A Few Words About A few words about...™ Downton Abbey - Season 3 -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    What a great series! And what a nice surprise. We were given a quality image on Season 1 of Downton Abbey, albeit in its native 1080i, and an initially stuttering image on Season 2, which has been updated and is no longer problematic. I finally got a chance to pop Season 3 into an Oppo, wondering and hoping that the image would be of good quality. The nice surprise, at least to me, is that while the packaging for Season 3 had been prepped for 1080i, PBS and Carnival has taken what I consider to be a huge step, in preparing the release here in the Colonies, in 1080p! Matt actually beat me to this news in his review of Season 3 posted yesterday. We now have properly flowing imagery to go along with the rest of the package in this production that neatly offers extremely high quality along with popularity. Those are two things that one doesn't often see together. Nice to have the highest of all factors. Photographed, as last season, with Arri Alexas and Cooke and Angenieux optics, the images as finalized on Blu-ray are sharp and colorful, with beautiful blacks, shadow details, and everything that we're accustomed to seeing in the finest of 35mm cinematography. For those who may be unaware Cooke optics are British, and of extremely high quality. The first examples go back to 1894, as originally designed by Cooke, and produced by Taylor & Hobson. They're now supplying some of the finest optics for the Alexa and the Red. Angenieux arrived in 1935. By the 1950s and '60s they manufactured the creme de la creme of zooms for personal home movie cameras. If one desired the best optics attainable for Super 8 and 16mm world, Angenieux was the go to lens. Today, they make some of the finest optics, including zooms, in the professional arena. Downton Abbey in 1080p is right up there with "Gable's back and Garson's got him!" Very Highly Recommended. RAH
     
  2. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    Appreciate the positive review, Robert...waiting impatiently for my copy of this from Amazon, which arrives on street date, January 29th!!!
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    You're going to love the new look. PBS is hitting on all twelve cylinders as far as quality goes.
    RAH
     
  4. lukejosephchung

    lukejosephchung Screenwriter

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    PBS's broadcast trailers for this already were already whetting my appetite for season 3, Robert...your additional good news is stoking it even further... thanks again!!!
     
  5. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I got the import last week and am enjoying the season very much.
     
  6. Ray H

    Ray H Producer

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    Does this release include the 2012 Christmas special?
     
  7. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    The re-do of season 2 was also 1080p, even though the packaging states 1080i.
     
  8. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Yes. My review in the TV on disc section of this site details this.
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Which IMHO speaks loudly about the respect with which PBS gives their customers.
    The 2011 was originally a stand-alone disc, later a part of the Colonies release.
    Their marketing and production arms seem to be trying very hard to do everything right.
    RAH
     
  10. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I agree, and with this latest release, they scored a real home run (or whatever you call a big hit in cricket).
     
  11. noel aguirre

    noel aguirre Second Unit

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    Is there any way to tell if you have a bad Season 2 by the Bar Code #? And how can we get it exchanged if we lack a receipt? Thanks
     
  12. theonemacduff

    theonemacduff Second Unit

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    In cricket, if one hits the ball over the boundary without its touching the ground, one has "hit it for six"; if it touches the ground before crossing the boundary, one has hit a "four," that is, in the first case, an automatic six runs, and in the second, an automatic four. Keep in mind that in cricket, one continues to bat until one is caught or bowled out, so individual and team scores can go up into the hundreds, and games go on for much of the day. Your pur laine Brit will tell you, with commiseration for your sportishly poverty-stricken state, that baseball is really only a slightly different version of a kid's game in England, called "rounders" (because you hit and then go around the bases).
     
