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By Paul Dunahoo
Only about two months after Netflix enabled UHD “Ultra HD” 4K streaming on its website, content producers are re-rendering their movies or TV show episodes for the higher quality format. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a new screen for your device to reap some benefits from the quality increase. As in the case of YouTube, Netflix increases the bitrate of the video currently playing when you have an internet connection capable of handling the large amounts of bandwidth 4K takes. This means that the viewer will see dramatic improvements in the color spectrum range, resolution, and possibly frame rate, without even owning an Ultra HD display. This is why we are hearing more and more about the format,before the average American household can even afford the expensive TV panels.
Lucasfilm Animation seems to have taken notice and decided to jump on board by re-rendering Star Wars: The Clone Wars in 4K , if the report from my source is accurate. The source, who is involved with the German versions of the series, claims to have been working on the lip sink adjustments for the German versions of the 4K episodes. Seasons 1-3 have already been rendered in 4K, and Lucasfilm hopes to release all six seasons on Netflix sometime this fall. All character models that needed to be updated, have been. However, details on release are vague, and the source says that they aren’t even sure if it ever will be released – the release of the German versions is even less likely.
A few things make this seem very likely. First of all, The Clone Wars was originally rendered in 2K, but as with many CGI shows, most elements of the series were created in vector, making it far more easy to scale. Secondly, the non-vector images in the show usually had a watercolor-like feel to them – something Dave Filoni is known for. As a result, these images will have no issues being scaled. Thirdly, the source said that Lucasfilm Animation was re-rendering The Clone Wars to 4K, but it is also possible at they are rendering episodes in 3K (some of the episodes were even originally created in this format), and then converting them to 4K. This would massively reduce the amount of money that would need to be spent on rendering costs. Greg Weisman’s animated Young Justice series went through a similar process.
Finally, Netflix is pushing all of its streaming exclusives to be rendered in 4K, as it gives them a huge edge over traditional content providers. As Netflix is Disney, Marvel, and Lucasfilm’s only hope home for on-demand streaming, it would make sense for the four companies to push Ultra HD, in order to get as many subscribers to the service before the 2016 launch of Netflixexclusives. I, for one, really hope that the 4K renders of The Clone Wars are released someday.
(Ed Note: Paul notes that Star Wars Rebels is being rendered in 3k by default as an industry standard)