Blu-ray Review: Spider-Man (Mastered in 4K version) Page 2
To check out how the new Mastered in 4K Spider-Man compares with the 2012 version, I simultaneously evaluated both discs by switching between an Oppo BDP-105 BD player (playing the 2012 BD) and PlayStation 3 (playing the Mastered in 4K BD) connected to a Sony XBR-55X900A Ultra HD TV. I enabled the set's x.v.Color option for the MI4K disc (by setting the Video Color Space option for that input to Auto), and left it switched off for the 2012 disc (Video Color Space = Normal). The TV automatically turned on a Mastered in 4K setting - according to Sony, this creates a software inversion of the algorithm used by the studio for 4K-to-2K downconversion during Blu-ray mastering - in the picture setup menu for the MI4K input; otherwise, all settings for both sources were left at the TV's Cinema 1 Picture Mode defaults.
The benefits of the MI4K version were instantly apparent when I switched between the two sources on the Sony 4K TV. The picture had a more solid look, with finer rendition of film grain. Sony's 2012 Spider-Man BD release is no dog, but the texture of the grain was rougher and the image was overall more noisy compared with the MI4K version. Also, details like strands of a spider web in a scene at a lab came across more clearly via MI4K. On the 2012 BD, the web in this shot looked flatter, with weak delineation of the individual strands.
Another benefit to the MI4K version was that its picture appeared brighter and had stronger contrast. This could most easily be seen in shots of faces, but it also made darker scenes look richer and more detailed. For example, in an exterior nighttime shot of the sprawling, industrial Oscorp Corporation headquarters, blacks in both discs came off as inky and deep, but I could see a greater range of shadow detail in the MI4K version, and it also had punchier-looking whites in the spotlights surrounding the building.
The extended color palette that gets unlocked when you display MI4K discs on an x.v.Color TV is a big part of the story here, so that's what I was mostly on the lookout for when comparing the two versions. Bright colors like greens, reds, and yellows looked slightly more vivid via MI4K - they were rich without appearing unnatural. Spider-Man's red/blue suit popped a bit more, and so did the LED signage in the background of the metropolis as he battled Green Goblin. In the various two-shots of Peter and Mary Jane, both actors' skin tones looked natural but seemed to show a slightly wider range of hues. In the end, I found that the color differences between the two discs for the most part ranged from subtle to elusive. In each case, however, I found myself drawn to the cleaner, punchier look of the MI4K image.
To judge from this new Sony Pictures Mastered in 4K Spider-Man Blu-ray, a beefed-up bitrate plus expanded color can yield improvements. The downside here is that you can only reap the full benefits of the new discs by viewing them with a Sony player and an x.v.Color-capable, 4K-rez display like the Sony TV I used for my test. Still, after watching this initial release, I'm convinced that "Mastered in 4K" adds up to more than just a Blu-ray-era rehash of the company's Superbit DVDs. (Remember those?) Next up: Taxi Driver. I feel a need to experience Travis Bickle in expanded color.