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Now then, the reason for my absence on Friday, is that I was invited to drop by 20th Century Fox’s new Innovation Lab to take a look at some of what they’re cooking for future 4K UHD release. Specifically, I was given the chance to see demos of their forthcoming 4K presentations of The Revenant and Deadpool, as well as the animated Ice Age: Collision Course. To answer your first question: Yes, they look amazing. One of the early challenges of 4K UHD is that so many of the existing and current films are still produced in 2K – even when the film is shot in higher resolutions, visual effects and the final DI are often done at the 2K resolution for cost reasons. That is certainly starting to change, and Fox is working with filmmakers to see more fully 4K titles produced going forward. They’re also working with filmmakers to help show and explain High Dynamic Range to them, and to get directors and cinematographers comfortable with working in HDR. Like any cinematic tool, HDR will be used differently by different filmmakers, but many of them are excited about exploring its possibilities.
I was shown side by side comparisons of Deadpool, The Revenant, and Ice Age: Collision Course in regular 1080p HD without HDR and then full 4K with HDR, each uncompressed. The difference in each case was striking, although it’s important to note that the color timing pass done for each is often very different – either done by different people or simply at different times. The Revenant is a perfect example of this – the color timing pass for the regular HD version was done first and then the 4K pass followed, by different grading technicians, though I should also note that cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (aka “Chivo”) was involved in and approved each. Still, the result is that color timing is noticeably different for each version of the film. How then does one compare the two? It’s difficult.
There are other challenges too. I talked with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment’s Danny Kaye (their EVP of Global Research & Technology Strategy) and his team about the difficulty (at the moment) of properly calibrating 4K displays – professional toolsets are only now starting to appear and consumer tools still in development. Many of you have asked us about Fox’s support for the latest object-based lossless audio formats, Dolby Atmos and DTS-X. Fox is evaluating each and does plan to support both going forward, but they’re still working to decide the best way to handle each, and is testing different consumer speaker configurations in their lab. New toolsets are apparently forthcoming to make that work easier as well.
I also learned from Kaye and his team (and I’ve heard this from film restoration experts like Robert Harris and others as well) that there are challenges in deciding which older catalog titles can be released in 4K with High Dynamic Range. It all depends on whether the necessary contrast and color information can be pulled out of the original negative/source material to allow HDR, and of course the studio certainly wants to consult with the filmmakers involved to retain their original artistic intent. So a lot of testing is being done right now to determine the best way forward, which is why it’s probably going to be a couple of months before we really start to get a sense of what kinds of catalog titles are forthcoming on 4K UHD in 2016. Some titles might look great in 4K but can’t have HDR, some will have both. It depends.
But it’s clear to me at least that Fox is working very hard to create a great consumer experience with 4K UHD Blu-ray. They’re just trying to get it right, and are taking the time to move forward carefully. Which, given that this is a brand new format, is really the approach everyone should take – especially consumers. 4K Ultra HD is a new format and, as was the case with DVD and BD before it, later titles were much improved over early ones. And as the format continues to mature, consumer costs will drop even as that A/V quality increases.
Switching gears for a moment, let’s step back and take a broader look and what one can reasonably expect from all of the major Hollywood studios in terms of upcoming 4K UHD titles that are either confirmed, considered likely, or are possible for release in 2016:
FOX – New releases will certainly include X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence, Ice Age: Collision Course, Trolls, and Assassin’s Creed. As for catalog titles, Independence Day and other X-Men films seem likely, along with popular catalog films like Die Hard and others.
SONY – The studio has just announced that The 5th Wave is coming to 4K UHD format on 5/3 with regular Blu-ray and DVD. You can also imagine the revamped Ghostbusters, The Angry Birds Movie, Patient Zero, and others. As for catalog titles, Sony’s 4K UHD press releases in the past have specifically teased such 4K-remastered titles as Fury, Captain Phillips, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Men in Black, Ghostbusters, The Fifth Element, Bad Boys, The Da Vinci Code, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Leon: The Professional, Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Guns of Navarone, Taxi Driver, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and others.
LIONSGATE – The Divergent Series: Allegiant seems a likely upcoming title for Lionsgate to release in 4K. The previous films in this series seem possible catalog titles, along with The Hunger Games films. One can imagine the studio is also testing Apocalypse Now, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and other ”evergreen” catalog titles as possible releases going forward.
WARNER – Warner plans to release some 35 4K titles in 2016, including many upcoming new release titles. That would make Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Tarzan, Geostorm, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur all likely suspects. As for catalog titles, Warner has indicated that Man of Steel and Pacific Rim are both coming for sure. I wouldn’t be shocked to see The Iron Giant. Speed Racer and The Matrix films would seem obvious choices too.
PARAMOUNT – Multiple industry sources have informed me now that the studio’s first UHD releases this summer will include Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness. You can bet that the forthcoming Star Trek Beyond will also be released, and director Nicholas Meyer has now confirmed that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan will be released on the format as well this year. (Note: I’ll have more to say on upcoming Trek BDs later this week.) I’ve personally seen 4K UHD tests of The Godfather (though sans HDR). I’ve also heard that the Transformers films, the Mission: Impossible films, Gladiator, Braveheart, and Top Gun are all being tested for possible release on the format.
UNIVERSAL – I’ve confirmed that Universal is planning to introduce its first 4K UHD titles in 2016, but probably not until the 3rd or 4th Quarter. The most likely forthcoming new release titles to debut on the format are probably Warcraft, Jason Bourne, and The Secret Lives of Pets.
DISNEY – Most sources I’ve spoken with suggest that Disney is waiting until 2017 to get into 4K UHD, though I’m told it’s still possible that you could see their first releases on the format in the 4th Quarter.
OTHERS – We know that Shout! Factory is launching their first 4K UHD IMAX documentary titles this summer. It remains to be seen whether Criterion, The Weinstein Company, and others studios join the 4K fray in 2016.
Now then... I’ve promised a write-up on my personal experiences with 4K UHD thus far, so look for that probably later this week, along with another review or two on the format.
All right, one last bit of news today, and then we’ll back with more tomorrow: Our friend Chris Gore is going to be moderating a DVD-Duesday Live panel at the upcoming WonderCon convention in Los Angeles later this month (Saturday 3/26 at 8:30 PM in Room 515B). If you’re attending WonderCon this year, I highly recommend you check it out. Chris is a great moderator and his panel should be a lot of fun.
Back tomorrow with more! Stay tuned...
- Bill Hunt (@BillHuntBits)