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Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Robert Harris, May 12, 2010.
Thanks. I remain hopeful.
Thanks Mr. Harris for your honest review of this great movie by Kubrick. I will stick to my Criterion DVD edition for now which looks pretty darn good.
Yes, let's buy the classics even if they are terrible transfers/encodes and the very folks who spent hundreds of painstaking hours restoring said classics on film come out publicly and say the Blu-rays of said classics are terrible. To hell with these so-called experts who only merely actually restored these movies on film, let's all just buy the rancid garbage the studios throw at us, it's the bee's knees 'cause it's slightly more detailed than DVD!
P.S.- To quote Homer Simpson, in case you didn't realize, I'm being sarcastic.
Note to Universal:
But then they won't release the classics!!!
If people write to Universal and tell them their refusal to buy is because of the poor quality and NOT because it's a classic film, the message most assuredly will not be what you say. It never ceases to fascinate me how some people use DVD as their quality reference instead of FILM, which is what they should be using.
Why buy a flawed product when you know it is flawed. That is nonsense. By not buying this Universal blu-ray edition it will definitely send the studio a message. They will start questioning themselves why their classics titles don’t sell while the ones from the other guys are selling like hotcakes.
I tend to think that these are gray areas and not hard line black and white issues.
If I already own a film, I'm less willing to buy it again on Blu if there's an issue. But which previous version do I own? And was I planning on keeping that version for other reasons anyway? The upcoming release of Psycho would have to be one of the worst Blu-rays of all time not to be a notable upgrade to the 1998 DVD I still own.
And then there's the factor of perceived degrees of severity. Gangs of New York went WAAY over the line for me, but other titles haven't despite their problems, such as Patton.
And then there's the factor of how much I value that particular film. I find it disappointing that Elizabeth has issues, but I was never gonna buy the film anyway because I don't like it enough to own. On the other hand, Spartacus was a film I have greatly enjoyed since its VHS incarnations, and as standards go this new Blu-ray may be flawed but it will knock the socks off of how I first saw the film and enjoyed it.
Finally, there's the "message being sent" argument, but I really feel its all pointless without a phone call. And as Mr. Harris has pointed out, the current issues at Universal stem not from the home video division itself, but from corporate suits that dictate their will. Complaints in this regard will more than likely fall on either deaf ears or ears of those within the company that whole-heartedly agree but have no political muscle to do anything about it. In many ways I feel a public respected voice by someone like Mr. Harris - especially in the specific case of Spartacus due to his history with the film - has already done what 1000 of voices at the HTF communities would do.
In any case, I don't begrudge anyone for refusing to purchase or for running out and buying their copy ASAP.
I wonder how many of you would have known there was something wrong with Spartacus if you hadn't looked at RAH's thread and just went ahead and bought it? /img/vbsmilies/htf/smiley_wink.gif
Would your reaction have been "Oh my this is bad!", or would it have been "Wow! Spartacus has never looked this lovely before, why it looks brand new, can't wait to tell the guys on the forum!" ? /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif
I bought Patton on Blu and thought it looked great on my 42inch tv. I am curious to check out Spartacus, one of my top ten favourite films, and compare it to my upscaled Criterion and region 2 special edition dvds.
Thanks for the review, I am sad to read about another classic fail by Universal. I was hoping that they already went back to the 65mm IP but I see that instead it is the HD-DVD all over again together with a few tweaks to make the picture look prettier.
I hope we will see some kind of reaction from the Universal classic division (if such an entity even exists) BEFORE they release more Blu-Rays that look like Spartacus or Out of Africa.
My reaction would of course have been that this is very bad.
I saw Spartacus via the Criterion DVD, the HD-DVD and via two 70mm prints and therefore know very well that not even the color balance is as intended on the HD version from Universal and now the Blu-Ray comes from the same source and seems to have the same color palette, too. Let alone the lack of fine detail that should be about on par with what we see on the Blu-Ray of South Pacific and instead it is all these smearyness and lack of high frequency detail.
