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post #1 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 12:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Last weekend, Paramount Studios in Hollywood, CA, hosted the Cine Gear Expo, during which all the latest tools for movie and TV production were shown to the professionals who will use them every day. On Friday evening, attendees were treated to a special screening of After Earth, M. Night Shyamalan's futuristic thriller starring Will Smith and his real-life son Jaden as father-and-son soldiers who crash land on Earth after humans abandoned it 1000 years earlier.

 

What made this screening special was the fact that it was a native 4K DCP (digital-cinema package) projected at 4K resolution (4096 pixels horizontally) with a Sony digital-cinema projector. Many commercial cinemas now have 4K projectors—they can now be found in about 15,000 auditoriums in North America—but they almost invariably show files with a native resolution of 2K (2048 pixels horizontally), which are upscaled by the projector.

 

The projection room at the Paramount Theater. The projector on the far right is a top-tier film projector in front of a pair of stacked Christies. The Sony 4K projector is at the far end of this line up, where you can't see it from this perspective.

 

After Earth is the first major motion picture shot with Sony F65 digital cameras—in fact, serial numbers 1 through 7—at 4K resolution, which was maintained throughout the entire workflow, from shooting to editing to mastering to projection. The only exception was the CGI (computer-generated imagery); like all CGI these days, it was created and rendered in 2K, then upscaled to 4K.

 

Before the movie, they played a couple of short pieces that were also shot on the F65 at 4K. In addition, they were shot at 120 frames per second, and the motion was super-fluid with razor-sharp detail. This confirmed my appreciation of high frame rates even more than The Hobbit did.

 

Also before the movie, there was a discussion of 4K with cinematographer Jon Fauer, Sony Pictures Technologies President Chris Cookson, and Colorworks SVP of Technology Bill Baggelaar. Cookson said that Sony started scanning 35mm film at 4K several years ago to capture everything in each frame, protecting the long-term value of its assets. He also pointed out that the commercial-cinema experience has changed, with stadium seating and larger screens, and that people often sit too close to the screen for 2K. To present as much detail as possible, he said, we need 4K.

 

I spoke with Cookson after the screening and asked him why CGI was still being done in 2K. He said it's simply a matter of rendering time—it takes four times longer to render 4K images than it does to render 2K. He acknowledges that this is an area that needs improvement, and he's dedicated to advancing the technology to accommodate 4K CGI as soon as feasible.

 

Baggelaar was in charge of the workflow for After Earth, which he designed, built, and tested before shooting started. He said that everyone was nervous about shooting with the F65 for the first time, especially in the remote jungle of Costa Rica and the redwood forests of Northern California, but the cameras performed very well with no major problems. All in all, the movie generated 112 TB of data, which, he claimed, is surprisingly little compared to some other projects that generate two to four times as much.

 

Unfortunately, I was sitting too far back to take full advantage of 4K, even on such a large screen. But the theater was designed in such a way that I would have been looking up at the screen if I had been at the ideal distance, which I try to avoid to prevent neck cramps.

 

Even sitting too far away, the movie itself looked gorgeous—sharp as a tack with beautiful colors. The smallest details, such as Jaden Smith's character in the far distance, somehow looked clearer than I would have expected under normal circumstances; I got the distinct impression that the image could have been blown up by quite a bit and no detail would have been lost. The CGI animals did look a bit artificial, but that didn't bother me very much at all.

 

 

As for the movie itself, I thought it was pretty lame, though I won't give any spoiler details here. At least it's mercifully short at 100 minutes. And the sound levels in the Paramount Theater were quite reasonable—an average of 80.2 dBA with the highest 1-minute maximum at 97.5 dBA; the level exceeded 83.9 dBA 10 percent of the time, 72.4 dBA 33 percent of the time, and 67.5 dBA 50 percent of the time. Very civilized.

 

I didn't expect a great movie—it's rating is 12 percent on Rotten Tomatoes—but I was definitely interested in seeing a true 4K movie image on such a big screen, and in that regard, it did not disappoint. However, if you see After Earth in a commercial cinema, keep in mind that you'll probably be watching a 2K downrezzed file, so don't expect a difference in picture quality from what you normally see. I hope the movie industry develops the infrastructure needed to distribute 4K DCPs, because they really can look spectacular.

 

UPDATE: In response to some of the comments posted in this thread, I contacted Sony Pictures Technologies President Chris Cookson and asked if it's true that virtually all movies shot or scanned at 4K are actually shown at 2K in commercial cinemas. He said that the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiative) specification is designed to allow one DCP to service both 2K and 4K cinemas; it's a single JPEG2000 (J2K) file that allows a 2K projector to disregard the 4K "layer" and play the movie in 2K. He also verified that in most cases today, the file is delivered on a hard-disk drive.

