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HTF Podcast Episode 5: Visiting Criterion Collection

Discussion in 'Beginners, General Questions' started by Brian Dobbs, Jul 16, 2019.

  1. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Hi @Michael Hofmann and welcome to HTF. I don't have any beef with them overall and I'm sure they would agree that some things could be better than they are, but that the biggest issue is the quality of the elements they have to work with. I haven't seen BV so I can't comment, but I'd be very surprised if it was 'unwatchable' due to compression.

    A cursory look at reviews from DVDTalk and Bluray.com who tend to be the most critical gave it rave reviews
    https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Blue-Velvet-Blu-ray/232096/

    https://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/73849/blue-velvet-criterion-collection/

    The Amazon reviews are all very positive:
    https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Velvet-Criterion-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B07NRF4K57
     
  2. Michael Hofmann

    Michael Hofmann Auditioning

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    Hi Sam,
    I'm afraid that the vast majority of Criterion's compression issues are not related to the materials they have to work with. From a source restoration point of view, they often do an absolutely amazing, amazing job, only to have the final product marred by at times sub-standard compression.

    Criterion's had slightly different compression issues over the years, affecting some titles much more than others. The particular issue on the Blue Velvet Blu-ray is e.g. also very present on their disc of Pan's Labyrinth. It affects dark low-frequency backgrounds in certain scenes (not the whole film), i.e. the high-frequency detail, which the eye is primarily drawn to, is pretty unaffected.

    The issue may not be very easy to spot, and is most visible on viewing equipment with very deep black levels, e.g. an OLED TV. It is probably not visible much or at all when using a projector, although I did not test this. And it's indeed almost impossible to spot on my LCD backlit monitor.
    But once one has seen the macroblocking/posterization on the right equipment, it is hard to miss and becomes extremely distracting. I shall try to take a photo of an affected scene later, to clarify what exactly I mean.

    Good compression is the art of removing a LOT of details, while making this loss not visible to a human observer. A problem only arises when the loss of detail becomes observable. In the case of Blue Velvet and Pan's Labyrinth, this is exactly what happens.

    I am very familiar with the reviews for the Blue Velvet Blu-ray. I don't blame most of the reviewers for not spotting this. Many Blu-ray reviews on the web are based on a fairly cursory examination. The average viewer is not trained to spot these kinds of issues. In the case of Blu-ray.com, there is a bit of a history of not addressing (sometimes very visible) Criterion issues. This is, however, sometimes discussed in their forum.
    I can provide obvious examples of sub-par discs, if desired. A particular egregious one is https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/My-Own-Private-Idaho-Blu-ray/132737; see the screenshots and the user review. Another one is the infamous https://www.blu-ray.com/movies/Mulholland-Drive-Blu-ray/68150/. There a a lot more.

    Criterion had a particularly bad period around ~2015/16 with general macroblocking. In the last year or two, their compression has gotten somewhat better, although issues remain - see above.

    Don't get me wrong: I really like Criterion and what they are doing, have countless of their releases, and will continue buying them. But I would love them to finally admit (at least to themselves) that there are visible compression issues, and that they could do a lot better, and releasing vastly improved products in many cases.
     
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  3. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    I guess I'll take a closer look at Pan's Labyrinth. The DVD (which wasn't Criterion) had the worst macro blocking in the blacks I've ever seen, but I don't make a habit of looking for problems unless they hit me over the head. That one definitely hit me over the head. I've only watched the Criterion BR once, but nothing jumped out at me. I viewed it on a plasma, so it should reveal anything that's wrong. Again, I want to enjoy movies, and I don't look for problems. If I can't avoid noticing any, then that's a different issue.
     
  4. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    Or maybe we are being epicly trolled. Look, you are entitled to your opinions @Michael Hofmann but you aren't going to find a lot of support for them here. Pixel peeping obsession might find a foothold at other sites but we're not about that here.

    The examples you have listed are FINE for the vast majority of viewers.
     
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  5. Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    I find this to be a deeply offensive comment to make regarding HTF reviews.

