A Few Words About A few words about...™ Ben-Hur -- in Blu-ray

Patrick McCart

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I'm looking forward to this, especially having seen the previous two editions. However, the inclusion of the 1925 version as SD-only with a low bitrate is regrettable. It's just as important of a film. Paramount had no issues remastering everything in 1080p for The Ten Commandments, which probably required just as expensive and extensive of a restoration. The restorations Warner is putting out are great, but it's a bit obnoxious to see them skimp on every other aspect of the discs while putting the films out in $40-50 editions with a lot of swag.
 

Ken_McAlinden

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Originally Posted by Robert Harris /t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray#post_3851849
I have less of a problem with the boxed sets, although I personally don't like them, and more with the fact that the discs themselves are packaged in an oversize hard paper holder, as opposed to standard sealable BD packaging, for protection from the elements.

RAH
Although at least the multi-panel case has the construction of a hardcover book, which is a big step up from the standard thin cardboard digipak. The overall box is beautiful, too, although I suspect visitors to my house might expect to find cigars in it rather than a movie and two books. :)
 

dpippel

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Originally Posted by Robert Harris /t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray#post_3851849
I have less of a problem with the boxed sets, although I personally don't like them, and more with the fact that the discs themselves are packaged in an oversize hard paper holder, as opposed to standard sealable BD packaging, for protection from the elements.
My problem with them is the cost. Like you apparently, I'm not one for physical extras. When studios initially release Blu-ray titles like Ben-Hur only as a huge and (relatively) expensive gift set here in the US, they're ignoring an entire segment of the market for that film. I'm sure they think that by doing so they can drive up sales for the set, but I'd rather have the option to buy it on release day as a disc-only title without the big box that I don't really want. As it is, I'm forced to either go overseas for my purchase or just wait.
 

Billy Batson

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dpippel said:
 
 
My problem with them is the cost. Like you apparently, I'm not one for physical extras. When studios initially release Blu-ray titles like Ben-Hur only as a huge and (relatively) expensive gift set here in the US, they're ignoring an entire segment of the market for that film. I'm sure they think that by doing so they can drive up sales for the set, but I'd rather have the option to buy it on release day as a disc-only title without the big box that I don't really want. As it is, I'm forced to either go overseas for my purchase or just wait.
Looking at the internet, it looks like a lot of Americans are ordering the basic three-disc set from Europe, & a lot of Europeans are ordering the big box from America. The steelbook from France looks interesting.
 

FoxyMulder

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Originally Posted by Robert Harris /t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray#post_3851702
Warner's Ned Price and his staff have done an incredible job.
Sounds good, i'm glad i can pick up a three disc edition in the UK without having to buy the boxset extra's, not that i mind lavish boxsets but i already bought that on DVD many years ago so this time i just want the film and extra content. This is the 2.76:1 aspect ratio on blu ray and its spread across two discs for the film, right. ?

Have they re-encoded the 1925 silent version in higher bitrate AVC, i think they could improve it by doing that but still keep it within the capacity of a DVD release. ?

I note you are steering well clear of the Star Wars threads, do you have any opinion on those releases. ?
 

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Thanks guys for the tip about the Amazon UK version. I just switched my pre-order and saved nearly $20. I'm not a fan of all the extra swag in the box set either.
 

Robert Harris

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Mark Anthony /t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray#post_3851805
Hi Mr Harris, v pleased to hear that this classic has finally been rejuvenated!
Could you go into more detail about Warner's restorative efforts, I know they made an 8K scan of the 65MM O-Neg, but was all the damage/problems cured digitally and then a new archival 65mm negative output to allow the creation of prints going forward, or was it a digital/photo chemical hybrid?
With the exception of ....Mad World & The Alamo, are there any other major titles on your hit list that need this kind of attention before it's too late?
Kind Regards
M
Not certain what I can go into, but will check and find out what may not be proprietary information.

As to other titles, almost every Eastman color production made between 1955 and 1960.
 

