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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: A Knight's Tale

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 36 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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Posted July 25 2006 - 11:21 AM



Blu-ray Disc REVIEW



http://www.hometheaterforum.com/ronsreviews/covers/knightblu.jpg">
A KNIGHT’S TALE

Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2001
Film Length: 132 minutes
Genre: Comedy/Adventure

Aspect Ratio:
  • 2.35:1 Theatrical Ratio

    Colour/B&W: Colour

    Audio:
  • English Uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 Surround

  • English Posted Image Posted Image 5.1 Surround

  • French Posted Image Posted Image 5.1 Surround

    Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Thai
    Film Rating: Posted Image

    Posted Image Posted Image





  • Release Date: September 19, 2006

    Film Rating: Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Starring: Heath Ledger (William Thatcher/Sir Ulrich von Lichtenstein of Gelderland), Rufus Sewell (Count Adhemar of Anjou), Shannyn Sossamon (Lady Jocelyn), Paul Bettany (Geoffrey Chaucer), Laura Fraser (Kate the Farrier), Mark Addy (Roland)

    Written by: Brian Helgeland
    Directed by: Brian Helgeland


    From peasant to knight; one man can change his stars.



    Oh man…I was both looking forward to this film and not considering I absolutely hated it the first time I watched it. I was also surprised that three editions of this film was released on DVD before – a standard theatrical cut release followed by a Superbit and then, not too long ago, a 144-minute extended version of the film was released. I haven’t seen the extended version and let me say that I’m content with the 132-minute theatrical version that is available on Blu-ray. I can’t imagine wanting it longer…

    But the film does grow on the viewer; after repeated viewings I grew a liking to many scenes in the film because they were funny. Why did I watch it so many times? I used to use the Superbit version for projector demos in one of the HiFi shops I worked out of and you know, those really quiet days when very few people enter the store I had to do something…so watching the movie was usually the most appealing thing even though it was A Knight’s Tale. I think I enjoyed it a bit more each time I watched it because the rest of the staff liked the film so I was always surrounded by others who laughed at it – so yes, there is a fan base – which is why it’s part of Blu-ray’s rollout of titles.

    I won’t go into detail about the film because you’ll want to get to the A/V stuff, but its basically a medieval rags to riches story of a Englishman named William who believes he can change the stars for himself (as he was told by his father as a child). He finds the opportunity to claim himself as royalty so he can compete in sword-on-foot and jousting tournaments to get rich. But he’ll soon change his focus from competing for money to winning the heart of Lady Jocelyn, a very beautiful girl with royal decent. Could other suitors get in the way to win the love of Lady Jocelyn or will it be William’s self-pride to destroy all he’s worked for? Watch it and find out…


    Posted ImageVIDEO QUALITY 8/10 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    I’ve decided to rank the video quality of these discs on a 1-10 scale. A Blu-Ray score of 5 will mean that it is similar to the best-looking DVD I can think of and the remaining 5-10 will be based on the extended resolution of Blu-Ray disc. I think this is the best way to rank these titles for now so I hope this will help you to determine what a reference HD disc is. As more BDs become available and authoring improves (as was in the early DVD days) the earliest titles I’ve ranked as “10” may not appear as “reference quality” anymore. Please note that I’m currently viewing this on a 1280x720 projector and I’m not even able to see half of the 1920x1080 information on this disc. In the simplest terms, instead of seeing 6x the resolution of DVD I’m only seeing 2.6x the improvement. Our display devices have a long way to go before we can see all of the picture information contained on these discs. This disc was reviewed on the Samsung BD-P1000 on a 35-foot Monster M1000HDMI to a calibrated PT-AE700 (D6500/D5400B&W). The screen is a D110" (8-foot wide) Da-Lite Cinema Contour (w.Pro-Trim finish) and Da-Mat fabric.

