20 Years of Movie Titles were filmed in 4K and nobody bothered to save them
by Stephan Jukic – September 24, 2014
One of the biggest complaints so far about 4K has been the dearth of really varied content in the resolution format. Sure, there are assorted TV shows, movies and live events now being filmed in the latest 4K cameras for the sake of display and transmission but we’re still looking at meager offerings in comparison to what Full HD 1080p has to give.
Given that 4K has been around as a video shooting capability for several years even in digital, the lack of content seems odd.
Well the main part of the mystery has been solved thanks to some recent and very interesting revelations.
According to veteran film industry figure Joe Kane, who’s been working for over a couple of decades in Hollywood, 4K has been around for a long time but it just never got saved.
According to Kane, who is also a former chair of the SMPTE Working Group on Professional and Studio Monitors, the post production community has been filming many of their movies in real Cinema Grade 4096 X 2160 pixel resolution and then simply downsizing it to a much smaller 2K format for archiving without bothering to save the original real 4K footage simply because they were…. “Completely unaware of 2160p coming.”
Kane further elaborated by explaining that, “As much as we’ve been producing in the 4K format, we didn’t store it because nobody thought we were ever going to use it! We would shoot in legitimate 4096 x 2160, produce in 4K but then archive in 2K.” He claims that the post production departments of the major studios then simply dumped the original 4K shots because they never assumed the resolution was going to actually arrive on the mass market as it’s doing now.
This helps explain studios, which have been working in the digital 4K format for more than 20 years, have hardly anything except for the most recent of movies to show for it. Only recently, once it became clear that 4K display resolution might really be a serious thing, have studios also begun filming in Ultra HD and actually saving their footage in the same format.
Previous to this, storing all that massive extra pixel data was considered a waste, especially considering that cheap, powerful storage media itself has only been easy to access for a bit less than a decade.
Eastman Kodak released some of the first film scanners that were able to scan at 4096 x 2160 resolution all the way back in 1992 and the first movie to be processed in 4K was actually Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs all the way back in 1993. The original film as digitized to 4K, processed, cleaned up and then downgraded back to a much smaller digital resolution that fit the technology of the time and the original 4K scan was simply erased.
This same pattern was repeated with hundreds or possibly thousands of movies since then and is only now being regarded as the mistake it might have been.
Interestingly –and this is why the original 4K processing was so effective– movies filmed with chemical film reels since as far back as the 50’s and possibly before that are all naturally 4K ready, at leas their film reels are. The chemical film used for almost all older movies, particularly super 35 mm film gave a resolution that went well beyond 4k and all the way into 8k territory, but up until the last few years, the technology to actually display these features has not existed. Now that it does, studios can and in some cases already are processing old classics into beautiful digital 4K format.
Story by 4k.com