 

So why aren't more 4K-equipped theaters displaying true 4K images? Cookson suspects that some projects are finished and distributed in 2K because many post houses are not set up to do 4K without a lot of extra effort and expense, so they discourage producers from keeping the 4K information in the finished product. In fact, he says, many post houses can't even project 4K, so the filmmakers don't get to see what they are losing.

 

On the other hand, Sony's own post house, Colorworks, was built from the ground up to do 4K, so it's easy for them. Thus, movies from Sony Pictures, including After Earth, are finished and delivered in 4K, and if the theater is equipped to project 4K, that's what you will see, contrary to my previous statement. It seems we are finally in the transition to true 4K cinema, and I couldn't be happier about it.

 

In the comments below, AVS member coolscan points out that, in addition to 4K resolution and a 4K DCP, the projector also needs a 4K-compatible IMB (integrated media block). This is a more-expensive component, so many theaters didn't opt for it because there was no 4K material when the projector was first installed. According to Cookson, the vast majority of Sony 4K projectors have the Sony IMB, which is 4K-compatible.

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post #2 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 07:16 AM
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120 fps!? That's spectacular! I wish I had an opportunity to check that out... oh well, I'll probably have to wait for some thing like Avatar 10 wink.gif
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post #3 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 08:50 AM
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If many theaters have 4k projectors, and the film was shot with 4k camera, are the theaters playing a 4k version or a deluded version?
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post #4 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 09:55 AM
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A theater near me has Sony 4K projectors. It's a shame to hear the movies aren't true 4K though. Since 4K is becoming more widely featured I expect that will be remedied soon.I can't wait to see a true 4K image projected at 120 fps on the big screen with stadium seating.
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post #5 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 10:19 AM
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Hmmmm, that last part doesn't seem accurate. What exactly would've stopped Sony from distributing true 4K DCP's to all the 4K-equipped cinemas out there? Would the hard drives storing the 4K files really cost that much more to manufacture and ship than the ones storing the 2K files? Are the Sony (!) 4K projectors in the cinemas currently limited in some way when it comes to playing a 4K file?

A couple months back, I saw Spring Breakers at the Regal in Silver Spring, MD on a 4K projector. The movie was shot on film in cinemascope and mastered at 4K. It was projected onto a decently-sized screen. To my eyes, the amount of visible detail actually brought me back to "the old days." It looked like I was watching an actual print, only without any of the disadvantages that would come with that. The best of all possible worlds, really. Shot on 35mm film, mastered and projected at 4K.

Now, I'll admit it's possible my eyes were fooled. Perhaps the 4K mastering made all the difference and I really was just watching a 2K file being upscaled back to 4K again. But, like I said, if the movie is mastered in 4K, and the projector is 4K, what exactly is the hold-up?

.... or am I overthinking it, and Sony simply doesn't want After Earth playing in 4K in the normal-priced theaters and upstaging the $5 surcharge 2K+2K liemax version????
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post #6 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 11:17 AM - Thread Starter
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As far as I know—and I've heard it from several industry pros—the infrastructure for delivering 4K DCPs to theaters is not in place yet. I can understand this if delivery is via network or satellite because of bandwidth limitations, but it seems to me that it's no big deal to deliver a hard disk with 4K content. I'll see if I can get an answer from Chris Cookson...


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post #7 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 11:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airrider View Post

If many theaters have 4k projectors, and the film was shot with 4k camera, are the theaters playing a 4k version or a deluded version?


I'm afraid not; they are playing a downrezzed 2K version.


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post #8 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 12:14 PM
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So in theory, when we see a movie in a 4k theater, it is not that dissimilar from watching a blu ray disc on the new sony home $25,000 4k projector. Both are taking 2k( or close, 1080p) and upconverting?
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post #9 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 12:48 PM
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My local amc in rockaway shows 4k movies. ..the projection of ted was very sharp as the film was shot using hd cameras...
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post #10 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 01:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frostylou View Post

So in theory, when we see a movie in a 4k theater, it is not that dissimilar from watching a blu ray disc on the new sony home $25,000 4k projector. Both are taking 2k( or close, 1080p) and upconverting?


Yes, that is my understanding. I'm currently in an e-mail exchange with Chris Cookson to clarify the situation, will add info as I can.


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post #11 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 02:01 PM
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It is not just to start distribute Harddrives with a 4K DCP and put into the Intergrated Media Block (IMB), you have to buy a new IMB that can handle the 4K media. Most of the 4K projectors a Sony SXRD projectors and when they where installed there where not much 4K material, so the cinemas didn't invest in more expensive 4K able IMBs.
Now many cinemas invested in HFR IMBs for the Hobbit, wonder how happy they are to invest in 4K IMBs?
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After Earth is the first major motion picture shot with Sony F65 digital cameras
Possible that After Earth started shooting with F65 first, but Oblivion was the first F65 shot major motion picture to be released.
The reason Sony in their usual Make.Believe style of ignoring reality and facts in their own promotion is because Oblivion is a Universal show while After Earth is of course a Sony show. wink.gif
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post #12 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 02:06 PM
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I went to see the movie at new Movie theater in my neighborhood the movie look more like 1080p or maybe the screen was so big.
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post #13 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 02:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post


Yes, that is my understanding. I'm currently in an e-mail exchange with Chris Cookson to clarify the situation, will add info as I can.

