A KNIGHT’S TALE
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Film Year: 2001
Film Length: 132 minutes
2.35:1 Theatrical Ratio
English Uncompressed Linear PCM 5.1 Surround
English 5.1 Surround
French 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Thai
Release Date: September 19, 2006
Film Rating: /
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…
VIDEO QUALITY 8/10
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.
PCM AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 8.5/10
DOLBY DIGITAL AUDIO EXPERIENCE: 7.5/10
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!! /
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.
SPECIAL FEATURES ZERO /
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…
July 25, 2006.