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

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 25, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    UPDATED 3/6/12

    The final result of problems with the U.S. domestic release of Downton Abbey comes down to a simple fact.

    Both Season 1 as well as Season 2 are fully defective, as they are improperly mastered.

    For those who wish to own the series, Amazon offers a few different possibilities. Purchasing the UK release, which is non-region coded via a U.S. supplier is not the best route, as ridiculous prices are asked. The easy way is to order from Amazon UK. I found the boxed set of two seasons to be fairly priced, and delivery quick.

    Be aware that while the U.S. Season 2 is inclusive of the final episode, the UK set is not, and it must be ordered separately, but is easy enough.

    The interesting thing here is that while Season 1 (U.S.) shows the same problem as Season 2, it is not as obvious, and plays decently. Season 2 is unwatchable, which begs the questions, what has PBS done to destroy the quality of the master?

    I would suggest that the PBS (U.S.) release issued as "Masterpiece Classic," and "Original UK Edition," be returned as defective, which they are.

    RAH

    *****************************

    How unfortunate.

    To start out with a great cast and beautiful productions values, and then have them flushed for poor technical work.

    The second season of Downton Abbey is an odd animal.

    Actors don't seem to know how to act any longer.

    They move oddly. Can't seem to walk properly.

    Poor, poor acting and direction.

    Or could it be that episodes have been artificially lengthened?

    I've not done due diligence, but could this have something to do with long and short versions?

    I find Season two to be virtually unwatchable. For those who may recall the good old days of PAL to NTSC conversions, going from 25fps to 24, this seems to be a similar situation. However, in this case an hour episode is actually only 50 minutes in length.

    How is this done?

    Simple.

    Take every 5th frame, and duplicate it.

    1,2,3,4,5,5,6,7,8,9,10,10...

    Whatever the cause, be it defective Arri cameras, problems in post, or a desire to make an hour out of a 50 minute program, Downton Abbey Season Two from PBS on Blu-ray, fails in every regard.

    Recall!

    Need I mention that Downton Abbey is absolutely, positively, NOT recommended?

    RAH
     
  2. Rob W

    Rob W Supporting Actor

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    I ordered the UK version back in November (which is region-free) and it has none of the technical problems you describe.
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    What is the running time of episodes as displayed by the player?
     
  4. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Worrisome to hear. In Matt's Review he was asked about it and said he saw no stuttering effects. It sounds like an authoring issue that is affecting certain players. On the other hand, all the streaming of these episodes I've seen (Amazon and PBS direct) are jerky as hell but I figured that's just streaming for you. I hope whatever the problem is, it can be dealt with with firmware upgrades.
     
  5. Paul Penna

    Paul Penna Supporting Actor

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    The domestic DVD version of Season 2 disc one I just watched via Netflix disc rental definitely displayed the stuttering every-fifth-frame-duplicated (I counted them) problem. Played on an Oppo BDP-93.
     
  6. moviepas

    moviepas Second Unit

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    I agree about Series one in UK BD which I have viewed and liked. I have the Season 2 on BD from UK but yet to watch it. If faulty I will soon see. I will be viewing on a Panasonic BD combo machine when I find the disc.
     
  7. graham8z

    graham8z Agent

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    Season 2 was a disaster from start to finish mainly the scripts were to fault it felt no one knew where the series was going with actors standing around with no direction as to what to do. Hopefully when Shirley MacLaine enters in series 3 things will get back on track. In the meantime watch Call The Midwife superior in every respect.
     
  8. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Isn't it funny? I mentioned this herky-jerky thing on my website the minute I saw it and everyone who has it told me it must be my player and that they didn't see it. I knew it wasn't my player and I'm glad to have confirmation finally.
    I ordered the UK disc to see if it's got that problem and I'm suspecting it won't.
    I like season two, although the melodramatics got a bit much - one began to see the mechanics, as it were, the need to just have a plot twist or complication just to keep a story alive. I remember yelling at one point, let them be together already! But it won me over and it's so much better than 90% of the crap on TV and I do love the cast. I also thought the Christmas at Downton Abbey wrap-up was lovely, especially the ending.
     
  9. benbess

    benbess Cinematographer

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    Putting it in my player again, I think I am seeing what RAH is describing in terms of the slight jerkiness in the video quality. It doesn't stop me from enjoying it, but....wish they hadn't done that.
    There is still very impressive clarity in most scenes. The costume design for the show is quite impressive.
    I don't agree with the panning of the show's second season in terms of its content. It's certainly soapy, but that was there with season one as well.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The problem may come down to the fact that the series was shot at 1080i, although I can think of no reason why it would in 2010. Imdb lists the shows as being 1080p/25 (as opposed to 24) ProRes 4:4:4, but that may refer to an up-convert.

    What I'm seeing is that the second season has an obvious and disturbing problem, while the first is far more transparent.

    Checking over at AVS, which I generally find to be the best of the tech forums, Sneals2000 comments:






    Often the 50 to 60 conversion is accomplished by simply repeating every 5th frame (so for every 5 frames in you get 6 out). For 50i native content this will add regular judder on motion (as is clear when I watch a 50Hz News Channel on my HTPC when it is incorrectly set to a 60Hz refresh) as there is a clear and regular repeated frame. 50p (often de-interlaced from 576/50i or 1080/50i but could be 1080/50p or 720/50p native) to 60p frames will be matched with a 1:1:1:1:2 cadence.
    However it is a bit more complicated for 25p originated content as this already contains repeated frames at 50p using 2:2 cadence.
    The resulting 60p cadence of 25p content (taken via 50p with every 5th frame repeated) is something like 2:2:3:2:3 in terms of the original 25p frames, which is a bit more broken up than the 1:1:1:1:2 you'd get with a 50i native (de-interlaced to 50p) source with 50Hz motion, and may mean the judder is less obvious, particularly if you are already accustomed to 3:2 judder.





