How Dynamic Resolution Scaling Works in 4K Games [ Myth Busted ]

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Should players be concerned that they’re not getting a full 4K experience from their 4K games?

Dynamic resolution scaling comes into play when the screen is busy.
Dynamic resolution scaling (DRS) changes resolution on the fly in response to demands placed on a console's processors by what is happening on the screen. For 4K games, DRS reduces resolution from native 4K (3840 x 2160) in order to preserve factors such as frame rate and graphics quality.

Should players be concerned that they’re not getting a full 4K experience from their 4K games? A more immediate concern is that the biomechanics of the human eye may prevent players from seeing the differences between native 4K and DSR images. It all depends on how far the player sits from the screen.
You can see that she has hair, but you can't count how many hairs she has.

Dynamic resolution scaling in action

The 4K versions of Middle-Earth: Shadow of War and Rise of the Tomb Raider include resolution and quality modes that allow players to decide whether they prefer to play in native 4K or are willing to sacrifice resolution in return for higher quality graphics. The One X version of Shadow of Waralso lets players toggle DRS on or off for both graphics modes. DRS is always on for the PS4 Pro.

Digital Foundry compared 4K performance for Middle-Earth: Shadow of War playing on the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro. It was no contest, the One X hammered the Pro. With DRS operating and quality mode enabled, resolution on the One X dropped as low as 3360 x 1890 in busy scenes and reached native 4K when there was not much happening on the screen; on the PS4 Pro, resolution hovered around 2880 x 1620.[post_ads]

DRS in quality mode is clearly less of an issue for the One X, which suffers a 6% loss in pixels from native 4K, than it is for the PS4 Pro which cuts the number of pixels by more than half. However, these differences in resolution won’t make any difference at all if you can’t see them, which may be the case for many players.

Why the difference between native 4K and DSR images may be invisible

The fine detail in a 4K image is made possible by the densely packed, 6,782,400 pixels on a 4K screen. Reducing the number of pixels through DRS reduces the detail. The viewer must be able to see the fine detail that is present in a 4K image to see the loss of detail that comes with DRS. That may not be possible given the inherent limitations of the human eye.
The limitation lies in the biomechanics of the human eye.
The resolving power of an optical device like the eye is a measure of its ability to distinguish fine details that are packed closely together. Imagine you’re having a conversation with someone who’s standing right in front of you. You can see the fine detail in their hair well enough to distinguish one hair from another. If you saw that same person across the street, you could see they have hair on their head, but you couldn’t see the individual hairs. The resolving power of the eye isn’t refined enough to distinguish individual hairs at across-the-street distances. The same issue arises when viewing a 4K image. The player won’t be able to distinguish the fine details that separate native 4K from DRS images if the screen is too far away.

The resolving power of the human eye is limited by the wavelength of light and the diameter of the pupil. You can’t do anything about these limitations, but you can move closer to the screen if you want to make sure you can see all of the detail in a 4K image. The science that allows us to measure the resolving power of the eye also lets us calculate the optimal distance between the eyes and the screen for viewing 4K images.

How close to the screen should the viewer be? It depends on the size of the screen.
Viewing distance as a function of screen size for different screen resolutions.

The distances at which dynamic resolution scaling make a difference

The graph above from Rtings.com shows optimal viewing distances as a function of screen size for different screen resolutions. The color-coded solid lines show the sweet spots where individual pixels can’t be seen but all of the detail in an image can be resolved. The shaded areas above the lines show the distances from the screen where the human eye can’t resolve all the detail in an image, but can resolve more detail than is present on a lower resolution screen.[post_ads_2]

The part of the graph that is of interest if you’re playing a 4K game on a 4K screen is shown in blue. Find your screen size on the horizontal axis and read up until you reach the purple line. The solid blue line is your sweet spot and the shaded blue area shows the distances where your eye can resolve some, but not all, of the fine detail in a 4K image.
It all depends on far should you sit from the screen.
If a player is sitting at the sweet spot for their screen, all of the differences between native 4K and DRS images will be visible. Whether or not they affect the player’s enjoyment of the game depends on whether she notices them. It’s easy to see resolution differences in side-by-side images with circles drawn around an area on the screen where the differences are most pronounced. Those same differences may be visible on the screen but completely unnoticed when the player is engaged with the game.

If the player is sitting at a distance in the blue-shaded area, the differences between native 4K and DRS images may or may not be visible. It depends on how far removed the player is from the sweet spot and how much the resolution is reduced by DRS. One way to think about this is that perceived resolution drops as the player moves further from the screen.

If the player is sitting at or beyond the sweet spot for a 1080p resolution screen (the purple line on the graph), none of this makes any difference. At these distances, all of the additional detail that separates 4K from 1080p resolutions can’t be resolved by the human eye. The screen may be showing 4K, but the eye is seeing 1080p.

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TechFonder: How Dynamic Resolution Scaling Works in 4K Games [ Myth Busted ]
How Dynamic Resolution Scaling Works in 4K Games [ Myth Busted ]
Should players be concerned that they’re not getting a full 4K experience from their 4K games?
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