    Compared to the DVD, this Blu-ray disc excels in showing details that were previously unseen. Just watch the opening scenes when the three main characters are discussing what to do with their life (should they keep being peasants or should they go for knighthood?) The textures in their dress is clearly seen, the grains of sand on the ground, the leaves in the trees – so wonderfully saturated in many shades of greens – are distinct from each other. In fact, this is one of the first titles I’ve viewed so far that I clearly knew I was missing out on far more detail because of the resolution limitations of my projector. I rarely see it with DVD, but the stair-stepping of pixels (noticed when trying to reproduce the finest details) was much more evident on my projector when viewing this Blu-ray disc; I knew there was more picture information but without a 1920x1080 display I’m outta luck. Another moment where I noticed an obvious moment of missing out on details was in one of Lady Jocelyn’s outfits while she’s watching a jousting tournament. She’s wearing a brown hat and shawl that has fine weaving in it…there was a shimmer on this clothing and you could tell that the projector was having a difficult time reproducing this detail…or it is an artefact in the source material...or it could be result of interlaced artefacts because of the player set at 1080i for output...it could be any of these since they all create a similar effect. But...in short – the detail is here on this disc and it is miles ahead compared to the DVD.

    The only negative I can point out is that the picture looks a bit “gritty.” This is an old transfer that Sony is using. I also question their choice of film as a source. What this a theatrical print? There are flecks of dirt that continually pop up on screen (and white spots) and the image has an edginess to it without it looking like it’s been artificially sharpened. I did not notice any edge enhancement on this disc nor were there compression artefacts I could pick out. Also, the first three-quarters of the film looked fantastic but the last quarter looked a bit duller and less impressive. I could be source related or how the film was put together, but those blue skies were duller and all scenes tended to have an overcast look.

    The aspect ratio is 2.35:1.


    Posted ImagePCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 8.5/10 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
    DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 7.5/10 Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    For the sake of consistency with the video, I’m going to rate uncompressed PCM (and eventually the lossless audio compression formats when available), as well as lossy Dolby Digital and DTS on a scale from 1-10. This rating is based on “satisfaction” – the highest score delivering the greatest amount of satisfaction and the lowest delivering the least. When defining satisfaction, I mean both the resolution of the audio as well as the sound design for the film. I’m listening for the best experience possible.

    Originally recorded with Sony’s SDDS 8-channel sound for theatrical presentations, the wide front soundstage is still intact in the 5.1 mix. It’s a rare instance that films contain a lot of phantom imaging between the two main channels and the center channel, filling in that void that is often forgotten in many film sound productions. A Knight’s Tale satisfies in this regard.

    The use of sound effects in all five channels is very impressive. I don’t believe for an instant that the surround channels were ever quiet. Even the quietest dialogue scenes still contained ambience from the environment the characters were in – from the echoes off of the cold rocks in the church to the sounds of insects buzzing around in the bushes off the sides of the roads – this soundtrack stayed active!

    Dynamic range is also very good – the moments before the jousting, as well as the jousting scenes are recorded at a much louder volume and are dynamically satisfying. The audio doesn’t sound as compressed as other films therefore heightening the listening experience. Of course, some of these sound effects – such as punches or jousting – tend to be exaggerated for dramatic reasons. Dialogue also seems unpleasantly exaggerated giving a very forward sound to it. Sometimes it felt detached from the soundstage.

    The film has a mixture of music from a modern rock to an orchestral score. Songs from Queen, WAR and David Bowie rock the soundstage but their fidelity is clearly limited due to the age of the recordings and possibly because of the source that was used to put it on this soundtrack.

    Only by listening to the uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack can you fully appreciate the width and depth of this movie soundtrack. Using the audio button on the Samsung BD-P1000 remote allows the viewer to toggle between audio soundtracks. While the PCM soundtrack is a few decibels louder, using the dialogue or music as a volume comparison reference, the PCM outdoes the Dolby Digital track in every aspect of sound – resolution, dynamic range, tonal neutrality, bass definition, high frequency extension, etc. etc. – it just can’t be matched using Dolby Digital lossy compression. I will go on by saying that bass is clearly defined, not muddy, and has a lot more impact than it ever had using DTS or Dolby Digital. I don’t have my Superbit copy anymore to make a comparison between DTS and PCM, but I don’t see the need to. I know that using lossy DTS has some advantages and disadvantages over Dolby Digital and I know how small those differences are – you really have to listen hard for it – but switching to PCM requires absolutely no experience in audio to hear the difference.

    (Note: you must have the 6-channel output of your Blu-Ray player connected to an EXT-IN on your receiver/preamp to take advantage of uncompressed PCM or with the use of HDMI and supporting devices).

