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A few words about...™ Howards End -- in Blu-ray

A Few Words About

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#41 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted February 25 2010 - 12:09 PM

Patty, the new standard def version of the Criterion blu ray is the way to go. Got it two days ago and am planning to watch it again. I put a review up on Amazon, which is not mixed in with all of the other Howards End reviews. Yes, it means putting more money in Criterion's pocket, but as it stands this is the finest it will look on home video for now.
 “The cinema is an invention with no future…”     – Louis Lumière

#42 of 187 OFFLINE   Vincent_P

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Posted March 27 2010 - 02:53 PM

I just got the Criterion Blu-ray and am not seeing any objectionable video noise on my system.  On my set-up (PS3 and Panasonic 3-chip LCD video projector onto a 7-foot wide screen) this looks very film-like indeed.  I'm definitely happy with this purchase.

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#43 of 187 OFFLINE   marsnkc

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Posted June 02 2010 - 09:47 PM



Originally Posted by 24fpssean 

Plopped more money down for the new Criterion DVD release, from the same master, and all of those horrible flaws visible in the BD are invisible in the DVD. The image is really spectacular, standard def hides the chalky, brittle look of the BD and makes it a picture worth looking at. Also, the strange, Tetris-like grid that marches throughout some of the darkers shots on the BD is mercifully missing from the new DVD release. It is cleaner and sharper than the 2005 DVD release. Worth the money spent. Same beautiful packaging as the BD.


Curiouser and Curiouser...!!!


I Finally watched the Criterion Blu-ray last night and consider the image and sound among the best I've seen on the format - especially considering its age. I bought it at the beginning of November (never got around to watching it 'til now although it's an absolute favorite of mine - a perfect film in my estimation), so I'm guessing it must have come from the same batch as yours. Imagine my complete amazement when I looked up Robert Harris's review and read your comments about the problems you and others have with it.


The system I watched it on is a 50" ISF-calibrated Panasonic Pro Monitor (no TV tuner) via an Oppo BDP-83 through an Onkyo AV controller (PR-SC886).

Full range Vandersteens all around are amplified by a Sunfire Signature for the fronts and NADs for the center and rears (216 THX and 218 THX respectively).


Not the highest-end system in the world but very competent, and beautifully resolved what I can only describe as a masterful  transfer. I remember being excited by how good the movie looked on Laserdisc compared to the VHS, then shocked to see the DVD show that the opening scene takes place at dusk/twilight, and not the black of night as I previously thought (missed seeing it in a theater, unfortunately). This Blu-ray is a million times better than that DVD so I'm very sorry that you couldn't enyoy it the way I did, for whatever mysterious reason.

I hope Man or someone else chimes in on this again with new thoughts or explanations -  I'd love to know the reasons for your problems with the disc. I would normally assume or suggest - as others have here - that your system needs calibration, but then you say that you played it on other (professional?) systems along with witnesses. Hmmmm........



#44 of 187 OFFLINE   Vincent-P

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Posted June 03 2010 - 04:23 AM

The problems with that some people are experiencing are truly a system issue, not a disc issue, in my experience.  I just watched my Criterion Blu-Ray I bought during the B&N sale last November.  I watched it the first time at my parents' house on their Insignia Blu-Ray player/Mitsubishi HDTV.  There were all kinds of wacky things going on: flickering, white patches appearing in dark areas of the image, video noise.  Then I watched the film a 2nd time at my house with my PS3/Mitsubishi HDTV (different model TV than my parents) & all the problems were gone, it was a perfectly stellar transfer.  So it really does seem to me that, for whatever reason, the impression of the transfer really is dependent on what you're watching it on.



#45 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 03 2010 - 05:12 AM

I've got a 50" panasonic viera plasma and the image has the flicker, the white patches, a strange Tetris-like grid. All other blus I have, including that awful RAN from Lionsgate, hold together fine. What kind of a transfer would be so sensitive?? Could it be the playback system, the blu-ray player itself??


In anycase, Howards End is the only Criterion blu I've got that does this. This disappointment is all over Amazon and a few other reviewers online. Criterion should have revisited the title, located the problem, QC'd on several different monitors, and offered a recall. One shouldn't have to buy a new television for a single disc.


