Back in early 2006, a new resolution standard was implemented, HD 1080p. This was driven by Toshiba and HDDVD and Sony’s Blu-ray. After two years and I am sure a lot of money, the studios sided with Sony. The industry learned that if they are going to go to the next couple level standards (4K/8K), that they could not have another format war, so the Blu-Ray Disk (BD) was standardized.
Fast forward to just a few years ago (2013) and the first 4K TV’s came out. Of course, they were terribly expensive and there was no content until 2015 when “The Martian” came out in 4K. Studio’s started to get on the bandwagon slowly (players were still expensive) until last summer when the last holdout Disney (Disney, Pixar, Marvel, LucasFilms) started to release in 4K.
Since then a couple of things have happened to spur the adoption of 4K. Players have come down in price, in some cases under $100, the Xbox S and Xbox X, and PS4 Pro have 4K players in them, and finally projectors with UHD capability for a reasonable price (under $2500), because “immersion” doesn’t really happen until you are above 80″ and 4K and higher resolutions and projection were made for each other, see our Projectors and Screens blog.
But not all 4K releases are created equal. The reasons for this are source material and who is doing the upgrade. There are two types of movies, film and digital. Film comes in several sizes, 35mm and 60 and 70mm (IMAX). According to Director Christopher Nolan, scanning 35mm results in 6K resolution and 70mm around 11K (remember 1080p -4k is 4 times the resolution), but that 4K is the closest to being in the movie theater
Depending on who does the 4K creation (director, studio, or in some cases the director of photography) and how cleaned up the film negatives are, is how well they can get a digital scan, and how good it is coming out. The Chris Nolan “Batman Trilogy” is considered a reference level 4K series, because there is a noticeable difference between someone who cares about how the film looks versus just applying a resolution change. This is the issue with some 4K upscale from a digital source, as it can make little difference in the viewing or quality (this is why you don’t buy 4K of cell drawn cartoons, why bother save the money).