Chart depicting resolution versus view distance

Real or Fake 4K – Should You Care?

Since 4K movies arrived on the scene, there have been websites devoted to telling consumers whether or not any particular film was transferred to UHD Blu-ray in “real” or “fake” 4K resolution. Well, what if I told you that you should simply disregard those websites and blogs entirely? Would you defend what they have to say?

Most would probably say that they would defend those sites/blogs because they do not want to get “ripped off” by purchasing something they believed to be something else.

However, you really should disregard those “real” vs. “fake” 4K lists. They are doing nothing more than hurting the already niche market for UHD Blu-rays as a whole.

What is “Fake” 4K Anyways?

When a film is toted as having a “fake” 4K presentation, what that really means is that the film was upscaled to 4K from what is known as a “2K Digital Intermediate (or 2KDI).

For an excellent example of an upscaled movie that utilized a 2KDI, then check out our review of Mary Poppins Returns on UHD Blu-Ray.

2KDI is an industry term that means the piece of media in question was mastered, graded, and edited at a resolution of 2048×1080 (sometimes more vertical pixels depending on aspect ratio).

When all the editing, sound, effects, and other work is done, the film is then upscaled to 4K for release.

Why Do Some Films Utilize a 2KDI?

There are several reasons to utilize a 2KDI when transferring any particular film to UHD. The most common causes include:

  • A Large Number of Computer Generated Effects
    When a piece of video media has a large number of CGI effects throughout, it will often utilize a 2KDI. The reason for that is that it would take the massive server farms (that are used to render the effects) considerably longer time to finish their job. Since it takes a lot longer, that means that those servers will not be able to make room to render other media. However, some studios render in native 4K at all production phases of the process (Netflix, for example).
  • The Media Was Filmed at Resolutions Smaller than 4K.
    Up until around 2010, most digitally recorded films were recorded at 2K resolutions. If the raw file for the movie in question was not filmed at 4K or higher, then the film will have to go through an upscaling process to achieve a 4K presentation.

Why You Shouldn’t Let “Real” VS “Fake” 4K Websites Influence Your Media Purchasing Decisions

HDR logo black and white

There are several technical advantages to upscaled 4K content. Some of the more prominent ones are as follows:

  • Expanded color gamut over standard Blu-ray and DVD content
  • 2KDIs are stiller higher resolution than standard 1080p presentations (2048×1080 vs 1920×1080)
  • HDR (where used, it is still up to the director, but almost all UHD Blu-rays have one form of HDR or another)
  • Higher bitrate data streams that prevent artifacts (like “macro blocking”) with motion and color
  • Better sound formats (sometimes, there are definitely Blu-ray discs out there that utilize the latest and greatest of sound formats and mixes)

When all is said and done, the final presentation of any piece of video media will always look better upscaled to 4K than it did in its original resolution (as far as digital media goes, analog film, and whatnot is another discussion for another blog post in the future).

If even after all of that, you still want to check to see if a film is presented in “Real” or “Fake” 4K, then check out Blu-Ray.com.

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14 thoughts to “Real or Fake 4K – Should You Care?”

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  4. Video upscaling is a fucking sham… it’s a piss poor attempt to pass a bluray off as a 4K as if somehow it’s much better quality, when in fact it sure as shit ISN’T, but has a terrible salt ‘n’ pepper filter (or film grain effect) over the top.

    A 4K upscale is maybe the slightest bit better than Bluray, but not worth buying.

    1. Yup. That’s why if you find an upscaled 4k disc, you might be as good off (or better) with the normal bluray. Especially if the audio track didn’t get an update. Because… it’s the SAME thing. Your TV and Blu-ray player will already do the upscale. So you can save a few bucks is all. If price is the same, sure go for the 4k disc. Maybe. Movies like the Matrix are even a good example of what can happen. Various versions of it were more or less green. More or less true to what was in the theatre originally.

      1. Took a hiatus from the blog for a while. Sorry about your post pending review for so long.

        But, back on topic:

        Sure, you don’t get much of a benefit as far as expanded resolution over standard Blu-Ray compared to letting your display or player upscale the content. However, you are getting a far-less compressed version of the film (higher bitrate playback) with expanded color gamut and, usually, HDR implementation of one form or another. Sure, there are HDR-adding AI upscalers these days (like the one present in the Panasonic UB820 player), but that is a far throw from a true HDR mastering.

        Is HDR not worth the upgrade price alone? I feel it is, but that’s my personal preference.

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