What Of Classic Films In The Age Of 4K?

I’ve been thinking about 4K recently. My wife brought it up actually. She’d seen something about the technology in Vogue of all places and asked me why we hadn’t dipped our collective toe in yet.

I was a latecomer to Blu-ray, which features a maximum resolution of 1080p, which is a notch or two below the 2K standard that many digital cinemas aspire to. I was a latecomer because I was sceptical. The hardware “war” which saw Blu-ray pitted against the ill-fated HD-DVD had put me off of investing in a technology that might never take off, while my extensive DVD collection seemed relatively complete by the time this “replacement” came around and the last thing I wanted to do was re-buy all of my favourite films.

I have similar apprehensions regarding 4K, though I’m started to come around to it, thanks largely to the potential offered by the non-disc based quarter of home video. Despite being a physical media junkie I’m not blind to this idea that the future of home video most likely lies in streaming and downloading. While I will continue to purchase films on disc for as long as is humanly possible I’m actually quite excited by the opportunities that streaming presents for 4K.

Releases of new films are increasingly becoming commonplace, with the likes of Zack Snyder’s Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice and George Miller’s Max Max: Fury Road receiving home video editions that include 4K copies on UHD discs, but it’s in the digital realm where things become a little bit more unorthodox, and where the potential for greatness truly lies. Netflix has a 4K service, and Sky will launch theirs soon: Can 4K be far behind for more discerning video providers like Mubi or Filmstruck, the highly-curated new online film company from Criterion and TCM?

Criterion’s legendary catalogue of classic cinema is already en-route to being 4K-ready; many of their in-house restorations are now produced with the technological capabilities of the future in mind. Recent releases such as Terrence Malick’s The New World are finished to a 4K standard and are ready to be beamed to 4K televisions and displays. While the act of putting a film on disc is a costly one, films that might otherwise have been ignored a physical release on Blu-ray or UHD due purely to economic factors have an outlet via the far more cost-effective online route. Many sets are already capable of streaming the content live through the television itself, while Panasonic 4K TVs are even endorsed by that most integral of cinematic technicians; the Cinematographer, ensuring that the viewer sees the film as originally intended.

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