    TACTILE FUN!! Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
    TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON

    This movie makes tactile transducers worth owning!! The horses galloping, hits to the body from jousting, heavy banging of any kind makes you feel the impact in your gut as if you were there on screen with the characters. I found the transducer (thus LFE information) used appropriately for this film with just the right amount of impact.


    Posted ImageSPECIAL FEATURES ZERO / Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    There are no special features on this disc; no theatrical trailer for this film or previews for any other films. Those of you who have the any of the DVDs you may want to hang onto them for the special features.


    IN THE END...

    Even though I hated this film the first time around, dreaded it the second time, and then found some ways to like it the third and fourth time, I think this is the first time that I’ve truly enjoyed A Knight’s Tale. The HD picture looks very good and the sound quality of the uncompressed PCM soundtrack makes it that much better. Plus, I didn’t have a tactile transducer installed the last time I viewed this film and the effects of this device was the icing on the cake. I know there are a lot of fans of this film because of the tongue-in-cheek comedy but I’m not entirely sure that I can recommended this Blu-ray disc for the film – for the experience, absolutely – but maybe it’ll grow on you if you watch it a few times. It’s like some music albums; on the first listen you may be less impressed, but the more you listen, the more you like…

    Michael Osadciw
    July 25, 2006.


    Warner Bros. Blu-ray Reviewer
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    #2 of 36 OFFLINE   Jeff(R)

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    Posted July 25 2006 - 02:10 PM

    Thanks Michael. I thought it was a funny and interesting film (w/ great soundtrack choices) and I loved Paul Bettany's Chaucer. I wish I had some transducers too!

    Jeff

    #3 of 36 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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    Posted July 25 2006 - 02:18 PM

    Thanks for a thoughtful review.
    Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
    HD should be for EVERYONE!

    #4 of 36 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted July 25 2006 - 03:04 PM

    You are welcome, guys!

    Jeff, a tactile transducer is an awesome addition to the home theater - just be sure to use the effects sparingly - too much will be annoying...

    Mike

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    #5 of 36 OFFLINE   Eric F

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    Posted July 25 2006 - 03:23 PM

    720p displays only show 2.6x over a 480p display? That might be mathematically correct, but I don't think you're taking the higher bandwidth of the video into effect as well.

    #6 of 36 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted July 25 2006 - 03:34 PM

    Eric...I wrote that for simple terms...most people on this forum tend to know more about it therefore I don't need to get into deep explanations about it in a quick note. Those math numbers are only the tip of the iceberg when comparing video...but they are numbers people talk most...

    Mike

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    #7 of 36 OFFLINE   Eric F

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    Posted July 25 2006 - 06:39 PM

    I figured that was the case, I just didn't want to dissuade people w/720p FPDs (as most FPDs are) from picking up one of the HD DVD formats.

    #8 of 36 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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    Posted July 25 2006 - 11:27 PM

    Thanks for the review. I have the superbit DVD and I will most likely get this one, mostly due to your review.
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    #9 of 36 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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    Posted July 26 2006 - 03:28 AM

    Great review. VERY MUCH appreciated.

    Your detail on the video and audio is especially appreciated. I'm thrilled to hear how good the PCM sounds. Knowing how much better the 2.0 PCM sounds on laserdisc compared to typical 5.1 Dolby, I can only imagine it in full 5.1 PCM!

    Posted Image


    p.s. Michael,

    have you tried the 720P output of the Sammy? It seemed to have less shimmer on my 720P projector (benQ 8700+) and looked more film-like to my eyes.
    Be an Original Aspect Ratio Advocate

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    #10 of 36 OFFLINE   Michel_Hafner

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    Posted July 26 2006 - 05:46 AM

    If someone can watch this on a 1080p display please check if the hat of the leading lady is still an aliased mess as it was on the HD on HBO.

    #11 of 36 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted July 26 2006 - 10:23 AM

    Michel - good call on that scene - it's a tricky one to figure out so I didn't go into the possible negatives with that type of artefact. It could be:

    a) the projector unable to display the detail

    b) a byproduct of 1080i - interlacing tends to create this kind of artefact and they can remain even after it's been converted to progressive video for display. I've viewed this film with the player set at 1080i so the video is going from 1080p->1080i->720p...I would expect to see artefacts of this kind on many Blu-ray/HD-DVD titles (on the most minute details - we've seen it on the shirts and ties of guys when viewing 480i newscasts).

