A Few Words About A few words about...™ 12 Monkeys -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jul 19, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    In an effort to aid in the understanding of what makes a "quality Blu-ray," the point cannot be made too often that Blu-ray is merely a system that plays back discs on which data has been pressed or burned. It's a holding device, in many ways no different than a bottle used to hold liquid.

    One can fill that bottle with pure mountain water, with impure water from a poor city system, or for that matter with a nice Chateau Petrus. It's still a bottle filled with liquid.

    The nice thing about Blu-ray, as opposed to standard definition DVD, or even Toshiba's HD system, is that it can hold enough data to allow for extremely high quality reproduction of motion pictures in a home theater environment.

    While a "quality Blu-ray" can be shiny, bright and clean -- think a Pixar release -- it can also be dark, grimy, grainy and low in the areas of color saturation, contrast, blacks and whites. The important thing is that it should look as closely as possible to the original film or video elements and their intended look when printed to positive stock or run as video or data.

    A "quality Blu-ray" does not necessarily take on the visual parameters of a high def baseball game.

    Whether mastered from 16, 35 or 65mm film, from data files or HD recordings, Blu-ray has the capability, but no guarantee of reproducing the original to a stunning degree. While the debate may continue, those with an understanding of cinema need only take a look at the dregs of data pressed to Blu-ray, ie. The Longest Day, Patton or Gangs of New York.

    Case in point: Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys, making its Blu-ray debut, after numerous incarnations on VHS, laserdisc, DVD and HD.

    I've prefaced my comments because I'm certain that there will be comments that 12 Monkeys is soft, grainy, low in contrast in areas, has improper black levels, seems to glow in places and a myriad of other "problems." None of these are problems. To the best of my memory, 12 Monkeys looks very, very close to what we saw in theaters when it was released at the end of December of 1995. And this couldn't make me happier.

    Universal's new Blu-ray has been upgraded from the earlier HD variant, and now offers uncompressed audio in the form of DTS-HD Master 5.1. Formatted properly as 1.85:1, and with the main titles opened slightly to 1.66, 12 Monkeys has finally reached its critical mass, beautifully reproduced on Blu-ray.

    Those who have never seen Mr. Gilliam's work are in for a treat. Those who have can now be content that his film has finally made it to digital perfection. As an aside, and to bring things full circle, anyone who appreciated 12 Monkeys needs to get their hands on a copy of Chris Marker's 1963 short film, La Jetee, available from Criterion.

    Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Excellent points.

    This indeed is a very good movie. I will be ordering it and Midnight Express.
     
  3. ManW_TheUncool

    ManW_TheUncool Producer

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    Good to see this review now. Was wondering if I should wait before ordering it. Thanks, RAH, as usual.

    _Man_
     
  4. DaveF

    DaveF Moderator
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    Is the truncated commentary fixed yet?
     
  5. Leo Kerr

    Leo Kerr Screenwriter

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    In the early 1990s, I saw La Jettee on 16mm, with a nice projector. (Part of a film-making class, of course.)

    Some years later, I saw 12 Monkeys on the DVD.

    I'm not sure, but I think I prefer the old French film.

    Leo
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The movement of the eye is one of those shots that make the cinema the visceral experience that it is.
     
  7. urbo73

    urbo73 Stunt Coordinator

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    Another good post, but I have to ask regarding this quote:


    Now I have no reason to believe the Blu-ray of "12 Monkeys" is indeed not a great transfer, but as you have pointed out in other threads (particularly the Dracula thread), judging how good a transfer is (i.e. how close it comes to matching the OAP) should not be made based on memory or a print one sees in theaters. I clearly remember you making those points (which I happen to agree with BTW), as memory is not accurate and release prints seldom match the quality/intention of the OAP. So in lieu of seeing the OAP (or having inside information from those involved inthe transfer), how do we know that "12 Monkeys" is a faithful transfer and not a mediocre one? Is it subjective depending on each reviewer's memory/experience? Again, this has to do with how can us as consumers ever know.
     
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  9. BillyFeldman

    BillyFeldman Supporting Actor

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    That's all well and good, except I've read threads here where people have been castigated for saying they remembered how it looked when they saw it. And why would a regular poster's memory be made fun of or challenged but not a HTF reviewer, most of whom, let's face it, were and are just regular folk, most younger (and who've not seen classic films during their original runs) who volunteered for a job, get free discs, and write whatever they think, all fine, BTW. My memory of things frequently differs from Robert Harris's and others who remember seeing things, so what you're right about is that nobody really knows anything. It's all subjective unless, as you say, you have an answer print or even a release print to look at. Otherwise, it's all memory, and memory, as we know, can be faulty, cloudy, and not reliable at all. I never saw 12 Monkeys in the theater so would have no idea what was what. I did see it on laserdisc and pretty much hated every minute of it - the original French film, La Jetee (available from Critierion) is a masterpiece.
     
  10. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  11. BillyFeldman

    BillyFeldman Supporting Actor

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    I think a prior viewing on a film is relevant to a reviewer's assessment - but it rarely happens here and elsewhere on the Internet. I'm really not trying to make anything out of anything and you're reading way too much into my post - just putting thoughts out there, most of which are general and not directed at you personally, which I would hope is apparent in the post, but maybe it wasn't.
     