Thx Scott!
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post #14 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 02:46 PM
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Hi Scott Wilkinson.
When 120fps were demonstrated , did you feel the sxrd chips in the projector could "follow up" the extremely high framerate , without motion blurring/hiccups ?
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post #15 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 02:47 PM
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Scott,

Your report has me excited about the future of cinema. For years, I had lamented the fact that Hollywood lost interest in the 70 mm film format. With true 4k, we'll have something equal to or BETTER than 70mm film. Very nice!
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post #16 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 03:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coolscan View Post

It is not just to start distribute Harddrives with a 4K DCP and put into the Intergrated Media Block (IMB), you have to buy a new IMB that can handle the 4K media. Most of the 4K projectors a Sony SXRD projectors and when they where installed there where not much 4K material, so the cinemas didn't invest in more expensive 4K able IMBs.
Now many cinemas invested in HFR IMBs for the Hobbit, wonder how happy they are to invest in 4K IMBs?
Possible that After Earth started shooting with F65 first, but Oblivion was the first F65 shot major motion picture to be released.
The reason Sony in their usual Make.Believe style of ignoring reality and facts in their own promotion is because Oblivion is a Universal show while After Earth is of course a Sony show. wink.gif


That may be so; we were told that the F65 cameras used to shoot After Earth were serial numbers 1 through 7.


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post #17 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 03:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J.P View Post

Hi Scott Wilkinson.
When 120fps were demonstrated , did you feel the sxrd chips in the projector could "follow up" the extremely high framerate , without motion blurring/hiccups ?


I didn't notice any such artifacts; the image looked rock solid and tremendously sharp and clear.


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post #18 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 03:25 PM
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120p 4k == INSANE !! I can't wait.
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post #19 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 04:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Please see my update of the original post. I communicated with Sony's Chris Cookson about true 4K in commercial cinemas, and he provided some interesting and important info that I hadn't known before. Check it out!


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post #20 of 49 Old 06-03-2013, 10:05 PM
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Thanks for the report Scott!! Love hearing about all the amazing premeirs you get to experience. Did the 120fps material have the "soap opera effect" at all? Im very very excited to see some HFR material in a commercial cinema whenever I get the opportunity but I must say I do not like motion smoothing on flat panels. Not a fan personally as it looks too fake to me so I was wondering your thoughts on comparing the two? Some people reported The Hobbit to have somewhat of that effect. Im excited to see for myself how it looks in the cinema. Thanks again man!

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post #21 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 07:13 AM
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Hi Scott, perhaps I've been a projectionist more recently than some members here, but I remember distinctly that when our theater was installed with the Sony 4K projectors, most content was 2K, however, in more recent days when I was still working as a projectionist, we were receiving 4K native content on the HDDs that came. Specifically the 2 I distinctly remember were both Sony films: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Skyfall. We also received, occasionally, 4K trailers for films (most notably for me was The Avengers) and I did my best, while I was still employed there, to make sure that the highest quality content was put onto our screenings. I can't say that the same is true any more, but hopefully where ever you are seeing movies these days, the projectionists are attempting to give you the best experience possible, whether that is treating film stock with care or loading 4K content when available.

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post #22 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 11:30 AM
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Hi Scott, perhaps I've been a projectionist more recently than some members here, but I remember distinctly that when our theater was installed with the Sony 4K projectors, most content was 2K, however, in more recent days when I was still working as a projectionist, we were receiving 4K native content on the HDDs that came. Specifically the 2 I distinctly remember were both Sony films: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Skyfall. We also received, occasionally, 4K trailers for films (most notably for me was The Avengers) and I did my best, while I was still employed there, to make sure that the highest quality content was put onto our screenings. I can't say that the same is true any more, but hopefully where ever you are seeing movies these days, the projectionists are attempting to give you the best experience possible, whether that is treating film stock with care or loading 4K content when available.

Awesome I applaud anyone who takes or has taken there projectionist job seriously and strives for the best presentation. "Film Done Right" as they say even tho it's a digital world now. Kudos
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post #23 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the report Scott!! Love hearing about all the amazing premeirs you get to experience. Did the 120fps material have the "soap opera effect" at all? Im very very excited to see some HFR material in a commercial cinema whenever I get the opportunity but I must say I do not like motion smoothing on flat panels. Not a fan personally as it looks too fake to me so I was wondering your thoughts on comparing the two? Some people reported The Hobbit to have somewhat of that effect. Im excited to see for myself how it looks in the cinema. Thanks again man!


