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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Barry Lyndon -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 25, 2011.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Even a viewer with the most pedestrian of tastes, and no knowledge of the cinema, can be pointed toward a screen with eyes open, and know within moments that they are seeing something extraordinary.

    Mr. Kubrick's Barry Lyndon is one of those magisterial masterpieces that seldom appears, much like the sighting of a comet making its way across the horizon.

    This one happened to appear 35 years ago.

    Meticulously photographed by John Alcott in the style of 18th century paintings, and with many interiors shot via available light with specially designed optics, Barry Lyndon is a visual revelation.

    Even revelations can be destroyed by the wrong person turning the wrong knob just a bit too much, and I'm pleased to report, after initially seeing some footage on screen late last year, that the Blu-ray of Barry Lyndon, had the right eyes turning the right knobs just the correct amount in our very dangerous digital world.

    To my eye, the work performed to bring Barry Lyndon to the home theater environment via Blu-ray, has delivered a perfect final product.

    Color, densities, black levels, shadow detail and grain structure all appear to be dead on. The uncompressed audio is, likewise, perfect.

    A note about aspect ratios. There has been discussion that Barry Lyndon was composed for projection at 1.66:1, and this is an interesting thought. The problem, even in 1975, would have been that few cinemas were equipped to project that aspect ratio unless specially set up. In a very general sense, much of the world was running spherical at 1.75:1, while here in the colonies we were running at 1.85:1. 1.66:1 was a specific setup for revival theatres equipped with the necessary aperture plates, optics and maskings.

    My feeling has always been that I would be thrilled if Barry Lyndon were to be released on Blu-ray at the HD native aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and the incorrect technical information on the reverse of the packaging aside, that is precisely what has occurred.

    Warner's new Blu-ray of Barry Lyndon is a treasure, and will be one of the most important catalog releases of 2011.

    An absolutely perfect Blu-ray.

    Extremely Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. PaulDA

    PaulDA Screenwriter

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    Excellent news.
     
  3. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    HUGE sigh of relief. Oh yeah, and joy.
     
  4. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    Robert Harris - did you feel lack of nostalgia with the classic Saul Bass logo being replaced by a BW Time Warner Logo as the music starts the film. I LOVED that logo and now I think it is kind of a drawback. I am hoping I can make my peace with the change before Tuesday so I won't be as angered.

    At the same time I am grateful the transfer is well done. So there is that. :)
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I would have preferred the original, even if preceded by the new and a few moments of black.
    But it's soon forgotten when the first frame of Mr. Alcott's work hits the screen.

    Historically, what's important to understand is that Time Warner, as an entity, had nothing to do with the
    creation of this film. Simply the wrong message being sent.

    RAH
     
  6. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    I agree. My feeling is how Universal usually releases their titles is that their Most Current logo appears and then the logo that opens the film is shown as originally attached to the film. I have no issue with that.

    Warner should do the same, embrace the companies history, not erase it. I am holding onto my remastered DVD edition just for the logo.
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe we were the first to do this with the theatrical release of Vertigo. Universal fully understood the need to have a Paramount logo on their film.

    RAH
     
  8. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    Thanks for the review. I figured the AR issue was something along these lines, so glad to see it's an appropriate presentation.

    I really can't wait to watch this again on Blu. It's the one Kubrick film that I initially was lukewarm to but has risen to be one of my favorites.
     
  9. urbo73

    urbo73 Stunt Coordinator

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    Interesting reading here regarding Kubrik's preferred 1.66:1 ratio for Barry Lyndon:

    http://somecamerunning.typepad.com/some_came_running/2011/05/leon-vitali-on-the-barry-lyndon-aspect-ratio-issue.html

    Leon Vitali has changed his mind on this matter several times, so he's not to be trusted anyhow. But read towards the end.

    And if theaters were not equipped to project 1.66:1, that doesn't mean the Blu-ray couldn't have done it right. I suspect they just went to fill the 16:9 screen. Seems simple to me. It could have been done right, and it wasn't.
     
  10. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    I'm ever so slightly miffed that the aspect ratio appears to be a compromise (and yes, yes; even that is subject to debate - what can I say, I saw it projected at 1.66:1), but what the heck - from all reports the image is not fatally damaged. And I think, sight unseen, I can live with that.

