Sintel, 4k edition (and why it's useful)

A frame of Sintel by the Blender Institute / CC BY

This week brings us another open movie milestone: a 4k release of Sintel! This super-high definition version (4096 x 1744 pixels) is being hosted by the fine people at As mentioned in the article, there will be some screenings, though you can also download the files yourself. Be aware however that the files are very large. From the article:

The original 4k version (8 bits per color, tif) now is available via the The Xiph.Org Foundation download site too, which is 160 GB of data! We are currently also uploading the 16 bits per color files, 650 GB of data, and which will be finished around 25 February.

We’ve done an interview with Ton Roosendaal, Sintel’s producer and also have mentioned previous blender institute high resolution releases. But perhaps it’s worth answering the question… why is this useful? Besides possibly doing a super-high-resolution screening, maybe marveling at some individual frames, why might this matter?

So I asked Ton Roosendaal what he thought the 4k release might be useful for. He replied with:

[Our previous film] Big Buck Bunny has become kind of a reference for video devices worldwide. Here’s a good example, an e-ink display playing video. I just got this link today, but I get these all the time.

The (film) industry is incredibly protective, so for a lot of researchers our films are very useful. Like the Xiph.Org Foundation, they support OGG and open codecs; for codec developers, having access to the uncompressed HDR (3×16 bits color) is really cool. That’s how Pixar and Disney manage to make superior DVDs or BluRay encodings.

The film industry will move to 4k as well, and having free / openness here is relevant. Most films nowadays are also shot in 4k digital cameras; 2k or HD is for home usage. In a couple of years it will be 8k even. This is going to be pushed a lot by the industry, like stereoscopic film is. So, instead of having Creative Commons as an expression of “democratic” mass media, we use it for innovation and research first. It’s a small but relevant target audience (who are also very happy users of Creative Commons).

Aside from the usefulness question, I wanted to also ask Ton about the difficulty level of this release. I asked: “<troll>Isn’t rendering in 4k just upping the resolution setting in the render panel and walking away from your renderfarm for a while, perhaps to get a lot of coffee?</troll>”

I also would like to write an article about the 4k experience [editor’s note: see also Pablo Vazquez’s post on the challenges of rendering in 4k]. For some weird reasons, moving from ‘video’ to HD seems to be easier than from HD to 4k. Computers, networks, hard drives etc work fine for HD work. We can play HD realtime, and any computer user expects such.

The other strange thing is that detail level becomes totally intimidating. You watch an HD screen as a TV still. When looking at a 4k picture you watch it more like in a theater; your eyes wander around the picture to check details. This is why ‘film’ for cinemas usually is much richer and more detailed than TV shows.

But the troll could be right; in theory you just set the button to “4k” and let it render. Our artists didn’t do it, they produced the detail levels that justify 4k screening as well. They may be not optimal, as we only had a couple of 4k screenings to view our work.

So there you have it. The Sintel 4k release shows hope for helping open video codecs, device manufacturers, and the technology industry in general. And, of course, a beautiful sight to see, all under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported. Congratulations to the Sintel team on this release!

3 thoughts on “Sintel, 4k edition (and why it's useful)”

  1. It’s really great to see this made avaliable. I was lucky enough to see a preview a few minutes of sintel in 4k at the blender conference and it looked stunning.

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