In Depth: Upscaling Video
Table of contents
What is Upscale?
Upscaling means stretching a smaller video to fit a larger screen. The goal is to increase the size of the video while maintaining quality. Other terms you may hear are upsizing and uprezzing. Sure, you can simply scale the footage, but you will often get stretched and blurry results. You can also upscale with software and plugins that have features to sharpen and clean up problems including blur, jagginess, color artifacting, and noise. This article covers the tools to upscale your footage with great results.
Why upscale your footage?
There are two common reasons to upscale:
- You work with old video footage that’s in the standard format
- You don’t have a camera that can shoot 4K and want your video to be 4K (or other sizes)
When I started my career in video post-production, “standard definition” was, in fact, the standard. Now there are so many resolutions. I originally wrote this article about 7 years ago, when a cinematographer friend of mine asked me to upscale footage for his reel from the 1990s to HD. In that article I focusing upscaling 720×480 (480i) into 1920×1080 (1080p) footage.
For one thing, video standards have changed in just a few short years. 4K Ultra High Definition (4K UHD) is now a standard feature in over 60% of the televisions sold in North America. That number is increasing rapidly over the last few months as people can’t go out for entertainment during the pandemic. For example, if you’re watching an old standard-definition television show on a 4K UHD screen, it will look a bit stretched and blurry.
But, upscaling is not just for old footage. Some people are shooting at 1080p and upscaling their renders to 4K for YouTube. Why would they do that?
- They may not have a camera that is capable of shooting 4K.
- Editing 4K footage can be slow.
- 4K footage takes up a ton of space on your drives!
Luckily, upscaling technology has seen major improvements over the past few years, especially in the area of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We’ll dive into AI and I’ll also discuss upscaling video in Adobe products, Resolve, with AI, and using a few plug-ins with upscaling technology.
Please note: This article is not a review of products, but more of a guide to the upscaling options available.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Upscaling
There have been major leaps in AI technology over the past few years, and it’s pretty exciting. Some of the players are:
- Gigapixel AI from Topaz Labs, probably the most well-known.
- Kino – video upscaling technology using machine learning
- DeepAI Super Resolution for images.
- PIXOP Super Resolution, an online uprez technology using Machine Learning and Amazon Web Services.
- iSize – Check out their website for some interesting technical diagrams.
- The NVIDIA SHIELD TV, which brings real-time AI upscaling right to the television
There are several others, as well. This will be an area that will explode over the next few years, like NVIDIA OptiX technology which is used for AI-enhanced noise reduction in Arnold Render GPU, cebas finalRender, e-on Software, KeyShot, Redshift, Corona Renderer, and more. You’ll certainly see AI-enhanced upscaling in the apps you currently use over the next year or two.
These videos below are from 1911 and 1896. To point out, they scaled the footage to 4K, 60fps. To explain, the enlargement was done with Gigapixel AI. The algorithm for adding frames is called Depth-Aware Video Frame Interpolation (DAIN), powered by neural networks.
A Trip Through New York City in 1911
“Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat” (The Lumiere Brothers, 1896)
Deep Space 9 Upscale Project
There’s a project out there called Deep Space Nine Upscale Project (DS9UP) to upscale Star Trek: Deep Space 9 from the DVD source to 4K. Joel Hruska writes about his experiences using Topaz Video Enhance AI, DaVinci Resolve, and AviSynth to uprez the show. Truly, the project is pretty interesting. He talks about his challenges and what he’s learned during the project. Take a look at the comparisons below.
Upscaling in your NLE/Host
Most host applications and NLEs now have built-in tools to make upscaled footage look better. We’ll cover a few of the more popular tools below, including Adobe, DaVinci Resolve, and Vegas.
Upscaling with Adobe Tools
Adobe has a feature called Detail-preserving upscale. Below, tutorials for After Effects, Premiere Pro, and Photoshop.
How to Upscale Video (with the best results) in After Effects
In this livestream from Adobe, Jason Levine shows the preferred method for upscaling video content in After Effects. To elaborate, he uses an effect called Detail Preserving Upscale. It’s similar to ‘preserve details’ in Photoshop. In fact, using this process instead of simply scaling the layer in a comp, gives better-looking results. In addition, there’s more control over detail and noise.
Upscaling Video: How to upscale 1080p to 4k | No blur, pixelation, noise (2020)
Themika Thennakoon explains how to upscale using Adobe Media Encoder 2020.
Upscaling in Premiere Pro
How to Upscale Video to 4K or Downscale to 1080P Easily. This tutorial by Farrah Penn certainly explains it pretty clearly.
Tutorials for Upscaling in DaVinci Resolve
Upscale 1080p Footage to 4k with Davinci Resolve Superscale!!
Jay Lippman has become my go-to guy for Resolve tutorials. In this video, he uses DaVinci Resolve’s Superscale.
Turn 1080p Footage Into 4K & Beyond! DaVinci Resolve SUPERSCALE Tutorial
Tim Crowe gives this quick tutorial on Superscale.
Upscaling in Magix Vegas
The major benefit of upscaling with plug-ins is the ease of use. There are several plugins out there that can upscale your footage.
Red Giant Instant 4K
Upconvert video to 4K resolution
Red Giant Instant 4K quickly upconverts your video into a variety of high-resolution formats with outstanding results. To explain, its intelligent algorithms generate new pixels to match the dimensions of the desired resolution, then adds sharpening and antialiasing to preserve the image details.
Uprez uses advanced techniques to maintain and fine-tune image details, generating much higher-quality final images than can be obtained with standard host upscaling.
In addition, Uprez is included in both the Boris Continuum Unit: Image Restoration and Continuum (perpetual and subscription).
BCC UpRez is included in both Boris Continuum Complete and Boris Continuum Image Restoration Unit. The following hosts are supported:
- Adobe After Effects
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Avid Media Composer
- Avid DS
- Apple Final Cut Pro 7
- Sony Vegas Pro
- Boris RED 5
With Red Giant Magic Bullet Instant HD, drag the footage into a comp that is the destination size, in this case, HDTV 1080p. The effect is applied directly to the footage and there is a long list of Output Size preset to choose from.
Posted by Michele Yamazaki