Quick Explanation of ‘Real’ vs ‘Fake’ 4K
Excited about your new 4K TV and new UHD movie purchase? Not sure what all the hype is about?
4K/UHD offers an amazing picture and sound that provides the best viewing experience available today. You might have noticed some movies look better than others on your big screen. It turns out some movies have just been upscaled to 4K and have cheated the quality a bit. Some movies while filmed/shot in 4K (or even 6K!) had all of the post-processing done at the same level of the old Blu-ray standard (2K/1080p). Studios rescanned these movies at 4K and are trying to pass them off as true 4K when in reality many special effects shots and sometimes the entire movie only has the quality of 2K/1080p.
Age has nothing to do with potential quality. Classics shot on film such as Lawrence of Arabia, Ghostbusters, and Independence Day can have the original negative scanned at up to 6K resolution! Sometimes, studios for a variety of reasons master their movies in 2K (budget, time, or just poor planning for the future). Unfortunately, even a few blockbuster movies released today are still edited and mastered in 2K.
Don’t think it is all doom and gloom! Those 4K TVs and UHD discs you are buying look and sound stunning giving you a better experience than standard Blu-ray. Even if the UHD is ‘Fake 4K’ studios are going back and cleaning up the source print and fixing color degradation. Plus, features like; HDR which makes highlights, shadows and colors appear more life-like, added immersive surround sound such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Prices are falling every day, pick up a couple titles and show them off to your friends!
Bottom Line: You should be picking up 4K UHD releases, the addition of HDR alone is worth the price of admission.
What is HDR and Dolby Vision?
HDR and Dolby Vision are behind the scenes methods of allowing movies to look more like the filmmaker intended. Don’t think of HDR as something that is ADDED to movies, when in fact, it is putting the contrast and color back into the image because it was stripped-out before! The image below is a quick outline of the process.
It is hard to illustrate the benefits of HDR because the screen you are viewing this on is likely not HDR capable (ie – 99% of computer screens and mobile phones). In addition to images that have the color closer to what we really see, the other major benefit is the increased contrast ratios. An average 1080p HDTV is capable of showing an image around 300-500 nits of brightness (from pitch black to the brightest white) and movies on Blu-rays were mastered to match this. The newest OLED TVs are capable of showing around 2000-3000 nits. Here is a real movie example: You are watching Star Wars and the Death Star is firing the superlaser, not only is the laser beam 6 times brighter, but you will be able to see more detail in the shadowy cracks of the Death Star at the same time.
There are actually 3 subsets of the HDR technology. Each of them applies slightly different methods to achieve this.
- HDR10 – The industry minimum standard of 10bit color. Everything labeled “HDR” has at least this capability.
- Dolby Vision – A step above which allows 12bit color. When looking for 4K TVs you should prioritize these. 4K discs and streaming services are including DV at an increasing rate.
- HLG – Coming soon, it allows backward compatibility with 1080p HDTVs without having to recalibrate the display every time. It does not have as great of a range as HDR10 and DV.
All of the above is how color and contrast is applied to your new 4K TV. Moving to 4K also has the added benefit of a wider color space.
Quick Guides to Enjoy 4K
4K Category Ratings
Below is the description you’ll see next to each movie or TV show listed throughout the site. Not everything is set in stone as some studios have taken extra care in restoration or mastering. If there are any meaningful updates there will be added information below the description. The categories below are not an indication of the actual picture quality of the movie/tv show. They are a quick guide to the source of the disc/stream.
It is not real 4K in any material way due to having a final master at 2K. Studios have upscaled the 2K image to 4K and retouched the content for your 4K UHD TV. You should see some visual improvement over a standard 1080p Blu-ray. (‘Fake’ doesn’t mean a bad image, some incredible looking movies are ‘fake’ i.e. The Lego Movie, Wonder Woman, and Pacific Rim.
Although it does have a 4K master, the media was shot in less than 4K using a high-quality camera. Films shot with a 2.8K camera have more than twice the pixels as an ordinary 1080p Blu-ray. 3.4K cameras offer over three times the pixel count. These titles should see a noticeable improvement over a standard Blu-ray.
This is the real deal. Everything was digitally shot in 4K or the original 35/70mm film negative was scanned in 4K and all the mastering/editing was done in 4K. Typically, if the film has VFX it was rendered in 2K. Depending on the caliber of CG, the final picture quality might be imperceptible to Real 4K.
Where is ______ movie?
I only add movies and TV shows that have been available in 4K either on a UHD disc, Amazon Video, iTunes, Netflix, or in 4K at a theater (which is actually pretty rare).
What do those icons mean?
(Hover over for details)
Where do you find your information?
I get this question often. I’m not some big Hollywood insider or even a guy who holds the boom mic on set. I get the tech-specs from reading and doing research. The info I get come from these sources:
- Studio press releases with filming specs, home release details, and official artwork.
- Reading industry magazine articles involving directors, editors, and effects artists.
- Camera and VFX studio’s official websites list movies worked on and equipment used.
- Occasionally, direct email with studios and effect houses.
Places I do not get my information: IMDb and Wikipedia. They are a great jumping off point, but all of that data needs to be double checked for accuracy. All of the entries are user submitted and have been wrong or outdated in many situations.
The Golden Rule – Studios love to talk about 4K. If the Director/Editor/Studio/Publicist has not mentioned 4K, there is a 99.9% chance it is a 2K upscale.
I run this site alone and strive for accurate material in a constantly growing movie landscape. Every so often an erroneous tech-spec is listed, which is why at the bottom of every page there is a link to email me with any adjustments (with sources) that you have.
TV Movies, Exotic Tours, and Documentaries
Very few are going to be listed on this site. The main focus will be ‘Hollywood’ and studio movie and TV releases. If you are interested in them; clicking on the movies below will take you to their Amazon purchase page.
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