December 18, 2014 at 6:46PM


Is the Hobbit Mastered in 720?

I saw the first The Hobbit in a "world class IMAX" and was amazed at how bad the titles looked. The pixels were clearly visible. Now I did see it in 3D, so I'd assume that'd be half the vertical or horizontal resolution, but I chocked up the bad quality to just the fact that IMAX is basically a joke (recording and projecting 70mm film is great, but most IMAX don't use film it seems...)

Anyway, I saw Smaug at home and didn't notice the low quality assets.

Today, I watched The 5 Armies and noticed pixalated CG. Specifically in the shots looking into the tunnels that the big worms were digging. The orange glow of lights in the tunnel had clear pixels (not to mention someone for got to properly set the opacity on some rocks that covered the opening of one tunnel because they were partially clear, lol).

So what's the deal? Were one post house's effects mastered in a low resolution (I assume my local Cinemark uses 2K digital projectors)?

That being said, the elements that were shot with the Red Epic look fantastic!


I should clarify about IMAX, that I especially noticed low resolution assets for the credits and opening titles on The Hobbit. I can't remember if I noticed pixels in the video, or just the CG elements.

I'd also note the last film I saw at my Cinemark was Interstellar and all the visual elements seemed flawless (that is to say The problems with The Five Armies wasn't the theater's fault).

December 18, 2014 at 6:51PM


I don't know how to edit comments.... But I just remembered the main technical failing of Smaug.... the GoPro shots! Uhg.

December 19, 2014 at 8:18AM


According to IMDB, the Hobbit movies were shot with RED EPIC cameras and recorded as Redcode RAW 4.5K and 5K, and a 2K digital intermediate was using in the mastering process.

I strongly suspect that something was messed with the IMAX version you saw, as I can't imagine the studio would release anything lower res than 2K, which would still look quite good in IMAX format.

December 20, 2014 at 5:22PM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Its simply the fact that it was mastered in 2K. While in most screens that does not matter, whenever I see a 2K film in IMAX I can see the resolution. Especially high contrast scenes in the Hobbit films. You would think for a film touting its amazing new digital filmmaking techniques they would at least master it in 2.5K.

Also for interstellar, I noticed severe banding on the opening logos on both film IMAX and digital prints. Otherwise perfect presentations.

December 27, 2014 at 12:22PM

Geoff C. Bassett
Director of Photography

I know this thread is two years old but since it insists on appearing at the top of the forum...
There's no point in mastering in 5K or 2.5K because there's no output pipelines for it. Accepted formats for theater, blu-ray and Netflix etc. are 2160 and 1080 only. Theaters can go up to 2048 (true 2K) horizontal and 4096 (true 4K) but 4K is kinda' stupid because it means 32:1 compression instead of the more gentle 8:1 used for 2K releases.

Furthermore, DCP supports 4K, 3D or 48fps, but not in combination because it would require too much compression (and too much decompressed bandwidth) to work well. Now if the industry only embraced Maxivision when they had the chance, true 4K resolution, 48fps AND 3D support all at the same time, uncompressed, with just a $25,000 retrofit for existing film projectors rather than replacing them with $120,000 video projectors that last five years or so. Any way, Jackson's ultimate vision for The Hobbit would equate to a decompressed bit rate of almost 39Gbps! Would it be any better of a movie? I doubt it. Any way, it would require 152:1 compression to cram it into a DCP so it would probably be even uglier than what you saw in the theater.

Now for IMAX, they use the same DCPs as regular theaters. The only difference is that the screen is so much bigger, showing off the problems with digital projection. Everybody I know of working for IMAX got really depressed when the major studios strong-armed theaters into switching to video. It's not just because all the projectionists lost their jobs but even the best video projectors don't hold a candle to 70/15 in terms of clarity or brightness.

December 28, 2016 at 2:54PM, Edited December 28, 3:01PM


I'll have to research what you're saying about compression ratios.

At my studio, we've been shooting 6k RAW on the Red Epic-W and the file sizes are totally manageable. We don't output for projection though, so I'm not familiar with DCP. I suppose it has a max data rate? I've only mastered one thing in 4k (not UHD) and used ProRes.

July 6, 2017 at 12:15AM, Edited July 6, 12:15AM


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