UHD Review A few words about...™ Blade Runner -- in 4k UHD Blu-ray

Robert Harris

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Over the years, I seem to have had an odd, almost metaphysical connection to Blade Runner, beginning sometime in the Spring of 1982, at which time I was invited to a screening of a film, of which I knew nothing.

It was a 70mm print, that was apparently being checked for quality, and a small group had been invited to attend. Great screening, at what then was Gomillion Studios, in Hollywood -- a wonderful sound facility -- that I believe is now the Gay & Lesbian Center.

Going in cold, I was knocked out by the film, the imagery, the audio, and had a nice chat with Ridley Scott, who was also checking out the print. He had previously directed two film, both of which I highly respected -- The Duelists, and Alien.

Move forward seven years, and I found myself at Todd-AO, along with Ron Haver, searching their vaults for stray audio elements on Spartacus, which had been mixed there. In one of the outdoor vaults, which at that time housed original audio elements on the R & H productions, large 70mm containers were in our way. These things probably weighted 40 pounds, and were awkward to move. Ron did the heavy lifting. Being curious, I checked out the labels, which noted that they had come from London.

Turned out to be a different 70mm print of Blade Runner, which we had turned over to WB.

This was the print that turned out to be the pre-release cut, and which was later duped to 35mm for special distribution, after a surprise screening in Hollywood.

Move forward almost another 20 years -- time does fly -- and I found myself watching the original camera negative being meticulously scanned, frame by frame, on Warner Bros. Northlight, in 4k. This was occurring as we were completing the scanning on the Godfather films. My takeaway, was that it was a gorgeously exposed negative, which was yielding superb results.

So...

Here we are in 2017, and Warner will be releasing their new 4k UHD Blu-ray of the film, on September 5.

My hopes were high for this one, as everything seems to have been done correctly, as far as handling of the elements.

Best to cut to the chase.

Blade Runner in 4k, is a release that should send many fans over the edge, to make the move to not only 4k UHD, but also to Atmos, as it not only shines in both categories, but arrives as absolute reference quality.

Resolution is magnificent. Black levels via HDR, and especially the blue-blacks of the night sequences shine. Shadow detail is beautiful. Grain structure perfect. Colors remind me of that original 70mm print, which had been struck from the camera negative, back in 1982.

Keep in mind that what you're seeing will be a pin-registered scan of the original camera negative.

Things don't get any better.

The audio, which was booming, and superb via 6-track 70mm magnetic, thirty-five years ago, now makes for an even more impressive and enveloping experience with the addition of Dolby Atmos and height channels.

My advice on this one, is to move quickly, grab a copy, and if you're not yet set up for 4k, and Atmos, this may be the time.

Cinema experiences don't get much better, especially in a home environment.



Image - 5*

Audio - 5 (Dolby Atmos)

4k - 5

Pass / Fail - Pass

Upgrade from Blu-ray - 5 (Don't let this one get away!)

Very Highly Recommended

RAH
 

DavidJ

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Well, now. Sounds like there's no way I'll be able to pass on this.
 

atcolomb

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Just purchased my first 4k tv and soon to buy a 4k player so this will be high on my list of movies to get.
 

Dave H

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The movie was finished as a 4K DI. Really looking forward to it.
 

DanH1972

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Now that the reported (I guess it's true... who knows these days what is or isn't when it comes to business PR) issues with the Dolby Vision Blu-ray encoding software are fixed... anyone know why such an important film wasn't released in DV on UHD Blu-ray??

Was it due to the fact that this UHD master was completed before the DV fix or was is that Warner Brothers is only releasing 12 bit Dolby Vision to their inferior, low bitrate streaming files in a callus attempt at pushing consumers to streaming?
 

WillG

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Now that the reported (I guess it's true... who knows these days what is or isn't when it comes to business PR) issues with the Dolby Vision Blu-ray encoding software are fixed... anyone know why such an important film wasn't released in DV on UHD Blu-ray??

Was it due to the fact that this UHD master was completed before the DV fix or was is that Warner Brothers is only releasing 12 bit Dolby Vision to their inferior, low bitrate streaming files in a callus attempt at pushing consumers to streaming?
The think about DV, is how many people are actually fully ready for it, about 4? I recently upgraded to 4K and the only UHD player that I saw on the market that was DV ready was the Oppo (I couldn't even get any real indication that any other player on the market would even get upgraded via firmware for DV while I was doing my research). Of course, I bought an A/V receiver that was DV upgradable but as far as I know, I'm not even sure any A/V receivers (except possibly for very high end) have gotten the DV firmware updates yet (and I fear that none of the manufactures are in a real hurry to release the update)
 
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Powell&Pressburger

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I really want to hear that ATMOS track. I'm set up for Atmos just not 4K. But I really want this title. But as I've stated before my Panasonic Plasma is still tops when it comes to displaying standard HD Blu Ray transfers.

