funding can easily create pristine 4K content with the cheaper 4k cinema cameras like a Canon C300 Mark II, edit in in full-resolution or via proxy workflow, deliver 4K masters and then negotiate deals by themselfs with cinemas, tv-stations or VOD platforms showing their content in 4K. So look out for independent Non-Hollywood productions if you want high quality 4K content right now, there are coming from all over the world.
So when you are a home-cinema enthusiast you will not be happy with the current batch of 4K UltraHD Bluray’s and be better of with good quality HD Blurays showing on a decent 4K home-cinema setup. You will get a better quality of a high quality scaler from new LCD TV’s like the new Sony XD93 Series or a 4K Projector playing HD-Blurays than from a Ultra HD Bluray because these are already 4K and soft, compared to the pixel sharp, upscaled HD movies.
We’ve done a bit of research on IMdB.com to check which movie had a full 4K treatment from filming to post-pro and releasing a 4K Digital Intermediate Master. Most of them are not released on UltraHD Bluray yet, but there is good chance that this will happen some day.
Database List of 4K Mastered Hollywood Movies
The list below gives an overview how a movie was shot and mastered. It also rates the released 4K UHD-Bluray if any is released. Take a closer look to the 4K DI column which indicates that a 4K master has been made from a movie, but most importantly also look at the column UPSCALED if the 4K has been upscaled from a lower resolution source. The Source and Camera column indicates the filmic process used on the movie and the camera the film has been shot with.
The Bluray column rates the 4K quality and sharpness out of 10 based on subjective perception. A 5 out of 10 means that the 4K Bluray has a sharpness of a normal 1080p Bluray, 10/10 means the movie has pristine pixel sharpness in scenes that are in focus. When the overall sharpness is below HD quality then the rating is below 5.
Movie-Infos has been gathered from IMdB.com and will be updated if new information is available.