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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Bram Stoker's Dracula -- in BD

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Oct 1, 2007.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Now that I've received a BD copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula, and have spent quality time with it, my immediate reaction is that finally I have a high definition (BD) version of a film that I've always enjoyed.

    This is somewhat tempered, however, by the public reaction which has been coming from any number of directions. And these reactions, commentaries and reviews have virtually all been wrong.

    Nothing that we're discussing here is opinion. Something either correctly brings a film to video, or it does not. This is the first time that I've been totally happy with Dracula on video.

    My happiness is however, not the point.

    Sony's mastering staff is happy. Zoetrope's people are happy. And they should be. They have jointly worked to see that this release is as perfect as possible in recreating the look of the film as it was seen in it's original release, and that effort has been successful.

    They have not accomplished this by some seat-of-the-pants, I've got a curtain in the attic, "Let's put on a show" ethic.

    Nor have they guessed.

    They've screened the original approved answer print and have meticulously matched the HD master to that print.

    This is done in the same way that one would restore a film.

    Earlier versions of FFC's Dracula were properly tuned for earlier video systems, that among other problems turned black into video noise. For that reason they were never what they should have been, as electronic goals needed to be met. To put it simply, the ability of the reproducing medium was not yet in tune with the art to be reproduced. They always came as closely as they could. And understanding the limitations of the medium, were approved. There was no way around this.

    That is the reason why earlier video releases don't matter.

    One of the extraordinary points of the high definition medium is that finally we can reproduce films to look as they did on film.

    The new transfer of Dracula is a magnificent work, which along with the audio with it's heavy lows, delicate highs and aural details -- the sound of mice walking quickly across a beam -- is miraculous to behold on home video.

    Dracula is a dark film. It has always been a dark film.

    It is also a film created not by digital pyrotechnics, but rather by analogue effects and cinematic slight of hand. This is an old fashioned horror film. Print it too bright and the magic is revealed; the horror disappears; the story vanishes, and one sees through the magic.

    The color in this release finally matches that of the original prints -- controlled, colorful when necessary -- but dark. The blacks on this release work well, and shadow detail, when needed is at hand.

    Resolution is beautiful. Flesh tones, for both the living as well as the dead, replicate the original tones of the first 35mm prints. Dupe generations are less finely resolved, but work as they did originally.

    So here's the bottom line.

    Not only is there nothing wrong with this release, it is one of the most perfect to come from the Sony vaults. Those of you who know of me, are aware that Sony and I don't always agree. But when they do something correctly, they are to be honored for their efforts. And this time, they are to be honored.

    Everything here is correct, handled with precision, professionalism and a obvious love for the art that is our cinema.

    Bram Stoker's Dracula, from FFC and Sony is Extremely Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. PatH

    PatH Well-Known Member

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    Mr. Harris:

    For those of us not in the Blu-Ray or HD world, how's the corresponding SD-DVD release stand-up, if there was one?

    Thanks!

    PatH
     
  3. Brandon Conway

    Brandon Conway captveg

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    I suspected as much. It's too bad that many people will not like this look of the film, but one should at least respect that those involved did it right (i.e., used the Answer Print).

    I sure hope you do a brief response to the questions regarding Halloween in your "A Few Words About..." for that film, Mr. Harris. Not as controversial as this release, but worth getting a professional opinion in order to set the record straight, so to speak.
     
  4. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Thanks for clearing this up so thoroughly!

    I fully understand that people, having nothing else to compare with, use their previous versions, on DVD or even laserdisc and VHS, to compare the newest releases to. Or just their memory of a theater experience. Some enthusiasts may even have learned to love and cherish their version on an earlier medium.

    But we must remember how dangerous it is to use those old versions as calibration versions of sorts and that, in the end, the original version as created by the director and many others of the creative team must be the norm. Also, I don't think it will be even remotely feasible to go and compare each and every new release to the original Answer Print. I'm glad we were able to get this information here in this case.

    Some of the comments I read have been very unkind towards Zoetrope or the people at Sony's involved in this release. Those comments were uncalled for and it's for that reason alone that we can only be glad to be able to read this final conclusion by a highly respected film-preservationist.


    Cees
     
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    RAH,

    I think you have summed it all up perfectly!

    My copy was shipped yesterday and I anxiously await the
    opportunity to watch it.

    How amazing that my first BR player is due to arrive this week as well!
     
  6. Jim_K

    Jim_K Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the review and your insights.

    Just squashing the misconception over using previous home video versions as end all/be all PQ reference points was.................priceless. That alone probably doesn't sit very well with some of the self proclaimed experts out there. [​IMG]

    I was probably one of the few who didn't even consider canceling my pre-order. I prefer to judge things myself, on my own set-up, and viewing in the proper context.

    I'll be saving this for this weekend's highdef horror-thon at the K residence along with the BD's of Halloween, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead.
     
  7. ErichH

    ErichH Well-Known Member

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    Nice to hear a positive voice on this one.
    Thank You
     
  8. Brendon

    Brendon Well-Known Member

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    Thank you Mr. Harris; along with many others I believed that the A/B comparisons with previous issues were cause for concern and put off pre-ordering it accordingly. It's therefore reasuring to hear that the Blu-Ray version is actually 'right'. As a fave of mine since seeing the film theatrically I feel much happier about putting down the money for the BR disc now.

    Still, the debate here on HTF regarding the film up until this point together with the comparison shots have proved to be most interesting.
     
  9. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Since the thread that precipitated this one has been locked, I wanted to make one more point before things are put to rest

    Dave Mack's comments and thoughts are and always have been thought provoking. He is a respected member of this forum, and hopefully won't be going elsewhere. If he has truly been banned from the BD forum, a forum I've only now just discovered due to his post, I find their decision a bit short-sighted.

