Monday, 27 February 2017 16:27

2+2=4K: Getting UHD on Track in 2017

by Mark A. Altman
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Recently, like many of you I made the plunge into 4K. As a veteran of the home video wars for the last several decades; I’ve gone from Fotonovels to Viewmasters to Selectavision to Beta to VHS to laserdisc to HD-DVD to Blu-ray and now UHD Blu-ray. There’s no question that UHD is the finest home video format to hit the consumer market yet, but with the ubiquitousness and ease of use that streaming offers, it’s no secret 4K is going to have an uphill climb. Let’s face it, even those of us who care about getting the very best quality out of our home A-V systems will occasionally fall prey to the demonic lure of Netflix, Hulu Plus or iTunes over discs we might have stashed away because of the simple convenience of pressing a button on the remote rather than searching through racks of thousands of Blu-ray’s or rifling through closets for a certain disc. [Read on here…]

But more than anything I want to embrace UHD because I don’t want to be part of the demise of physical media and be at the mercy of streaming services and digital downloads who lack the quality, special features and can disappear overnight from servers and the cloud at the behest of a studio or a filmmaker who decides they want to start making changes in their work. No, I want to know I own something and can watch it whenever I want and that it will always be there in the version I purchased it.

That’s why it’s such a crushing disappointment that I’ve had such a difficult time embracing the format so far given the staggering array of mediocre titles that have been foisted on fans so far. Sure, we’ve been here before at the dawn of any format, but, really, Gods of Egypt and Sausage Party aren’t exactly titles that will send me running out to the store to purchase them (or logging onto Amazon for that matter).

I suspect 4K will be the last time I’ll really need to buy my favorite movies ever again, I don’t anticipate upgrading to 8K anytime in the foreseeable future ... Or ever, to be honest. So while there are a bevvy of titles I own on laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray that I’ll never buy again, there remain a few special titles that are worth making the quadruple dip for, most of which are not even rumored for release on UHD yet.

So in the hopes of gently pushing our friends in the home video industry to not alienate the early adopters who can make or break a new format; a few suggestions for movies that I’d love to see on UHD that will benefit from the format because of their scope, cinematography or just damn great movie goodness. They’re worth making the dip... And I don’t need some trumped up anniversary to do it.


The magnificent troika of Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Now Redux, and Hearts of Darkness is the perfect catalog title to bring to the format. Happy to spend the money to own this on 4K and in Dolby Atmos goodness. It smells like victory.


It’s the 75h Anniversary of the greatest film ever made and all that’s in sight is a Blu-ray re-issue with no new features. If any film belongs on UHD, it’s the film that pioneered so many of the techniques we take for granted today. Not to mention that in the age of Trump, it’s more relevant than ever. Of course, in that film, a sex scandal torpedoed Kane’s political ambitions. If only truth were more like fiction. Rosebud!


A no-brainer. You know with the imminent release of War for the Planet of the Apes, Fox will be re-issuing the series so let’s get one of the greatest genre films ever made on UHD so we can all go ape. I might even be convinced to get rid of my Japanese Planet of the Apes laserdisc set if this finally comes to 4K.


I’m really worried MGM will wait until the release of the next 007 film which is at least two, if not more, years away for this, but the time is now to re-issue the entire series in 4K thanks to the beautiful Lowry restorations of a few years back. Don’t start issuing these as one-off’s like you did at the dawn of the DVD era, it’s time for another complete set that does justice to this magnificent series. And if you do singles, don’t expect me to ever buy License to Kill again. It’s also time to give the once-groundbreaking, spectacular special features a make-over with some new bonus content as MGM once did in the heyday of Blu-ray with their Goldfinger and Thunderball box sets that sent the benchmark for the format at the time.


There some spectacular films in the Paramount library (Sunset Boulevard and Chinatown, for instance), but these two are the crowning achievements that will look gorgeous on UHD. Don’t wait for some absurd anniversary. Take the 4K and the cannoli. It’s an offer fans can’t refuse.


I was deciding between Double Indemnity, Touch of Evil, Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, and Animal House, but at the end of the day the film I must own on 4K first will be Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece Jaws. Still one of the greatest thrillers ever made and virtuoso filmmaking from the master.


It’s time to get the theatrical versions of the Star Wars Trilogy out on UHD or at least with seamless branching between the original versions and the lackluster special editions. Charge whatever you want, the force is with 4K. [Editor’s Note: As much as we would all love to see it happen, it’s almost certainly not in the cards for 2017 – see this update.]


Just get into the 4K game, we’ll take whatever you give us… although I’ll have my fingers crossed for Charade, Rosemary’s Baby, Breathless, The Killers – aw hell, that’s a whole other column.

In the interim, if you want to start your 4K collection off right, here are some suggestions which you can order from Amazon today and support The Bits in the process:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony), Goodfellas (Warner Bros), Argo (Warner Bros), The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros), Star Trek (2009) (Paramount)

NEXT COLUMN: Celebrating 50 Years of Star Trek on home video.

- Mark A. Altman


Mark A. Altman (@markaaltman) is Co-Executive Producer of The Librarians and the co-author of the bestselling two volume series, The Fifty-Year Mission, a critically acclaimed oral history of the Star Trek franchise. He is also an occasional columnist and curmudgeon for The Digital Bits.

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