  13. johnmn

    johnmn Auditioning

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    Actually, I'm afraid it's bad news that the U.S. release this time is 1080p. That means that the video and audio have been subjected to the equivalent of NTSC slowdown: i.e., as a British production, "Downton Abbey" is shot in 1080 25p (25 fps), and reprocessing it in Blu-ray 1080p, which is 24 fps, requires slowing 25 fps to 24 fps. This lowers the pitch of the soundtrack by a semitone. You can tell that this is how the UK Blu-ray (though not the original UK broadcast) was changed to 1080p: listen to the theme music as it plays (at the correct pitch) behind the menu, and then start an episode. The pitch of the music drops, and sounds flat in comparison to the correct pitch. The best way to transfer 1080 25p to Blu-ray is to use 108050i, but this isn't compatible with American TVs. There are tricky but effective ways to convert 1080 25p to 1080i60; most British TV shows on U.S. Blu-ray are 1080i60, converted smoothly from 1080i50 and maintaining the proper speed. The easy, lazy trick is to change 1080 50p to 1080p, since that just plays 25 fps at 24 fps. (The U.S. season 1 of "Downton" was correctly converted to 1080i60; season 2 was botched, hence the jerkiness, but then reissued in 1080p in the box set--with the audible slowdown.) HDTV was supposed to eliminate this NTSC/PAL discrepancy, and it would have done so if everything were now shot in 1080 24p (24 fps, like a film). But UK/Europe HD is now 1080 25p, and UK/European TV-show-based Blu-rays are 1080i50. So the incompatibility with the U.S. standard remains, alas. I'm no tech expert, but take a look at this exchange, if you don't believe me: http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/R3UFT14SJ8V81/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B006W9KNXC&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=#wasThisHelpful In any case, I'm afraid it's not really good news when a British TV show is released in 1080p.
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I would prefer a very slight change in pitch than jumping frames. I had no problem with pitch, realizing that converting video between the mother country and the Colonies is going to have to give somewhere.
    As you seem to know of what you speak, possibly you can explain why the display frames on S1, which are 1,2,3,4,5,5,6,7,8.9,10,10, and those of S 2, which display in the same manner did not originally work. Understand, that I count sprocket holes in 4s, 5s and 8s, and don't generally do beyond that.
    RAH
     
  15. johnmn

    johnmn Auditioning

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    Dear Mr. Harris, You're way ahead of me in technical knowledge! Your counting of sprocket holes is very impressive...and I'm puzzled that the initial U.S. releases of the the first 2 seasons of DA seem to have been converted from their original 1080 25p format in the same way. That's strange; I had assumed that the manufacturer used a different conversion solution for the second season, and botched it. Like you, I thought the jerky motion of the initial U.S. Blu-ray of season 2 was deplorable, and I prefer the 4 % slowdown (and drop in pitch) to that. That said, I know it's possible to convert 1080 25p to 1080i60 without jerkiness and without applying slowdown. The slowdown occurs when 1080 25p is converted to 1080p, because Blu-ray 1080p is 24 fps. BBC Blu-ray releases in the U.S.--"Sherlock," "Doctor Who"--have been excellent: 1080i60, with no jerkiness or slowdown. I think BBC is just better at this than PBS/Universal/Carnival, the distributors of "Downton Abbey." In any case, yes, I'd rather have the slowdown (1080p) than the jerkiness (badly converted 1080i60). But best of all, for British shows shot in 1080 25p, is a good conversion to 1080i60, neither jerky nor slowed down. That's why I don't automatically rejoice to see that a Blu-ray of a British TV show is 1080p. --John
     
  16. wyacullo

    wyacullo Auditioning

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    Dear Mr. Harris, I like to read different reviews of a blu-ray disc prior to a purchase. I appreciated your earlier reviews of Seasons 1 and 2 of the series. You helped me make a well-informed decision when purchasing the remastered set of Seasons 1 and 2. I was happy to read your good review of Season 3 of Downton Abbey. However, I am somewhat perplexed about the rather negative reviews of the picture quality of Season 3 that I just read on Blu-ray.com and High-Def Digest. I was wondering if you had any insights about such mixed reviews? Bill
     
  17. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I cannot answer for the place. Only for myself.
    RAH
     
  18. wyacullo

    wyacullo Auditioning

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    Okay. I consider your reviews the "gold standard." Bill
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Appreciated. To be serious. Any time an image or audio is converted from one format to another, something is going to be imperfect. To me, that infernal stuttering has always been the worst of it. Just glad to see it gone. I've not viewed the entire series -- time is not an easy thing to find -- but generally I thought that it looked superb. And no stuttering.
    RAH
     
  20. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    I agree. I recently purchased and watched Series 5 and 6 of "Doctor Who" in 1080i60, and both looked spectacular. I believe the jerkiness of the earlier "Downton" release comes from the decision to duplicate frames (1,2,3,4,5,5...) instead of fields (1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 3A, 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 5A, 5B, 5B). Not only is there inherently significantly less stuttering in the BBC field method, but in many cases either the Blu-Ray player or the television can deinterlace in such a way that the original 25 progressive frames per second are reconstructed. The end result to my eyes was transparent. I much prefer that method to an artificial 25p to 24p slowdown, nitpicky as that sounds.
     

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