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Thank you for your thoughts, Mr. Harris. Looking forward to this set!
 

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There will probably be a U.S. non-box release that will be announced for Target, Wal-mart, or Best Buy close to its release in time for the holiday shopping frenzy, like there was for The Wizard of Oz and Gone With the WInd.
I'll be getting the box for this for more personal reasons, though I'm usually not a very big fan of them
 

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Huge relief for me, too - set ordered since day one.
Glad to see it was a Wyler film that made Mr. Turner a fan. Roman Holiday started my love affair with movies - and Audrey Hepburn (and set me on the road to financial ruin, thanks to home video, posters and all of Adrian Turner's and other movie-related books and ephemera!). I first saw it in boarding school, in a classroom with a projector that sat on a table a few noisy feet from me while we sat on wooden benches...mesmerized! This was long after the movie had first been released, so God knows what condition the film, particularly one entrusted to a school, was in.
I've no doubt that, as mentioned above, Ben-Hur will be released as a single, just as GWTW and Oz were. For me, great epic movies deserve epic box-sets (all things - transfer quality etc - being equal, of course), hence my disappointment with the announced release of My Fair Lady as a largely unheralded single - a far cry from the fabulous 1994 laser disc set that followed Mr. Harris's miraculous restoration.
I can't remember if it was the laser disc or first DVD iteration of Ben-Hur that looked like an ultra low-resolution ribbon on my (then considered large) 36" ISF-calibrated tube set, but it was a disaster and made me see the advantage of compromising such extreme aspect ratios to suit the platforms and hardware of the time.
(As mentioned in another thread, the Ben-Hur poster for me is the greatest ever, but I think the image of Mr. Heston in the foreground complements it beautifully).
 

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Mark Anthony said:
With the exception of ....Mad World & The Alamo, are there any other major titles on your hit list that need this kind of attention before it's too late?



M
As RAH said, practically any of the Eastman Color films of the era, but I'd like to recommend one in particular: The 70 mm version of Around the World in 80 Days(1956). In addition to being spectacular in Todd-AO, it had several different kinds of humor, a great score, and whatever else it needed to play well into its second year at several of the 70 mm theaters. It won almost all of the "cinematic " Academy Awards: Color Cinematography, Film Editing, Musical Score, Adapted Screenplay, and, of course, Best Picture, for which it beat out Giant, The Ten Commandments , The King and I, Friendly Persuasion, [Moby Dick[, and others, all fine films, worthy of the restoration The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur got..

The DVD of 80 Days isn't too bad, but I don't think they went back to the 65mm negative, which, we hear, is in terrible shape. In 70 mm it was near hypnotic. The original 6 track magnetic soundtrack was one of the best, most dynamic recordings I've heard to this day, and they used a 114 piece orchestra. Mike Todd and his 1st assistant director had a big argument as to how loud the music should be, and from repeated viewings in 1956 - 1957, I'd guess that Todd won (he almost always did).
 

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garyrc said:
As RAH said, practically any of the Eastman Color films of the era, but I'd like to recommend one in particular: The 70 mm version of Around the World in 80 Days(1956). In addition to being spectacular in Todd-AO
That's what I want, badly! Waited years for the DVD but then almost fell out of my chair when confronted with that horrible concave image, as Paspartou(?) cycles through London. A friend told me that was an anomaly peculiar to Todd-AO, though I'd imagine the curved screen of a suitably-equipped cinema would have compensated for it. (Lawrence at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood was spoiled for me by a saucer-shaped effect at the bottom of the giant curved screen, which I was told later was correctable with the sight-line afforded by the raked seats at the back of the theater, all of which were taken by the time we arrived. The normally coveted center-stall seats were a disaster).
(I withdraw my earlier praise for the Ben-Hur box set cover. Heston's image hides the iconic Circus statue that 'supports' the massive titles and ruins the original's effect. Didn't realize this until I was reminded by the various DVD covers on the DVDBeaver site).
 