 “The cinema is an invention with no future…”     – Louis Lumière

#46 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 03 2010 - 05:22 AM

Forgot to add that I had seen the film several times on its initial release, on a rather muted 70mm blow up as well as the punchy 2.35:1 35mm, so I am judging by that. What is inconsistent is that the clips from the film used in the menu are pristine, but the feature itself is appalling. I'm certain it has been unnaturally sharpened. Howards End was shot very muted, not razor sharp or harsh. On this blu, it's as if they tried to make a relief map out of the naturally soft image, resulting in an picture of sharp, hard lines rather than soft lighting. Again, the corresponding dvd of this release (spine #488) gets a little closer to what the film looks like, and the Tetris game is missing, along with the flicker and white patches.


 “The cinema is an invention with no future…”     – Louis Lumière

#47 of 187 OFFLINE   marsnkc

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Posted June 03 2010 - 09:07 AM

Final thoughts on this, Sean.


I just got through reading the negative reviews on Amazon you mentioned. However, High-Def Digest thinks it's '...stunning...looks like a million bucks...'; DVDTown calls it 'impeccable' and the reviewer at DVD Beaver says it helped him appreciate a movie he otherwise isn't crazy about because an excellent presentation (my words) enhances the movie watching experience for him. These plus Robert Harris's take on it and my own delightful experience only serve to deepen the mystery.


Logically, it doesn't make sense that a disc can be 'equipment sensitive' to this degree. Don't call the men in white coats on me, but is it possible that at least part of the problem could be caused by detritus on some discs? I've had discs that have broken up on me or exhibited weird artifacts that a washing or spraying with a disc-cleaning fluid or, as I read somewhere and it worked for me, eye-glass cleaner (attempt at your own peril!). The last 15 minutes of the initial DVD release of Blood Diamond broke up on me then stopped playing altogether. I would have just returned the disc but my girlfriend was so upset at not being able to see the conclusion that I washed it to see if it would help. It helped for about five minutes then broke up and stopped again. I then cleaned it using the eye-glass fluid and that did the trick. I have a gut feeling this isn't the issue with the Criterion but nothing else makes sense.



#48 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 03 2010 - 09:29 AM

No white coats necessary. But I know what digital information looks like when it isn't put together properly or is breaking up and this isn't it. Again, the film clips used in the menu are perfectly fine but the film itself is too pale, washed out; up close the digital information has structure and looks cartoonish. Also, the white grid that marches through, particularly the dark (here washed out) shot of Jacky Bast on the bed as the train roars behind her outside the window and the slo mo shot of Charles Wilcox being led into the train cubicle after his arrest at the end of the film, are shockingly obvious, as if some other information were bleeding through.


I am going to take my blu ray, which I haven't thrown into the fireplace yet, around to all my friends who have different HD monitors, and get to the bottom of this. I still believe it is a transfer problem and not a disc problem, being somewhat familiar with the process of getting a 35mm film to blu ray in my line of work. In any case, the menu clips look fine while the feature itself is unwatchable.


As for online reviewers, I can only tell what my own eyes see. I can certainly tell the difference between the transfers of my other blus, in their varying degrees, but none of them comes close to the mess of Howards End.


Bottom line, Criterion's explanation of a calibration problem - for those of us who think a snowstorm of digital garbage is unwatchable, as opposed to the pleasant look of film grain - is unacceptable. There is clearly something wrong here and Jon Mulvaney himself told me that "complaints about the disc are starting to come in."


I will try this myself on various monitors. It looked awful here at work, on our expensive monitors. Even people who had never seen the film wondered what on earth Criterion was thinking.


The mystery continues. At this point I don't care what the film is, I just want to know why it would do this on a handful of monitors.


Online reviewers also gave Private Ryan glowing reviews, despite the fact that much of it was four frames out of synch, hence the recall.


 “The cinema is an invention with no future…”     – Louis Lumière

#49 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 03 2010 - 11:48 AM

What is disturbing is that Amazon has 15 customer reviews for the blu ray edition of Howards End. 11 of those 15 are complaints about the picture. That's a disaster.


