DVD reviewing...we NEW category for "Picture and Sound" quality...

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by DaViD Boulet, Feb 5, 2003.

  1. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Let me state right off that this post is in no way targeting the excellent reviews of any one site (such as Ron's reviews or DVDfile's reviews) or attempting to pass judgement on the quality of any particular reviewer

    Right now most reviewers provide an image/sound quality summary which is often used as a guide for DVD enthusiasts like us looking to be sure a disc is worth the purchase before we place the order. These summaries are delivered in various ways:

    Numeric scales like, Picture: 4/5; bar-charts that show Picture Rating: *******__; or text that says Overall picture quality: excellent.

    The problem is that such a single rating cannot serve all aspects of what would define a DVD with "good" picture quality. Let me explain.

    Imagine a DVD title like Gosford Park. Here is the typical kind of review of picture quality that we'd see (making this up):

     
  2. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Oh, well I agree with you 100%. No need to discuss it any further. [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
  3. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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    Fidelity-to-the-source is the most important quality for me. However, it requires a reviewer to possess the knowledge of what a given film is supposed to look like. Sadly, very few people can actually speak with authority on this subject for any given film. Therefore, the number of reviewers who would actually be able to give an accurate fidelity-to-the-source rating for a given film is very small, and no single reviewer would be able to do it for every DVD on the market (even with all of the time in the world in which to review them). To get a proper review of that factor for every DVD would require rounding up experts knowledgable with regard to every single film. This would be no small task.

    While I appreciate the aspirations, I'm doubtful of the possibility of it being implemented on anything resembling a large scale.

    DJ
     
  4. Kevin M

    Kevin M Producer

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    Seriously, what this originally stemmed from was that in a King Kong(1933) thread PatrickMcCart stated
     
  5. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Damin makes an excellent point that pretty much drives a stake through the heart of your point, with which I hasten to say I very much sympathize. Even if I've seen a DVD I'm reviewing in a theater (less and less likely as DVD viewing eats up my theater-going time), it's going to be a) a less-than-optimal theatrical showing due to me being in the hinterlands of Wisconsin where there are no good theaters that meet generally accepted standards, and b) probably be six months or more after the viewing before I get the review copy and I'll likely only remember gross details (if that) of the theatrical picture quality anyway. The only way to work this is to have a pristine 35mm print at hand while reviewing every single DVD, and I'm sorry but that's just not going to happen.

    That said, I always try to take into account in my reviews for http://www.digitallyobsessed.com the age of the film, and my best guesstimate for what it should look and sound like; often an older film ends up getting ranked by me based on what other films of that age generally look and sound like. For instance, I'm pretty easy on grading the sound quality on British and Russian pictures from the 1930s, which are notoriously awful as a group. Since I review a lot of silents, this is pretty tricky at times, especially when you're often dealing with a single surviving print, but one shouldn't rely on a letter, number or bar grade on such films anyway. You have to read the text that goes with it to understand how the picture quality grade got to where it is.
     
  6. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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    I agree that the theatrical presentation should be taken into account, but in reality that's much harder to do than you might think. Keep in mind that it's probably going to be several months between the theatrical release and the DVD release, and any particular theatrical showing may be less than ideal. Just because a particular movie had a somewhat soft picture when I saw it in the theater doesn't mean that's how it would look when viewing a pristine print in a well set up theater.

    Also, I think a lot of the things I'm interested in hearing about as far as technical quality are more DVD-specific as opposed to "artistic intent". Things like edge-enhancement, compression artifacts, over-filtering, poor resolution, reproduction of blacks, etc are far more likely to be a product of the DVD transfer than anything else. And I think I can tell the difference between an close-up shot that is intentionally using a soft focus verses a longer-range shot where the over-compression and/or the limits of DVD resolution are robbing the picture of the detail it would otherwise have.

    Similarly, in judging audio quality I want to know how well the soundstage is reproduced, whether there's any clipping/distortion, etc. As for mono soundtracks, I don't think you should automatically score a mono sountrack extremely low. But I also think (as others have mentioned recently in other threads) that many of the mono soundtracks that we're getting on DVD's in DD 1.0 or 2.0 sound bad; not just because they're mono, but rather because they're over compressed and lacking in fidelity.

    So while I guess I don't necessarily disagree with you, I don't think this as big of a problem as you seem to. Sure, you'll get the occasionaly newbie complaining about the picture quality of movies like The Matrix, Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, etc. But for the most part I think reviewers do try to keep the source material in mind when judging the DVD.