    I am a reviewer here and this sentence in no way describes my review process, nor the process of anyone else that I've worked with here. It's insulting to have what amounts to at least 10+ hours of work per title, provided on a volunteer basis, dismissed as a "fairly cursory examination".
     
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  6. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    I have many Criterion discs on dvd & Blu-ray and rarely do I notice a issue with the image. Maybe looking back on some of the very early releases but I believe Criterion does it's best to provide the best picture possible.
     
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  7. phillyrobt

    phillyrobt Second Unit

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    Enjoyed the talk, but not sure why this was tagged with 3D, there's no mention of it at all.
     
  8. Brian Dobbs

    Brian Dobbs Ambassador

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    Sorry if I'm dense. Where exactly?
     
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  9. Message #49 of 103 Jul 22, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
    JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    That possibility has definitely been rolling around the back of my mind as this plays out.

    ...but I did fix Sam's typo. :cheers:

    [EDIT]doh! I just read "epically" wrong. My mistake,.
     
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  10. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I was going for epically which ain't a word nuh neither! =p
     
  11. Michael Hofmann

    Michael Hofmann Auditioning

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    > Or maybe we are being epicly trolled. Look, you are entitled to your opinions
    > but you aren't going to find a lot of support for them here.
    > Pixel peeping obsession might find a foothold at other sites but we're not about that here.

    My intention is in no way to troll. And I'm not pixel peeping either, I'm just trying to point out what I perceive as pretty strong deficiencies of Criterion discs. And I am not the only person -- just have a look around on other forums. The macroblocking of Mulholland Drive, for example, has been discussed at length elsewhere. It's not that this is totally unknown and I'm just making this up.

    > I find this to be a deeply offensive comment to make regarding HTF reviews.
    > I am a reviewer here and this sentence in no way describes my review process

    I'm sorry if you find my remark strong. I wasn't necessarily talking about this site here. You'll have to admit that there are *many* review sites out there that don't even look at the disc properly.
     
  12. phillyrobt

    phillyrobt Second Unit

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  13. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    The tagging is automatic in word press. That's an issue for @Adam Gregorich or @Dave Upton I'm afraid. Even when we add reviews a lot of weird tags get added, I'm sure Brian didn't choose 3d.
     
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  14. Message #54 of 103 Jul 22, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
    PMF

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    I wholeheartedly agree with Message #46, as posted by atcolomb.:thumbs-up-smiley:
     
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  15. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    It's a word. The software just doesn't know it.
     
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  16. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    You can't make everyone happy. And some people like to make themselves important by bitching about stuff that nobody else is. Not saying that's what's happening here, but there's plenty of examples on the internet.
     
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  17. Michael Hofmann

    Michael Hofmann Auditioning

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    Please apologize my blunt European attitude, but I don't understand why a reasonable discussion about issues with some Criterion discs can't be had, even and maybe *especially* here.
    I initially only said that I'm disappointed by a particular answer from Lee Kline, who has provided the community of cinephiles a fantastic service over the years - let's not underestimate that! I guess I'm particularly disappointed because the issue was seemingly addressed in the interview, which is generally great and an admission that some things might be amiss, only for it to be dismissed quickly along the lines of "if Criterion has determined that they're happy, then everything is fine." The main thing I'm trying to say is that it's not. :) And apologies again, but I take slight offense at calling my discussion 'bitching about', because that's what I'm definitely not intending to do.

    I'm also by far not the only one mentioning these issues. For Pan's Labyrinth, several others have expressed concern e.g. in this thread on the blu-ray.com forum: https://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?t=306991. Or here: https://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread.php?t=278807&page=36.
    Seriously, on a properly calibrated OLED, this issue of swirling dark macroblocks is incredibly distracting and can ruin the movie experience. Just look at the top left quadrant here: https://caps-a-holic.com/c.php?go=1&a=0&d1=8960&d2=8962&s1=86196&s2=86229&i=8&l=0. There are no such issues on the much better encoded UK disc (2016 re-release by Studio Canal).
    A very similar thing is happening on some scenes on the Blue Velvet Blu-ray, and trust me, it's no fun to spot. Again, discussed at length on the internet; this is just of the less complain-y example posts: https://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php?p=16468122&postcount=481.
    Major issues with other discs, such as Mulholland Drive or My Own Private Idaho are well documented. And the list goes on; these are just some of the examples where things are particularly problematic.