Glad you enjoy my reports! I did not see any hint of "soap opera effect" in the 120fps material; it just looked incredibly smooth. It's not like frame interpolation on LCD flat panels; in that process, new synthetic frames are created by the panel, which will always be an imperfect process. By contrast, shooting at a high frame rate gives you real frames. I admit that The Hobbit did have that "video" look in a few scenes, but not all the time, which is puzzling to me. Still, I'm convinced that it's an important step in the world of cinema.


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post #24 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 11:56 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredxr2d2 View Post

Hi Scott, perhaps I've been a projectionist more recently than some members here, but I remember distinctly that when our theater was installed with the Sony 4K projectors, most content was 2K, however, in more recent days when I was still working as a projectionist, we were receiving 4K native content on the HDDs that came. Specifically the 2 I distinctly remember were both Sony films: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Skyfall. We also received, occasionally, 4K trailers for films (most notably for me was The Avengers) and I did my best, while I was still employed there, to make sure that the highest quality content was put onto our screenings. I can't say that the same is true any more, but hopefully where ever you are seeing movies these days, the projectionists are attempting to give you the best experience possible, whether that is treating film stock with care or loading 4K content when available.


Thanks for posting this! I value your comments as a projectionist, which, as I understand it, is becoming a lost art. I look forward to seeing more native 4K on the big screen!

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post #25 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 11:58 AM
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Awesome, so jealous (aside from the movie you watched).

To me, the CGI kind of stands out in the commercials so I'm guessing the CGI wasn't all that impressive in 4k either but the real life cinematography should have been amazing at that resolution and framerate.
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post #26 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 12:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Reddig View Post

Awesome I applaud anyone who takes or has taken there projectionist job seriously and strives for the best presentation. "Film Done Right" as they say even tho it's a digital world now. Kudos

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post


Thanks for posting this! I value your comments as a projectionist, which, as I understand it, is becoming a lost art. I look forward to seeing more native 4K on the big screen!

Thanks for the encouragement! It can be very hard for many movie theater projectionists, especially those working for large corporations, to feel any sort of ownership in the film process. This is in part to a corporate culture that doesn't value film presentation as much as it values sales (IMHO), but also in part to a corporate culture that believes highly technical jobs like projectionist are worth minimum wage--though I was making slightly more than that due to my longstanding employment at the theater itself.

I have a very nostalgic view of 35mm projection and have noted several times to my friends that if I could get paid a decent wage, I would gladly be a projectionist for the rest of my life. There is something altogether soothing about the hum and whirring of projectors and the dark and empty spaces of the Booth that calls to me.

Sadly, the Regal where I used to work is now 100% digital and no longer has projectionists in the strictest sense. This causes its own set of problems, but I won't talk about that in this thread.

I too hope for more 4K native content in our theaters and for projectionists who care about utilizing the very good technology that is at their fingertips.

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post #27 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 01:30 PM
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I bet the movie looked amazing smile.gif
So I'm assuming it's more cost effective to let the projector upscale 2K to 4K rather than render it all in 4K? If it's upscaled from 2K to 4K I'm sure it looks great, but does true 4K still look better?
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post #28 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 05:39 PM - Thread Starter
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I bet the movie looked amazing smile.gif
So I'm assuming it's more cost effective to let the projector upscale 2K to 4K rather than render it all in 4K? If it's upscaled from 2K to 4K I'm sure it looks great, but does true 4K still look better?


You're right, upscaling from 2K to 4K is less expensive than keeping everything in 4K throughout the workflow, at least for post houses that don't already have 4K fully implemented. But in my view, true 4K does look better than upscaled 2K.


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post #29 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by frostylou View Post

So in theory, when we see a movie in a 4k theater, it is not that dissimilar from watching a blu ray disc on the new sony home $25,000 4k projector. Both are taking 2k( or close, 1080p) and upconverting?

Conceptually they are the same... However:

Because the movie 2k files are far less compressed than bluray, the upscaling engine is able to do the upscaling far better than from blu-ray to 4K

Also because movie files are in Frame-by-Frame compression (instead of consumer Group-of-Picture compression) that also yields much cleaner source which in return also yield a better upscaled motion resolution.
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post #30 of 49 Old 06-04-2013, 10:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by David Susilo View Post


Conceptually they are the same... However:

Because the movie 2k files are far less compressed than bluray, the upscaling engine is able to do the upscaling far better than from blu-ray to 4K

Also because movie files are in Frame-by-Frame compression (instead of consumer Group-of-Picture compression) that also yields much cleaner source which in return also yield a better upscaled motion resolution.


Excellent points!


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