A Few Words About A few words about...™ Hamlet (Branagh) -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Aug 21, 2010.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Note: I'm just slowly getting up and running again after my lightning strike, so I'm going to be reporting on some of the titles missed in the interim.

     

     

     

    A decade or so ago, during a discussion with a author friend, he explained his position when people ask how he feels if one of his books has been unsuccessfully turned into a film. How does he feel when his book is "ruined?"

     

    "Simple," he said...

     

    "My book is right there on the shelf. No one has touched it. It's the film that's the problem."

     

    And so it was.

     

    Kenneth Branaugh's huge 65mm originated, four hour version of Shakespeare's Hamlet has finally come to Blu-ray.

     

    I'm not certain that this is the best Hamlet on film. There are many, inclusive of the 1948 Olivier version.

     

    But it is huge, and colorful, and filled with the faces of as many known actors as is It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

     

    Taking Mr. Branaugh's film, scanning a 65mm element and preparing it for Blu-ray should not have been a major task, and the final result should have been gorgeous.

     

    As it is, someone as Warner Bros. has taken a beautiful image and homogenized it into something that looks clean, nicely colored, and much like a poorly scanned 35mm production. There is neither proper sharpness, nor high resolution information.

     

    Which considering the available elements and the concept of why and how the film was made, rather defeats the purpose.

     

    Fortunately, Mr. Shakespeare's play is still on the shelf, as is Mr. Branaugh's film.

     

    A special note to the technical people at WB. You can neither fit a gallon of water into a quart bucket, nor a four hour 65mm production onto a single Blu-ray disc at full quality. The format is good, but not that good.

     

    And packaging a poorly produced Blu-ray in an attractive little book delivers nothing more than an attractive package holding a poorly produced Blu-ray.

     

    Fail.

     

    RAH
     
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    Thanks Robert. Obviously I misjudged this release in my review, so as always I appreciate the insight and experience you bring to this forum.
     
  3. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Cameron,

     

    It's all in the eye of the beholder, and where one is coming from.

     

    I don't believe that the release is bad looking. My point is what it should have been based upon the elements.

     

    RAH
     
  4. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    !!

     

    I think that indirectly indicates we're getting Lawrence of Arabia split over two discs. Which is excellent! I was worried they might try to cram it onto a single disc.

     

    Do you think it's acceptable for Gone with the Wind to be on a single bluray because it is 35mm?
     
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    If something works, it's acceptable. There are some extremely qualified compression people. In a general sense, if a frame is repeated with minimal change, ie. a talkie film, as opposed to a fast cutting action film, compression is a bit easier.

     

    GWTW would never be considered an "action" film. Nary single car chase. and half the image is taken up by black borders. 35 vs. 65 is certainly part of the equation for resolution, but 1.37 vs. widescreen also comes into play.

     

    RAH
     
  6. Chris S

    Chris S Cinematographer

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    Thanks Robert!
     

    Been waiting on this release for quite some time. While it may not live up to what it could have been I'm pretty grateful to see it released. Unfortunately this is one of those titles where I don't see Warner going back a second time to update the video quality. So I'll more than likely pick it up sometime next week.
     
  7. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    i already opened my copy and took a look at it. It wasn't blowing me away on my 50" Panasonic Plasma. WB's just rushed the title out for the sake of Back to School. (I believe)
     

    This disc should be recalled and they need to be on track with their releases. It is embarrassing. Its as if they figured no one would notice any issues. Poor judgement.
     

    I am gonna contact WB's customer service for a full refund and send it back to them. Anyone have a toll free phone #?
     
     
  8. Mark-P

    Mark-P Producer

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    Here's the silver-lining for me: I have a huge library of DVDs and obviously I can't afford to upgrade all of them to blu. So Mr. Harris' opinions help me decide which titles (such as this one) not to waste my money to upgrade. Still it's dissappointing that Warner, once the flagship company of catalog DVD releases can't keep up the same standards for blu-ray.
     
  9. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

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    Considering what they did with "Baraka" on blu-ray, there should be no excuses for a 65mm film looking anything less than mindblowing. It's a shame Hamlet apparently hasn't gotten the proper treatment.
     

    I saw a 70mm print at Ebertfest, and consider it one of the two or three greatest moviegoing experiences of my life (along with seeing a 70mm print of Baraka the next year).

     

    And this makes me truly eager for Lawrence of Arabia and Vertigo. With Mr. Harris' involvement on both those pictures, they should be remarkable!

     

    BR
     
  10. OliverK

    OliverK Cinematographer

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    I am quite sure that LoA will be a blind buy, but I would try to read some reviews before buying Vertigo - it is a Universal title after all.

     

     

     
  11. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    I'm pretty sure that the disc was essentially supposed to come out back in 2007 on both BD and HD-DVD, and that it was merely postponed in the process of making it out. So the transfer was more than likely prepared for optimization on both formats three years prior to its actual release, which would explain the lack of "breathing room" for the disc. 4hrs on a Blu-ray BD50 shouldn't be a problem (see: Gone with the Wind).

     

    As it is, if one doesn't own the DVD, the Blu-ray is notably superior, IMO. It just doesn't scream for an upgrade, and it isn't the mind-blowing experience one would hope for. I wouldn't say outright "fail", but I would say "room for improvement".
     
