1. Guest,
    If you need help getting to know Xenforo, please see our guide here. If you have feedback or questions, please post those here.
    Dismiss Notice

A Few Words About A few words about...™ To Kill a Mockingbird -- in Blu-ray

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    8,641
    Likes Received:
    4,070
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    Where do I begin?

    I've now had the opportunity to view two of the finest films ever made -- and two personal favorites within a 48 hour period.

    To Kill a Mockingbird, based upon the novel by Harper Lee, is to my mind, one of the most beautiful and perfect films ever made. It possesses a timelessness unlike the majority of period dramas.

    But to point, film, as a medium, is not timeless.

    And this commentary will go into how it affects a film like To Kill a Mockingbird, why it looks as it does, and with a tip of the hat to James Monaco, how one can best "read" a film, and understand what it is that one is seeing.

    Like many productions, mostly large format, but many standard 35mm, one can make an absolute generalization as to what will be found in the cans before they're opened.

    The more beloved, the more popular a film, the worse condition it will be in, especially if it came into being before quality duping stocks. For black and white, this means, the mid to late 1950s, for color the three decades hence.

    As a 1962 production, To Kill a Mockingbird was an immensely important and popular production. For whatever reason, and this does not speak to current management at Universal, the original negative was used to strike far too many prints. It also appears that it may also have been rejuvenated at some point to remove scratches by some overzealous lab technician.

    None of that matters now, as we have what we have.

    I recall discussions of problems with the original negative a decade ago, and work has been ongoing to create a working set of picture elements toward preservation and replication for years.

    Let's go to basics, and I thank Universal for sharing some details.

    Of the thirteen reels of original negative, six no longer survive. What does survive is scratched, warped, and with occasional black slugs, where damaged frames have been removed. A fine grain master produced contemporary with the film is also problematic with some scratched and damaged sections. A second fine grain, produced in 1969 stands in where other elements are unavailable. Duplicate negatives of varying quality have been used to fill in other missing footage.

    More specifics.

    Dupes of this era do not create a grainier image. Since the duping stocks are very slow speed emulsions,with virtually no visible grain, what occurs is that with each generation, the edges of grain become a bit more diffuse, and almost velvety looking. Contrast gain is also not a problem.

    Let's take something else into consideration.

    A number of catalog titles have had image harvests in 2k or 4k in the past few years from original negatives, and many of the more "image aware" in the home theater community have locked into what a scanned image from an OCN of the era looks like. There is grain, albeit generally fine, unless higher speed stocks were used.

    What this means is that the majority of To Kill a Mockingbird is at least second generation, and some third. Again, with each passing generation, there is a lessoning of grain, and a slightly softer image.

    In my humble opinion, and to my eye, what the technicians at Universal have attempted to do is to homogenize the image, so as not to have a shot or sequence from one generation bumping into a different generation, with abrupt changes in grain structure, contrast or resolution. They've put in their time, thought things through, and have created a quality product.

    A quick word about grain reduction. I really don't have a problem with what I'm seeing here, as it seems to consistently represent what a second generation element would look like from the era. There is certainly noting scrubbed, as I've read in some other threads on other sites.

    What I'm seeing on Universal's new Blu-ray of the film, is a generally very pleasing image, that is obviously not from an original negative, but controls the character of the film as it transparently jumps back and forth from one generation element to the next.

    My take on the Blu-ray is that it generally looks beautiful. A very nice job. I'm less thrilled, albeit not overly disturbed, by the handling of field enlargements, as rather than grain slowly building, it just isn't there. It's matched to the surrounding shots. This is a technical judgement call, but I don't agree with it.

    Overall, with what the studio had to work with, my eye is telling me that they've done a superlative job of saving the film. This isn't easy. There are different approaches, and the fact that I may not agree with a part of what they've done, doesn't mean that they're wrong. Just a difference of opinion.

    The bottom line to me seems very simple.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the finest films ever made, with some of the best performances you'll see on film.

    Anywhere, in any film.

    It has a certain bearing and majesty about it, and once you've seen it, as with the reading of the book, you'll never forget it.

    Grab a copy and be immersed in it.

    Very Highly Recommended.

    RAH
     
  2. Guest

    Thanks, RAH. I always find it fascinating when you describe the condition of the elements and what goes into restoring a particular film.
     
  3. Adam Gregorich

    Owner

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 1999
    Messages:
    15,570
    Likes Received:
    648
    Location:
    The Other Washington
    Real Name:
    Adam
    Thanks Robert. I'm a bit embarrassed to say in front of this crowd that I have never seen the full film, so I will be picking this up. Is the booklet and packaging worth the extra money?


    I would have thought the opposite: That a popular film would be in better condition, but your explanation makes sense.
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    8,641
    Likes Received:
    4,070
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    Booklet is fine. It's the main attraction that worth the price of admission, which I would peg at over $100 easily.

