True To The director’s vision
How the new 4K screens are giving us clearer, sharper images than ever before
Empire is sitting in a darkened room in soho watching the opening sequences of mad max: Fury road and not quite believing our eyes. it’s a film we’ve seen and loved before, but not like this. the power of george Miller’s dystopian imagery has been transformed. You can see every ripple on the surface of the tyre and veils of dust hovering in the air. sunlight bounces off a metallic surface with almost blinding intensity. As Furiosa climbs into the War Rig, all the dials on the dashboard are completely legible.
the screen in question is Panasonic’s 65” 4K HDR DX902 television, their flagship screen for 2016, and a thing of beauty. Connected to a UB900 Ultra HD Blu-ray player, in which the 4K disc of
Fury Road spins, the results are frankly peerless. This is a new screen technology aimed specifically at film lovers.
“You are instantly absorbed in the images,” enthuses Dado Valentic, the award-winning colour grading artist who worked with Vanja Cernjul on Panasonic’s short movie Converging
Beams, the basis of the ad you may have seen at the cinema or on TV. “It is not simply about sharpening the image, it’s about a higher emotional connection.”
Grading isn’t a technical process — it is an art. Scene by scene, shot by shot, experts like Valentic manually pick which colours to boost or where to deepen the contrast. They are like archaeologists of light, discovering details you never knew were there. The goal is complete immersion. To make what we see on a television exactly what George Miller saw when he first looked through his viewfinder.
It has been a revolution on three levels. Firstly, resolution — how many pixels they have on a screen. The more pixels you have, the clearer the image becomes. And 4K televisions have four times the resolution of HD.
Secondly, it’s about colour. “We see much more colour with our eyes than televisions are able to portray,” says Valentic. They have vastly extended the range of possible colours, pushing what he calls the “colour gamut”.
Finally, it’s about contrast. “This is not about attaining maximum brightness,” insists Valentic, “but how to get a screen to display a dynamic range of light and dark.” This is where Panasonic’s 4K HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology comes into its own, creating sparkling highlights and wells of bottomless black with a dynamic gradient between them. Images take on extraordinary depth without 3D.
All the big studios have signed up to release films in 4K. Warner Bros. alone has committed to 35 releases. Meanwhile, Netflix and Amazon are streaming all their new productions in 4K, giving it a much wider reach. Older titles will need colourgrading artists like Valentic to go back to the original material and create a new master, so may take more time. Still, there is no doubt Empire is witnessing the future of home entertainment.
“Nothing will ever replace cinema for the experience,” says Valentic, “but we are getting better results on television screens.”