But I am past the point of having to buy every subpar release there is just to come here and tell everybody about it so I am happy that RAH and others have checked the Blu-Ray for me so that I do not have to spend my money on Blu-Rays that are not worth buying /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif
Try viewing at 104 inches and then get back to me, smaller screens can hide the hideousness of some transfers especially if you are viewing from a distance that is not ideal for your screen size.
104inches? That is big. The screen I saw Iron Man 2 in yesterday can't have been much bigger than your screen, it was tiny (for a cinema screen).
No we like it cosy here, and 42inches is the right size for our living room. If blu-ray flaws look less obvious on my screen, than I count myself lucky. And I have no plans to turn my garage into a home cinema so I can slap my face in horror at the quality of my blu-ray collection. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smiley_wink.gif
Actually, Mr. Harris eloquently elaborated in words on what I had already seen from screenshots--that this release looks godawful-waxy and lacking detail (and I didn't need a 104 inch screen to see that, but a 21 inch monitor). You and others saying things such as "well, it looks ok if the screen is small enough", or "DVD is my standard for how good something looks, and as long as it's better that in some way I think everything is fine" can deny it to yourselves and others all you want, but nothing you can say changes the fact that Spartacus should have looked much, much better and easily could have looked much, much better. All it took was for Universal to be run by people who really give a damn about film.
I'm going to bring something up once again, that was discussed over a year ago -- the propriety of assumption by the Blu-ray purchasing public that what they're buying will meet their needs regardless of the current parameters of their home theater screening environment.
With most every product sold there is an assumption of quality. Larger purchases -- cars, ovens, cameras, all come with warranties.
When Blu-ray packaging is emblazoned with the words "The perfect hi-def MOVIE experience," the images and sounds encoded to the disc contained within had better be precisely that.
People buy Criterion Blu-rays and DVDs, and earlier purchased their laser discs, because there was an assumption that what they were purchasing could not be technologically better.
Look at the disparity between distributors. Take Universal, or Paramount (with some of their original HD product derived from film), or product from any of the other studios, as this is not about Universal -- and compare it to the Blu-rays placed into the marketplace by filmmaker William Lustig's Blue Underground. Yesterday I previewed City of the Living Dead, and as anyone who is familiar with his product might assume -- it looks like film. He has gone to the expense of harvesting an image from the original negative in Rome.
The fact that someone is viewing their Blu-rays on a 42" monitor could not be more irrelevant to the point. There are many young people starting out, in their first apartments or starter homes, that are INVESTING in the future of their entertainment systems by purchasing Blu-ray product, fully aware that the full impact of the technology will not be visible on their present system. I had a discussion with a young lady at Borders last week as she was ringing up my Blu-ray purchase. She informed me that she and her boyfriend had just bought the same disc in SD. When I asked her why not Blu-ray, she explained that they could not yet afford an HD monitor.
By the time I left, she was considering the purchase of a Blu-ray player which would be connected to their present (non-HD set), now aware of the concept of purchasing software ONCE, as opposed to upgrading when they had the funds to make a larger investment.
Many people have no idea that Blu-rays can be played on older TVs, even if the unit is black & white and has rabbit ears. Yes, Blu-rays can be played on a 1948 Dumont.
The concept here is that every Blu-ray disc should meet certain technical standards, and by that I do not mean 1080p.
I know a gentleman who has made an incredible investment in his home theater. Blu-ray players with a signal going through HD, as well as 2k and 4k projectors. His screen is 10 x 18 feet. FEET. That's a bit larger than 108". His audio system is likewise incredible.
And the resultant image from Blu-ray?
Looks very much like film.
Reviewers of Blu-ray discs should not need to deal with resolution, black levels, color, noise and overall quality characteristics.
When someone purchases a Blu-ray disc, they should KNOW that it will service their needs as THE PERFECT HI-DEF MOVIE EXPERIENCE in their home theater today, as well has when they buy a home and have their own home theater with a 108" or 10x18 foot screen.
The concept, in 2010, of attempting to make do by digitally scrubbing and thereby destroying the look of old video masters that were created to service the SD world, is the antithesis of what should be occurring.
Warner Bros. has an HD master of Singin' in the Rain.
Why don't we have a Blu-ray?
