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A Few Words About A few words about...™ Batman Begins -- in Blu-ray (1 Viewer)

Robert Harris

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Great filmmaking.

Great film.

Same great mastering, with a new Blu-ray DVD at least as good as the previous HD incarnation.

Switching back and forth between the two, both look magnificent.

About as perfect as a Blu-ray can get.

Batman Begins is Extremely Highly Recommended.

RAH
 

Dave H

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Great to hear your feedback, Robert. I will definitely be picking this up.
 

JoshB

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The shortest review I could read that makes me want it already. :D

Not upset to double dip on this one. Cant wait until Dark Knight...is there any word on a possible release of this before the year is out? Coming in theaters in July, I hope to see it on BD before Christmas before I head back over to Iraq. :)
 

Shawn.F

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Hi Josh,

I read somewhere online that The Dark Knight will be out on December 9th on DVD and BD.
 

Ed St. Clair

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Thanks for your service!
A belated happy fourth of July.

Thanks for the short & sweet, Robert.
 

Ron Reda

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I went out and bought it today figuring so, but this just confirms it, thanks RAH!
 

Robert Harris

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Just to have full disclosure here...

Batman Begins is a beautifully crafted Blu-ray. I'm certain, however, that somewhere along the line, someone is going to come along and make reference to data transfer, so let's get it out there.

Without all of the extra material on the disc Batman Begins could have been even better, but then one is servicing a totally different consumer base, with a higher price point necessitated by the second disc.

When we work in restoration, there is a known percentage and quality that can be achieved at a certain price point.

Pick a number.

$500,000 to restore a film.

Can it be better?

Yes.

But at 500k one is hitting around 90%, which is a very respectable area.

At 600k one can hit 92%, and at 750 you get to 93.

You see where this is going.

My point is that for a rational cost:reward Batman Begins is right up there in quality.
 

Dave H

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Robert,

I watched this tonight and thought it looked pretty good overall. However, much of the image seemed smooth and grain free. I'm not sure of the actual source material, but given the smooth and lack of very fine detail, I couldn't help but think there was some DNR applied. Thoughts?
 

Thivanka R. Perera

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Well, I'm quite frankly surprised no one is bickering now about the missing 'high frequency details'--because this release is, well, not perfect. It looks soft on many occasions, and black levels look grey sometimes. It's okay, but not reference material--for that, just play the TDK Prologue on the disc which looks awesome.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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I plan to enjoy this one tonight in anticipation of seeing The Dark Knight in IMAX tomorrow evening (w/ a few buds). :D

And thanks, RAH, for your great "A few words about...™" reviews (among many other contributions!).

_Man_
 

Vincent_P

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THE DARK KNIGHT prologue was filmed in IMAX- 15-perf 65mm film- compared to the entirety of BATMAN BEGINS which was filmed in 'mere' 4-perf 35mm anamorphic. That's the reason the DK prologue looks so "awesome" compared to BATMAN BEGINS- because of how the IMAX scenes in THE DARK KNIGHT were filmed, not because of any "digital processing" of BATMAN BEGINS on Blu-ray.

Vincent
 
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Back to this softness/lack of grain....

Is there some way, using film, that a director could create a dark movie like Batman Begins as utterly devoid of grain as the HDDVD/Blu-Ray seems to be?

Noting the exact same 'look' in "Letters From Iwo Jima" (a tad soft and surprisingly lacking in grain) I put in my HDDVD of the companion piece "Flags of our Fathers" and noted that softness & lack of grain are about the same. (This is somewhat significant, since both films were created to look similar, but the HDDVDs were released by different studios, Warner & Paramount (unfortunately for comparison purposes, my HDDVD of Flags is the German import, distributed by Warner but using, I assume the Paramount encode (has the exact same extras but, interestingly a TrueHD track))

Point is, if this is a case of the director's intent and not excessive DNR (and my very weak evidence suggests that it may be a case of Director's Intent at least in Letters & Flags) how could it actually be accomplished? Burton is somewhat known for using air-brushing during the digital intermediate to improve Johnny Depp's complexion. But, Nolan famously avoids using a digital intermediate and I think I recall reading that Eastwood, similarly, avoids the D.I.
So, how could a film like Batman Begins actually have as little grain as we see (without the use of DNR) The only possible explanation that comes to mind is maybe (and I know almost nothing about film) maybe if the film were shot on extra-bright sound-stages, and then 'darkened' in processing? (Kind of like the reverse of what Kubrick did on Eyes Wide Shut)

Any other possibilities, those of you better aquainted with the intricacies of film-grain?
 

nikonf5

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Hi all,

1st post so excuse the tone as I am typing fast from work.

