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A few words about...™ The Wizard of Oz -- in Blu-ray

A Few Words About

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#1 of 352 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 14 2009 - 01:48 PM

I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some quality time with actress Margaret Hamilton in 1989 at the Telluride Film Festival, and since then I've always had difficulty equating that sweet lady with the green-faced witch in The Wizard of Oz.

Viewing the film on Blu-ray this evening, I realized that neither Ms. Hamilton, nor Ms. Garland, nor any of the other members of the cast and crew had ever had the experience that you are about to have -- viewing The Wizard of Oz via WB's new Blu-ray.  I made some comments a few days ago over at Blu-ray.com answering a query in regard to whether certain "restorations" were actually restorations.  My basic premise being that if a clean negative or set of negatives (for Technicolor) survive, then what is being created is more in line with a supervised lab order.

This is not the case here, where 4k scanning has been performed upon the original negatives of reels 2A - the end of the film, and like scanning of a surviving fine grain master of reels 1A and 1B, which make up the black & white sequences.  The original negative of the black & white units was lost to fire some years ago.  When a film is as beloved (and used) as The Wizard of Oz, there's going to be quite bit of housekeeping to be performed.

But let's go back a few years.  The original elements of The Wizard of Oz were scanned in 2k for the creation of a standard definition DVD release which forms the basis, as far as extras are concerned, of what is about to be released in Blu-ray.

Many home video and asset management groups would be happy enough to sit on their laurels.

Not Warner Bros.

The surviving elements were once again shipped from their home in Rochester, NY, deep in nitrate vaults coddled over by George Eastman House, back to Burbank, where they once again had images harvested.

Only this time never falling below the 4k level, or film resolution.

All work was performed in by MPI, WB's crack digital unit, hidden away on the back lot.

What you'll see on the Blu-ray of The Wizard of Oz is the sharpest, most highly resolved and most visually perfect representation of the film...

Ever!

And then we move to audio, which used the same mixes prepared for the earlier version, original cleaned-up mono, as well as a 5.1 stereo mix derived from a myriad of surviving elements.  Only now in Dolby True HD uncompressed.

Allow me to be quite honest.  I've never seen a 1939 print of The Wizard of Oz, so I have no idea what it looked like.  My earliest point of reference is 1954, the initial safety release.  I have on GWTW, but that may well have been a totally different artistic animal.  I mention this because I'm unable to tell you whether this replicates the original experience.  But that really isn't the point with this film.

Going directly to the bottom line, you're about to see something that audiences in 1939 never saw.  Sharper, perfectly registered, and more consistently colored than anything that has ever existed.

Buy it.  Enjoy it.  Support film restoration by doing so.  And after you screen your new acquisition bend slowly toward Burbank and bow deeply, thanking Jeff Baker, George Feltenstein, Ned Price and the gang at MPI for the gift that they have created for you.

Seriously.  How often are you going to find a studio that goes back to square one and re-performs an entire visual restoration because they feel they can eek just a tiny bit more out of the original elements to preserve the film again, and create a Blu-ray that can not be bettered!

This is a cinephiliac's nirvana.

Extremely Highly Recommended!

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


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Posted September 14 2009 - 03:10 PM

Nice review. Two questions.....in the Kansas parlor scene when Miss Gulch is taking Toto, the 2005 edition presents Dorothy's pleas as "Oh, Toto" instead of the originally released "Oh, Toto. Don't!" How is it presented here? And how is the switch to Technicolor handled? Thanks!

#3 of 352 OFFLINE   Craig_Ehr

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Posted September 14 2009 - 05:22 PM

Wasn't WB making a huge deal about using their 8K 'Ultra Resolution' process or somesuch on this title?

Edit: ah...I see they scanned at 8K then captured those at 4K for the restoration work.  I guess 8K (assuming it actually was 8K, per the announcement press release) was merely for preservation purposes.



#4 of 352 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted September 14 2009 - 06:39 PM

I saw the 4k presentation of this film at the academy last month and it really is nirvana.  One of the surviving munchkins was there, Jerry something, so, Mr. Harris, you are incorrect because one of the cast members has seen the film look better than the bluray, they've seen it on 4k at the Samuel Goldwyn. :D

they also stated that they scanned at 8k and restored it in 4k.

