If you read Rachel Bellwoar‘s Blu-ray reviews of classic and arthouse films — or some of the other occasional home video reviews on the site — you know we still love physical media here at Comicon. So it probably comes as little surprise that we’re excited about The Criterion Collection’s decision to start releasing films in 4K Ultra High Definition Blu-ray.
The first releases, per the company’s site, include Orson Welles‘s seminal Citizen Kane, The Hughes Brothers‘ Menace II Society, Jane Campion’s The Piano, David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night, and Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s glorious Technicolor drama The Red Shoes. It’s an impressive list which will highlight the quality of the UHD Blu-ray format.
So what is 4K UHD, you ask? Simply put, it’s the next step up from High Definition resolution. It contains roughly double the information, though still not quite as much info as 35mm film. But from the movies we’ve seen in the format — Jaws, Flash Gordon, and a few others — the big stride is in color fidelity. Sure, added clarity is also there, but colors are finer and more varied, even in de-saturated films — and they absolutely pop in a film like Casino or, indeed, Flash Gordon. We imagine that color depth will translate well to the noirish lighting of Citizen Kane and the more naturalistic photography of The Piano.
Why is this exciting? Criterion, the original standard-setter in collector’s grade home video, was one of the key players in deciding the Blu-ray/HD-DVD format war. Their adoption of Blu-ray made it clear to collectors which high end players to buy. In adopting 4K, it more or less points to the end of Blu-ray supremacy as the highest end collector’s format. To be clear, Blu-ray will still be produced; Criterion 4K releases will come with Blu-ray copies and supplements in High Definition, in fact. But the change is noteworthy as classic films will finally be available in the highest standard available. Well, for the moment, anyway … 8K is already on its way.
More info on Criterion’s first 4K releases will be made available next week. The first titles will be released in November.