A Few Words About A few words about...™ Gangs of New York (Take Two) -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 3, 2010.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    In June of 2008, at the time of the initial release of Gangs of New York on Blu-Ray, I wrote the following as part of my Few Words:

    "Make no mistake. This is a Blu-ray that yields an image that is fully electronic. Like Patton, Gangs of New York is the new poster child for precisely what NOT to do with the Blu-ray software system."

    Now, after much internet discussion, and to be clear, with many viewers (most likely the same ones who loved Patton and The Longest Day) extolling the disc's virtues, a new disc has been released. In the intervening 18 months, the folks at Miramax seem to have either learned little from their earlier venture into the digital world of home video, or they still refuse to admit that there was a problem in post, or to be specific the selection of a post facility to bring both Gangs as well as Cold Mountain to the HD world.

    Rather than making any admission of a technical problem, they are now blaming what I (and a few others) perceived as an extremely flawed Blu-ray release, based upon horrific work by a post facility, upon problems with the actual film elements.

    I've attempted to rationalize their position, and have come up with a theory. Try this one...

    The majority of the film was shot at Cinecitta in Rome on three types of Eastman stock. From what I can come up with after looking at the old SD screener, was that the original negative elements made it to LA, where they were printed once, allowing editor Thelma Schoonmaker something to cut. Once editing was complete and the OCN cut and conformed, but before either protection masters or an interpositive could be created, something horrific occurred at the lab, and the cut original negative was either destroyed in printing, or accidentally misplaced and later used as fill leader.

    It was only then that the lab, after admitting the problem to the filmmakers, turned to Ms. Schoonmaker's work picture as what would become the new "original" element. The now worn and fully spliced rolls of film were shipped to a post facility in Hollywood for scanning and clean-up at 2k resolution. The entire release of the film was then created from digital dupe negatives derived from those scans of a positive. This might account for both the graininess as well as the stark contrast in the film.

    Later, while attempting to down-rez toward the creation of a master for home video use, the amount of grain had to be lowered, and that too was successfully performed. But the resultant master was found to be just soft enough to be problematic, and the image was digitally sharpened. This seemed to solve the problem for standard definition, which partially hid the problems. But when the same master was taken off the shelf and used for the first Blu-ray, all of the digital work performed not for HD, but for SD use, came to the fore, shocking everyone involved.

    It appears that Miramax, with financial aid from Disney, The Film Foundation, The Thomson Foundation, The American Film Institute, MOMA, The George Eastman House and Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Stiftung have returned to Ms. Schoonmaker's work picture for a second time, now scanning at 6k. Reliance MediaWorks (formerly Lowry Digital) may have performed months of digital image crunching. The final result may have almost returned the film to what it would have looked like before the elements were lost or destroyed. By the look of what I'm now seeing, well over 15,000 hours of digital clean-up and image manipulation must have been performed. I've also run a quick budget as to cost, inclusive of the record of new negatives, separation masters and back-up data tapes.

    The number works out to the high end of five-plus million dollars.

    So now, after eighteen months of labor, Disney was finally given a new master, and has been able to re-release.

    This new release, looking extremely film-like, and sporting uncompressed audio, has been given the Miramax seal of approval in the form of sticker number 8012430, which while identifying the new release as a quality product, hardly tells the entire story.

    Emblazoned on the new packaging are the words "All-New Digital Restoration."

    This should delineate the new from the old as a safe buy.

    As an aside, I'm hearing that Paramount Home Video is currently working on an "All-New Digital Restoration" of Shutter Island, with the hope that that film can look as good as Gangs.

    Do I believe any of this?

    Absolutely not.

    The point appears to be that rather than say nothing, which would have been easy, or to make an admission that they placed their trust in the wrong vendor, and then allowed the problem to escalate by not properly QCing the final product, whoever is left at Miramax has decided to not only sweep the old problems under the rug, but to take credit for a multi-million dollar restoration program to save Mr. Scorsese's epic work.

    What we'll probably see next are stickers on cigarette packaging proclaiming "Recommended by The American Cancer Society."

    In February of 2010, film restoration has reached a new low. Film restoration by sticker.

    The actual cost of fully "restoring" a film in need. Probably 2/10ths of a cent.

    Lincoln was attributed as saying "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time."

    Print it. Stick it on. And someone may bite.

    Had someone simply come up with a marketing concept of something like...

    "All New and Fully Re-mastered"

    That would have served the purpose.

    Had they then gone on to allow that the original product was defective, and would be replaced, at least for those who find it problematic, that would have gone even further to score points and turn mid-19th century lemons into lemonade.

    Some of you may be wondering about the new Blu-ray disc.

    Simply put, it's what the Blu-ray should have looked like when released in 2008.

    Beautiful image, great full uncompressed audio. A wonderful representation of a great, great example of modern cinema.

