Yellowstone is one of the hottest television series right now, ending its fourth season with the episode “Grass on the Streets and Weeds on the Rooftops” on January 2, 2022. The series stars Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, and Kelly Reilly about a powerful ranching family in Montana that faces both external and internal forces threatening their inherited land.
The show airs on Paramount Network but past seasons can be streamed on Peacock or purchased/rented from digital services such as Apple TV and Amazon. Yellowstone has also been released to Blu-ray Disc (Season 4 arriving Mar. 22) which provides exceptional HD resolution. But is Yellowstone available in 4k Ultra HD?
So far the only digital retailer we found to offer Yellowstone in 4k is Vudu. Individual episodes can be purchased in 4k UHD for $1 more than the HD episodes and $2 more than SD. Entire seasons of Yellowstone in 4k UHD are currently priced $24.99 — $5 more than HD and $10 more than SD.
Are the episodes actually in 4k resolution though? We purchased two episodes of Yellowstone (one in 4k and the other in HD) to compare image quality and could not find a noticeable difference in sharpness or color rendering. Now, keep in mind 4k TVs will automatically upscale HD video to approximate the higher resolution. But, when looking at upscaled HD video compared to native 4k you can usually see sharper edges.
See the comparison shots below of the credits intro to Episode 1 in 4k and Episode 2 in HD. There isn’t much there to discuss. Further viewing of the episodes revealed very good video quality from both indicated resolutions, although not as good as what 4k Blu-ray can produce.
Do these screen photos mean Vudu is scamming us into buying UHD episodes for $1 more? Not exactly. We took a look at the file sizes for both the 4k UHD and HD downloads from Vudu and the 4k UHD does has a larger file with almost 1GB more data. (See the comparisons of file sizes in the screenshot below.) The larger file size of the 4k episode “Daybreak” could mean the video was compressed less or upscaled by Vudu into 4k resolution to provide the higher quality.
What is the take away? Yellowstone is mastered in 2k, so any service offering episodes in 4k are not exactly providing native 4k resolution. Hopefully, Yellowstone will release to 4k Blu-ray Disc with HDR some time in the future, athough remastering the episodes may not be at the top of Paramount’s priority list.