    RAH
     
  5. JoHud

    JoHud Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    Messages:
    3,175
    Likes Received:
    483
    Real Name:
    Joe Hudak
    Hmm...monkeying with grain composition to hide the fact that different generations of film stock were used? Not sure how I agree with that--several movies have brief dupey-looking scenes or use lower quality stock shots. It also sounds like grain was removed in some of those shots. I really hope its not too noticeable, as I can only imagine such changes as giving those shots a very digital and artificial look.
    Still, looks like a few step in the right direction, and no mention of edge enhancement. I still wish they'd just leave that kind of stuff alone, like Paramount and Warner Bros. Just seems like a whole lot of time and money spent on unnecessary digital aesthetics, like trying to make the stock footage in Buck Privates looks seamlessly integrated with the rest of the feature.
     
  6. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    May 9, 2003
    Messages:
    2,936
    Likes Received:
    446
    My understanding of this is that it wasn't just for aesthetics. This was a careful job designed to allow you to focus on the movie rather than the widely varying conditions of multiple source elements. If they just left it as is, you'd either have to use one source that is several generations away from the original negative or you'd have something where the image would be inconsistent and jarring to the eye.
     
  7. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Well-Known Member
    Reviewer

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    Messages:
    13,661
    Likes Received:
    2,392
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    Real Name:
    Matt Hough
    I never tire of watching this movie. I just watched the last DVD issue of this a few nights ago and lost myself all over again in its magnificence.
     
  8. JoHud

    JoHud Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2007
    Messages:
    3,175
    Likes Received:
    483
    Real Name:
    Joe Hudak
    I hope so, though I don't mind restorations that have to use lesser elements for certain scenes like the recent Island of Lost Souls release. Perhaps the difference between generations in this case isn't so great that they can make it look seamless.
    Will be picking this title up regardless, so I'll wait until then.
     
  9. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2001
    Messages:
    16,221
    Likes Received:
    1,298
    Location:
    Albany, NY
    A little over two years ago, I had the absolute pleasure of seeing To Kill a Mockingbird at the Palace Theatre in downtown Albany. It was one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences of my life.
    When the Palace was opened as a John Eberson-designed RKO movie palace in 1931, it laid claim to being the third largest movie theater in the world. It fell into other hands when RKO was forced out of the theater business because of antitrust issues and eventually closed in 1969 as competition from television matched with the more or less complete abandonment of downtown left it unprofitable. The city bought the theater soon after and reopened it as a civic auditorium, replacing the roof but otherwise investing the very minimum in maintenance. In 2002, the city began a $3 million two year restoration that has left the theater with 2,844 seats and a movie screen that can be quickly brought out on the theater's pulley system. The theater is mostly used for concerts, stand-up comedians and the occasional play, but they show a classic film every month or so.
    For the screening of this film, the entire floor section (1,541 seats) was packed; I'm not sure about the balcony. The crowd was incredibly diverse: fairly evenly split between black people and while people, with lots of families, lots of college students, lots of middle-aged and elderly people. I've been to handful of movies there in the last few years, and this was easily the least homogeneous crowd. Due to its sheer size, the theater amplifies background chatter but you could have heard a pin drop the entire way through. Extraordinarily respectful crowd, even the kids in the audience were pretty silent. Hearing a crowd that size break into applause is something indeed.
    The print was far from unwatchable, but it was pretty beat. Lots of scratches, and obvious differences in contrast and grain between scenes and sometimes mid-scene. I think there were some jumps too from time to time. The entire print was fairly scratched up. But I remember being impressed because, unlike the local Regal multiplexes, the project here was actually in focus. So much sharper than most contemporary film presentations.
    The DVD Beaver screen shots don't look anything like a Predator or Big Lebowski situation. If I recall correctly, the film was filmed entirely on the Universal backlot, where the Back to the Future courthouse square is now. I've always felt there was a dreamlike quality to the cinematography; I don't think this movie ever had a gritty, razor sharp picture.
     
  10. Andrew Budgell

    Andrew Budgell Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2002
    Messages:
    1,381
    Likes Received:
    486
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Real Name:
    Andy Budgell
    I've never seen this film, although I read (and loved!) the book.
    It's playing on the big screen across Canada next month and I couldn't imagine a better introduction to the film.
    Thanks for your wonderful review.
     
  11. haineshisway

    haineshisway Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2011
    Messages:
    2,980
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Real Name:
    Bruce
    Lord, I wish people would just read what Mr. Harris has to say and truly understand it - but they don't, Blanche, they don't. On the other boards they just ignore it and go on and on about "scrubbed" without having a clue what film actually is, what dupe negatives are, etc.
    I cannot wait to see this and I'm sure it's going to look excellent.
     
  12. Adam Gregorich

    Owner

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 1999
    Messages:
    15,570
    Likes Received:
    648
    Location:
    The Other Washington
    Real Name:
    Adam
    You can lead a horse to water....
     
