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A question about the "Pulp Fiction" Blu-Ray...

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#1 of 3 James David Walley

James David Walley

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Posted October 06 2012 - 10:01 AM

O.K., I'm watching this film, for the first time in many years, on my newly-purchased Blu-Ray. I read in the HTF review of the disc that

The picture quality of this Blu-ray is excellent. (...) Tarantino reportedly oversaw this new transfer and the result is near reference quality with excellent contrast and fine detail. Edge enhancement is minimal to non-existent. Other than some possible loss of shadow detail in one scene, this transfer would be impossible to improve upon in any way.

So, the film begins, and I'm shocked by how bad the diner scene looks. No blacks at all -- the tonal range runs from white to medium-gray -- and a very soft-looking image. This is "near-reference quality?" While most later parts of the film look good, the section of the story concerning the killing of the briefcase thieves at the beginning and end still looks quite washed-out and a bit soft. I then, by way of comparison, put on my old Collector's Edition DVD. Surprise! The problems in the opening scene are every bit as much there as on the Blu-Ray. (I didn't have the time to check any further.) Now, I've been having all sorts of problems calibrating my system since substituting the Oppo 93 for my old Pioneer DV-47a (and going to a HDTV cable box). If I get black levels right, the whole image is washed out, and the gamma shows up at only 1.0. If I adjust the white and black levels to get a better gamma, shadow detail goes out the window. (I'm pretty sure the problem lies in my 2000-era vintage Toshiba RPTV, but I can't replace it until I can find someone to take the old set off my hands and, more importantly, cart the 143-pound thing out of my house) but, with some playing around, I finally managed to get settings that gave a (mostly-)decent tonal balance along with a respectable amount of detail in the shadows. The "torture-test" Blu-Rays I use (Chariots of Fire and Across the Universe for bright scenes, American Graffiti for dark ones) wound up at least looking very good, even if performance on test patterns was lacking. But what I saw on Pulp Fiction, at least in the diner and hit scenes, simply looked shockingly bad on both the DVD and Blu-Ray (at least when played through the Oppo, since I don't have any other disc player attached to my system at this time). Is this a problem with my calibration, or did these scenes always look severely washed-out and soft in every version of the film?
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#2 of 3 Walter Kittel

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Posted October 06 2012 - 12:53 PM

The diner scene has alway looked bad, in my opinion. I realize that memory may be suspect when discussing image quality but I can never recall a version (since seeing the film theatrically) where the diner scene did not look bad. I don't know if it was a technical problem or the style that Tarantino was striving for in that sequence; but it has been consistently at odds with the remainder of the film in every version I've seen over the years. - Walter.
Fidelity to the source should always be the goal for Blu-ray releases.

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Posted October 06 2012 - 01:15 PM

There were many scenes in that film that don't look all that great. It may have been what Quentin was going for. The Uma scenes always looked the best.

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