    Questions abound, especially regarding international standards for video in the digital age.

    The main question is why would any production (yes, I'm aware that the main broadcasts would be in the UK) capturing to 1080 video, not go with progressive? Or does the problem arise out the the distribution arena,and an attempt to create a one master fits all scenario.

    While S1 was shot with an Arri D-21, S2 went for the new Alexa. The D-21 captures in uncompressed ARRIRAW, as does the Alexa. Precisely what occurs inside the camera, in capture and how files are handled is above my pay grade. Could this be coming from a 50hz to 60hz conversion?

    Anyone in the proper pay grade is invited to discuss.

    RAH
     
  11. Billy Batson

    Billy Batson Cinematographer

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    I loved the first series, but didn't stick with the second. There were some very good things in it, but the evil wife bit just went on & on, & this will they, won't they of the main characters...for chist sake just get it on! Life's too short.
     
  12. dendodd

    dendodd Stunt Coordinator

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    [SIZE=3I think I actually noticed this "jitter" or something akin to it while watching the series on television in season two; during the credits and when the Silver Ghost is driven into the drive at the Dowager's residence.
    I must say also, that I agree that season two is a far cry from season one. I was thrilled with season one but, as I said elsewhere, the second season has some pretty "over-the-top" clichéd happenings that beggar belief. I also really think that the upstairs lot at Downton are a little too chummy with the downstairs people for the time. I could be wrong and I am sure in different houses the relationships were different, but I do think it would be surprising to hear any discussion at a dining table involving anything to do with the bunch downstairs. I think there is a bit much "noblesse oblige" in the second season that goes beyond believability. It almost seems like wishful thinking. However, having started with S1, I’m hooked and will stay with it and follow through the next season. It certainly will be interesting to see what Ms. MacLaine will bring.
    SIZE]
     
  13. Roger_R

    Roger_R Second Unit

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    The show may have been shot in 1080p25, but it'd have to be converted to 1080i50 for broadcast and UK BD release since neither support the 1080p25 format. My guess is they simply took the UK BD master and ran it through a cheap converter to get 1080i60 video to release in the US.
    They had the chance to finally end these type of problems with the introduction of the HD formats, but no one cared it seems...
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Whatever is being done, the final product is technological garbage.

    I feel as if I'm viewing an old VHS of I, Claudius.

    RAH
     
  15. Rob W

    Rob W Supporting Actor

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    Unfortunately my copy of Season 2 is out on loan right now. I do have the Christmas special, however ( released separately in the U.K. ) and the player times it at 1:32:38
     
  16. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    The BBC shoots just about everything interlaced. On some shows like "Doctor Who", they were long in the habit of "filmising" the 50i video by using computers to try and recreate the original progressive frames after the fact. The upshot with this is that 50 Hz to 60 Hz conversions shouldn't have a 1-1-1-1-2 encoding scheme. I bought the US Blu-Ray of Torchwood: Children of Earth, and it handled the 50i to 60i problem by repeating 10 fields every second, rather than 5 frames every second. The Blu-Ray player had some issues untangling that, so I just passed on the interlaced signal to the TV, and no longer noticed any issues with motion.
    You won't see a 1080i50 release in North America, which would be the best solution, because many Region A players simply won't play 50Hz material. Failing that, 1080i60 encodes that duplicate fields are much preferable in my view to 1080i60 encodes that duplicate entire frames.
     
  17. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe this is ITV as opposed to BBC, but no matter.



    The Alexa has proven its mettle at both HD as well as 2k.



    Correct me if I'm wrong, but cannot the output of the camera be molded to be whatever final tech format is desired?



    I very much doubt that the show is being formatted in camera as 1080i.



    What I'm wondering is that with Comcast in the background, whether pennies may be being pinched and a single 1080i master being used worldwide.



    For TV I normally wouldn't care, but there seems to be some real quality here.



    As to the BBC, should they be shooting interlaced at this late date?



    RAH
     
  18. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I'll report back about the UK version in a day or two - it should be here no later than Tuesday, although I've already read elsewhere that the problem doesn't exist in the UK Blu. Of course, I've also read that the problem doesn't exist in the US Blu :)
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    As you're one of the few who has actually been in the trenches, I have absolute faith in what you'll be seeing.

    The overriding question that remains, is...

    is the problem necessary, or has it been created?

    RAH
     
  20. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    Aha! Then I have no idea what format it was shot in. Even if it's 25 frames progressive, it should still play better in 1080i60 with ABABAABABABB field cadence than a 123455 frame solution. There would seem to be no reason except for laziness, cost or indifference why the encoders didn't take advantage of the interlacing to make the repetition more dispersed.
    Most assuredly not. I think they've done it because the BBC broadcast over the air in 1080i. I did a little looking into it after my last post, and since last year, they've started broadcasting in 1080p25 as well as 1080i50, with the encoder set to automatically detect progressive material and switch accordingly. So my guess is we'll see more 1080p programming from them going forward.
     

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