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

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Apr 12, 2009.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The audio on Warner's new Blu-ray, which has finally been released months after it appeared elsewhere, is brilliantly rendered on this new disc. Andre Previn's work, which can be heard in all its crystalline clarity on the stereo tracks has stood the test of time, and I'm not at all certain that things have gotten any better half a century later. His work is extraordinary.
    Gigi was the Best Picture of 1958, and while I would so like to be able to report that the film has stood the test of time it has not.
    And by the film, I'm not speaking of the production, as directed by Vincente Minnelli, nor the acting by Ms. Caron, or Mr. Chevalier or Mr. Jourdan -- but rather...
    the film itself.
    Photographed on Eastman 5248, a stock known for its less than stellar aging characteristics, has become the nemesis of this great film. With a myriad of digital tools at its disposal, WB has not been able to bring Gigi back to life, and they have tried.
    Here is something important to understand. Blu-ray has been proven to be a superior carrier of high definition information, which has created high expectations by the consumer. It is those expectations that unfortunately have not (and apparently cannot) be met by this release. The end result of the Gigi Blu-ray is an awkward, occasionally poorly colored hodge-podge of faded originals, dupes and clear attempts to pull something -- anything -- out of the extant elements. Reds in some cases have a tendency to posterize; blacks are uneven; blues go far too blue and flesh tones are not only extremely inconsistent, but sometimes downright unpleasant, taking on a colorized appearance.
    Resolution is also a problem, possibly brought on by dupes.
    Gigi, which was a glorious entertainment half a century ago, is sonically brilliant, and visually a bit of a mess. This is painful, as Gigi is still as charming as it was originally. And if one squints to avoid the image, one can still imagine what led Academy voters to make it the Best Picture of 1958.
    A Great film. The failures of the disc are not failures of the people behind it, but rather a film stock and technology. Hopefully the studio will re-visit at the appropriate time. For the moment, it is what it is,
    and at least we have it on Blu, albeit in an imperfect form.
    RAH
     
  2. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    I agree with your assessment of the film's look. However, I also feel that it is vastly superior, image-wise, than its dvd predecessor. The biggest problems in the BR that I noticed were blurring during dissolve shots; a common enough problem in digitally restored films. I noticed a little noise, married with film grain. My solution to all was to change my BR player's color to the warm 1 setting, and reduce the sharpness. It didn't solve all the problems but did make the film flow much easier to the eye. Still, the BR gets about a 4 star rating in my book; I also hope that they revisit it at some point, as restoration technology improves.
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    A previous version on a less highly resolved home video format is not a suitable case for comparison. The "blurring" during dissolves is a normal function of the duping process used for that film, as the OCN was cut single strand. Dissolves were physically cut in as dupes.
    There should have been film grain.
    You do offer a novel means of getting around the problems in lowering your sharpness. Unfortunate, but not bad, as sonically the BD is superb.
    I wish this were otherwise.
     
  4. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    The grain in and of itself wasn't a problem to me; I expected it. The problem I had started right there in the opening credits. When I first ran the film, I saw the grain, but there was so much digital noise combined with that grain that it looked like ants running around the actors' names. That's why I lowered the sharpness. When the film moved to Grandmama's red salon, that's when I decided to go Warm with the color settings. The redness was (somewhat) reduced and the actors' faces turned back to human colors. My meddling did not solve all the film's problems, but it helped.
    Meddling with control settings is just my sort of armchair solution to dvd problems--always has been. Dozens of other posters will perhaps howl at the mere idea of even having to manipulate their television's settings--they believe that "getting it right" is the job of the film restorers and the dvd engineers. I respect their views. But manipulating color, sound and image quality on my tv also gives me the chance to play Amateur Film Restorer myself. At any rate, no one dvd restoration is going to make everyone happy; therefore, I'm surprised more people aren't willing to do this. With me it's an obsession almost. I spent a good 1/2 hour trying to make the "Little Nemo in Slumberland" dvd look good as an upconvert. It was hell, but I finally got it to a satisfactory playback image. With Gigi it only took about 1 minute to get it to my satisfaction. On other dvds, I also habitually fiddle with blackness and contrast settings.
    Thank you for spelling out why some films "blur" during dissolves; I never knew that. In this film, and in many others, the film not only "blurs" but jumps as the dissolve ends. This is apparent in Gigi in the scene when Honore' is arriving in the coach to Gaston's palace, and other scenes. Now I know why this happens! My appreciation of film technique has increased--
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Point is, and I'm noting this for other readers, that one shouldn't have to meddle. In this case the film elements were apparently too problematic. With 5248 this occurs.
     
  6. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Mr. Harris, is there anything more that can be done with the elements to improve the image quality, or is this the best it can look now? Or is it more of a transfer problem than an elements problem?
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    This is not a transfer. The elements were scanned. And the problem is the elements. I know for a fact that the archival team at WB worked very hard to get it to this point. Hopefully more advanced digital tools will become available that will be able to give further aid in the future.
    RAH
     
  8. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    Thanks. What a shame. Hopefully better tools will appear one day, and if not, it's certainly better than losing the film completely.
     
  9. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

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    I agree 100% with Robert Harris.