Because they refuse to release it based upon a 1080i master that otherwise looks gorgeous.
George Feltenstein and others at Warner refuse to knowingly give the public anything less than as perfect a product as they can. When Singin' in the Rain passes muster for quality, then they'll release it, and you can bet that Ned Price will pull out all the stops.
Consider buying that nice new car.
Pretty paint. Great brochure. The salesman tells you that the muckmobile that he's trying to sell will outperform a Porsche, give you fuel economy somewhere between a Prius and a Telsa, and a full leather interior unheard of this side of a Rolls-Royce. But the moment you try to drive it away from the dealership -- it fails. Sorry. No warranty.
The perfect Hi-def MOVIE experience.
Anything that is not up to the full potential of industry standards should be returned to the vendor.
Anything less than the quality that one receives from Blue Underground should be impermissible.
Good points all, IMO. With a fairly extensive DVD collection, like many here I'll bet, I choose very carefully which titles I upgrade to HD. I've already "double-dipped" on DVD far too many times in the past (in some cases triple-dipped). Being a bit better than the DVD I already own usually isn't enough for me. In this specific case (Spartacus) over-use of DNR combined with moderate halos due to sharpening means the Blu-ray likely _won't_ look better, overall, on my moderately large screen (92"), and could look worse, than the Criterion DVD. It's sad that Universal just can't give this title the respect it deserves on any format.
That is a magnificent post, Mr. Harris. Thank you.
Perhaps "investing" isn't quite the right word, since we don't purchase these discs hoping for an increase in their monetary value. But the point you are making for what I would call "future-proofing" is a good one. I made similar arguments a long time ago (when Usenet newsgroups were hot-beds of discussion), recommending that people with then-standard 4:3 TV's demand "anamorphic" (16:9) DVD transfers of widescreen films from the studios instead of accepting Laserdisc re-treads, since they would look much better on the 16:9 TVs they would likely own within a few years. My arguments largely fell on deaf ears.
Today, I'm sure that some people will claim that just as HD replaced SD, "4K" will replace HD and we'll all be re-buying our collections once again within a few years, so it doesn't really matter that we're not getting the highest quality HD transfers. Despite the illogic in that reasoning I consider that scenario unlikely. HD is going to be with us for a long time.
Watch Universal could pull the quote:
"With this Blu-ray of Spartacus there appears to be no compromise - Robert Harris"
I agree with Robert and think his post was very good.
The only reason i mention screen size is that in my experience i used to own a smaller screen size and did not notice flaws in films like Tombstone on DVD, by flaws i mean the awful edge enhancement, perhaps i just didn't have the knowledge that i do now but getting to the point i will say that when i moved to a projection system i began to notice so many flaws in DVD transfers and they were not pleasing to my eyes and took me out of the film experience, thats why i bought into blu ray.
Now blu ray promised so much and some films deliver the cinema experience but there are still too many failing to deliver the high quality i expected, by that i don't mean the eye candy looking out the window experience that some crave, no i mean the film experience and delivering a faithful transfer to the disc, it doesn't matter to me if the film's grainy, smooth, super sharp, or softer focussed, as long as it represents the look of the original film i will be happy.
In the above regard i can take the detailed smooth HD shot Zodiac or the grainy look of a Predator and not complain, having said that i don't actually like the HD look of Zodiac but i'm wise enough to not complain as it represents the way the film was shot, i actually like film grain, i like the look of film grain a lot, i don't see it as an issue and it's a shame the future is smooth detailed HD cameras as 35mm film can look very beautiful.
Back to the original point of the post, you can see issues on any size of screen if you are sitting the correct distance and know how to spot the issues, i should have said that i myself became educated over the years on the many issues you can get with home versions of your favourite movies, i have enjoyed films from a very early age and to me Robert has the perfect job, that's the sort of job i would absolutely love to have and i believe what he does is essential to the future of many films.
So i just want to get as close as possible to the original film look on blu ray and i know it sometimes isn't possible for many reasons such as when a director ( William Friedkin - The French Connection ) tinkers with his work, oh i really hope he doesn't tinker too much with the contrast on the upcoming Exorcist.