Will probably grab the title and hold onto it for later on.
 

Bryan^H

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I'll buy it, but I'm not taking a peep at it until my Atmos setup is in place. Hopefully this year yet.

Thanks for the encouraging review Robert.
 

Doug Otte

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I'm enjoying my Panasonic plasma as well, and have no immediate plans to move to 4K. This is one of my favorite movies, so I will definitely get it when I upgrade.

But, why should I be in a hurry to buy the disc now? Is it a limited edition?
 

Craig_Ehr

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I'm hoping that there is an uptick in video quality on the 2K Blu-ray disc too! The original BD was released during the lowest-common-denominator HD-DVD compression days. Can someone please confirm a boost in Mbps on this 2K version? AVC instead of VC-1 this time around?
 

Mark-P

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I'm hoping that there is an uptick in video quality on the 2K Blu-ray disc too! The original BD was released during the lowest-common-denominator HD-DVD compression days. Can someone please confirm a boost in Mbps on this 2K version? AVC instead of VC-1 this time around?
Most of these 4K releases come packaged with the existing Blu-ray disk. Based on the specs on the back cover, I would assume that is probably the case with this release.
 

Michel_Hafner

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I'm enjoying my Panasonic plasma as well, and have no immediate plans to move to 4K. This is one of my favorite movies, so I will definitely get it when I upgrade.

But, why should I be in a hurry to buy the disc now? Is it a limited edition?
If you play the 4K on your 1080p plasma it will look significantly better in SDR than the old Blu Ray did.
 

Edwin-S

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If you play the 4K on your 1080p plasma it will look significantly better in SDR than the old Blu Ray did.
4K discs display too dark if they are sent to a non-HDR supported device. A lot of detail is lost. At least that is what I found when I sent the 4K signal to my Panasonic plasma when I was comparing PQ quality between my plasma and the OLED that I was trialing. For example, I sent the signal from the 4K copy of Star Trek Beyond out to my plasma and found that the picture was not only too dark, it had also lost detail. The star fields in the film became almost completely black and devoid of stars.

Maybe your experience differs but I wouldn't recommend sending a 4K treated with an HDR pass to a standard 1080p display. Every disc I tried on my plasma came out looking too dark.

On an unrelated note, Disney I just want to thank you for the fantastic "extra" included in every 4K UHD copy of GOTG: Vol 2. A cheap poster in a 40 dollar package is so much better than something...you know...useful, such as a 3D copy of the film in the box.
 

Michel_Hafner

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4K discs display too dark if they are sent to a non-HDR supported device. A lot of detail is lost. At least that is what I found when I sent the 4K signal to my Panasonic plasma when I was comparing PQ quality between my plasma and the OLED that I was trialing. For example, I sent the signal from the 4K copy of Star Trek Beyond out to my plasma and found that the picture was not only too dark, it had also lost detail. The star fields in the film became almost completely black and devoid of stars.
Your player did a HDR to SDR conversion, right? Without it it looks way wrong, of course. With a proper conversion you should get a very nice SDR image.
 

Edwin-S

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The player I was using is the same one that I'm using now: the Samsung K8500. I checked to see if there was a setting to turn on conversion that I might have missed. There isn't, so the player should be doing that conversion automatically if it has the capability to do so. All I know is that with my early testing, using the K8500, playing 4K discs out to my plasma resulted in too dark a picture. It might be different now.
 

Spencer Draper

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Great news but the sad part is that the remainder of the features and versions remain stuck in their previous incarnations. The feature length Dangerous Days and other featurettes were produced in HD and are still stuck in standard def. I was also hoping to see upgrades of the archival versions as I've grown to really prefer the untouched look versus the new grading and sound which I have seen both digitally and in 35mm. The archival versions seem to be conformed to a single scan of an older element likely done in about 2006 for the last standalone DVD release of the Director's Cut.
 

WillG

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Great news but the sad part is that the remainder of the features and versions remain stuck in their previous incarnations. The feature length Dangerous Days and other featurettes were produced in HD and are still stuck in standard def. I was also hoping to see upgrades of the archival versions as I've grown to really prefer the untouched look versus the new grading and sound which I have seen both digitally and in 35mm. The archival versions seem to be conformed to a single scan of an older element likely done in about 2006 for the last standalone DVD release of the Director's Cut.
Between the lack of D.D. in HD and the lack of other versions in 4K, possible double dip in the future?
 

WillG

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All,

Heads up if you're an Amazon Prime member and want to score a possible sizable discount on the BR UHD, order right now (09/03). Apparently this title is on pre-order, back order. My estimated delivery date wasn't until 9/11 even though I have 2 day free Prime shipping. I live chatted a CSR at Amazon about the delayed arrival date and the person told me the situation and then said they would discount the order by 40% (which comes out to $22 and some change). If you were on the fence, give it a shot.
 

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