    As for scoring overall quality, just because a DVD accurately represents the movie doesn't necessarily mean it should get the highest score possible. There is some subjectivity in this overall. Consider Movie A, shot on 16mm with mono sound and a grainy, soft look. Movie B on the other hand was shot with superfine grain 35mm and 6-channel sound and looks and sounds wonderful. If DVD A and DVD B both do excellent jobs of reproducing the theatrical experience, I don't think there's any problem with DVD-A getting a '4' and DVD B getting a '5'.
     
  7. Damin J Toell

    Damin J Toell Producer

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  8. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    While I can appreciate David's intent, it is unrealistic for the reasons outlined above. To have a completely accurate comparison, not only would the film have to be seen in the theater, but it should have been seen on the first run - a little difficult for 1930s pictures for some of us younger folk. [​IMG]

    Also, very few people have any idea what the best available sources for a transfer are - even the studios have a hard time tracking down the best masters, so your average reviewer doesn't stand much of a chance making a concrete statement about the condition those elements may be in.

    I see no reason why a 70 year old, black and white film with mono sound doesn't deseve full marks if the presentation is excellent, taking into account the age of the film. I think the descriptive portion should handle any possible issues, and the rating be for overall impression, even though I personally don't see much value in a scale rating.

    Every year the bar gets raised in terms of transfer quality and decreased artifacting, so determining what is reference is a very time limited thing.

    I have no problem giving a good sounding mono track an A.
     
  9. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator
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    I have only quickly looked over David's thread.
    It's a little after 5am and I am on my way out
    the door for work. I did want to say something
    on my behalf before this thread becomes more
    populated....

    I don't consider myself to be anything more
    than an amateur reviewer. While I appreciate
    David's kind words, let's face the fact that what
    I write is nowhere on par with the type of reviews
    of DVDFILE or THE DIGITAL BITS.

    I took the job as a reviewer because the one we
    had initially quit. I decided to try my hand at
    it, despite the fact I got a lot of flack from
    people who accused me of trying to pawn myself
    off as a reviewer.

    I'd love to be able to do more with the reviews
    I write, but I am limited in what I can do. I don't
    go to many theatrical movies so I can't tell what
    the director's intent was when reviewing a film.
    I usually have no idea what a film looked like
    during its theatrical presentation.

    I look at a DVD transfer from an honest perspective,
    and write down what I see. This is the best I can
    do right now.

    Thanks
     
  10. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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  11. Tony-B

    Tony-B Producer

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  12. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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  13. Mark Zimmer

    Mark Zimmer Producer

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    Funny you should suggest that...on more than one occasion I've abused Mr. Harris' willingness to discuss the condition of old films that I'm reviewing (for instance, we had a very edifying email chat regarding the sound Eisensteins), though I try to keep that very few and far between so he can go about his extremely important business. [​IMG]
     
  14. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I like these ideas. And I find Ron's reviews to be among the 3 main sources of reviews I frequently read. You don't have to have a $500,000.50 home theater to do accurate reviews. Perhaps those 9' screens are revealing too much of these simple 720x480 images.



    To get the most accurate rating for a DVD transfer, you grade the image fidelity in proportion to age, condition of film source, color, transfer quality, audio fidelity in proportion to age, audio mix quality/remix quality, and then presentation (OAR, original B&W, censorship, etc). The main rating is based on this analyzation while the "average Home Theater rating" would be next to it.

    For example, Being There's DVD:

    Print fidelity: 4.5 (3)
    Print condition: 4.5 (4)
    Color: 4.5 (2.5)
    Transfer quality: 4.5 (3)

    Audio fidelity: 5 (2, mono default rating)
    Audio mix (how appropriate?): 5 (2, default)

    Presentation: 5, OAR, original sound, and 16x9 (3.5, no remix)

    8 1/2: Criterion Collection -

    Print fidelity: 5 (4)
    Print condition: 4.5 (3)
    Greyscale: 5 (4)

    Audio fidelity: 5 (1.5, mono default)
    Audio mix: 5 (1.5, default)

    Presentation: 5 (3.5)
     
  15. Jefferson

    Jefferson Supporting Actor

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    I agree, and DavidBoulet, that was extremely well said.
    I think the problem also stems from these reviews coming from being watched on different equipment. None of us here view DVDs n the exact same home theater system, and some reveal things better, (or mask them better) than others.
     
  16. Jeff Kohn

    Jeff Kohn Supporting Actor

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  17. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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  18. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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  19. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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  20. Bryce Miner

    Bryce Miner Stunt Coordinator

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    For me I see all new releases with pleasing audio and video. As far as Video goes I see differences with EE and Compression issues, but not black level, color and tint problems with new hollywood films.

    It is the older movies that are coming out on DVD that vary so much. I believe a lot to do with the master being used.

    I do like the idea of a "true to the master" review.
     

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