Farscape and Babylon 5 transfer quality, etc.

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Ted Todorov, Sep 7, 2004.

  1. Ted Todorov

    Ted Todorov Cinematographer

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    I started watching Farscape and Babylon 5 (seasons 1) on DVD just recently (I hadn't watched either one on the tube, I don't have TV) and have found myself a lot more taken with Farscape.

    The problem isn't that Babylon 5 itself is somehow deficient, but the transfer and production values absolutely suck compared to Farscape. Ironically B5 is in 16:9 and Farscape is 4:3 and I'm watching on a 16:9 TV. However, B5 has the cheesiest transfer I have seen in a long time. Could it be compression problems? B5 has 4 episodes per disk vs. 2 per disk on Farscape.

    And looking beyond the transfer the sets and fx on B5 reek of cheapness, while Farscape looks amazing for a TV show.

    Who knows, maybe I'm just in love with the beautiful Claudia Black and looking for a more socially acceptable justification for preferring Farscape. [​IMG] That and Farscape is a VERY imaginative show.

    Ted
     
  2. Jason Borchers

    Jason Borchers Second Unit

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  3. Chuck Schmidt

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    I would also add that later Seasons of B5 looked better and better, both the sets and the CGI. Season 1 definately looked "off" compared to the rest.
     
  4. Chris_C

    Chris_C Agent

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    I AM PRETTY CERTAIN THAT B5 WAS SHOT WIDESCREEN, INCLUDING THE EFFECTS, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE PILOT EPISODE, AND THERE IS NO PICTURE CROPPING. I HAD ASSUMED THAT B5 WAS SHOT ON VIDEO BECAUSE ALTHOUGH THE PICTURE IS THE BEST IT HAS EVER LOOKED, IT ISN'T THAT GREAT. FARSCAPE WAS SHOT ON FILM AND THE LAST SEASON, 4, WAS SHOT WIDESCREEN. SOMEONE SHOULD PERUSE JMS'S WEBSITE FOR THIS INFO BECAUSE IT IS UNDOUBTEDLY THERE.
     
  5. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    You'd be wrong.

    B5 was shot using Super35 and the compositions were protected for 16x9, which means some shots are cropped while others may be expanded, depending on the specific scene. Some are more obvious than others, especially some closeups throught the show which turned into extreme closeups.

    All effects shots and composites were rendered to 4x3 and protected for 16x9, and since they could not be redone explicitly for 16x9 were cropped to 1.78, the result of which is a loss in resolution since the FX shots had nearly the minimal resolution required for TV at 4x3 (which is why B5's effects were as cost effective as they were).

    http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1...&query=super35
     
  6. Michael St. Clair

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    Actually, on the discs that I've checked, Farscape is dual-layered despite the low episode count.
     
  7. Jason Borchers

    Jason Borchers Second Unit

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  8. Jason Borchers

    Jason Borchers Second Unit

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  9. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    I'd add that there was at least one scene in S1, the casino scene, where a nifty CGI effect, something to do with a futuristic roulette wheel, was right at the very bottom of the 4:3 frame. Rather than lose it in the cropping to 16:9, the producers compressed everything into the 16:9 frame, so it looks all distorted. And in another scene, where security men were chasing someone and firing their "blasters", again to preserve all the nifty CGI laser shots, the 4:3 scene was squeezed into a 16:9 frame.

    So although the official word is that it was always shot "protected" for 16:9, IMHO it's clear that for at least S1, if not S2 as well, this wasn't really the case. Just look at the framing of heads in conversations, in the 16:9 transfer for S1, way too many (and too much of) foreheads and chins get chopped.
     
  10. Todd Hostettler

    Todd Hostettler Second Unit

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    Price point aside, I’ve always felt that Farscape has received the best TV-on-DVD treatment of any show, hands down. The picture is lustrous, and the 5.1 mix is as aggressive as Hell – er – frell. Season 4, in fact, was presented in widescreen and is anamorphic.

    The real kicker is in the extras. Production sketches, cast and crew interviews, factoid features, etc. go really REALLY deep. In fact, it borders on overkill. Last night alone, I watched a full 30-minute interview with the actress who played “Commandant Grayza” (sp?) which was pretty enlightening. I also watched a 15-minute blooper reel which was among the funniest I’ve ever seen.

    It’s not a cheap date, though… that’s undebateable. But it’s worth every penny.
     
  11. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    I didn't mean to imply they did it all the time, which obviously they didn't. And I certainly don't think they always did a good job of protecting when they tried. There are definitely some obviously butchered crops littered throughout the entire series.

