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

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 19, 2008.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Like many others, I was raised on Disney. Actually Disney, Hitchcock and Universal horror, viewing many of these fine films well before I probably should.

    The first film that I ever saw in a theater was Bambi, in its initial re-issue, which would have meant that it was probably a nitrate print.

    Later in re-issue, I would see Snow White, which I hated because of the mirror, as well as Fantasia and Pinocchio, a perennial favorite.

    As new animated films were released I became more and more enthralled and amazed by the sheer excellence of the Disney feature animated productions.

    Being raised, however, on the early Disney animated look, with layers of motion and detail and soft, smooth edges, I found Sleeping Beauty, albeit beautiful and brilliantly colored, never to be my cup of tea. It still isn't, and the overall style of the animation didn't help.

    The first Disney feature animated film to be photographed in large format, in this case, Technirama, makes it a most interesting premiere release for Disney animation on Blu-ray. An image doesn't get any sharper or more finely honed that this one. Note: Mr. Monce has kindly reminded me that The Black Cauldron (1985) was also in TLA.

    After going through the delicate work of harvesting an image from the original SE negative, Lowry Digital was asked to use their proprietary grain reduction programming to remove the grain, leaving what appears to be the pure original cells in motion.

    While this is an interesting phenomenon, which will be heralded by most as a perfect rendition of the film, to my eye it is a blade that cuts both ways, and creates occasional problems.

    For example, unlike the some of the earlier productions, SB has many shots that are stagnant, with little or no movement, especially in long shots. Tthis becomes even more apparent, when the grain is removed, and we are left with what is essentially a naked image of cells -- and even more so presented in large format.

    Beyond this, as both a restored image via the digital scans, through clean-up and color correction, the job done toward the creation of this Blu-ray is nothing less than a stellar achievement by all invovled.

    Those unfamiliar with the history of Disney the studio, or Walt, the artist, might wish to pay a visit to abebooks.com, to order a copy of the out of print tome by Christopher Finch, The Art of Walt Disney. The book, although expensive in original printings, has been re-printed several times, and can be had very inexpensively. This is an oversize art book and a work of art in its own right.

    Sleeping Beauty on Blu-ray expands on the ethic previously set forth by Disney, in re-working their animated classics into more modern looking works, shorn of grain, and with occasionally re-imagined color. Everything that those earlier SD DVDs were, Sleeping Beauty is even more so. Those who could not abide the earlier releases will have even bigger problems with Sleeping Beauty. Those who were untroubled by the new look -- what I consider to be a new edition -- will most likely love this latest incarnation.

    Regardless of which position one takes, there is no getting around the fact that this first Blu-ray release of a Disney animated classic looks both gorgeous and at the same time unlike anything that came before it.

    Pinocchio is on the boards for release on Blu-ray in early 2009, and that will be one with which I'll look forward to spending some quality time.

    Sleeping Beauty is a beautiful Blu-ray that comes Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    RAH, I appreciate your balanced assessment of the BD. I've already bought it and look forward to when I get my first BD player. In the meantime, the bonus DVD enclosed with it looks gorgeous.
     
  3. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Producer

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    I believe The Black Cauldron (1985) was also shot in Technirama, with some 70mm release prints.

    Doug
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    You're quite correct. A film that never entered either my mind as it's one of the few that I never saw. Corrected. Thank you.
     
  5. Craig_Ehr

    Craig_Ehr Second Unit

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    Just out of curiosity's sake, how was the widescreen version of 'Lady & the Tramp' shot if not in Technirama...plain old anamorphic 35mm, or 70mm (or perhaps something else entirely?) Thanks in advance.
     
  6. John Hermes

    John Hermes Screenwriter

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    I believe that was shot in CinemaScope 2.55, where the full width of the negative frame was used, since it was intended for magnetically striped release prints. Since there would be no optical track, there was room for more picture width.
     
  7. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    This link shows some of the color changes Mr. Harris is referring to. I think he's right in recommending the disc, but I must say some of these color changes look quite wrong to me (not to mention unnecessary). The picture of Aurora laying on the floor looks particularly bad. Her hair looks much more solid and dimensional in the previous release. Now it looks washed out. Why does Disney do things like this??
     
  8. Brian Borst

    Brian Borst Screenwriter

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    Oh no, not again [​IMG]. I was almost relieved that Disney would've changed their previous course (Cinderella and Peter Pan had color issues as well) but I guess they didn't.
     
  9. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    I think there's a danger in inferring so much from a site that compares this release with previous home video releases, but not without the true reference source material.

