NFB (National Film Board) and DVD quality?

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Jeff Ulmer, Jul 21, 2006.

  1. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    While hunting around for any information on Clément Perron's (Mon Oncle Antoine) film Taureau, I began perusing the NFB website to discover that the film is available on VHS. I contacted NFB about whether it was going to be available on DVD, and surprisingly recieved a phone call from them the following morning indicating that the film had yet to be digitized. One of my questions was whether it was available with English subtitles and I was told that the current VHS did not have subtitles, and that it was unlikely that any future digitizing would NOT contain English subtitles. Since it is the NFB's mandate to promote Canadian culture and preserve our filmed history, I can think of no reason why films produced by the NFB with public money should not be available in both official languages (ie subtitled in either French and/or English, depending on the original language).

    I phoned NFB back and had a nice conversation with a gentleman there, but what I learned is extremely distressing. The NFB is currently digitizing their catalogue, but that does not mean creating new transfers, they are simply using whatever they have transferred already (decades old analog transfers) and dumping them into a digital format with no remastering, no cleanup, and no new subtitles. If it doesn't already exist, it won't be included.

    When you consider the popularity of the many companies catering to niche markets, and the care and attention the films they are releasing are getting (new high def transfers, new subtitles, commentaries etc.) to think that the National Film Board of Canada can't be bothered to at least create up to date digital archives of the films they have produced is mind boggling. Sure, the cost of properly transfering these films is not trivial, but this is a government funded agency, which surely can find money to preserve the wealth of material created over the past many decades.

    Is anyone else concerned that our Canadian heritage is being mishandled here?
     
  2. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    Panicked is more like it. It almost sounds like they're using their old recordable Laserdiscs from the CinéRobothèque library.
     
  3. MarcoBiscotti

    MarcoBiscotti Producer

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    That's strange... everything I've seen on DVD previously has appeared to be remastered to some extent. That recent expansive Norm McLaren box set sure looked to be cleaned up nicely, as though a great deal of work went into bringing those films to DVD. Are you certain the person you spoke with had accurate information?

    That's indeed very troubling if it's so...
     
  4. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Yes, the information is accurate, and the gentleman specifically mentioned the McLaren box as being an exception. He said specifically that they weren't remastering anything, and were also not creating any new materials (subtitles were the issue I brought up). From what I gather, the thinking is that, especially with French language films, that the market is for Quebec only, which goes directly against the NFB's mandate, which is making our audiovisual legacy accessable to all Canadians.

    This policy looks to be the exact opposite of the most recent strategic plan, which includes enhancing the NFB brand among other things. If they are creating poor quality DVDs, then they are diminishing the brand.
     
  5. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    It has been over a year since my last post in this thread.

    A couple of months ago I was again browsing the NFB site only to learn that Taureau was now available on DVD, and as had previously been indicated, only in French - in fact it only shows up on the French site. I ordered it anyway, not expecting much.

    After a a month delay in shipment, the disc arrived yesterday. The cover is pretty bland, a black/spot color job that doesn't really sell the film, but at least isn't a generic cover. The transfer is 4:3 (open matte), and while not completely spotless, is far better than I expected, in fact it looks pretty good. The only real complaint I have is the lack of English subtitles, which does not seem to me to be that big a deal to add - just about any authoring program can deal with them now. This one feature would expand the audience for the disc immensely. There is also apparently an English dub, but I believe that the audience for many of these lesser known and older titles are going to want, or would at least be satisfied with, subtitled versions in the original language.

    Thoughts?
     

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