AFAIK, all movies that have CGI effects have to have a DI stage where those effects are applied.

Its not obvious in Flags/Letters but a lot of the explosions, etc could not have been created on that scale [battleships pounding Suribachi] without the Iceland govt shutting down the production so thats CGI.

A lot of the muzzle flashes, etc look real, meaning that they didnt use the extra power blanks [much brighter] to cycle the action on the semi-auto firearms so those were CGI too.

Many times, you will see actors walking by and dirt being kicked up by bullets at their feet yet they dont even flinch which is another indication of CGI as well. AFAI have seen, this is usually done by compressed-air guns firing compressed chalk 'bullets' off-screen.

The best place to check the tech specs for any show is the IMDB page for the movie which can be surprisingly detailed.
Here is the link for Letters which I only saw for the first time [HD-DVD] two nights ago.

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) - Technical specifications

Mr. Harris: Thank God for the Internet. Have the Lawrence making-of/restoring book at home and its one of the prizes in my book collection. My favorite part is when you were working on the goggle scene and Lean was standing over your shoulder watching you work on HIS picture and you didnt even realise it and he was apologetic about it. At least thats the way I remember it. In any case, thanks for taking the time to post here. Havent missed a single review of yours so far and regularly add titles to my online rental account based on your recommendations.
 
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John
Thank you for the info, Mian and Mr. Harris

I did a little searching online myself, and discovered the following (mostly courtesy of this American Cinematographer article American Cinematographer: Batman Begins)

- The movie was shot on Kodak Vision2 500T 5218 and Vision 250D 5246 (5246 for daylight scenes, for 5218 for night)
- The night scenes shot in Chicago tended to use available light, but the cinematographer mentions the 5218's 'clean' grain structure, especially when filming in anamorphic (I'm guessing the importance of anamorphic (re: grain structure) is just that it means the image is spread out over a full 4 perfs, instead of the 2 or 3 perfs you might get with other shooting methods?)
- The film was 'pushed' slightly (the same technique I mentioned, but couldn't recall the name of, re: Eyes Wide Shut's copious grain) but I get the impression from the article that the cinematographer did this only because the grain was not, noticably, increased (it was pushed by '1 stop,' no idea if that's a lot or a little)
- Most interestingly, a bit of further checking revealed that (except the IMAX scenes) The Dark Knight was filmed on exactly the same two film stocks. So, aside from the difference in dominant colors, Dark Knight's blu-ray should give us a good idea of Nolan's intent for Batman (especially re: sharpness and grain)

As for my own opinion of Batman Begins & possible DNR, I think we're looking at one of two possibilities (and I have no idea which is more accurate)
1. The film legitimately is a tad soft and almost totally devoid of all but the very subtlest grain.
2. The film had DNR applied but, not being as grainy as "Dark City" or "The Longest Day" the DNR is not nearly as obvious.

-EDIT-

Also, regarding the transfer, there is definitely a bit of mpeg artefacting, at normal playing speed, in the busiest scenes (especially the swarm of bats in the opening shot) While I generally think re-encoding is a waste of time (and even a problem, in the case of Universal's "The Thing" which inexplicably introduced DNR for the blu-ray re-issue,) Batman Begins is most definitely a movie that should have been re-encoded for Blu-Ray (for that matter, the mpeg artefacting probably could have been eliminated on HDDVD if Warner had only used the full disk for the movie and included the DVD special-features disk)

While Mr. Harris makes an excellent point about the law of diminishing returns, re: money spent preparing a blu-ray vs results, I don't think it's quite so applicable in the case of Batman Begins (one of the most successful films of recent years) and a higher price-point certainly would not, I think, have been necessary (Batman Begins is the opposite number to all those wonderful art-house Blu-Rays, meticulously restored, which I happily pay over $30 and even $40 for (Australian dollars) because I realise they're only going to sell to a very limited audience)
 

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