Upscaling is the process of enlarging an image or video’s original resolution, providing a way better look when viewed on high-definition screens.
You might have heard of the term ‘upscaling’ before in regards to video and thought, “What the heck does that mean?”
And that’s totally understandable!
With today’s technology and how fast AI has been improving, upscaling has started to become a more popular process because it actually works now. As an indie filmmaker myself, I used to try upscaling my stock footage and would see little to no improvement at all. But not anymore!
In this article, we’ll dive into all the benefits of upscaling and go into some of the best AI upscaling tools to get the best quality out of your footage!
What is Upscaling?
Upscaling, or enhancing, is the process of increasing the resolution of digital images or videos while preserving or even adding to their original quality and detail.
If you try to play a 720p video on a 50″ 4K TV, the TV will automatically fill in the extra space by stretching the video across the screen, resulting in a blurry or warped-looking image.
But if you use an upscaling software to professionally upscale the 720p video to a 4K video, the program will actually add in new pixels and interpolate (estimate) their color values based on surrounding pixels.
The results are higher-resolution versions of the original lower-resolution images or videos that appear sharper and more detailed. This can help blurry images and low-quality videos look amazing on your device!
The Difference Between Native Resolution and Upscaled Content
Native resolution: For example, Full HD content has a native resolution of 1920×1080 pixels and 4K Ultra HD footage is captured with 3840×2160 pixel count (as opposed to film industry 4K, which is 4096×2160 pixels).
When you capture footage at these resolutions using a camera with corresponding sensor capabilities, no additional processing is required because each pixel has been captured natively by the device.
Upscaled content: On the other hand, when you upscale lower-resolution footage (e.g., from SD to HD), you are essentially creating artificial detail by estimating what additional pixels should look like based on the surrounding pixels in the frame.
While this isn’t as accurate as native high-resolution capture methods, this upscaling process produces a higher-resolution video that can look great on an HD television, 4k TV, or Blu-Ray player.
How Does Upscaling Work?
Upscaling works by taking all the available pixels of a video or image and interpolating them to create new, higher-resolution pixels. This interpolation process can be done in two ways: software-based algorithms or hardware-based algorithms.
Software-based algorithms are typically used for upscaling videos on computers and other devices. The three software I’ve used that give the best results are Topaz AI, AVCLabs, and Pixop – all of which I go over below.
Hardware-based algorithms, on the other hand, are typically used for upscaling videos on TVs, Blu-Ray players, and other displays. These algorithms are more advanced and use more sophisticated interpolation techniques to create more detailed and accurate images.
Benefits of Upscaling For Images & Video
Better viewing experience: Higher-resolution content offers a more immersive visual experience on larger screens or devices with higher pixel-density displays.
Improved video quality: Upscaling can help improve the quality of low-resolution videos by increasing the resolution and adding more detail and clarity.
Increased file size: Upscaling can also increase the file size of your videos. This can be beneficial for video creators who want to upload their videos to websites, as larger files will typically look better than smaller files.
Mixing different resolutions: When working with footage captured at various resolutions (e.g., combining archival SD clips with modern HD/4K recordings), upscaling lower-resolution material helps create a consistent look across the entire project.
Future-proofing your work: As technology continues to evolve rapidly (with 8K TVs already available), making sure your content looks the best it can on these newer devices could help your videos stay more relevant over time.
Creative Flexibility: Upscaling provides greater creative flexibility when it comes to editing and post-production work. Say you need to crop or reframe certain shots during the editing process – it’d be best to use upscaled footage with more pixels in it, so you’re not losing any quality.
Tips for Upscaling
Here are some upscaling tips to keep in mind:
Choose the Right Resolution
Know which platform or device you’re planning to view your video on, so you can select the appropriate resolution to upscale to. If you’re uploading to YouTube, then maybe 1080p will be good enough, but if you’re streaming to a big TV, then 4K could be better.
Remember, the bigger the resolution, the bigger the file size will be. So if you don’t need 4K, then I’d avoid upscaling to 4K to keep the file size more manageable.
