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Upscaling Blu-Ray 1080p to 4K Ultra HD 2160P

Upscaling a 1080p Blu-ray disc, or some other source, to 2160P 4K Ultra HD is a stopgap measure as all of those extra pixels have to be interpolated. Given that a Blu-ray disc has 1080 x 1920 pixel content, the 2160 x 3840 of 4K Ultra HD has exactly 4 times the number of pixels. So while in theory each pixel of 1080p could become 4 pixels of 2160p 4K Ultra HD—with interpolation the pixel pattern of 1080p becomes the basis for "educated guesses" which means that sometimes the interpolated areas will come off better than others. But even at best any kind of interpolation will never be perfect. For more info on interpolation here is an informative link. Ultimately though the only way to realize the full potential of 4K UHD video projector or flatscreen is to have native 4K UHD resolution program material.

However another advantage of a 4K UHD projector or flatscreen display is that four 1080P feeds can be seen simultaneously. As one example, for sports fans who wish to keep tabs on multiple games at the same time this can be a very nice feature indeed. In addition if you have a 4K UHD video camera or if you are into digital still photography having more resolution can be very useful in those contexts.


Native 4K Ultra HD Content

While 4K UHD projectors and flatscreens are available, the only way that a new video format such as 4K UHD would really be highly desirable would be if the studios actually were to release sufficient 4K UHD content that people really want to watch..

However the fact is that a lot of movies have either been shot in digital 2K or have been transferred from analog film to digital 2K so it won't do any good to convert any of those transfers to 4K UHD as they won't look any better. In addition some movies were the live action portions have 4K resolution, the CGI is usually only 2K. Only movies or shows that are either shot in or have been transferred to 4k or higher can truly be 4K.

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray

As of 2016 we finally have some 4K UHD Blu-ray discs and players being made available. In addition to the 2160 x 3840 resolution, the spec includes higher frame rates (up to 60fps), Rec.2020 (aka BT.2020) which is an expanded color gamut along with high dynamic range (HDR). Also HEVC/H.265 encoding is being utilized in order to compress 4K movies and TV more efficiently. The new spec also allows for 10 bit color depth as well as higher bit rates up to 128 megabits/second range. Here is a link which shows some of the initial titles.

4K Ultra HD Downloads

For many though, rather than searching a shelf for a physical disk and then playing it, there is another way that is preferable and that is downloads. For high quality, high bitrate 4K UHD titles the whole movie or video is downloaded first and then played from local storage.

As of January 2016 one solution that we have here in the store now is from Kaleidescape. For their new Strato 4K UHD movie server, you can purchase and download UHD movie titles from the Kaleidescape Store. To see only the UHD titles in the Store simply click on UHD at the top which will filter the listing to show only the UHD titles. By the end of 2016 Kaleidescape expects somewhere between 300-500 titles to be available from their Store—with many more are expected to be released in the years to follow.

Also here is a list of some initial Sony titles in the 4K UHD format.

4K Ultra HD Broadcasts

In addition broadcast (via satellite, cable etc.) is another alternative and there have been some announcements along these lines.

4K Ultra HD Streaming

Lastly streaming is available although unfortunately it is usually highly compressed and thus is the least good source in terms of both picture and audio quality. For instance Netflix, YouTube, and others are currently streaming in Ultra HD 2160p. However the important thing to understand is how much lossy compression is being utilized and what effect it has on the video picture quality as well as audio quality.

4K Remastering

Here is an article about the 4K remastering of "It Happened One Night" which is a classic 1934 black and white movie directed by Frank Capra.

Making a 4K End-to-End Movie

Here is a technical article about making a 4K end-to-end movie.


New Standards: HDMI, HDCP, & HEVC

For 4K UHD there are 3 updated standards that will be required: HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2, and HEVC.

HDMI 2.0a allows for 2160P at up to 60 frames per second with HDR (high dynamic range).

HDCP 2.2 is the updated 4K UHD copy protection scheme.