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Sadly, the fact that Warners has not bothered to do a proper, HD transfer of Ben-Hur 1925 with its glorious two-color Technicolor scenes, is a deal breaker for me. Ben-Hur '59 is a great example of film craft, but hardly one of my favorites, and a film I find rather bloated when compared to the more streamlined '25 version, which I have come more and more to regard as a legitimate companion piece, and a masterwork in its own right.
I do not understand this bizarre, stupid practice of saddling blu-ray buyers with DVDs. If we buy on blu-ray to begin with, we're not so inclined to want to add to our DVDs. And it makes me wary of being forced to double dip when the DVD content becomes available on blu-ray high def later. It's why I refused to buy CItizen Kane with the Amberson's DVD. I'm sure Amberson's will come in blu-ray, and I'm content to wait. I hope the same is done for Ben-Hur '25.
 

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A new restoration of Ben-Hur '25 would have to be done before it could be mastered in HD. The Thames restoration was made on PAL tape and not output to film.
 

ahollis

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Originally Posted by Brianruns10 /t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray/30#post_3852180
I do not understand this bizarre, stupid practice of saddling blu-ray buyers with DVDs. If we buy on blu-ray to begin with, we're not so inclined to want to add to our DVDs. And it makes me wary of being forced to double dip when the DVD content becomes available on blu-ray high def later. It's why I refused to buy CItizen Kane with the Amberson's DVD. I'm sure Amberson's will come in blu-ray, and I'm content to wait. I hope the same is done for Ben-Hur '25.
I think you will have to wait a long long time before Ambersons is released in Blu-ray. While Warners will give a general release of the DVD of Ambersons if not by December then sometime in the first quarter of 2012, the blu is not on the horizon. Just think how long it took for the title to make it to DVD after years of people wanting it.
 
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ahollis

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Originally Posted by marsnkc /t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray/30#post_3852089
That's what I want, badly! Waited years for the DVD but then almost fell out of my chair when confronted with that horrible concave image, as Paspartou(?) cycles through London. A friend told me that was an anomaly peculiar to Todd-AO, though I'd imagine the curved screen of a suitably-equipped cinema would have compensated for it
Check out the American Widescreen Musuem web site for TODD-AO and it is all explained.

http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/

The web site also has a lot on Camera 65, which is the process BEN-HUR was filmed in. I just love the web site and always come away learning something new.
 

ahollis

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Originally Posted by marsnkc /t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray/30#post_3852024
I can't remember if it was the laser disc or first DVD iteration of Ben-Hur that looked like an ultra low-resolution ribbon on my (then considered large) 36" ISF-calibrated tube set, but it was a disaster and made me see the advantage of compromising such extreme aspect ratios to suit the platforms and hardware of the time.
It was the laser disc that I remember being a ribbon. It was actually that transfer that made me decide to get my first large 54" widescreen Pioneer TV. As I still recall, the controversy was very vocal between the OAR fans and the I need it a little bigger to see. I even believe George Feltenstein had to make a statement on their decision to go with the OAR.

Side note - I really loved that TV but it died from lighting coming through the cable connection. $100.00 power surge & spike protector on the plug, but not on the cable connection. Valuable lesson learned.
 

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marsnkc said:
That's what I want, badly! Waited years for the DVD but then almost fell out of my chair when confronted with that horrible concave image, as Paspartou(?) cycles through London. A friend told me that was an anomaly peculiar to Todd-AO, though I'd imagine the curved screen of a suitably-equipped cinema would have compensated for it. (Lawrence at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood was spoiled for me by a saucer-shaped effect at the bottom of the giant curved screen, which I was told later was correctable with the sight-line afforded by the raked seats at the back of the theater, all of which were taken by the time we arrived. The normally coveted center-stall seats were a disaster).
.