    Are there changes from the '87, '97, and '03 versions? Yes. But who is to say those versions were a true representation of the original art? I don't have access to that so I can't say whether they are or not, and I'm pretty sure those in that other thread don't have access either. [​IMG]
     
  10. Brian Borst

    Brian Borst Screenwriter

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    You're right, in terms of the color changes (although I do think it's odd that, with a different version of a film, colors are suddenly changed, but that must be the research, or the intent of the restoration) but the faults in the ink lines shown in the picture posted by RobertR are of a concern to me. I don't think they should be there. True, I don't know how often that even can be seen (especially in motion) but it doesn't look good from a screenshot.
     
  11. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    I agree the ink lines are concerning. I can tell you while watching it on my PS3 -> Sony KDS-60A3000 SXRD set it was not obvious to me while watching the film. However I did not pause or do any close examination, just watched the film, and it looked great. When I get home I'll do some pause/frame analysis myself.

    With regards to color changes, it's not necessarily that it was changed to get to the product we have now, but that it was changed due to the old practices of culling video masters for VHS and early DVD. Those are the last sources I would ever consider as accurate as often times masters were bungled or "massaged" or manipulated to look good on 19"-25" TV sets.
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I'll once again suggest that people watch the Blu-ray and not frame grabs. Sleeping Beauty has been meticulously handled.
     
  13. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    I read on another site that the 7.1 mix has some very different sound effects, dialogue placement (not directionality, but actually placing the dialogue in a slightly different spot on the track) and other alterations.
     
  14. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    And also that Maleficent's death scream has been shortened and "quieted."
     
  15. StevenW

    StevenW Second Unit

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    I've always thought it was silly to use previous media as comparison. Who says those versions are correct? I'll trust Mr. Harris and all those involved at Disney that worked on this release over some crappy screen grabs.
     
  16. OliverK

    OliverK Cinematographer

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    First off, I have no idea how this would have looked as I have never watched an IBTech print of Sleeping Beauty which would be the only remaining version of the movie that could give us a clue with regard to the intended colorimetry. That being said by itself the movie is working - there is no filtered pastyness or edgyness that is always a sign of the transfer being wrong even without comparison.

    Regarding the filtering of grain I have to say that I do not like it but of all movies released so far on Blu-Ray an animated large format Technirama movie should suffer from it the least. Although from the 70mm footage I have screened I would say that the grain structure was so fine that nobody would have complained if it was left intact so for me it remains a dubious choice.

    @Doug:

    Good point about the Black Cauldron, I recently got the DVD mainly because I wanted to see how Disney made use of the large format elements the second time around. The DVD is not good enough though to make that assessment, it is really disappointing even for a DVD.
     
  17. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    You're right, I don't have access to the original negative (the original art was drawn so that it would have a certain look on film, so I consider the film to be the reference). My comments are based on a coupling of Mr. Harris comment about re-imagining color with thinking that the color looks washed out in that particular scene. We'd have to completely trust the Disney people that they always adjusted the BD colors to match the reference.
     
  18. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    True. And have companies screwed up before? Yes.

    However, an alarming trend about the internet (and forums) is that everyone who can grab comparison frames suddenly becomes an "expert". And just because studios have messed up before, the 'net thinks the studios are out to deceive them, and that these frame grabbers are the equivalent of the Revolutionary Army, fighting the good fight for the common man against The Big, Bad Studios. I'm being facetious, but you get what I'm saying.

    In some cases, frame grabs have been really helpful. But in others (especially the one above whose only reference is previous home videos) their validity should be considered somewhat suspect.

    Given the choice between trusting the studio folks, who admittedly have made mistakes but who at least have a vested interest in delivering a good product on what is one of their flagship titles, and a bunch of comparison screen grabs from previous home video releases posted on anonymous internet forums, I personally would lean towards the former. Especially given that I've personally seen the movie and not found anything that stood out as wrong. (What really gets me are the people who haven't even seen the product, look at grabs, and then pontificate unto others their opinions based on those grabs as fact, which thankfully hasn't happened here)
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    In this case, the "studio folks" happens to be a superb archivist, who does terrific work. Everything about this release was well researched and documented.
     
  20. Jesse Blacklow

    Jesse Blacklow Cinematographer

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    To add to what Carlo said, I feel it's necessary to remind RobertR and Brian that DVD and Blu-ray do not share the same colorspace, which means that captures have a high chance of having color issues. Even experts like Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver has fallen victim to this.

    And as many have said here, the line issues that may or may not exist are invisible in motion. Harping on them purely because of the captures is a little obsessive.
     

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