    Look, I have been buying somewhere northwards of 150 Criterion Blu-ray releases, so it's not like I'm not invested in the company's output or wouldn't care. I would really just like them to be able to improve. For them to be aware that there *is* an issue is a necessary first step. And bad compression is in theory much, much easier to fix than a bad master, or a botched restoration. "Just" re-encode properly, and everyone will be happy. The fact that their compression is consistently a bit dodgy points to a sub-par authoring house. Criterion could fix this, if they wanted to.
     
  18. Message #58 of 103 Jul 23, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
    PMF

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    Maybe it would be more along the lines of "fair" to suggest that your discussion is akin to that of beating a dead horse.

    It's not that we at HTF are afraid to address specific issues with a realistic and diagnostic eye; as we are not. But to my view, this particular thread is more along the lines of a Celebration and a Thank You towards 6 individuals who made this fantastic 90+ minute interview possible. On the HTF side of this effort was co-owner Ronald Epstein, Podcast co-host Brian Dobbs and Moderator Sam Posten who guided the interview that you had heard. On the Criterion side of this effort was Technical Director Lee Kline, Producer Abbey Lustgarten and Audio Supervisor Ryan Hullings.

    I imagine a great deal of time, planning and negotiations went into this generous gift that was delivered to the HTF membership; which included the very open gesture of their answering so many of our questions. It's unfortunate that you hadn't joined HTF in the many weeks beforehand, as you, too, would have had the same and equal opportunity to post all of your questions concerning Blue Velvet, compression issues and macroblocking. But being that you did miss that train, perhaps you should write The Criterion Collection directly; or simply make your points on the specific threads that reviews these very films, discs and transfers. It is one thing for our eyes and ears to catch alleged defects in the comforts of our home theater systems; and for all I know you may be right on a few; but to throw out the baby with the bathwater through suggesting that The Criterion Collection doesn't care is more than reaching.

    With the greatest of certainties, I dare say that Criterion is as passionate about film as are we; the cinephiles, the collectors and the home theater viewers. As it is, Criterion's daily dealings of the technical minutia must surely border at a place that is mind-boggling and that which is an utter migraine. Indeed, being in the trenches and the giving of your conscientious best must be a disheartening experience when, thereafter, one finds themselves besieged with criticisms by those whom have never even suited up. Much care, much work, much pride; only to be met with a certain fate and barrage of slings and arrows by those who condemn, before knowing what barriers, obstacles and decisions had actually been faced.

    Yes, we can diagnostically split those hairs; as it is so very important to do; but once in a while the long-term commitment and services from such a group as Criterion requires an overall round of applause, appreciation and gratitude - without qualification.
     
  19. atcolomb

    atcolomb Screenwriter

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    My first Criterion I ever bought was back in the mid 1990's and it was Renoir's The Rules of the Game on laserdisc. Still have it along with my other 200 Criterion lasers and still play them.
     
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  20. JohnRice

    JohnRice Executive Producer

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    OK, I finally sat down and took a close look at the Criterion BR of Pan's Labyrinth. My HT is in the basement, with 100% light control. I'm playing the disc in my Oppo BDP-103, and since the Panasonic plasma is capable of 24P playback, that's what the Oppo is set for, and my Marantz AV7703 has all video processing disengaged. So, as far as I know, this is as close to zero processing going on as possible.

    I looked at several dark scenes, especially the final encounter between Ofelia and the faun at the end of the movie. I eventually cranked up the brightness from the (calibrated) 60 all the way to 90, in case it brought something out that's on the fringe.

    I see nothing. No speckles. No blocking. Nothing that shouldn't be there. Some people might complain that there's a lack of shadow detail, but I can only guess that's how the movie was shot. That final sequence is where the DVD (which was NOT Criterion) had particular problems. It was really awful, in fact.

    So, in my book, this is put to rest. I'll make an effort to look for problems for a while when I watch Criterion discs, but I see nothing at all wrong with Pan's Labyrinth.
     
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