  13. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2007
    Messages:
    4,990
    Likes Received:
    1,017
    Location:
    Nor'east
    Real Name:
    Charles Smith
    That Albany showing sounds incredible. The thing I most love about my movie-going memories is how audiences used to be as a rule: just like that one -- packed to the rafters, and totally swept up in the film. I still have the movie tie-in paperback I bought and read before the film opened, and I remember the anticipation and my parents taking us to see it when it opened. I kind of lost touch with this one over the years for whatever reason, so I'm especially excited to dive back in via this Blu-ray.
     
  14. Doug Otte

    Doug Otte Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2003
    Messages:
    720
    Likes Received:
    28
    Adam, thanks for that wonderful anecdote. I just have to nitpick one thing. Based upon your description of the audience, I think the word you want is heterogeneous, not homogeneous.
    Doug
     
  15. Jonathan Perregaux

    Jonathan Perregaux Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 1999
    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    403
    Real Name:
    Jonathan Perregaux
    I quite enjoy this hobby. I enjoy films old and new, foreign and domestic, of many genres. Only when the DVD format premiered did my passion really take off because suddenly it became absurdly easy to have a library of great films in a digital format with potential to look really spectacular. High-definition formats only sweetened the pie.
    But whenever I read sobering remarks such as, "Of the thirteen reels of original negative, six no longer survive," my blood runs cold. It reminds me that films are precious, delicate little things that take an overwhelming effort just to survive intact, let alone be viewable by anyone. It can be very easy to forget this when it comes down to slapping a disc into a player and hitting PLAY.
    I'm gladdened by the fact that a studio like Universal will not sit idly by while its best films rot in a can and that they'll invest wisely in saving something for the next 100 years of viewers. And if the world is lucky, the next 100 years after that... and maybe more.
    I'm also glad there are people who champion this cause, bring recognition to the art of film preservation, and hopefully spur the next generation to staunch the slow, inevitable decay of one of our culture's most significant art formats.
    So, like, hey Universal, thanks for restoring one of my favorite films of all time.
     
  16. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    8,641
    Likes Received:
    4,070
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    With the cinema now going on 118 years, the problems with which the industry and archives dealt regarding, nitrate, vinegar syndrome, and dye fade will not even relate as blips on the preservation radar, now that digital has taken hold.

    Think we've had problems with analogue?

    You ain't seen nothin' yet!

    RAH
     
  17. Ahmed Slem slem

    Ahmed Slem slem New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2012
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    I would like to offer you a book:How to Get Everything You Want – Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible
    The book is very distinct in its field
    Some chapters of the book
    1. Unlock Your Potential................................................................... 10
    2. Take Charge of Your Life.............................................................. 23
    3. Create Your Own Future ............................................................. 37
    4. Clarify Your Values....................................................................... 49
    5. Determine Your True Goals ......................................................... 61
    6. Decide Upon Your Major Definite Purpose................................ 74
    7. Analyze Your Beliefs..................................................................... 84
    8. Start At The Beginning.................................................................. 99
    9. Measure Your Progress................................................................114
    10. Remove The Roadblocks .............................................................126
    To download the book click here:http://www.4shared.com/rar/eGOKNLUj/New_Folder.html
     
  18. Jonathan Perregaux

    Jonathan Perregaux Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 1999
    Messages:
    1,040
    Likes Received:
    403
    Real Name:
    Jonathan Perregaux
    RAH,
    Yeah, I shudder to imagine what someone 100 years from now would do if they found a dusty old hard drive containing Toy Story digital assets. It's one thing to dig up some old analogue tape deck capable of playing back some reel-to-reel magnetic tape in order to rescue some audio. It's quite another to re-invent a way to decode some digital asset that was also stored on a medium that may very well not survive the passage of time, to say nothing of re-inventing the database and rendering systems and hardware that were originally use to produce the finished "film". "You ain't seen nothin' yet?" You're right. At least with a film, one could look at the cells using an eyeglass and still see something.
    It seems like the more sophisticated we get at engraving our culture onto a medium (stone, clay, papyrus, canvas, film, tape) the less likely it is that the format can survive 10, 100 or 1,000 years. There are cave paintings in France that have been preserved for 30,000 years. I'd like to think some of what we're producing today could live so long.
     
  19. PaulDA

    PaulDA Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2004
    Messages:
    2,632
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    St. Hubert, Quebec, Canada
    Real Name:
    Paul
    Is digital decaying currently or is it a matter of finding long-term stability for storage? if the problem cannot be summed up in a short post, then I'd love to have some reading material pointed out to me.
    As to the film, among my favourites and the BD, now that it bears a recommendation from Mr. Harris, will be swiftly added to the collection.
     
  20. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
    Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 1999
    Messages:
    8,641
    Likes Received:
    4,070
    Real Name:
    Robert Harris
    Seek out a PDF of a report entitled The Digital Dilemma 2
     

Share This Page