The switch to color happens as it should, you can tell the set is designed for black and white and no longer sepia in the shot where the double in the black and white clothes pulls open the door and steps out of frame so Judy Garland in her color costume can step through to munchkin land.

I think I most impressed by the long crane move around Munchkin land that starts off this sequence, the detail was astonishing, do you know there's a little light reflection off the ruby slippers in the far background on part of that move? I  didn't til I saw it in 4k.  

Oh and on an urban legend note that I was looking for (because it was something we debated way back when in school)  there really is utterly no doubt whatsoever, it is definitely and obviously a bird, not a munchkin hanging himself, you can really see that clearly, to the point on making out the feathers on some of the birds seen earlier in the sequence.

I'm just annoyed the bluray is only available with a bunch of whiz bang whoopee memorabilia for an insane MSRP.  I wish I could buy the movie, or just the movie and some extra features. :(  as it is I'll probably just fondly remember the 4k presentation until they release it on bluray solo. 

 

#5 of 352 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 14 2009 - 06:39 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric Scott Richard View Post

Nice review. Two questions.....in the Kansas parlor scene when Miss Gulch is taking Toto, the 2005 edition presents Dorothy's pleas as "Oh, Toto" instead of the originally released "Oh, Toto. Don't!" How is it presented here? And how is the switch to Technicolor handled? Thanks!
The switch to Tech is handled as it always was originally.  The final shot of reel 1B, as I recall, shows Dorothy walking toward the door.  The cut to Technicolor, and the first shot in 2A, has us move toward the door behind her.  The entire interior set in this initial shot is sepia, as is her dress, or the dress of a double.  As Dorothy appears, now dressed in normal color, the exterior is revealed.

"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


#6 of 352 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 14 2009 - 06:41 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Craig_Ehr View Post

Wasn't WB making a huge deal about using their 8K 'Ultra Resolution' process or somesuch on this title?

Edit: ah...I see they scanned at 8K then captured those at 4K for the restoration work.  I guess 8K (assuming it actually was 8K, per the announcement press release) was merely for preservation purposes.
 
One can scan in 4, 6 or 8, and then downrez to 4k for manipulation.  I'm not certain that there's anything to be gained by scanning films this old in 8, but it can't hurt.  Record back to film is at 4k.


"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


#7 of 352 OFFLINE   Adam_S

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Posted September 14 2009 - 06:44 PM

I'm quoting from memory, but last week, Rob Hummel said at a presentation on different film formats through the ages, "I was working at Warner Bros when we did tests on the Wizard of Oz in 4k and 8k and the difference was not subtle." though that's iirc. he may have said 2k and 4k.

 

#8 of 352 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted September 14 2009 - 07:58 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam_S View Post

I'm quoting from memory, but last week, Rob Hummel said at a presentation on different film formats through the ages, "I was working at Warner Bros when we did tests on the Wizard of Oz in 4k and 8k and the difference was not subtle." though that's iirc. he may have said 2k and 4k.
There is not 8k information in WoZ.  High 2s would be my guess, so yes...  One would see more information in 4k than in 2k.

"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


#9 of 352 OFFLINE   Jesse Blacklow

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Posted September 15 2009 - 01:47 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam_S 

I'm just annoyed the bluray is only available with a bunch of whiz bang whoopee memorabilia for an insane MSRP.  I wish I could buy the movie, or just the movie and some extra features. :(  as it is I'll probably just fondly remember the 4k presentation until they release it on bluray solo. 
Why not get the UK import, since it's a region-free release? If you have an Amazon account, you can use it on their UK site and get a non-boxed version for about $27.


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#10 of 352 OFFLINE   RolandL

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Posted September 15 2009 - 01:54 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam_S 

I saw the 4k presentation of this film at the academy last month and it really is nirvana.  One of the surviving munchkins was there, Jerry something, so, Mr. Harris, you are incorrect because one of the cast members has seen the film look better than the bluray, they've seen it on 4k at the Samuel Goldwyn. :D

they also stated that they scanned at 8k and restored it in 4k.

The switch to color happens as it should, you can tell the set is designed for black and white and no longer sepia in the shot where the double in the black and white clothes pulls open the door and steps out of frame so Judy Garland in her color costume can step through to munchkin land.