    I'm slightly angrier that Vitali seeks to deliver the definitive statement on the matter while at the same time coming out with stuff that is patently untrue. Which cinemas were equipped - if not to project it at 1.66:1 - to show it at 1.77:1? And "never was it ever 1.66, it wasn’t shot in 1.66, we never released it in 1.66 in any format whether it’s film or television or DVD" is just plain wrong. He then seeks to belittle those that have seen it at 1.66:1, or indeed projected it so on Kubrick's specifically signed instructions. Which is also just plain wrong.

    And I'm as mad as hell, instead of basking in the delights of Kubrick's most gorgeous achievement, that here we are - again - embroiled in another aspect ratio war.
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Quote:

    John,

    Mr. Vitali is not a projectionist. He's an actor, filmmaker, and long-time aid to SK. He may have misspoken about details regarding what theaters ran specific aspect ratios, and when. He was hit with this query in the middle of a promo tour of the new Blu-ray.

    As to 1.66:1, one of my hang-outs as a teen was a theater called the Pix in White Plains, NY. They ran art films, but my favorites were the late '50s, early '60s UK fair, such as I'm All Right Jack and The Lavender Hill Mob. I presume that these were run 1.66. The only theater that might have been able to do this in the area. The first time that I saw Citizen Kane in 35mm was at a theater in Larchmont, NY, around 1965.

    I recall being less than pleased when the RKO logo hit the screen, and read something like An RKO... The entire bottom of the image had gone missing.

    It was run at 1.85. I checked with the projectionist, but he had neither optics nor plates to run anything other than scope or 1.85. I suggested that he put on the scope lens without the adapter, but his feeling was that sizing would then be an issue, along with splice lines. I left the theater.

    There are some things that one cannot win.

    Here's something that I just posted over at Hollywood Elsewhere:



    This is one of those situations where everyone (almost) is correct.

    Mr. Kubrick passed away a dozen years ago, and at that time he had set standards for home video viewing of his works for both WB and Criterion.

    To this day, I find his Criterion directives to have a bit of a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" attitude about them, with their exposure of multiple aspect ratio in-camera mattes.

    His films, by his authority, were set up to be viewed in the highest possible aspect ratio. And they were designed that way because that was the way he wanted them to be seen.

    On home video.

    On 4:3 screens.

    Some up to a huge 35" diagonally.

    He abhorred pan & scan, preferring to open mattes even to the point of revealing certain things that today might be digitally erased.

    If anyone understood his directives, it was Mr. Vitali, and after SK's passing it is Mr. Vitali who within rational limits, and based upon ever-changing technology does his best to see that SK's work is handled in the best way possible.

    I've not examined the OCN of Barry Lyndon, but it is said that the film was shot open matte at around 1.6:1, ie. via a camera aperture. This makes sense.

    The film would have been protected at least to 1.66, but with the exception of controlled screenings, would not have been seen that way.

    1.66:1 was an aspect ratio that ended here in the Colonies c. 1953, with films like Rear Window. By 1954, Paramount's VistaVision had set 1.85:1 as a perfunctory standard. Columbia and other studios followed suit. By 1975 few theaters were able to run at 1.66, as standards were 1.85 and 2.35. Not long after, the standard for some theaters unfortunately became 2:1. That made things easy. Crop both spherical films as well as scope productions to the same imagery.

    One screen fits all.

    Barry Lyndon looks terrific at 1.66. My personal feeling is that at 1.85, it is cramped, and would prefer not to see it at that ratio.

    But the native HD ratio of 1.78:1 works just fine with the film.

    1.66 would also, just slightly different. And to most, an unnoticeable difference.

    Mr. Vitali knows of what he speaks. Beyond his acting career, he's a filmmaker. He is also still supporting SK, as he has in the past.

    And with his knowledge, he understands that things change, and that decisions made by Mr. Kubrick in the late 1990s no longer apply in the home theater world of today.

    I don't think I'd be going out on the limb by saying that I believe SK would be pleased with what WB has done with his film. It is more highly resolved and more stable than any print had ever been. The work performed by Warner's MPI is as perfect as technologically possible.

    And as far as aspect ratios go, anything between 1.66:1 and 1.78:1 will do just fine.

    Keep in mind that in stating this, I'm leaving the real world behind. That world of cinemas to project necessitates (in many cases) reverse trapezoidal projection aperture plates, in order to create the illusion of a rectangular image on screen.