  • The distortions in the image in 80 Days and other 70 mm Todd-AO (as opposed to Todd-A0 35, which played in ordinary theaters) films were almost completely corrected at the Coronet in San Francisco when they were still using their large, deeply curved screen, providing the viewer was seated in the center of the theater left to right.
  • By sitting all over the theater for repeated viewings, we found the closer to the screen the better, up to a point, as long as one sat in the center of the row. The experience was certainly more immersive when sitting closer. Empathy with the characters increased, and the wrap around sound was optimum close up. 80 Days was good from the 18th row, great from the 14th row, and an incredibly joyful experience from the 9th row.
    • http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/314868/a-few-words-about-ben-hur-in-blu-ray/30#
    • With 80 Days, we (photographers all!) began to notice a significant loss of apparent acutance closer than about the 6th or 7th row. Some later films -- Ben-Hur, for example -- were sharp all the way down to the front row, where a little fine grain was ever present, but not a problem. 2001: A Space Odyssey was very sharp (but with visible, yet fine, grain) from the front center seat of a 70mm theater in San Jose, CA that had a deeply curving screen 85 feet wide, with no significant distortion
    • I'm not sure how the correction was done for 2001, but some earlier films had a "rectified" print, and we heard that with some other films it was sometimes done optically in the booth. Three panel Cinerama had its distortions too, but the later Ultra Panavision 70 films (Greatest Story Ever Told) or Super Technirama 70 (Circus World) films shown on the very same Cinerama screen at the Orpheum in S.F. didn't seem distorted from the center.
    • The shots of Passportout's ride you are talking about -- one in particular -- were a bit distorted in the theater, but when you had to look a bit to the sides to see the buildings going by, on that deeply curving screen, it seemed fairly natural, compared to the way it looks on the DVD. I suspect if we had huge curved screens in our home theaters, it would look better. The one (worst) shot may have been one of the very few in which they used the 128 degree wide angle lens, and it resembles ultra wide angle photography today, although not as extreme as some. I think all of the distortions that barely showed from the center seats were an O.K. price to pay for the overwhelming involvement.
 

marsnkc

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Brianruns10 said:
Ben-Hur '59 is a great example of film craft, but hardly one of my favorites, and a film I find rather bloated when compared to the more streamlined '25 version, which I have come more and more to regard as a legitimate companion piece, and a masterwork in its own right.
Wyler himself, I read, wasn't proud of the movie, and the more I watch it, the slower it gets! The big draw is the chariot race, the anticipation for which carries me through the first part nicely. Otherwise it's pretty much a downer (yet compelling enough to warrant purchasing - and selfishly keeping - every darn edition ever produced!) A huge irony: The Turner hybrid aspect-ratio VHS is the most exciting video version for me. Anyone who's seen it will remember the movie being pan and scanned except for the chariot race. As soon as the chariots start their procession into the arena, the music swells and the scanning device pulls back to reveal the arena in all its magnificent, widescreen glory! I'm the last person in the world to advocate P&S, but in this case the effect was tremendous. I understand the silent version is an hour shorter and is the happier for it.
ahollis said:
 Check out the American Widescreen Musuem web site for TODD-AO and it is all explained. http://www.widescreenmuseum.com/  The web site also has a lot on Camera 65, which is the process BEN-HUR was filmed in.  I just love the web site and always come away learning something new. 
  
Thanks a million for the link, Allen. That's a keeper (and what a gift!). Page 4 of the Todd-AO section explains the 'barrel distortion' of 80 Days as caused by the 'bug-eye' lens used. (Something 'fishy' about that...;).) Article says effect was somewhat minimised by projecting onto a curved screen, but that the anomaly couldn't be overcome completely. I wonder if all the magical tools at the disposal of today's technicians could correct that without causing any harm - to the longed-for BD!By coincidence, the very first illustration on the following page explains my 'bowl' experience with Lawrence at the Cinerama Dome as caused by the projector being higher than the (monster) curved screen (and why the Cinerama people insisted on those projectors being at eye-level with the screen). I'm learning!
 

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