  12. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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  13. Brian Husar

    Brian Husar Stunt Coordinator

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    I bought this blind considering that it was a Warner's release. I don't regret rebuying it on blu-ray, but considering it was shot on 65 this should have been a home run. The good news is it is not Gladiator, or Patton territory.
     
  14. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

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    Mr. Harris raised some interesting points on this front. Gone With the Wind works on a single BD50 because it is 4x3 AS, on top of being 35mm, It's not filling the whole screen, and that is less information to have to deal with. If it were made several decades later in anamorphic 35, it might have been tougher to get it onto a single disc without sacrificing quality to compression.
     

    As for 65mm widescreen, that's a huge amount of detail. For Baraka, they determined that 8K was the minimum for the image to fully resolve. They were able to get the film onto one disc without too much compression because the film is only 90 minutes. As for a film like Lawrence of Arabia, which as Mr. Harris has suggested, is being scanned at 8K, there is a good chance it will be split across two discs at the intermission mark.
     

    Ideally, Hamlet should have been a two disc affair, scanned at 8K, but considering the master was, as someone already mentioned, made in 2007, its far more likely the scan was 4K, possibly even 2K. And sadly, it is a film for which there won't be a terrible amount of demand, so I'm betting the numbers just wouldn't allow for an 8K transfer onto a two disc set...they'd have lost their shirts on it.

     



     
  15. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    I was browsing Blu's at Barnes & Noble the other day and discovered something interesting. I had always wanted to see the Dir Cut of Alexander and well to be honest I have never seen any cut. I always pass on the BD release for the reason that it lacks a lossless audio track.
     

    Looking at the back it made me more furious to discover that ALEXANDER had been release as 2 DISCs! The film is spread over 2 discs! And it is a WARNER BROS release!
     

    HAMLET should have been 2 Discs also.
     

    Hamlet has become a huge letdown, I can't watch the copy I purchased and it is being listed on amazon.com for sale as used since I unwrapped my copy. I won't get all the money back from it I paid, but it won't do me any good at all.
     

    Maybe in 12 years WB's will revisit the title in a better manner.
     
  16. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    The thing that is upsetting about not getting this over two discs is that it had an intermission in the theatrical release. So there was already a perfect point for splitting the movie across two discs.

     

    I was really looking forward to this. Instead I'm going to wait until it hits the remainder bins for under $15.

     

    Should've done better WB...
     
  17. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    That's because Alexander was released on both HD-DVD and Blu-ray, so they used two dual layer HD-DVDs (30GB each) and two single-layer BDs (25GB each) for the movie. If it was released today on Blu only it would most definitely be one dual layer BD (50GB).

     

    The same goes with Hamlet - if the original HD-DVD and BD simultaneous release had materialized in 2007 I have no doubt that it would have been a 2-disc set, being two 30GB HD-DVDs and two 25GB BDs.
     
  18. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe certain information above, which comes from other posts in this thread is unconfirmed. If one is preparing an HD master, there is no real need to scan 65mm at 8k unless "preservation" data is desired. If this is an older master, my take is that it would have been scanned from a 35mm element, which would have been fine if it had been handled as it may have been today.

     

    If the public is being offered a new Blu-ray release of a 65mm originated production in 2010, and especially if marketing is making special note of the fact, it should no more be from a dumbed down 2006-7 master, than should the purchase of a new car or a half gallon of milk. I'm not blaming marketing here, merely poor communication along the internal corporate roadway.

     

    Albeit pretty, this Hamlet is still a sow's ear in a hard cover silk purse.

     

    RAH
     
  19. OliverK

    OliverK Cinematographer

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    Robert,

     

    it seems that both Fox and Sony have recently gone to 8k scans of wetgate IP's or even the OCN. So it would be interesting to hear what Warner plans for their remaining titles shot in 65mm (Raintree County, Ben Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty, Cheyenne Autumn come to mind) or if Warner is doing this on a case by case basis?

     

    If you can gather info on what went wrong with Hamlet I would surely like to hear about it and also if Warner plans on going a different route with other 65mm titles.

     

    Oliver


     

     
  20. Brianruns10

    Brianruns10 Second Unit

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    I am a poor substitue for Robert's knowledge, but something I can say is that you have to factor in economics, money and profit motives, which may not be the best news for certain films we cherish.

     

    Ben Hur is a crown jewel film, and I think it is safe to say it'd get the deluxe treatment. I can't imagine anything less than an 8K from the O-neg or separation masters of that picture.
     

    The others is harder to say. I'm not sure what the level of interest is in "Raintree County," "Mutiny on the Bounty," or "Cheyenne Autumn," but in this economic climate, I have to wonder if Warner's will spare the same expense to give them the full treatment, especially considering they dumped Brewster McCloud, and a big chunk of Otto Preminger's work on their archive program.

     

    I for one dream of a two disc blu-ray release of "Ryan's Daughter," from an 8K, but I have to doubt it. There probably just isn't enough interest in that film to cover the cost necessary.

     

    Hopefully Richard can say more, and perhaps, will have better news than my less-than-rosy prognosis.

     

    BR
     

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