What are Mastered in 4K Blu-ray Discs

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If you have walked into a home entertainment retailer lately you can hardly miss all the very expensive 4K (aka Ultra-High Definition, or UHD) TVs. All the big brands now have at least one model on the market.
While film and TV are shooting more movies in 4K, and cinemas going to 4K digital projectors, there is only a small amount of 4K content for the home theatre. In America
Netflix is about to stream Breaking Bad in 4K, unfortunately  while Netflix is available to most Australian home 4K Movies require a steady Internet connection of at least 25 Mbps.  In Australia most homes have internet speeds of less than 10Mbps, only about 10% of Australians having high speed connectivity, and while in theory this has a maximum speed of 24Mbps in the real world it is generally a lot slower.

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Mastered in 4K
However, all is not lost, Sony have introduced a kind of poor man’s 4K called ‘Mastered in 4K.
At first glance these might be mistaken for 4K disc, in fact they are a High Definition (HD) Blu-ray disc, with the movies delivered at the standard 1920 x 1080 (1080p) resolution not the 3840 x 2160 (2160p) resolution of a true 4K movie. However despite this these Blu-rays provide enhanced quality over standard HD Blu-ray movies, especially when viewed on a 4K TV.

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Angels & Demons Blu-ray Mastered in 4K
Why Are They Better
So why are they better than standard Blu-rays?
Firstly they have been produced using the highest quality 4K picture source.  This means the images will be more accurate, with enhanced colours, less noise, and improved sharpness and detail.
Secondly they have a higher bitrate transfer for optimal HD experience. Most Blu-ray movies run at between 16 Mbps to 24 Mbps compared to Mastered in 4K which runs at 34.8 Mbps. This allows for better compression in the smallest details, which should provide the best possible picture quality for the movies in question.

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Sony has also played with the colour gamut so that they’re mastered using the ‘x.v.YCC’ colour specification. This delivers an expanded colour range closer to that contained in the original source material. However you do need a Blu-ray player and TV equipped with x.v.Color playback capability to enjoy the colour enhancement offered with Mastered in 4K discs. (Not surprisingly the main manufacturer of x.v.Color TVs is Sony as is the Sony high-definition recording format AVCHD and Sony PlayStation 3)
If you are lucky enough to own a Sony Bravia 4K TV these discs use Sony proprietary algorithm information which give the best possible upscaling performance to 4K. These televisions identify a "mastered in 4K" disc and use an upscaling algorithm based on the same formula used at Sony Pictures to downscale the film from 4K to HD results in cleaner, more detailed images.
What is the Downside?
The 4K process requires the use of more space on a Blu-ray disc, resulting in no special features being available on Mastered in 4K releases.

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Battle: Los Angeles Mastered in 4K
Does It Work?
Yes.  They play without issue using a standard Blu-ray player and a HD 1080p television.  To my eye the picture quality is definitely better.  Ghostbusters for example looks crisper, and you can see more detail.

Mastered in 4K discs are similar in price to standard Blu-rays so if you are interested in seeing the difference have a look at my store Fred's Bargains Mastered in 4K category.
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