A Few Words About A few words about... Ben-Hur

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Robert Harris, Sep 15, 2005.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Warner's new DVD of Ben-Hur is the finest representation of the film possible via current video technology.

    A magnificent DVD of a magnificent film.

    Might I humbly suggest to the studio that the very best place to purchase this DVD would be in the lobby of a theatre after experiencing Mr. Wyler's film in its 70mm glory.

    There is not a doubt in my mind that audiences would fill the seats made available for limited release, hard ticket performances.

    The silent version accompanied by Carl Davis' score is alone worth the price of admission.

    Recommneded without reservation.

    RAH
     
  2. jim.vaccaro

    jim.vaccaro Second Unit

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    There you have it.

    If it's good enough for Mr. Harris, it's good enough for me. [​IMG]
     
  3. DustinPizarro

    DustinPizarro Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm one of the unfortunate ones who never got to see this on the big screen. Maybe the studios will take Mr. Harris's suggestions for a limited release cause I would definitely wait in line for this one. I guess I'll have to settle for this new DVD.
     
  4. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

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    Thank you Mr. Harris....was waiting for that confirmation. [​IMG]
     
  5. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Thanks for confirming what I observed during my dvd viewing experience.




    Crawdaddy
     
  6. Marko Berg

    Marko Berg Supporting Actor

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    Thank you, Mr. Harris. I was going to buy the new release sooner or later regardless (I own the initial DVD release and while it's not a great presentation, I can live with it) but your recommendation has whetted my appetite to acquire the new release sooner rather than later.
     
  7. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    Mr Harris, thank you for your valuable comments...

    I seem to recall reading a few years back that the Ben-Hur original elements were in need of preservation/restoration.

    Do you happen to know if any of that work has since taken place, or does this title look as good as it does thanks to digital wizardry rather than refurbishment of original elements?

    There was also some scepticism about the quality of the sound re-mix and the adjustment of dialogue to the centre channel, to your ears does it sound like a job well done and any idea if it differs from the 5.1 track on the first dvd?

    Regards

    M
     
  8. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    To my ears, and especially for a home video environment, the audio is fine.

    The original six track was designed to fill an area 50-70 feet wide, placing dialogue properly behind the actors on screen.

    This is a bit different from most home theatres, the majority of those that I've seen being less than 40 feet in width.

    Warner has done everything properly here. I especially like the clean-up done to the matte lines.

    I've also noted that the entire image is presented, as can be seen from the slight reflective lines at the top and bottom of the frame, a natural part of any large format image, as light hit the edges of the camera aperture.

    As a reference, see the frames at the Wide Screen Museum:

    http://widescreenmuseum.com/widescreen/loa/loa3a.htm

    I couldn't be happier with this release.

    RAH
     
  9. Mark Anthony

    Mark Anthony Second Unit

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    Glad to hear that the elements are now in great shape and that the sound gets the thumbs up!

    Thanks once again for your time

    M
     
  10. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    While I would have preferred a DVD release including the original multi-channel historic sound mix preserved in the 5.1 configuration (as Fox did with T.S.O.M), I agree that the current disc is spectacular.

    On my 106" screen, this new DVD presentation shines and is one of the most authentic-looking "film like" DVD images I've have the priviledge to view. there is not hint of "digital glare" or "Processing" to mar the film-like grace of the image...the "bloom" of the film print is preserved as is the ultra-fine film-grain structure. It's just gorgeous. I really felt that I was seeing projected film...as close as the Standard-Definition DVD format is capable of delivering in the HT environment.

    Can't wait to see this in the future in HD. Hopefully then WB will have the courtesy (respect) to also include the historic mix. Though RAH is right that not many of us have 40 foot wide screens...that doesn't mean that the "effect" of directional dialogue following the actors on-screen isn't worth preserving in the HT environment for those who choose to look *and* hear a film replicated as close to its original form as possible. In most front projection systems, the left/right speakers are either immediately to the left/right of the screen, or below, or behind...which maintains the character of "following the actors accross the screen" very nicely. Those with smaller video displays or with the left/right front mains placed much farther away from the screen may find the center-locked dialogue of the new mix more pleasing.

    In any case...Great DVD and I look forward to the future Hi-def version *almost* as much as I look forward to seeing this film projected in a theatrical screening. [​IMG]

    Agreed that selling the DVDs in the lobby is a great idea...

    dave
     
  11. JoshB

    JoshB Supporting Actor

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    The RAH seal of approval. Nuff said.
     
  12. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    [​IMG] [wipes tear] Can't wait to see this new copy, hopefully at the weekend. [​IMG]
     
  13. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    [​IMG]
     
  14. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]
     
  15. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

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    Hey all!

    This is one of the films that I saw bits and pieces of as a kid on TV, (P+S, of course) but have never seen the whole film. These threads are really making me want to check it out!

