A 4K Micro-Detailed Lawrence…Yowsah

I’ve had my top-of-the-line Sony 65″ 4K TV since last March, but until last night I’d never watched a feature film in 4K streaming. Mainly because I was presuming that only CG flotsam flicks were available in this format, and I really couldn’t give less of a shit about watching Independence Day Resurgence, The Martian and San Andreas in 4K. Thanks all the same.

But last night I shelled out $20 bills in order to watch Amazon’s 4K streaming version of Lawrence of Arabia, and I was really, seriously stunned by the micro-detail.

I’ve seen the restored, 8K-scanned Lawrence digitally projected via DCP under high-end conditions and at home via 1080p Bluray, and the 4K streamed version (which is not real-deal 4K due to intense compressing, I’m told, but somewhere between 2K and 4K) is really a cut above.

Every now and then the digital cache-ing would slow down and the 4K sharpness would fuzz out, but for the first time in my life I was noticing textures (wood, sand, wardrobe threads, even the subtle composition of fine cement in the opening credits sequence) that I’d literally never seen before, not with this degree of crispness and clarity, and that’s saying something.

I’m told that as good as this version of Lawrence may have appeared to my bespectacled eyes, the 4K Bluray, which may be released sometime in ’17, will look even better.

Right now Amazon and Netflix are offering less than 50 4K streaming features for rent or sale, and most of them are 21st Century eye-candy for the cretin class. But once classic films (and particularly those shot in 70mm and Vista Vision) start appearing in 4K Bluray (or 3840 x 2160 pixels) to some degree…that‘s when I’ll pop for a new Oppo 4K player.

Obviously Ultra High Definition Blurays are a niche concept. There are only 70,000 4K Bluray players out there as we speak. But there’s a “huge difference” between 4K streaming and 4K Bluray, I was told this morning by a high-end tech guy. The barbarians don’t care about savoring textures of large-format films shot in the ’50s and ’60s, but I sure as hell do, I can tell you.

As far as I know there’s only one 4K Bluray of a film I respect and would like to-resavor in UHD — Goodfellas. (Which I hope will not be Brownfellas in 4K but a re-scan that won’t look like a film marinated in butterscotch sauce and lentil soup.)

  • Dan Tayag

    As far as I know, the 4K Goodfellas uses the same master as the latest Blu-ray (aka Brownfellas).

  • lazarus

    $20 to own, or just rent? If it’s the latter, that’s ludicrous.

  • DublinMovieFan

    I think if I had to pick just one film as my favourite of all time, it would be Lawrence of Arabia.

    • It’s been mine since I was 16…and that was 19 years ago. Time flies apparently. Anyhow, it’s one of those films I would happily upgrade from Blu-ray to 4K Blu (if I end up getting a player…the TV will have to wait, since we just bought a new TV a couple years ago and in no need to pick up a new one right now).

    • Grampappy Amos

      Apparently Wells would too.

  • Aaron
  • Aaron

    I love Lawrence of Arabia, but as time passes I appreciate Doctor Zhivago much more. It may be a lesser film, but I prefer the journey it takes.

  • SaulPaul

    I own a 4K Blu of The Revenant. Could not believe what it looked like. Felt like Leo was in my living room.

    • otto

      Does it look like “film?” Or does it look like the Lord of the Rings type stage play?

  • Michael Gebert

    I’m tempted by the way 4K sets have dropped in price– they’re at Target and such for $599, which when I consider that new bulbs for my Sony DLP are $150, looks pretty promising. (Admittedly, I’ve only replaced the bulb once in a decade, so the argument isn’t that strong.)

    But one reason I bought DLP was that it didn’t have quite the digital pixel-y hyper sharpness of other things at the time (plasma and LED). And with proper tweaking I got what I consider a genuinely film like picture.

    Does anyone feel they can make their new TV look at least halfway like 35mm? Or is it all video game sharpness, 120 refresh rates and hot colors and Ritalin-level detail?

    • brenkilco

      I was really tempted this year to buy a 4K. But supposedly the extra pixels are not nearly as important to the picture quality as the new tech wonders of high dynamic range and wide color gamut. Not to mention local dimming which I won’t because I’m not sure what that does. And this state of the art stuff will still set you back something over a grand. So I guess I’ll wait. My understanding is that these state of the art tvs are so ‘good’ that there is actually a question whether they violate directorial intent.

      • Michael Gebert

        James Cozart of the Library of Congress’s Packard Center once told me the way he bought a TV (something he has to do for work fairly frequently) was with the DVD of Roxie Hart (Ginger Rogers, 1942) as his reference disk. For whatever reason, he felt that that title and release gave him the best idea of whether the movies he liked best would look right. I kind of think mine might be the Criterion blu-ray of Paths of Glory.

        • brenkilco

          The blu of North By Northwest would be mine.

  • Martin Foyle

    Saw the Lawrence 4K in a cinema, & it is a wonder. Almost too much detail though. Dreadful teeth, edges of wigs, sweat on brows disappearing & returning from shot to shot, no way Freddie Young wanted us to see those details. Still, those epic widescreen landscape scenes have to be seen by everyone at least once in their life.

  • John Travers


    You may be well aware of this so sorry if I’m covering the obvious.

    I may be speaking to the choir but I’m guessing you are truly seeing Lawrence in 4k based off an interpositive (master source used for all digital copies, DVDs, UHDs etc) of at least 4k. Just about every movie on UHD right now is sourced from a 2k interpositive that is upscaled to 4k. The results, for the most part, are slightly better than a good BLU RAY disc.

    A friend of mine allowed me to borrow a copy of the movie Lucy as a example of what a true 4K movie could look like at home. That movie was shot in 6K (I believe) and mastered with a 4K interpostive. That movie might be terrible but how it looked was a revelation. Easily the nicest picture quality I’ve seen yet.

    I also recently watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in the new UHD format. This is a new 4K scan and Interpositive and the results were also quite an eye opener.

    I guess the point is that there is more to 4K than just classic films being released in the format. If these films are not re-scanned into at least a 4K interpostive the results will be far less impressive than they could be.

    I believe this will be the future quagmire with 4K. True 4K from a 4K interpositive or nothing.

    • brenkilco

      This seems the dirty secret of digital. Most new movies are finished in 2K regardless of the resolution of the cameras used because its cheaper. So most of what gets shown in theaters is little better than HD. And the 4K blu can never be more than an upconvert. But I believe a lot of native 4k scans of classics do exist. Assuming they ever decide to put them out on disc.

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