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What is 4K upscaling and how does it improve football?
4K HDR TVs deliver a huge boost in picture quality, with lifelike images that make you feel as though you’re in the thick of the action.
They offer 4 times the picture resolution (that's the 4K bit) and a much wider spectrum of colours than an HD television (thanks to HDR, or High Dynamic Range). But when it comes to watching sport and other content they work in a very similar way.
To watch content in full HD you had to match your HD telly to a high-definition source – for example Sky Sports HD, BBC One HD or Blu-ray.
And it’s just the same for 4K Ultra HD TVs. To get the full benefit you have to have a 4K source. This is known as native 4K content.
There’s plenty of that around – from Netflix and Amazon to Ultra HD Blu-ray, Sky Sports and Sky Cinema (through Sky Q).
But terrestrial TV, for your Match of the Day highlights and international football, has yet to launch 4K broadcasts – though the BBC has been experimenting with 4K through Planet Earth II and iPlayer. This means you’ll often be watching standard or high-definition content through your 4K UHD HDR TV.
That’s where upscaling comes in – and football fans can benefit from it.
What is 4K upscaling?
Put simply, it takes a regular broadcast or recording and makes it look better. Pictures appear sharper, with richer colours and deeper blacks.
So if you watch BBC One on an HD TV and then on a 4K UHD TV you’ll notice an improvement – even though the source isn’t native 4K.
Most 4K TVs have an upscaling engine inside them that makes the magic happen. Not all TVs feature upscaling engines. But models from Samsung, Sony, LG and Panasonic do.
Generally speaking, the more expensive the TV is, the better it is at upscaling. Reviewers say premium Sony and Samsung TVs have superb upscaling.
Why does it work best with high-definition content?
Here’s the technical bit – 4K HDR TVs are made up of heaps more pixels than Full HD tellies – over 8 million compared to the 2 million of HD sets.
This equates to 1080p for HD and 2160p for 4K screens.
The gap means there’s more screen space to fill when watching HD content on a 4K TV. Upscaling takes that HD image and makes it bigger and better.
You’ll enjoy the best results with upscaling when watching HD channels rather than standard definition (SD) on your 4K HDR TV.
Programmes broadcast in SD are lower resolution than HD – 720p compared with 1080p. Because HD has more pixels than SD, there’s less work for the upscaling engine to do.
So when you’re watching BBC One HD, ITV HD and any of the Sky HD channels, you’ll get a better picture with your 4K TV.
The same can be said for watching regular Blu-ray, although new Ultra HD Blu-ray has now launched with proper 4K discs.
How does this relate to football?
Sky Sports and BT Sport Ultra HD will be broadcasting Premier League matches throughout the 2018/2019 season in proper native 4K.
Various England matches will be shown on BBC One and ITV. If you have access to HD channels through your TV’s built-in Freeview, set-top box or Sky box, you’ll be able to get BBC One HD and ITV HD – the high-definition versions of those terrestrial channels.
That means you’ll be able to watch matches on your 4K TV with upscaling, making the action look crisper than it would do on your regular HD television. Watch those nail-biting England penalties in super-sharp detail…
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