 “The cinema is an invention with no future…”     – Louis Lumière

#50 of 187 OFFLINE   marsnkc

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Posted June 03 2010 - 03:15 PM

Scratch my 'cleaning' idea. The post from Vincent-P (#44) flashed into my mind about a half hour after I sent mine. He says that he experienced problems with the disc when he played it at his parents' house (the white patches - among other things - that he refers to are presumably the grid(s) that you complain about) but exhibited no problems when viewed on his own system. This also eliminates any notion that the problems are related to a bad batch, which was the only other - rational - theory I could come up with, and seems to support his and others' contention that it is a 'system issue', something that makes absolutely no sense to me.

I hope to take a look again tomorrow at mine to see if I notice or missed any of the problems you describe. I'll be amazed if I do or did, because I was ecstatic with my experience yesterday. It was the reason for me to see what Robert Harris had to say about it.

I agree with your criticism of Criterion's The Last Emperor. That was a disappointment.

I'll keep checking the thread to see if you come up with an explanation. This is the most intriguing disc-related problem I've ever known.



#51 of 187 OFFLINE   PattyFraser

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Posted June 03 2010 - 03:35 PM

Marsnkc, you wouldn't have missed the problems on this disc if you had watched it on a monitor that is sensitive to them.  They are unmissable.


Take a look at Robert Harris' answer to Sean,  which he posted after watching it on several monitors.  He did see the problems on one of the monitors, see post  #35.  Criterion really should redo this disc.  I have a Sony Xbr5, and a Sony s550.  The thing was unwatchable.



#52 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 04 2010 - 03:49 AM

Poor Howards End! Looked at part of it again last night and the grid is still there, it can clearly be seen in the first shots of Margaret looking out the window at the Wilcoxes as they unload from their carriage. The back of Emma's head is supposed to be in shadow, but what I can see - and what gets worse when paused - is a screen door like effect that undulates. And of course the white blocks that march horizontally up and downt the screen in those shots I mentioned earlier with Jacky Bast on the bed and Charles Wilcox being led onto the train in slo mo. What I've noticed is that none of these flaws are blatantly obivious when watching the blu in a well-lit living room. With all the lights off, it's a mess. That stands to reason because of the light pollution filtering out detail.


Anyway. A mystery. If I have time at work I'll check it out on some of the other monitors.


 “The cinema is an invention with no future…”     – Louis Lumière

#53 of 187 OFFLINE   marsnkc

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Posted June 04 2010 - 09:29 AM

I just remembered a hardware-related issue that happened to me at the time that the remake of The Thomas Crown Affair made it to DVD. I experienced what many others did, the unstable image of the sea when the characters wind their way up the mountain to Crown's bungalow on a Carribbbean island.

Shortly after that my DVD player took a dive. I replaced it with Toshiba's highest-end player for a close-out SALE (!!!) price of $700 (down from $1,200 - and we complain about BD player prices!!!) (it was a beautiful monster, built on a platform of solid copper!).

That 'monster' resolved the problem, making the image solid (my vocabulary of technical terminology is nil, so bear with me).

I was wondering, then, if the reasons some of us are getting good results from our discs is because our players are actually overcoming deficiencies in the transfer, like the Toshiba did with 'Crown', rather than some anomalous 'handshake' issue with certain players. I realize of course that one shouldn't be obliged to have any particular player in order to have a good result.


Curious to know if the grid, screen door and white blocks artifacts you're experiencing are 'architecturally' the same each time you watch the BD (painful as it may be to do that) and if the same artifacts appear in exactly the same places on each viewing.


#54 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 04 2010 - 09:45 AM

Yes, all of the flaws are in the exact same spots and move in the exact same way. Pathetically, I've even become familiar with their movements...


It's possible about the player. A playback issue is the only thing I can think of. I've got a simple Sony blu ray player, the model of which escapes me now. I would expect it do react the same with other Criterion discs but all others look good. And when we played it here at work we used a PS3 and still had issues.


I wonder if it's player sensitive. Still, no blu ray released for public consumption should be "player sensitive." That would not be in the company's best interest if they want repeat customers.


