A Few Words About A few words about...™ The Thief of Bagdad (1924) -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The score was recorded to sync to film at 22 frames per second for live screenings. Projectors can be set to run at any speed. Blu-ray can only run an image at 24 fps. Frames must be added to the image to keep in sync, apparently one every ten frames. There seems to be no alternative at the moment to equalize frame rates. RAH
     
  2. EddieLarkin

    EddieLarkin Supporting Actor

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    Masters of Cinema and the BFI did something similar with Coeur fidele and Battleship Potemkin respectively, both 18fps films. 3 unique frames, 1 repeated, 3 unique, 1 repeated and so on for a total of 24 frames of 18 unique frames, presented progressively. Because the film is running at the faster frame rate, the change is essentially imperceptible and the running time remains faithful to an original theatrical presentation. The only other way to show non-24fps content on Blu-ray is to either interlace (generally bad) or to speed up or slow down the image (very bad). edit: in fact, MoC explain it themselves in the Coeur fidele booklet:
    For Coeur fidèle, a 25p HDCAM SR master was created in 2007 by Pathé in France for their DVD edition. In order to render the film in 25psf (progressively scanned frames, per second) for PAL format DVD, an algorithm of repeat frames had been used to "pad out" the unique frames so that their combination totalled 25 per second. Thankfully, interlacing had not been applied, but our research revealed a unique-frame-to-repeat-frame ratio other than that required for 18fps, resulting in a longer running time than expected but with all of the original frames intact within the newly extrapolated 25p master. We were presented with a number of options whilst authoring this 2011 Blu-ray and DVD edition of Coeur fidèle. We wanted to avoid interlacing at all costs (where a unique frame is split into two fields across two frames, and pausing a frame reveals only one of the fields, with multiple horizontal lines in place of the missing field). Our aim was to render the film progressively at 24fps, and there are several ways of doing this: i.) to randomly remove one frame per second to reduce 25fps to 24fps, detrimentally altering the 25p motion algorithm and deleting unique frames in the process, or ii.) slow down the 25fps master to 24fps, with the side-effect of increasing the length of the film by 4% and needlessly retaining more repeat frames than necessary. We opted for a third, more laborious option, but one much more faithful to the original filming and projection. In order to best present Epstein's film on Blu-ray and DVD, we removed all of the repeat frames from the 25p HDCAM SR master, leaving us with only original, unique frames, 18 per second (exactly like a 1923 Coeur fidèle 35mm print). Then, we applied our own algorithm of repeat frames (the absolute minimum necessary, presented in a mathematically pure way to retain the smoothest possible motion), 6 per second, to allow for progressive 24fps playback. In this form, the film can now be seen with all of its original frames intact, with the best obtainable motion rendering for 24fps, and with the correct running time for its original film speed (ie. a process akin to step-frame optical printing). It is a minor tragedy that Blu-ray and DVD formats do not natively support all framerates — especially for fans of silent and avant-garde films — but we are happy to have avoided interlacing, slowdown, and the removal of unique frames.
     
  3. John Weller

    John Weller Stunt Coordinator

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    I must say Kino's Birth of a Nation, which is progressive, looks rather herky-jerky in motion.
     
  4. David_B_K

    David_B_K Advanced Member

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    So, it would appear that my fear that the movie will run at too slow a speed is unfounded. I have it on order from Amazon.
     
  5. Radioman970

    Radioman970 Lead Actor

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    First thing on my amazon wish list was a dvd of ToB. never bought it. :( now I'll add this version... WILL buy it. I'm sure...
     
  6. SeanAx

    SeanAx Stunt Coordinator

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    I don't mean to hijack the "Thief of Bagdad" thread, but I thought there might be some interest in what I learned about "Napoleon." I was at the Oakland screening of "Napoleon" in 2012 (I wrote up my notes on the screening and the experience at the website Parallax View here: http://parallax-view.org/2012/05/17/notes-on-abel-gances-napoleon/) and a spoke with some of the people involved in making the event happen. It was years in the making, in part because of the sheer logistics, in part because Coppola had to agree to it and allow Carl Davis to perform his score. All parties agreed to let the event go forward for four screenings and people flew in from all over the country, and even from some other countries, to see it. IT was the first time the full restoration had been screened in the U.S., but it's also important to remember that this version had only been shown at four previous events. This is a rarity among rarities, even in Europe, where there isn't the competing claims to rights over the film. The screening needed a full orchestra, a theater with an orchestra pit, a booth that can hold three variable-speed 35mm projectors, and top-of-line projectionists. I was told the entire production cost about 3/4 of a million dollars to mount, and that doesn't count the hundreds of volunteer man hours to put the pieces together and get the word out. I had the great fortune to speak with Mr. Brownlow between the screenings (I saw two screenings over one weekend) and he confirmed that a digital master was being made, but that no home video version (DVD or Blu-ray) was being prepared at the time. The digitization was for preservation and perhaps future theatrical screenings with a recording of Carl Davis' orchestral score. Any American home video release would have to clear the complicated rights disputes and get Coppola and Universal to sign on, but beyond that, it would take the backing of a company that had no assumption of making a profit on the release. I really hope the digital master is completed soon. Mr. Brownlow is not a young man and Mr. Davis is no spring chicken either. He flew over from England to conduct his score, but he may not have the fortitude to continue to lead these presentations - five and a half hours is a long time to be conducting such a muscular score. More background on the film here: http://parallax-view.org/2012/03/18/abel-gances-napoleon/
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I do love the continued discussions of "rights disputes."
    RAH
     
  8. Malcolm Bmoor

    Malcolm Bmoor Stunt Coordinator

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    With respect, Mr Harris, I don't understand your reaction to several people's mentions of Napoleon rights conflicts as it is a matter of record that it was not possible for many years to perform the full and ongoing BFI restoration with Carl Davis's score in the USA owing to a situation involving territorial contracts in favour of the late Carmine Coppola and the shorter version which he scored.. I have had the precise circumstances of this impasse explained to me by somebody in a position to understand it without any possibility of inaccuracy. It's wonderful that US audiences are now allowed a tremendous experience previously denied to them.
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I'm certain that what occurred at the time was more complex than you might have been led to believe. Regardless, there seems to be no problem, and that's a very good thing.
    RAH
     

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