Choose the right format
When upscaling a video, typically you also need to choose which file format and codec you’d like. This can be important to make sure it’s compatible to play back on your device.
Maintain aspect ratio
Try to maintain the original aspect ratio to avoid distortion or stretching of the content.
Preview the upscaled video
After you apply the desired settings in the software, you’re able to preview what the outcome will look like before starting the lengthy export process. The preview can help you make sure that you’re happy with the final product and can save you time in the long run.
Avoid excessive upscaling
Keep in mind that there is a limit to how much detail can be added to your lower-resolution video. Overdoing it may result in artifacts or unnatural-looking images.
Video Upscaling Software
When it comes to upscaling your video content, having the right tools at your disposal can make all the difference. I’ve tried several of the best AI video upscaling software, and these were my top three picks!
Topaz Video Enhance AI
Topaz Labs Video Enhance AI is my favorite upscaling software! It’s best for any creative professional who plans to be upscaling several times over the next year or longer.
Personally, I thought it had the best interface with a few different comparison modes that made it super easy to compare your original and upscaled video.
*Pro Tip: If you’re only interested in upscaling images, they also have a renowned Topaz Image Enhance AI software.
As a filmmaker myself, I’m a sucker for a one-time fee, so I have access to the software forever without having to pay ever again. So that was a huge win for me with Topaz.
Also, I tried the same test footage on all of these platforms, and Topaz gave me the best results by turning my old, blurry footage into a high-quality video with extra detail and denoising.
AVCLabs is Topaz’s top competitor, and for good reason!
They both have a really similar interface and are both desktop-based programs that you download directly.
While I thought that AVCLabs didn’t clean up my footage quite as well as Topaz, I did love that they have a wide range of pricing plans starting at only $39.95 for a monthly plan.
AVCLabs is best for creators on a budget or families with longer home videos to upscale.
Pixop is another great alternative because it’s web-based, so you won’t need to have a powerful computer to run the software.
It’s also a pay-as-you-go pricing model. The price is determined based on the length of your video and how many filters you use, so it can be really cheap for shorter videos.
Pixop is best for social media content creators or indie filmmakers with short stock footage clips to upscale.
Video Upscaling Hardware
If you don’t want to take a software-based approach, you can try dedicated hardware devices to help you upscale. These solutions are particularly useful for those working with live video feeds or requiring real-time processing.
Blackmagic Design Teranex
The Teranex series of converters from Blackmagic Design offers high-quality upscaling and downscaling capabilities, making them a popular choice among professionals in the broadcast industry.
A versatile converter that supports a wide range of input formats, the Datavideo DAC-70 is an affordable option for smaller-scale productions needing to upscale their content on-the-fly.
Final Thoughts on Upscaling
Overall, upscaling is an effective technique that can significantly enhance the quality of your low-resolution images and videos.
With its ability to increase the resolution of your videos and create sharper images, it can help boost the viewing experience on larger displays.
You can try upscaling software or a dedicated upscaling device to start taking your video quality to the next level!
Common Questions About Upscaling
What is the purpose of upscaling?
Upscaling is the process of enhancing the resolution of an image or video without losing quality. This technique can be used for many reasons, like wanting to upscale your stock footage to match the resolution of your other footage, or adding life back into your old home videos and making them compatible with modern devices.
Does upscaling improve picture quality?
Upscaling may not truly improve picture quality, since it can’t create additional image detail. However, it can reduce visual noise and sharpen edges to deliver sharper, clearer images on larger displays. The effectiveness of the upscaling process depends on the quality of the upscale, the size and quality of the original image, and the viewing distance.
Does upscaling increase resolution?
Yes, upscaling increases the resolution of an image or video by creating additional pixels using interpolation algorithms. The result is a larger file with more detail and better overall clarity than its original low-resolution counterpart.
Does upscaling lose quality?
While upscaling can improve an image’s appearance at higher resolutions, it may not always maintain perfect quality due to limitations in interpolation algorithms. However, advanced techniques and tools have significantly reduced these issues for better-upscaled results.
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