    Honestly, the crops that get me the most are on close-ups converted to extreme close-ups when mouths are cut off of a shot of a speaking character. And those don't even have any CGI. Those crops just feel wrong, or perhaps uncomfortable, when they shouldn't be.
     
  12. Michael St. Clair

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    B5 should have been 4:3 on DVD, at least the first two seasons. If they were truly protecting the live-action shots for (cropped) 16:9, they did a terrible, inconsistent job of it.
     
  13. Kevin Grey

    Kevin Grey Cinematographer

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    Babylon 5's production values take a major step change with Season 2 and continue to improve from there. While the budget may not have changed (I think it was $900k throughout) the directors, cinematographer, production designer, et al really figured out how to maximize what they had. I have no complaints with B5's production values outside of Season One.
     
  14. Chris_C

    Chris_C Agent

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    "You'd be wrong."


    Okay, I went to his web site and found posts from 2000, 1995 1998 and others that state that the series, except the pilot, was shot widescreen. Go to his website and do a search for "widescreen", below is a quote from my search.

    From: Jms at B5
    Subject: B5 *is* shot widescreen
    To: AOL
    Date: 12/6/1995 8:55:00 PM


    Two series, and insofar as I know, *only* two series are currently being
    shot widescreen: B5 and Lois and Clark. Here's easy verification: fire up
    the first season tape of "The Parliament of Dreams." Fast-forward to the
    Minbari ceremony that's also used in the main title sequence. Now compare
    the two; you see more of the shot in the widescreen opening than in the
    regular shot.

    We generally compose for widescreen but protect for regular aspect
    ratio, which is how the show is broadcast currently in the US. Sometimes it
    gets a little glitchy; in "Matters of Honor," when Marcus hands off the
    minbari fighting pike to Delenn, it's very visible in the widescreen shot,
    but you barely see it on the edge of the regular shot.

    BTW, Germany and France have signed on to follow us through the
    post-production process for (trying to remember now) either season 3 or
    season 4, re-telecineing the negative stock back to the original widescreen
    aspect ratio for broadcast in letterbox format in those countries. The UK,
    via Channel 4, is still in negotiations over this.


    jms

    Although JMS notes that the effects may have been expanded upon later, the photograpy was shot widescreen.
     
  15. Chris_C

    Chris_C Agent

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  16. Yee-Ming

    Yee-Ming Producer

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    Whilst JMS no doubt intended for B5 to be shot widescreen and protected for 4:3, it seems that the actual DPs and directors during S1, and most of S2, didn't get that message, or just couldn't be bothered. As Joe points out, there are just too many close-up shots of a character speaking where his/her chin is chopped off, and most of the forehead as well.
     
  17. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Exactly. If it was really shot in widescreen, there would not be need for any top/bottom cropping on non-effect shots to get to 1.78 (in fact, the sides would be expanded), but that is clearly not the case.

    B5 was composed using a method like Super35, and both the 1.33 and 1.78 images were extrapolated from the same frame. On head shots where the frame could not go any wider, cropping of the chins/foreheads had to be done in order to reach 1.78.
     
  18. Aaron_Brez

    Aaron_Brez Supporting Actor

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    Hmmm... I'm one of the more outspoken critics of the widescreen versions, and I seldom see this. Are you sure you're not seeing this problem only in scenes with CGI effects? Even more subtle ones, like virtual sets or computer text?

    There's no question they overcropped on scenes with FX, because the FX were generated for the 4:3 frame. I stopped looking after awhile because it was too disturbing, but in the first couple of seasons I seldom noticed a shot which did not actually expand the frame, giving more picture, unless there were FX shots present.
     
  19. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Trust me. I'm watching on a 55" widescreen TV, and any shots that contain effects, even subtle ones, are painfully obvious because the entire picture takes on a somewhat-fuzzy low-res look.

    We're talking about instances where the original 4x3 shot used the entire filmed frame and therefore could only be cropped and not widened to use that shot in the 16x9 version. It didn't happen often, but it happened.

    I can't remember the episode, but there's one instance where Delenn is talking in a close-up for an extended period of time, and her mouth is below frame. It's a very uncomfortable composition and I can't believe it was intentional. I wish I had an old tape of the episode to compare it to.

    Don't get me wrong. I love Babylon 5. But any shots with effects are pretty much unwatchable on my 55" TV (I feel like I'm wearing an incorrect prescription on my glasses, but they can get away with it on my 27" TV for the most part) and some of the shots that were cropped for widescreen do not seem to have a good composition.
     
  20. Michael St. Clair

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    Exactly. If the DPs only frame it right 95% of the time, the remaining 5% of the time will look terrible when cropped. And the ultimate result is a jarring, inconsistent look for the first couple of seasons.
     

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