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ZULU - I saw an original 35mm Technicolor print last week, and...

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Chuck Pennington, Jul 13, 2015.

  1. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    I live in Columbus, Ohio, and last Thursday the Wexner Center for the Arts presented ZULU as part of their summer series. It was introduced with the caveat that they had planned to show a 4k DCP but technical issues prevented it from being shown; they tracked down an original 35mm Technicolor print to show instead. We were warned that it was in pretty rough condition, and the beginnings and endings of reels were very rough indeed with splices, dirt, and scratches; heck, the entire film had some lines going through the screen. I'm so glad that my first experience seeing the film was from an original 35mm IB TECH print as now I feel I can evaluate the UK and US Blu-ray releases with at least some knowledge of how an actual original print looks.

    I know Technicolor prints varied, but I was pleasantly surprised that the print looked as detailed as it did. Colors were strong but not over saturated, and there was plenty of shadow detail on display. The sound was optical mono and underwhelming, but the track only was disruptive during a few damaged spots where there were jumps in the dialogue and music; none of it took me out of the film though, and my stomach hurt the next day from all the clenching I did during the long battle.

    I made this comparison in 1080p using the UK and US Blu-rays. I used the sound from the US disc throughout. Now I know the Twilight Time US Blu-ray has been criticized a lot, but I have to tell you it looked the most like the print I saw last week. In direct comparison to the UK release it may look brownish, but I think that is just because of the alterations made for the UK release. The US release shows more shadow detail, grain, more accurate color, and more image on all four sides of the screen; the UK release appears stretched, cropped, contrast and color boosted, and more like video.

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/2gw0aoy1gier03n/zulucomparisonusaudio.mp4?dl=0
     
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  2. jim_falconer

    jim_falconer Supporting Actor

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    I love my UK blu of Zulu, and out of the hundreds of BD's that I own, that is the disc I'll put on if I want to show off the beauty of a high def transfer. The colors are eye popping and the stereo sound is marvelous! I know this release is a hot topic for many, but I could not be happier with a film's transfer to HD, than the UK release of Zulu.
     
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  3. DP 70

    DP 70 Screenwriter

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    The UK Blu is stretched and the sound is only Dolby Digital the TT USA is DTS and looks more like the 35mm print I saw.
     
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  4. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    The UK Blu-ray has contrast boosting that makes it look more like how modern films are timed. It does "pop" but at the cost of looking like film and authentic. The boosting also applies to the colors, and the shade of red in the soldiers' uniforms is not like what I saw in that 35mm Technicolor print at all; the Twilight Time was more accurate.
     
  5. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    An interesting comparison.

    I've had seen the UK release.

    First thing that crossed my mind was that generally, dye transfer prints produced by Tech London, had a bit of warmth to them, more than Tech Hollywood.

    I'm presuming you saw a Hollywood produced print. The printing matrices could have been produced in the UK.

    Which is the opposite of what we see in the video examples, which one would presume are probably harvested from reduction IPs. As the IPs would have been produced optically, the sizing issue could have begun there.

    Or not.

    The U.S. also seems to have an almost plus neutral density look, rather akin to early dye transfer, or special one-offs such as Moby Dick.

    Technirama was one of the finest processes for film production, and a resultant Blu-ray, and even more so, UHD, should be uncompromisingly beautiful.

    Some time in the future, you'll see what I mean.

    For the time being, with Zulu, I'll take Twilight Time's release.

    RAH
     
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  6. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    When I get home tonight I'll update my comparison video so the audio switches along with the picture.
     
  7. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I don't believe that's necessary. What you've created tells an interesting tale.
     
  8. Nick*Z

    Nick*Z Screenwriter

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    Alas, have to disagree. I much prefer the UK Paramount release. Even from the outset, the TT seems to suffer from some distracting noise; the letter that opens the film with Burton's narration looking ruddy and unclean, the grain less grain like than digital and distracting. Okay, the Paramount UK release has practically no grain at all - DNR scrubbed? Probably, but not to egregious levels. Blown up on my 80 inch, the Paramount is more pleasing to me than the TT. I also prefer the litany of extra features - very comprehensive docs on the making of the movie - that were NOT included on the TT release (likely due to a rights issue). But there it is. I own both, I watch one more than the other.
     
  9. Chuck Pennington

    Chuck Pennington Supporting Actor

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    Nick, it's all in what you're looking for - the story comes through in either version. Some people prefer the blown out and oversaturated look - it has that HD "pop" people are used to with modern films - though I'm surprised the distortion and cropping doesn't bother you.
     
  10. Persianimmortal

    Persianimmortal Screenwriter

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    From what I understand, the truth is that neither version is correct, so it's a case of "pick your poison". The TT version seems to be the more faithful of the two, and has better audio, but personally I think watching an epic tale of heroism set in bright African sunshine looks more appropriate as presented on the UK disc than the more muted US disc.
     
  11. Dr Griffin

    Dr Griffin Cinematographer

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    Couldn't agree more. Though I've never seen Zulu theatrically, the TT has that closer to film look. The UK Zulu does have a fantastic glossy sharp HDTV presentation, but compared side by side to the TT, the differences are more apparent - the UK stretch and contrast boost in whites. Those of us that grew up watching film projected will notice that difference.
     
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  12. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    Here's the problem - you saw an old 35mm IB Tech print that was timed for carbon arc projection - and you saw it projected with Xenon bulbs. Fail. I see Tech prints projected with Xenon all the time at a friend's house - it makes everything seem brownish - then you go look at the print itself and guess what - it doesn't look like what was projected. Prints were timed for the way they were projected at the time. Had you seen this projected with carbon arc I can guarantee you it would not have looked brown, it would have looked more like the UK disc. I am, of course, speaking only of color.


    I find these little videos do more harm than good, and unlike Mr. Harris, am not a fan.
     
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  13. John Hermes

    John Hermes Screenwriter

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    While I don't have the TT disc, I think the UK Paramount version looks fantastic. Any BD could look better and people prefer different things, but this one is certainly great for me.
     
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  14. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    I wouldn't call myself a "fan" of an extremely low rez video with blocking and other ailments. Merely found it an interesting thing for someone to do.

    And, yes, we obviously have the illumination problem, presuming the Wexler isn't running arcs, their illumination system is properly aligned, with 14 fl on screen, and a clean, untainted reflector.

    Nothing is easy.

    RAH
     
  15. Dr Griffin

    Dr Griffin Cinematographer

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    I don't think anyone will use Chuck's video comparison as a referrence, and it certainly wasn't meant to be, but the differences are apparent enough to give a good idea.
     
  16. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    They're already using it as a reference. And I continue to be very amused by those positing that only new films ever had "pop" whatever that means. Anyone who has ever seen a dye transfer print from the 1950s or 1960s properly projected with proper light output will know that the "pop" was incredible. That it wasn't there in the screening of Zulu is wholly because it was not projected via carbon arc and it probably didn't have enough light. As Mr. Harris says, "Nothing is easy." Zulu had the bluest of blue skies in IB prints - it's that simple really. The blues in dye transfer prints, along with the reds, were like no other - they certainly weren't pale and brown. I didn't mind the Twilight Time MGM/UA transfer, but the UK transfer is more accurate for color balance.
     
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  17. John Hermes

    John Hermes Screenwriter

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    You're right, Bruce. People who have not seen IB prints projected don't know what they missed. I am old enough to have seen zillions of them at the movies. I was a 16mm and 35mm collector and "only" had xenon (who wants to pass out next to the projector from carbon monoxide??? :D), but the stuff still looked awesome. Hell, it even looks good with incandescent! In spite of no carbon arc, nothing ever looked 'brown" for heaven's sake. I'll never forget showing Elvis' Girls! Girls! Girls! in 35mm IB - wow! Talk about "pop".
     
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  18. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I remember seeing ZULU very well when it first opened. It received rave reviews in the UK and as my parents also wanted to see it, I went along with them. I don't pretend to remember exactly what it looked like but the appearance of some films stand out in the memory, even decades later, as looking exceptional and I do remember thinking how particularly bright and colourful the image was. I'm therefore sure that the UK Blu-Ray is a good representation of how the film looked back then.
     
  19. Reed Grele

    Reed Grele Screenwriter

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    My preference is the TT transfer. I've owned both, and the U.K. version, while having more "pop" in the color, also has blown out whites, and the other anomalies previously mentioned.


    I find it very interesting that even highly respected experts don't always agree on a what a particular transfer should look like.


    In the end, it always seems to boil down to personal preference.
     
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  20. OliverK

    OliverK Producer

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    The TT version has a somehow crushed dynamic range which is really hurting it.

    Whites are really dark compared to other movies, would be interesting to measure how much darker than the whitest white allowed in the video standard.
     

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