    With the caveat of idiotic labels aside, Gangs of New York (as a part of the Miramax Award-Winning Collection, for further identification) is...

    Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    Well, I think now I can finally go out and buy this Blu-ray.

    I had refused to buy the previous version.

    Hope Amazon has the newly mastered version. Will look
    for the markings on the case.
     
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    You can't miss it at Amazon because it's the only BRD that Amazon is selling directly from them and it's at a much higher pricepoint than the previous release.





    Crawdaddy
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Someone has to pay for the cost of the "restoration." To that regard the $40 price point seems fair. Netting out at $26 would be even more fair if their was an "upgrade" rebate.

     
  5. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Harris. I really appreciate that you would go through all that trouble to scathe the marketing use of the term "restoration". It made for some fun reading.
     
  6. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

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    Thanks, RAH,

    On a related note, any word of Gladiator getting a "proper" re-release?
     
  7. bosque

    bosque Agent

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    Many thanks to RAH for clearing up whether or not this was worth getting. I can still remember buying the DVD back in 2003 and being horrified at the mess they made of that disc - and wondering how long it would be before it was "re-mastered" from start to finish. So, 7 years later...
     
  8. esl88

    esl88 Auditioning

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    It would be ridiculous for Miramax to blame the appearance of the previous BD on the original film elements. We all remember seeing Gangs in theaters and it looked fantastic. The only way Miramax could be justified in their claims is if they used a worn-out theatrical print, rather than the original negative or interpositive, and used excessive filtering to cover the damage. But even then it would be their fault. In any case, I'm glad this film looks good the second time around.
     
  9. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Wow, what an epic tale of restoration for this ancient film, I'm really glad they were able to scour the vaults around the world for this little-known, extremely old film, in order to fully restore it for today's modern audiences, many of whom are not old enough to recognize the actors or director!





    Glad this looks good on Blu, finally. I originally said I wasn't going to buy it until I read your review, Mr. Harris, but I had an Amazon order ready to go on Sunday and added this as an impulse buy. Glad I won't be disappointed.
     
  10. Felix Martinez

    Felix Martinez Screenwriter

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    I'm just surprised it looks as good as it does for a film of its age.
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Couldn't agree more. Gangs is a miracle of digital restoration. Cobbling together the old tracks, many of which were harvested directly from the original wax cylinders, and turning them into something fit for uncompressed consumption by modern audiences is beyond belief. I'm hopeful that the tracks from Metropolis make the transition as well.

    RAH

     
  12. Michael Osadciw

    Michael Osadciw Screenwriter

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    Robert

    Thanks for that insight. Wow...what goes on behind the scenes is truly unbelievable!

    I guess I feel safe picking this one up now!

    Mike
     
  13. Brian Husar

    Brian Husar Stunt Coordinator

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    I am sorry...is Miramax and Disney really using this sorry excuse? I did buy it today, and it looks fantastic. I saved the sticker and pasted it on the inside cover as a keepsake. I never would have thought that a film that is about 8 years old could require that much "restoration" work. Now if only Paramount can get all of those pieces and do a proper "restoration" of Gladiator.


    Seriously though, why can't they just say "ooops, we put out the wrong master", and on top of that...they have a Criterion price tag on this thing. But a very good release. What the original release should have looked like.
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The "ooops, we put out the wrong master," would have solved the problem 18 months ago, especially if followed up by a replacement program for those who felt that there was a problem. I would surmise that they would have been dealing with hundreds of discs, and not thousands. I don't believe that this is Disney BTW, it feels more like Miramax. Keep in mind that Disney came forward, acknowledged the crop problem on that pirate picture, and followed up with replacement. Cleanly and neatly done. Fortunately, Cold Mountain never made it to Blu-ray.

    RAH

    Quote:
     
  15. JonZ

    JonZ Lead Actor

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    I want this disc, but money is tight right now. Why is this disc $34?
     
  16. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    It's a re-release of a title that probably wasn't a big seller to begin with so I can't imagine that any stores see much reason in giving it a big discount. Amazon has it for $26 but I'm still waiting for a sale.
     
  17. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Is the cover of the Remaster identical to the original release?

    Is there a sticker to identify the Remaster as "different?" Is the sticker on the cellophane of the package?

    Since I might be looking for this to show up in a "used" bin down the road, I'm just curious as to how I'd be aware of which release is which.
     
  18. Richard Gallagher

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    It appears to have a new UPC: 0786936800562

    I don't have the old BD, but it looks like the UPC of the original is 0786936165371.
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    To be perfectly candid, I may have mis-read the "restoration" comment on the sticker.

    It is entirely possible that what was being referred to was not the film, but rather a digital restoration of the sticker. If that's the case, I'm fine with it, as the sticker is, in its own way, quite lovely. This could be the very first "digitally restored" adhesive sticker.

    RAH

     
  20. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Old release:

    [​IMG]

    New release:

    [​IMG]
     

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