    The time and effort that went into describing the problems that he saw are an extremely necessary and welcome part of the discussion process. He certainly moved Dracula to the top of my review pile.

    As far as occasionally rambling, late nights with kids will do that. Sleep helps.

    I look forward to his continued posts.

    RAH
     
  10. Seppo

    Seppo Well-Known Member

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    This title just went back to my shopping list. Thank you, Mr. Harris.
     
  11. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    I couldn't agree more with your words about Dave Mack and I welcome him to continue to make further contributions to this forum. Just because I disagreed with his conclusions, it doesn't mean that I didn't appreciate his effort in this discussion.






    Crawdaddy
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    And yet another point...

    Some of the images that I've seen posted do not represent what I'm seeing on screen. Some appear so dense on a computer monitor that something else needs to be addressed.

    There is a huge difference between the image (projected or otherwise) that is sent to a screen via a properly set up 1920 HD monitor via HDMI from a properly set up HD or BD player.

    In many cases, attempts to represent these images on a home computer monitor in low rez yield something that is far from representing the originals, even when comparing two images through the same channels.

    On top of that, images photographed from the screen and posted have virtually no value.

    I highly suggest making certain that home theater systems are up to Joe Kane standards, especially color temperature and illumination.

    Bulbs wear out, go dim, and must be recalibrated. While illumination problems aren't going to push the overall image of Knocked Up into the extremely dark category, those that are dark will tend to disappear.

    RAH
     
  13. Dave_P.

    Dave_P. Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for setting this straight Robert. Can't wait to get my hands on this today.
     
  14. RobertR

    RobertR Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to express my appreciation to everyone involved for looking into this issue so thoroughly.
     
  15. Michel_Hafner

    Michel_Hafner Well-Known Member

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    Puzzling, puzzling. I'll be back when I have watched it on the JVC HD1. 15000:1 is enough to see if blacks are muddy grays and the imagery flat or not.
     
  16. Nick Graham

    Nick Graham Well-Known Member

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    I'll hopefully be getting this from Netflix momentarily. I've actually never seen this film before, much to the chagrin of fellow horror lovers, so I'll be seeing it with fresh eyes. I'm not surprised that a director who is close friends with George Lucas has deemed that his intent on how his film looks is different than it has been presented in the past, however I hope this doesn't discourage a LOT of discussion when issues like this arise.

    We're still waiting word from Anchor Bay on if they plan to address the color timing issues of the Halloween BD during the night time scenes, which everyone who is familiar with the history of the film who has seen the BD feels this needs addressed in one way or another. Even our own RAH didn't notice the change on his initial assessment of the title (and this is NOT a knock on RAH, as his insights are something that keep me coming back to this forum time and time again), so at times the waters get even muddier. If we don't hold companies accountable when they make genuine errors (and Dracula does not appear to fall into that category) at this early stage in the game, then we cannot expect that they will do so once the format has reached maturity market-wise.
     
  17. Mike_Richardson

    Mike_Richardson Well-Known Member

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    With all due respect to Mr. Harris I simply do not agree these colors were what was seen in the theatrical release. They most definitely appear to have been altered/enhanced/whatever term you'd like to use for this release. Certain sequences do not look "natural," they certainly appear to have been "enhanced" for this particular title, like you are watching something that's been "colorized." I'm sure this is the way Coppola and Zoetrope want it, and I have no issue with it, but I cannot imagine they want back to the vaults and THIS is what the film actually looked like.

    With all due respect I also cannot disagree more strongly this is one of the best looking Blu Ray catalog releases. Perhaps I have a different copy in my possession??

    As far as Dave Mack goes I think it's pathetic the way message boards turn into mobs and "go after" people because they don't like what they have to say. Whether you agree with Dave or not (and I happen to agree with him), the discourse on most of these sites seems to be lowering by the day. I'm happy to see that not being the case on the HTF.
     
  18. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Well-Known Member

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    I hope that that my comments haven't come across as an attack on Dave. I like Dave a lot, I agree with him sometimes and I disagree with him sometimes but he can never be accused of not thinking through is opinions and having valid arguments to back them up.

    Doug
     
  19. Michel_Hafner

    Michel_Hafner Well-Known Member

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    Matching prints to (10 bit) HD masters raises some questions and issues. The media are different. The gamut is different. The answer print is what it is (ignoring potential physical degradation) and self interpreting (look at it and you see it, more or less (you still need a projector and screen following standards but basically it's WYSIWYG)). The HD master is an abstract description of the film following its own standards. Nothing goes without explicit interpretation and transformation. Abstract definitions can go beyond (current) interpretation capabilities (for film projection and digital projection). So one big question is: Should the HD master on purpose code limitations of the film element or should it rather code the intended 'meaning' of the film element instead? Do master film elements contain unintended limitations or 'meanings'? If one denies it there is no problem of course. If one admits it, what to do? The whole grain issue is affected by this. Then all the typical film artifacts such as speckles, scratches, gate weave, color and contrast instabilities etc.
    Specifically concerning black levels prints never show blacks that look black all the time. Prints can not do absolute black, and often neither relative black (looking like black) as well when APL gets too low. The HD master can do perfect black. It's just a symbol, a code. So what to do? Never use the code for real black (no light) since it does not exist on film or use it in all cases where one can assume or does know the film makers wanted it to be as black as possible? And not use it when actually some kind of gray was intended? The latter solution seems to be more reasonable.
    How does it all apply to "Dracula"? I don't know yet. I'll try to figure it out after I have watched the BR disc.
     
  20. Douglas Monce

    Douglas Monce Well-Known Member

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    All good points, but surely you would agree that HD could come closer to accurately representing the color pallet of film than an NTSC transfer? The previous NTSC versions are what most people are comparing this release too.

    Doug
     

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