    After reading many encouraging reviews of the Blu-ray GIGI, I wondered for a while if it was just me that found the picture quality to be truly awful.

    Certainly the sound of GIGI, which has always been problematical in the past, is vastly improved on this disc.

    But while there is certainly more detail on the Blu-ray, it's all the things that Robert Harris highlighted that plunge this disc to one of the biggest disappointments so far this year.

    Save for a few odd scenes that do look OK, the rest is almost unwatchable.

    Compare this with the stunning SOUTH PACIFIC and you have to wonder what went so wrong.

    I was also disappointed with the inaccurate dirty looking skintones of QUO VADIS, THE ROBE and AN AMERICAN IN PARIS.

    SOUTH PACIFIC is, thankfully, 100% accurate.
     
  10. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The Robe elements are not in good shape, and the restorative work that's been done has worked wonders. Re: Quo Vadis and AAiP, I'm seeing no problems. You may be picking something up in the makeup used in that era for three-strip. These are quality discs.
     
  11. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

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    Robert,

    While I may not be as active or technically involved as yourself, I have none the less handled and Projected 35mm film since the mid 50s.

    The dirty look I describe, I'm almost certain, has nothing to do with make up.

    I am at the moment holding and looking at an original 1950s 35 mm frame from THE ROBE in which the faces of Richard Burton and Torin Thatcher have that magical Technicolor Golden tone. On the new DVD the tones are muddy in comparison.

    Compare skin tones of SOUTH PACIFIC with those other titles I mentioned and you should see the difference.

    I'm not sure if many of today's colorists or whoever is responsible for the look of the finished DVD have an understanding of original Technicolor.

    I wonder if they might be too familiar with today's color and think all films should look that way.

    Universal, more often than not, seem to get the Technicolor tones correct on their Older classic DVDs.

    I can't wait for the upcoming TRAIL OF THE LONESOME PINE.( One title they must get right )

    I agree with you that THE ROBE, AAIP and QUO VADIS Blu-Rays are all excellent, finely detailed, quality discs, pity about the skin tones though.

    The new Disney Blu-ray PINOCCHIO, reproduces the original Technicolor tones to perfection. ( incredible disc )

    ps. I am one of the many who truly wish you every success with the restoration of THE ALAMO Robert H.
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Doug,
    The Robe was hit by a double technical problem. Faded OCN with a myriad of dupes, and protection created on the earlier (and far less adaptable stock) 5216. There is only so far that a film can be taken color-wise, if there are no really viable elements. I understand where you're coming from in your comparison to dye transfer, but they've taken it as far as they can.
    RAH
     
  13. Doug Bull

    Doug Bull Advanced Member

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    Thank You for your explanation Robert.
    It's obvious from what you say, that Fox have indeed done wonders with what they had to work with.
    Other than my small criticism regarding tones, the ROBE Blu-Ray is an A+ disc.
    It's just so frustrating that my lone surviving and slightly damaged 50+ year old 35mm frame from THE ROBE still holds all of it's original color.
    For those members who can view my avatar, the same cannot be said for my pink CARMEN JONES strip.
     
  14. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

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    I found Gigi to be... not that bad. It's a great film, and this is the best it's ever looked on home video.
    The Robe, on the other hand, looks so odd that I can hardly watch it. If this is the colors originally intended, then...I don't know what to say. There is no real red at all in the image. All the Romans' capes are brown. The whole thing looks yellow/blue, including the skintones.
     
  15. Rob_Ray

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    My main lament with Gigi (it's not really a complaint if the source materials are shot) is the lack of texture and details in the background, especially Mamita's apartment. Take any shot in that apartment from the dirty old DVD and you'll see great detail in the fabrics and wallpaper where on the new restoration (even when shown theatrically a few months back) you see just a blur of red and purple. Too bad. I hope they can revisit this title when the technological advances permit.
     
  16. Ethan Riley

    Ethan Riley Producer

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    I agree; on the other hand, notice the wallpaper in Auntie's bathroom; it comes alive in the new version. I could barely make it out in earlier releases. Who knows.
     
  17. Jim*Tod

    Jim*Tod Second Unit

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    Does any one remember a transfer of GIGI used for tv showings in the 1980's and I think also for a vhs release, where during Louis Jourdan's performance of the title song, instead of showing him singing, they showed a series of stills of Lesley Caron? I wondered then if the condition of the elements forced them to do this. Anyone have any ideas about this? It seems like the 80's were not a great time for vintage films with rampant colorization and then there was the tv version of REAR WINDOW where they essentially re-edited the movie.
     
  18. classicmovieguy

    classicmovieguy Producer

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    My VHS copy of "Gigi" used that freeze-frame device... Released in Australia by MGM/UA in the 1990's.
     
  19. Mark B

    Mark B Supporting Actor

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    A comparison between the VHS and DVD (which was a flipper - Widescreen on one side and Pan and Scan on the other)
     
    bryan4999 likes this.
  20. Jim*Tod

    Jim*Tod Second Unit

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    Wow... thanks for the comparison. That series of stills was very jarring. Glad at least this was not done in the current blu and dvd versions. Thanks for posting.
     

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