I think I most impressed by the long crane move around Munchkin land that starts off this sequence, the detail was astonishing, do you know there's a little light reflection off the ruby slippers in the far background on part of that move? I  didn't til I saw it in 4k.  

Oh and on an urban legend note that I was looking for (because it was something we debated way back when in school)  there really is utterly no doubt whatsoever, it is definitely and obviously a bird, not a munchkin hanging himself, you can really see that clearly, to the point on making out the feathers on some of the birds seen earlier in the sequence.

I'm just annoyed the bluray is only available with a bunch of whiz bang whoopee memorabilia for an insane MSRP.  I wish I could buy the movie, or just the movie and some extra features. :(  as it is I'll probably just fondly remember the 4k presentation until they release it on bluray solo. 
You can buy The Wizard of OZ Blu-ray and the Gone With The Wind Blu-ray for about $57 shipped to the US from amazon.co.uk. Two Blu-ray's for about the same price as the US Wizard of OZ. They will work in the US as they are region free.


Roland Lataille
Cinerama web site

 


#11 of 352 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted September 15 2009 - 02:08 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Blacklow 

Quote:


Why not get the UK import, since it's a region-free release? If you have an Amazon account, you can use it on their UK site and get a non-boxed version for about $27.
 
Only problem is, have you seen the cover of the UK release?  It looks godawful!  "Sing Along edition"...blech!


#12 of 352 ONLINE   Jesse Blacklow

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Posted September 15 2009 - 02:20 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobertR 

Only problem is, have you seen the cover of the UK release?  It looks godawful!  "Sing Along edition"...blech!
Do you watch the movie, or the cover? IMO, turning down a release, especially a high-quality one, solely because of cover art is the height of foolishness.  Besides, there's a lot of places where you can go to download custom covers.

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#13 of 352 OFFLINE   Michel_Hafner

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Posted September 15 2009 - 02:20 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam_S 

I saw the 4k presentation of this film at the academy last month and it really is nirvana.
Was it really from a 4K DCP and on a 4K projector (no upsampled 2K)? I would have liked to see that. The grain must have been very interesting to look at.



#14 of 352 OFFLINE   Michel_Hafner

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Posted September 15 2009 - 02:21 AM

What is the average bit rate for the image on the Blu Ray? 25+ I hope and not < 20.


#15 of 352 OFFLINE   Martin Teller

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Posted September 15 2009 - 02:36 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Blacklow View Post

Quote:


Do you watch the movie, or the cover? IMO, turning down a release, especially a high-quality one, solely because of cover art is the height of foolishness. 
 
Not when you know WB is going to release the same thing in the US, probably with a different cover, a few months from now.  After they've milked all the suckers they can on this bloated box of lame tchotchkes.


#16 of 352 OFFLINE   TravisR

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Posted September 15 2009 - 03:09 AM

^ I have no interest at all in spending the extra money for the box set but I don't think wanting that stuff makes someone a "sucker" either.



#17 of 352 OFFLINE   Zack Gibbs

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Posted September 15 2009 - 03:38 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by TravisR 

^ I have no interest at all in spending the extra money for the box set but I don't think wanting that stuff makes someone a "sucker" either.

It's the people who don't want it but will buy it anyways that are the "suckers."

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#18 of 352 OFFLINE   Robert George

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Posted September 15 2009 - 04:58 AM


Quote:

 What is the average bit rate for the image on the Blu Ray?

More than enough.


#19 of 352 OFFLINE   RobertR

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Posted September 15 2009 - 06:31 AM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Blacklow 

Quote:


Besides, there's a lot of places where you can go to download custom covers.
Yes, the problem can be dealt with, but it is a problem.  Also, referring to it as a "sing along" version makes me wonder exactly what the contents are.  I want to know more about what's in it.


#20 of 352 ONLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted September 15 2009 - 07:07 AM

I have received my review copy, and I fully understand people's objections to being forced to buy the "box o' junk" when all they want are the discs, but holy moley is this a beautiful package!  It is sometimes a bit awkward to figure out how to arrange the stuff in the box when the disc digipack is removed, but the contents themselves are really nice.  It is much better than the Casablanca set.  I think the best decision they made (short of preserving the film and optimally presenting it on home video ) was putting John Fricke in charge of the book.

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