  12. urbo73

    urbo73 Stunt Coordinator

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    Thank you. This was exactly the point of my post which I think Michael perhaps missed. Mr. Harris says:


    And I don't understand how he could say that "None of these are problems" with such certainty. Maybe they are. Had it been another poster saying that, the response would be different. And I'm not saying Mr. Harris is wrong. He may very well be correct. But let's be fair to all posters, and not look down when they make similar statements. That's all.

    PS. One can look at the Dracula thread if they need to see what I'm talking about.
     
  13. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    That's a little disingenuous, isn't it? A statement like the following may not be directed at me personally, but it's hardly a "general" thought:


    The concluding "all fine, BTW" doesn't exactly take the edge off the torrent of (mostly false) implications that precede it.

    Indirectly, though, I think this exchange has highlighted the real difference between a reviewer and a "regular" poster, and it has more to do with the nature of the activity than the qualifications of the writer. A reviewer (at least one who is doing the job properly) deliberates over a review, attempting to recall and reflect over everything he or she knows about the film or TV show and whatever prior presentations he or she may have encountered. That process should culminate in a thoughtful and considered presentation. (Again, this assumes a reviewer who is doing the job properly; I happen to think our guys do.)

    The regular poster, OTOH, just puts thoughts out there.
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I'm going to add something to this thread that will make things even more difficult. Since the discussion has turned once again to the propriety of answer prints, the abilities of the human memory in regard to color and densities and how all of this relates to Blu-ray, here are more points up for discussion:

    How accurate to the approved AP was any particular print that may have been viewed?

    How was the print projected?

    Where was the print projected?

    What optics were in use?

    What was the color temperature of the system?

    When and by what lab was the print struck?

    Was the entire print struck by the same lab?

    In regard to when the print was created, was it timed for projection via carbon arc or xenon?

    If the print was created in the pre-xenon era, was it color corrected for projection via carbon arc?

    Was a print created for projection via carbon arc, and timed as such used as the basis of a new transfer, and was that print projected via Xenon, and was this taken into consideration?

    Even if one is using an original answer print approved by the DP and Director, how far off will it be in terms of color if improperly projected or projected on equipment different from that in use for color timing at the time of production?

    Welcome to the tip of the iceberg!

    RAH
     
  15. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Making comparisons to anything experienced a long time ago is going to have its problems. I have often revisited titles which, at the time I initially reviewed them, were impressive, only to lower my opinion after repeated and later viewings.

    I would, however, suggest that those who are in the business of evaluating the properties of film, such as Mr. Harris, would tend to note things of a technical nature that would otherwise be overlooked by those immersing themselves in the film experience. While no one's recall is going to be 100% accurate, I would give experts in the field a lot more credit for remembering certain aspects of a presentation. Even transfers which are approved by those who made the film will not look the same in the field given all the variables in home theater setups and calibration.
     
  16. BillyFeldman

    BillyFeldman Supporting Actor

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    You are very defensive, and your post is the one that's disingenuous. I could link to a lot of threads where posters have been taken to task for saying things like we're talking about here - just not on this new board, which I can't figure out for the life of me. However, Urbo73 does have a link to a thread, so maybe you'll find it there. But, to use your word, it's disingenuous of you to act like you don't think it happens here, because it most certainly does. I wasn't spewing a torrent of anything - this is all your interpretation, and it's quite odd to me. But that's a discussion board for you. What you say about HTF reviewers and other Internet reviewers is sort of correct - they base their comments on what they know - and I'm saying that usually it has been my experience in reading them that they sometimes don't know much of anything other than previous video releases - and they certainly don't know more than some posters here, who are very knowledgeable and bright, and some of whom are in the business. I've read reviews here and elsewhere written by people barely out of their teens (at the time of the review) - reviewing classic films and talking about transfers as if they knew what it was supposed to look like - sorry, they don't. They're guessing. On the other hand, I've read some excellently-written reviews by some who do have some knowledge, and those are always appreciated. But it's just odd that every time someone posts something that takes issues with a post, or raises some points for discussion, a moderator or reviewer comes on to defend or be defensive. Why? It's a discussion board and there is nothing in the post I made that was anything but a discussion.

    I did enjoy Robert A. Harris's second post, because boy is it right. Those of a certain age saw classic films projected from projectors with carbon arc lamp houses. Total different ball game to today's projector lamps - if I remember correctly, carbon arcs had more of a bluish cast to them, whereas today's lamps are more to the yellow side of things.
     
  17. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Quote:
     
  18. Peter Neski

    Peter Neski Supporting Actor

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    Well I didn't think the HD DVD version looked good at all,I don't remember the way it looked in
    the theater,
    Out of Africa was
    grainy in the New York Theater I saw it at,yet the dvd looked fantasic,

    If this is the way it looked (12monkeys) and thats makes sense,why do we
    have to settle for that? Can't they Improve it? They did this wit the Bond films,and other
    films.Why can't they at least try,
    Sometimes the original isn't the Best Version,and 12 Monkeys dosn't look like a good transfer
    to me,
     
  19. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    On a side note, RAH, do you still have the HD DVD and the equipment to play it and can you compare the two to determine if they're the same encode? I love the HD DVD and would see no reason to upgrade if it's the same encode.
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The benefits to the BD are a bit more breathing room for the image and uncompressed audio.
     

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