HEVC, also know as H.265, is a more efficient lossy compression scheme used for 4K UHD content.

There are more technical details available on the above, but really all you need to know is that all 3 of these should be present in a 4K UHD video system.


Why 4K UHD Content Can Be Superior?

It is important to understand that a noticeable improvement in image quality due to higher resolution depends in part upon how large the screen is as well as the viewing distance from the screen. While having more pixels is always nice in theory, especially on displays of 65" or larger(in this context 65" is the diagonal measurement of a 16:9 aspect ratio image)—what else contributes to making a significant improvement in image quality?

More Than 8-bit Color Depth

Instead of the 8-bit color used in 1080p Blu-rays, by increasing to 10-bit the number of possible colors that can be displayed goes from approximately 16.7 million to 1.07 billion.

Technically speaking 10-bit is referring to the number of bits per pixel.

You see 8-bit color means 28 or 256 colors. Multiplied across the RGB spectrum this then yields 224 which equals 16.7 million possible colors for any given pixel.

Whereas 10-bit color means 210 or 1024 colors. Multiplied across the RGB spectrum this then yields 1.07 billion possible colors for any given pixel.

Then going up from there to 12-bit color means 212 or 4096 colors. Multiplied across the RGB spectrum this then yields 68.7 billion possible colors for any given pixel.

What having more colors means is that the transition from one color to another will be more accurate and realistic thus minimizing banding artifacts.

Compression

As of 2016 there are two different lossy video compression schemes for 4K UHD with the main one being h.265—(which is a more efficient in terms of compression than the currently utilized h.264 which is used for 1080P HD 2K). Of course any of the compression schemes being used for the home market are far more lossy compressed than JPEG 2000. Basically the more lossy compression is implemented the more compromised the picture quality is. Though a JPEG 2000 file for a typical movie can be somewhere on the order of 500GB-2TB which would be impractical for the home market for the foreseeable future.

Color Space

There is also the enlargement of the color space. Rec.2020 (aka BT.2020) is definitely an improvement over the Rec.709 color space used in 1080p Blu-ray as it is noticeably larger. This means that a wider range of shades of color can be seen. Here is a technical article of color spaces.

High Dynamic Range

HDR, aka High Dynamic Range, provides for more contrast between dark and light images on the screen. The idea being to create a much more realistic image.


The Digital Cinema 4K Standard

You might be interested to know that aside from the 4K UHD home theater standard, there is also the 4K Digital Cinema standard which is a format currently being utilized in commercial movie theaters. The actual resolution of native DCI 4K is 2160 x 4096 pixels—which is slightly wider than the 2160 x 3840 of 4K Ultra HD. (4K UHD 2160p has exactly 4 times the number of pixels of HD 1080p which is 1080 x 1920.) More format resolution detail follows:

Format Resolution Display aspect ratio Pixels
HD High Definition TV 1080 x 1920 1.78:1 (16:9)    2,073,600
UHD-1 Ultra High Definition TV 2160 x 3840 1.78:1 (16:9)    8,294,400
UHD Ultra wide television 2160 x 5120 2.37:1 (21:9) 11,059,200
WHXGA 3200 x 5120 1.60:1 (16:10) 16,384,000
DCI 4K (native resolution) 2160 x 4096 1.90:1 (256:135) ~17:9    8,847,360
DCI 4K (CinemaScope cropped) 1716 x 4096 2.39:1    7,028,736
DCI 4K (flat cropped) 2160 x 3996 1.85:1    8,631,360
UHD-2 4320 x 7680 16:9 33,177,600

Note that the D-Cinema 4K standard also specifies 12-bit color, JPEG 2000 compression, and utilizes the CIE XYZ color space. Ideally at some point in the future the home standard would be as similar as possible to that for locally stored content! But don't hold your breath for that to happen!

For more technical info about 4K Digital Cinema here is a PDF which talks about 4K projection in the commercial theater environment.

 

   
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