    HBO would also be outputting interlaced video thus you'd see a similar effect

    c) crappy master...maybe it was a 1080i master upconverted to 1080p and then put on the disc (although I highly doubt that)

    Since you pointed that out, I've added to these comments as a possibility, something I originally wasn't going to get into.

    Mike

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    #12 of 36 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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    Posted July 26 2006 - 11:47 PM

    Michael,

    I'm beginning to wonder if a problem persists with Sony's transfers.

    To my eye Capote was much like viewing a fifty year old film element. By the sound of your review, Knight's Tale sounds much the same, and rather impermissible in the transfer of a modern film. Dirt, wear, detritus should be virtually nil.

    What you're seeing is unacceptable.

    RAH

    "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


    #13 of 36 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted July 27 2006 - 06:03 AM

    Robert

    I agree with you. I've pointed out elsewhere that I've been less than happy with Sony's transfers on DVD and that is probably why we are seeing crap and all on come through on Blu-ray...while some people have blamed the format I've just blamed the transfer.

    I also agree this is not what a transfer of a modern film should look like. Even though resolution is superior over DVD, these Sony titles aren't polished like titles from other studios. They look like theatrical prints close to the end of their run in theaters.

    Recognizing this, maybe I should get out of the "excite mode" of HD, get back to work and be a little tougher when giving these titles a score. I believe the more I watch I'll be able to adjust these ratings a bit better. I'll probably go back to these titles and readjust them sometime in the future.

    Thanks for the opinion as always.
    Michael

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    #14 of 36 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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    Posted July 27 2006 - 10:16 AM

    Michael

    I don't believe that any modern film that is simply dirty, should receive a score higher than a 1.5 or 2 out of 10, no matter what the resolution looks like.

    Garbarge in.

    Garbarge out.

    RAH

    "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


    #15 of 36 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted July 27 2006 - 10:29 AM

    Robert

    Looking at it from that standpoint (dirty film), you are correct - after all, that's a big part in how I grade DVDs! Why I'm treating Blu-ray a bit different...? well, probably because it's HD and I'm not used to viewing a consistent amount of HD films (I can't say I've ever watched one on cable) so I'm enjoying the picture more than DVD (thus being generous with my scores). I know for sure that's going to change...so expect me to come down with a hammer on bad looking titles.

    ...also, I'm not sure I like this "out of 10" score thing...when I first started with it, it seemed like a good thing...now I'm a little annoyed with it because it seems like too large of a scale and I don't think that gives any benefit. I think I'm gonna drop it all back to "out of 5".

    Mike

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    #16 of 36 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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    Posted July 28 2006 - 01:54 AM

    RAH,

    I know you've been really watching and enjoying HD DVD, but have you spent any time with any of these MPEG2 BD releases in your HT? I'd love to hear how you feel they compare against HD DVD. I'd also love to hear your BD impressions once we get a player better than the samsung and WB discs with VC1 just like their HD DVD counterparts.

    Ok... thread hijacking over!

    -dave Posted Image
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    #17 of 36 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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    Posted July 28 2006 - 03:26 AM

    David,

    I have not, as after viewing some BD, decided that it appeared not to be ready for prime time. I've seen BD on other systems, and have not been amused.

    Once the Sony player arrives, I'll in a better position to do direct comparisons.

    RAH

    "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


    #18 of 36 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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    Posted July 28 2006 - 03:43 AM

    Your impressions mirror my own.

    I hope that better players and better video codecs (VC1/AVC) take BD into the world of hi-fidelity image reproduction.
    Be an Original Aspect Ratio Advocate

    Supporter of 1080p24 video and lossless 24 bit audio.

    #19 of 36 OFFLINE   Michael Osadciw

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    Posted July 28 2006 - 04:22 AM

    David

    Re: hifi video. I agree. As Tom Petty sings, "The waiting is the hardest part"

    Mike

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    #20 of 36 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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    Posted July 28 2006 - 08:57 AM

    I'm certainly hopeful that the Sony Bd hardware will give us a different view of things. I'm a huge fan of Sony video gear, and can't see them being this far off target. The Samsung units may have simply been problematic.

    RAH

    "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence