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USHE Announcement: Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray)

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Ronald Epstein, Jun 21, 2012.

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  1. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Obviously. You return the entire set, if one disc is bad.

    It should not be.

    RAH
     
  2. MatS

    MatS Screenwriter

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    unfortunately easier said than done
    most if not all retailers will not give refunds on open media .... if it is returned as defective and then they will just exchange it for the same item
    if they were in the business of taking media back because users were not happy there would be way too many abuses of people buying, watching and returning instead of renting
     
  3. Powell&Pressburger

    Powell&Pressburger Screenwriter

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    I take it no one on this site has review copies yet?
     
  4. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    From what I've learned, review copies will be extremely limited. Probably to those who will check the box by weight and review based upon that factor.
    My take at this point, is to purchase individual titles, as desired, but only after bona fide reviews.
    Do not purchase from vendors that will not accept returns. Especially the box set. Reading comments left by Mr. Wrigley, who I trust, has not given me hope.
    RAH
     
  5. MatS

    MatS Screenwriter

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    titles are not available individually (other than the already released Psycho and NXNW)
    that's the rub ..... it is the box set or nothing at this point and given retailers are not going to take returns on open product because we are unhappy with transfers, etc we have to accept what Universal is giving us or opt for nothing (or buy individual titles second hand from someone who decides to break up their set)
    much of the reason we are all counting on advanced reviews before committing $150 - $200 + on a set we don't know has been put together with care
    My UK import order still stands but I am cancelling before ship date if this is actually released in its current form based on the feedback Nick has given unless someone can provide an alternate view
     
  6. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I cannot believe that titles will not become available individually.
    Until I see something that makes me smile, I'd steer clear. Not getting good vibes.
     
  7. MatS

    MatS Screenwriter

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    oh I agree Robert, in time we will see individual releases of the titles with the "more popular" titles seeing release first
    It's just that we don't know when that will be and I think there was great anticipation of knowing we had an upcoming street date on the full set and now much of that excitement (and many were weary due to the studio's track record) has been squashed.
     
  8. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I'll address the issue of getting the review copies.

    At this time, I have not received anything on the Hitchcock set. It is possible that they will still send me the set, but I would put the likelihood of that being 15% in favor, and 85% against. And if they don't send the Hitchcock set, I wouldn't be expecting the Monsters box either. But they could surprise me in both cases.

    Again, if they actually do send me either set, my intention is to take the materials to a proper viewing environment, with gratitude to the owner and maintainer of a top-line projector, system and screen. This was the place I checked The Sting, and it was spectacular. Part of the attraction of the setup is that it's all designed as a direct pass-through of the picture and sound information from the disc to a well-calibrated display. Which means whatever is on the disc shows up on the screen without any technical interference. And we will need that if we are to fully understand what is on the discs of this set.

    My own home system is perfectly good for normal reviewing situations, even of vintage catalogue titles. But when you get into a situation like this, with at least 10 discs in the box and all of them potentially having different PQ issues, I know I'd be outgunned. So the better system and the expert running it, become essential.

    It is my fervent hope that Universal will do the right thing with this set - even if that means they need to postpone the release to insure the best possible quality. I want to take them at their word, given the statements early this year about not only wanting to sell Blu-ray discs but also to preserve these movies in the best possible condition for posterity. I believe Universal has had several excellent catalogue releases this year, and they have the potential to have more. It would be truly unfortunate to see all that good work getting a black eye from a release that would only confirm the worst fears of many viewers. There is still time for the issues being discussed here to be addressed in a manner that would be a win-win for everyone involved. I really hope Universal will take that time to do so.
     
  9. JJHLH

    JJHLH Extra

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    This is extremely disappointing. I just cancelled my pre-order. I had such high expectations for this set. This is Alfred Hitchcock for goodness sakes! If any set deserves attention to detail it is this one.
     
  10. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Please have me come over and show me The Sting, because what I see on that Blu-ray really doesn't look anything like The Sting.
     
  11. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I believe Kevin may have meant that he was able to view the disc in an undistorted, and pure manner. I believe we all agree. Here's his review of image:



    "VIDEO QUALITY 2/5


    The Sting is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.85:1 picture that has already been discussed by Robert Harris in his A Few Words About… column, and I’m going to embellish the details further here. The picture here is from a new transfer, and it shows in an improved color range from what had previously been seen on the HD-DVD release. The problem here is something that will not have a great impact on the viewer until we get into the larger HDTVs. If watched on say, a 32” or a 40” monitor, this Blu-ray will look great. But as you get into larger and larger monitors, the truth about the transfer becomes evident. To roughly paraphrase Al Pacino in The Insider – the more truth it tells, the worse it gets.


    What happened here looks like a digital manipulation of the image to remove grain in some areas or to clean up the image in others. On a smaller monitor, which is what I suspect the transfer people were using, this will actually look very good. (The manipulation was not done as a blanket idea of just turning up the dial and walking away. This was done on a shot-by-shot basis. And we can see clear evidence of this in the transfer, as I’ll get into here.) However, on a larger monitor – say 90”, the image goes soft and loses cohesion. Wider shots don’t seem to have a clear area of focus – for example, the wider shots of the alley where Hooker and Luther con the bagman, or the master shot of the gambling parlor Hooker visits with Crystal. Dupe shots, such as the character titles at the beginning, have good focus on the credits but the film footage in the background is way too soft. But this isn’t consistent. When the shots are close-ups, like an OTS to Luther from Hooker, or the mutual closer shots of Hooker and Luther at his apartment, the shots are sharp and detailed, without the softness. Trying to watch a movie like this is maddening – you go from a soft master to a sharp close-up to a soft mid-shot, and back. I have a rule about this kind of thing – I can tolerate a lot of picture issues, so long as I am not jarred from the movie itself. This is why I enjoyed the transfer of Pillow Talk even though the grain levels were lower – because it was a transparent experience where I could simply watch the movie and enjoy what was on the screen. In the case of The Sting, watching on a 90”+ screen, I wasn’t only jarred – I was practically ejected from my seat, which is a profoundly depressing experience.


    To be fair, there are some shots where there are definitely issues with the source material. The opening tracking shot that establishes the street scene and takes us to the stairs and the feet shows not only softness but something on the lens itself obscuring part of the picture. An early shot of Hooker arriving at a burlesque house is quite soft all the way through. But there’s not that much of that problem – and we should remember this is a movie that earned Robert Surtees an Academy Award Nomination for Cinematography.


    To double-check the quality, I was given the chance to view the HD-DVD of the same movie, and found the earlier HD transfer to have more noticeable grain but a much more consistent picture quality without the softness issues. (The two shots I mentioned above notwithstanding – they will be soft in whatever iteration of the movie you see.) The HD-DVD doesn’t have the color range of the Blu-ray but it’s easier to watch – simply because the picture isn’t constantly varying wildly from focus levels.


    As a third check, I watched the Blu-ray in its entirety on my own 65” Panasonic. At 65”, the softness issues are far less noticeable. There are some signs of digital work, particularly within the patterns of some of the period suit coats, but this is simply a smaller reflection of the softness that wrecks havoc with the larger monitors. If you look closely at the 65” screen, you can detect the softness in many of the shots, but you’d have to be looking for the problem – it certainly doesn’t take you out of the movie. This tells us that for most viewers – people with monitors of up to 65”, the problem I am discussing will not be a significant factor. And that’s probably taking us up into over 80-85% of viewers, if not higher. An argument can be made that this transfer will look great as a digital copy seen on an iPad or an iPhone. I’m not even going to touch that – other than to see that I seriously doubt that people who believe that to be a good idea are spending much time on this forum…


    The thing is, if you’re picking up this Blu-ray, and if you’ve invested in a large home theater setup, you have every right to expect that the picture quality will be even better with a larger screen. A 1080p transfer should not be having a large quality drop like this. I have always thought of HD transfers as working better on the larger screens – the bigger you go, the better it should look and the more you should see. An HD transfer that works in reverse is troubling. A more disturbing issue arises, in that these new transfers are supposed to be the way the movies are preserved for the long term, for the way that audiences may enjoy them in the future on, one can only wonder, 4K monitors or higher, in better home theater environments. A transfer like the one used for The Sting will only look worse in that situation. And that is no way to honor the legacy of the movie or to preserve it for posterity."
     