 “The cinema is an invention with no future…”     – Louis Lumière

#55 of 187 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted June 04 2010 - 09:50 AM

It may not be in a company's best interest, but player compatibility issues are not unheard of. That's why they have firmware updates.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#56 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 04 2010 - 11:17 AM

My firmware is updated.


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#57 of 187 OFFLINE   marsnkc

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Posted June 04 2010 - 09:25 PM

I watched HE again last night, this time on my Samsung combination HD-DVD/Blu-ray player (BD-UP5000). The last time was on my Oppo BDP-83, both into the same monitor.

Again, it looked brilliant. No sign of any of the issues you describe. I played back the parts you mentioned and even froze them to see if that would capture the flaws. I thought at first it might have something to do with your player or TV having a problem resolving the extremely bright glare from the window (something akin to the color 'bleeding' we used to get with VHS and even Laserdisc) when Margaret looks across at the Wilcox apartment, but there's nothing like this in the Jackie and Charles scenes mentioned.

I viewed it in the dark of night, covering the pictures on the wall behind me with a large black cloth (something my non anal-retentive friends and family regard with a mixture of fear and pity) to cut down on reflections.

Blu-ray is a strange, ever-evolving beast and nothing surprises me with it any more. I worry every time I pop a new disc in that it won't play for one reason or another. I'd need a week to list the number of discs I've had problems with, some requiring the annoyingly frequent firmware update and others refusing to load at all (I'm referring here to the Samsung, I've only had the Oppo for a couple of weeks). The Blu-ray Disc Association (or whatever it's called) really ought to get down to brass tacks and come up with a standard, or pay us for being beta testers! How many in the general population could cope with firware issues or the like? It seems like the Old West out there, with companies like Fox changing their copy-protection protocol(?) every couple of hours and the madness of add-ons like BD Live, itself evolving as we speak. I have absolutely no interest in any of this BS. All I want is the movie in the best translation possible for the format. I don't want to have to pay for these extra-curricular toys in my player or monitor nor pay for additional digital discs so I can watch Lawrence of Arabia or The Longest Day (well, maybe not that until they fix it) on an I-Pod or cell phone, nor do I want a standard DVD included (hey, how about tossing in a VHS as well so we're completely covered!), none of which comes 'free'. (It's analogous to car manufacturers boasting that luxury additions like leather seats or GPS or Blu-tooth in their cars are 'standard', as if they're not included in the price!)



#58 of 187 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted June 05 2010 - 05:06 AM



Originally Posted by 24fpssean 

My firmware is updated.


Wasn't questioning that. Just saying that many firmware updates have data to fix specific titles. Avatar's compatibility issues in April are a great example. If Criterion hasn't determined what the issue with some players is (theoretically) on Howards End then manufacturers wouldn't be able to have that data in an update.


"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932


#59 of 187 OFFLINE   24fpssean

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Posted June 07 2010 - 03:15 AM

Andrew, your forensics astonishes me. And it's the sort of thing I would do. No, this must be a system combination problem, ultimately a transfer problem since any disc should play on any system and look good without recalibration or constant firmware updates. And they wonder why blu ray is taking so long to kick off.


Brandon, a firmware update was required for Criterion's Days of Heaven; it literally stopped playing, froze up, couldn't find information or lost track of itself, 47 minutes into the disc. I updated my player and it now plays through beautifully. I thought the update might make Howards End look better but just knew intuitively that it wouldn't and indeed it didn't when I looked at it again. It has to be the transfer since only the feature itself on the disc looks like crap. Everything else, the suppliments, the clips of the film used in the menu, all look as they should.


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#60 of 187 OFFLINE   marsnkc

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Posted June 09 2010 - 06:49 AM

Bill Hunt has a 'Serious, overdue rant on BD' over at www.thedigitalbits.com regarding the madness of BD-Live and other superfluous 'bells and whistles' that use up big money (that the consumer ultimately pays for!) better spent on giving us decent transfers. Article is dated 6/7.

Bill reports that studio polls taken at malls indicate the 'average' person wants the bells and whistles. He doesn't say that the average age of these 'average' people is 12...!!!