    All of this, in the real world, means that in 1975, most theaters would have run Barry Lyndon at 1.85, and probably 1.75 in Europe and the UK. In some theaters it may well have run at 1.66.

    At the beginning of this comment, I noted that almost everyone is correct. The single incorrect notion is that the film would ever be properly projected at 1.59 or 1.6:1, as shot, but never intended to be seen.

    Mr. Wells is passionate about film, and that passion is to be respected. Mr. Vitali knows precisely what Mr. Kubrick's desires and mindsets were, and is uniquely capable of translating them to the necessities of current home theater technology.

    RAH
     
  12. John Hodson

    John Hodson Producer

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    "There are some things that one cannot win."

    ...but still worth fighting for, I suppose.

    I don't argue with a single word Robert; I'm rather more concerned about the comment:

    Glenn Kenny: "Well, that’s about as definitive an answer as we’re likely to get; so where does it come from, then? Where’s the 1.66 idea come from…?"
    Leon Vitali: "It comes from people who think they know and weren’t there and have something to say about Stanley all the time..."

    I'm acquainted with one or two people who have posted to the effect that they projected, or were responsible for the projection of, the film at 1.66:1 on Kubrick's specific instructions and have posted on various fora to that effect, hell, I've quoted them. I'm quite upset that they should be portrayed in the manner above. As a master of diplomacy Robert, you must agree it's one thing Mr Vitali cannot be accused of...

    Other than that, I hope peace breaks out. Soon.
     
  13. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
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    All fascinating, as always. Just idle curiosity at this point, especially since I won't claim to remember much of anything beyond the fact that I saw the film there on first release, but I'm wondering which aspect ratio was seen at the Cinerama Dome in 1975.
     
  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Quote:

    Agreed. I don't believe that aspect ratio was some LV was there to discuss.

    I'm fully aware that certain cinemas, especially in the UK were 1.66 capable, as the UK was the final holdout, using the aspect ratio well into...

    when?

    RAH
     
  15. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    I have to say I'm kind of amazed at the level of vitriol being expressed in those Hollywood Elsewhere postings. The "evidence" posted consists of screen-shots comparing the old 1.66:1 DVD and the 1.78:1 Blu-ray and...

    The framing looks fine either way. The Blu-ray even gains a sliver of information on each side, and the amount matted off top and bottom is negligible. I'll be getting this Blu-ray for sure and enjoy watching this great film all its high-def glory while some folks continue to have coronaries over the small sliver that's been matted off the top and bottom of the frame.

    BTW, all of those folks are wrong when they say the LaserDisc was 1.66:1. I had that LaserDisc and it was essentially full-aperture with VERY slight letterbox bars, probably somewhere between 1.5:1 and 1.6:1 at most.

    Vincent
     
  16. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    And that was precisely the way the SK wanted the laser to be produced, with the concept of it being viewed on small devices. And I'm not referring to iPads or iPhones.

    RAH
     
  17. Vincent_P

    Vincent_P Screenwriter

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    Absolutely, just like the other LaserDiscs of his films. I still have my "multi aspect ratio" Criterion LD of LOLITA in fact. Can't wait to get that Blu-ray, as well!

    Vincent
     
  18. AdrianTurner

    AdrianTurner Banned

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    Barry Lyndon is my favourite Kubrick film - indeed, it's not only the one of his post-2001 films that I find watchable today, it might be my current favourite film of all time. And I have to say, I was thrilled to read Mr Harris's words about the Blu-ray release (which I have on order) and that I don't frankly give a tinker's cuss (ye olde Thackeray expression) about the aspect ratio as long as it's vaguely right.
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    When Barry Lyndon was screened at the Egyptian in 2002, as one of the earliest SK retrospectives, it was done under an absolute proviso
    from the estate, that it be presented in 1.75:1.

    Not 1.66, not 1.85, but 1.75.

    The current Warner Blu-ray presentation adds a few additional lines of information to the top and bottom of the image.

    Also, all of the more recent prints have been hard-matted at 1.66, which would make something wider than
    1.66 the highest image possible.

    Here, once again, for reference, is an aperture chart:

    [​IMG]
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Here is an RP40 test as projected at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles. Anyone care to guess the aspect ratio?

    [​IMG]
     

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