    [​IMG] d
     
  16. TedD

    TedD Supporting Actor

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    Mr Harris,

    Care to post your viewing environment / equipment / screen size?

    I have no issue with your assessment of color, detail, or sound but I'm not sure that this is a "magnificent DVD".

    Better than any preceding version? Definitely.

    Magnificent? Finest representation? Not hardly, at least not on a large screen with a 1080 FP. Mild to serious color misregistration issues take me out of the moment in a number of scenes.

    And certainly not compared to the stellar DVD renditions of films like "Moulin Rouge".

    I'll really be interested in Frank Manrique's opinions on this.

    I'm still glad to have the new version and all the extras, but the projectionist/perfectionist in me is certainly not satisfied with the on-screen result.

    Just my opinion and my $.02.

    Ted
     
  17. Arnie G

    Arnie G Supporting Actor

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    Questioning RAH? Sacrilege [​IMG]
     
  18. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    after prefecing the following by saying i've not had a personally history with this movie on other video formats, or even having seen the previous dvd on the system i have now, i still can't help view the image on the new CE as 'nice' but unspectacular.
    i will avoid the issue of color temp as my display is not set to the recommended 6500K anyway (fwiw, i thought the colors on display looked fine, maybe a wee bit pumped in the reds, but no big deal).
    the only real frustration i have with it is, it just doesn't look as well defined as i would expect it to given
    1) its the second effort on this format by the studio and benefits from several years of advancements in encoding, authoring, and transfering
    2) unlike the previous transfer, this one is derived from elements that are almost twice as large( and therefore should have greater density of fine detail) as the original. yes the added information that was cropped out of the earlier transfer would eat up some of this room, but it just seems that if the 35mm reduction print could find a level of detail with that 65mm original, so should this new transfer, but going by the screen caps previously posted in another thread, as well as what i'm seeing on my screen, that clearly wasn't the case.
    the image looks filtered of fine detail, especially in medium and long shots of which this film has plenty.

    like i said, i don't have access right now to the earlier dvd. but i did just a few days earlier watch Fox's Man InThe Grey Flannel Suit, a film from the same era as Hur (probably a few years earlier iirc) and its framing is an almost as wide 2.55. comparing Hur to that one, MITGFS, while nowhere near as good a film, looks far more impressive (to me, on my system) with a much higher, finely resolved level of detail and generally a more stable, solid look all around.

    for long time fans of the film, i can understand being excited at finally having the full frame rendered in an anamorphic transfer that makes larger viewing finally bearable, but otherwise, the image i see looks pretty middle of the road. especially for such a widely popular epic.
     
  19. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    My guess is that RAH is putting his comments in terms of the DVD's presentation in comparison to the film print's intended look.

    In that regard, I think some healthy discussion is in order...not to challenge anyone on their impressions, but to clarify exactly how the *film print* is *supposed* to look. The registration issues are a good point to be raised. What about the lack of fine detail and "snap" that the older DVD seemed to have? What about the "pumping" of contrast/color timing?

    Naturally, some film-related issues are avoidable and there comes a point at which one should leave certain artifacts alone...even ones that may be age-related due to concerns about compromising other aspects of the image were they modified. However, some of the particular issues folks have seemed don't typically fall into the "intended by the director" film-artifacts camp we normally welcome (like fine film grain or modified color saturation).

    I know RAH also praised the Hello Dolly DVD which I also loved but found a tad "soft" in the HF-detail department...but having never seen a projected print I couldn't determine if the softness was a reflection of the look of the print (intended and ok) or a process of DVD mastering/filtering. Can anyone remember...was Hello Dolly also a 65mm film-tape transfer or taken from a 35 print?

    In any case...I'd be curious RAH if you'd care to elaborate on some of these points to help educate everyone in the process and ferret out what are both false and valid expections in our minds regarding this particular title...Ben-Hur. Your (RAH) understanding of film and your (presumably) greater familiarity with the look of the 65mm projection of Ben-Hur would help to clear up a lot. Also...knowing the nature of the video system which you used to judge the merits of this latest DVD would be of value. For instance...was it a wide-angle system or a smaller screen (in other words, was it capable of revealing whether the DVD preserved fine detail or not to enable you to compare against the film original)?

    We'd love to hear more!

    dave [​IMG]
     
  20. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    What exactly is the point of comparing a 1959 65mm film with a 2001 35mm anamorphic film, in terms of picture quality? I might as well compare Spider-Man 2 to Hello Dolly!

    Even if they took the original camera negative, fed it through a 6K scanner, had an army of digital restoration technicians, and did a direct NTSC MPEG II stream from that, it's still a DVD. However, what's important is Warner Bros. properly maintaining the film.


    The DVD is coming out on my birthday, so I couldn't ask for better timing! [​IMG]
     

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