  12. peerpee

    peerpee Stunt Coordinator

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    Day 7. Just seen SABOTEUR in full. A very fine Blu-ray - frequently breathtaking.
    Here's my rough tally so far:
    PRETTY BLOODY GOOD:
    REAR WINDOW (seen in full) 8.5/10 http://enthusiasm.org/post/31183475187
    SHADOW OF A DOUBT (seen in full) 7/10 http://enthusiasm.org/post/31153014639
    ROPE (seen in full) 7.5/10 http://enthusiasm.org/post/31250496642
    THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (seen in full) 7/10
    THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY (seen in full) 7/10
    SABOTEUR (seen in full) 8.5/10
    TOPAZ (seen half an hour) no score yet
    NOT GOOD:
    FRENZY 3/10 http://enthusiasm.org/post/31285985246
    FAMILY PLOT 4/10
    MARNIE 3/10
    TORN CURTAIN 4/10
    ----
    Still working on VERTIGO. First impression: very, very good resolution. Detail looks absolutely incredible. Nice encoding. No original mono track though (UK BD). There are lots of folk strongly murmuring about the colour scheme. I'm having difficulty knowing one way or the other what the colours ought to be. Jimmy's suit looks dark aubergine when it's supposed to be "brown" apparently. There's a rumour that the 5.1 is actually a new 5.1 that is a bit more toned down than the old 5.1.
    Not seen THE BIRDS properly. Had a look, looks impressive, some strangeness though. Strangeness not related to the strangeness spotted on any other discs.
    ---
    What *really* needs fixing so far?
    1.) The credits on FRENZY http://enthusiasm.org/post/31104514441 and if at all possible a new FRENZY encode without DVNR (it's the only film in the entire box that has this level of paralyzing DVNR, and it's lazy). If they're redoing the credits they'll have to do a new encode anyway. Turn the DVNR box off.
    2.) MARNIE and TORN CURTAIN have really fuzzy, crap encodes. The films look like DVDs playing through a 1080p fuzz filter. I'd redo both encodes.
    3.) FAMILY PLOT is a bit of a mess. Don't really know what's happened to this one. Parts look awful, parts look okay. Look into this and try and redo?
    Issues with VERTIGO's colour? I'm not qualified to judge that, but would take much longer to fix than the 3 points above. Need to finish watching TOPAZ, and then watch THE BIRDS in full now. Phew.
    ---
    DISCLAIMER: I'm not making any claims about the colour fidelity on any of these Blu-rays. I'm not qualified. All I can do is describe what I see, whether it's faded colours, or strong colours, or whether there are colour temperature fluctuations, etc. There are tons of issues to do with VistaVision negs, direct positives, optically reduced 35mm dye transfer prints, etc - It's a rat's nest.
     
  13. JohnMor

    JohnMor Producer
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    I agree with the others who have stated I'd rather wait (even till next year, if need be) to get these done right. And I wouldn't care any less if it was simply one film in the set, my least favorite, that was messed up. It's the principal that they should all be done right. It isn't brain surgery. There's no excuse. And sadly, 2 of the worst offenders apparently, are among ones I enjoy watching often: Frenzy and Torn Curtain. (Strangely, while I would never place Torn Curtain among Hitchcock's best works, I REALLY enjoy watching it and do so probably once a year. I was SO looking forward to having it on blu.)
     
  14. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I should have been clearer regarding the setup upon which I saw The Sting. I didn't mean that the Blu-ray of The Sting was spectacular. I meant that the projection setup was. I just muffed the phrasing.
     
  15. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Here's a frame scan from a 35mm dye transfer Technicolor print (1958 printing, IIRC) that I made a number of years ago; the contrast is plugged up as the scanner I used couldn't handle the wide dynamic range. Stewart's suit certainly looks brown to me in its lighter parts.
    Click to enlarge:
     
  16. ShellOilJunior

    ShellOilJunior Stunt Coordinator

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    Very much agreed. Even Hitchcock's "lesser" films like Torn Curtain are still very good and highly entertaining. I'd hate to buy the set only to receive ANY of the films in an unwatchable condition. All these films deserve a quality transfer.
    I see people are spreading the word on the set's Amazon page. It could get very ugly for Universal...
     
  17. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Pretty red writing! Thanks for clarifying thought, because the way his post was worded made it seem like The Sting looked great.
     
  18. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    As I said before, I've been watching the velvet box transfers and if they mucked up Torn Curtain, which looks stellar there, then they truly are hopeless and they need to get some people in there who know what they're doing.
     
  19. Kevin EK

    Kevin EK Producer
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    I promise that my original review of The Sting this year was not in red writing...
     
  20. rich_d

    rich_d Cinematographer

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    Thanks for the update, Nick. Much appreciated. THE BIRDS should be interesting as well as potentially a tough restoration to accomplish (if they went back to the OCR)
    I think of SABOTEUR as a fine film in its own right as well as an important film as it is a bit of a mirrored precursor to NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Both are 'wrong man' films, both destination films (Saboteur heading east, NBNW heading west). Both with climatic scenes at height at National Monuments, both involving a killer falling to his death and both involving ripped suits and both involving outstretched hands trying to save someone's life. In some ways, YOUNG AND INNOCENT is the genesis of both films except the hand grabbing scene at height happens mid-film (albeit without any grand journey).
    Oh, and the only red writing I want to see from RAH would be new posts in the Lawrence thread.
     

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