Thursday, February 10, 2011


Before I begin what's up with this cover?

What's with the Berry Blue Jello background? I know there's always room for jello but why is it there?  It seems that hollywood has had a problem with original poster art.  Why?  The initial poster art of a movie is usually the best. And they keep replacing the original artwork with photoshop crap. So instead of the awesomeness of these...

We have the horribleness of these...

I'll say more on this in another entry.

Back to the review.

The release of Ghostbusters on Blu-Ray was incredibly disappointing to say the least.  Not only did there seem to be no effort to clean up the picture but it looks worse than the DVD.  I would imagine even people that don't like DNR would agree that this is in severe need of at least some.  The reason why I hate the how grainy the picture is because it really makes gives the picture a very unnatural blotchy look that is not at all "cinematic".  This is especially apparent with skin tones.  Instead of seeing faces, it looks like a flesh colored doppler radar storm and what is supposed to be Walter Peck.

I'm not sure if it was Ivan Reitmans wish for the film to remain this way, but I can't imagine it would be a bad thing to go through a little cleaning up.  On one hand it is an 80s movie and that was the era of cheap and crappy film stock.   On the other hand it is a big special effects blockbuster, they could have thrown down a few extra bucks for better film stock. If thats the case than maybe a  better master of this film exists?  I can't imagine planning out that many optical effects and skimping out on the film quality.

While the special features are adequate they are nowhere near the level we come to expect with Blu-Ray. If they were, all those questions in the previous paragraph would have been answered by them.  Ultimately, I can certainly understand why this movie is in the state that it is on Blu-Ray but at the same time it doesn't give me single reason to spend the extra money and re-purchase a movie already have on a perfectly satisfactory format.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

How Star Wars could destroy Blu-Ray as we know it

It was announced not too long ago that Star Wars would be making it's debut on Blu-Ray this year.  This had most fan-boys upset as the original versions will not be featured on it, George Lucas asserted last summer that the Blu-Rays would feature only the special editions. I could go on for 50 blog posts about how and why this upsets me but I also find myself nervous about this release. 

To explain why I'm nervous we must travel back to a time when DVD was in it's infancy.  Being a new home video format the only people buying them back in 1997 were obviously people like me, film enthusiasts/snobs.  To appeal to this demographic DVDs were marketed with not only high quality picture and sound but they were presented in their original widescreen formats which was something that could only be found on certain special editions on VHS in special sections of the store,  there was also the opportunity to put behind the scenes features and audio commentaries so people can find out about as much about the making of a movie as they care to. 

As someone who had to hunt and scrounge for VHS widescreen editions of films this was great news for me. I could just buy a DVD and it'd always be in widescreen, no worries.  As the DVD format grew more and more popular a disturbing trend started to emerge.  When people started buying DVDs who weren't such film enthusiasts/snobs they bitched about certain aspects of it.  They didn't like the black bars on the top and bottom of the screen so Full Screen DVDs starting rearing their ugly heads. 

They also didn't care about the special features so much so editions were released without as many.  As a result there are numerous versions and editions of movies in which if you weren't careful you'd end up with one you didn't want.

Now Blu-Ray is rising through the ranks to replace DVDs.  It's still quite young and very much attempting to target the film snob demographic(for which I am grateful for).  The Alien Anthology which released last October was an alien nerds oasis, uncountable hours of behind the scenes, multiple audio commentaries, original quadraphonic sound mixes, over 12,000 photos, etc.  This is not something for someone who just wants to "watch the movie".  Visiting blu-ray internet forums there are numerous  debates on whether or not too much DNR was applied to the picture quality, or which film installment had the most faithful restoration, or which is lacking in the bonus features.

Star Wars is now offically on its way to be the big box set Blu-Ray of the year (possibly ever).  This will no doubt attract new comers to the Blu-Ray format.  This is where I get nervous, visiting the internet forums for the Star Wars Blu--Ray I'm not seeing the debate on how much DNR could or should be applied, no mention about multiple sound mixes.  Instead I see many people defending the special editions with updated special effects, they say that the star wars with the CGI jabba the hutt is the new original trilogy and people should stop bitching because the old one is gone forever.  This does not sound like the same group of that cried out in horror when the Predator Blu-Ray came out abundantly DNR'd.

I just do not believe that the same people who don't think DNR should exist at all would in the same breath argue that the special editions of Star Wars should be the only Star Wars.  It signifies to me that the average consumer is looking to come on board the Blu-Ray train.  Before long they'll start buying other Blu-Rays and we'll once again start to see dumbed down editions of some of our favorite movies.  Blu-Ray will no longer have to satisfy insatiable film lovers with excessive special features, the standards set by releases like the Alien Anthology will cease to exist.

Now I know all of this sounds like a stretch, and you might even call me crazy.  But that's ok, it's because I am!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Trouble with Digital Noise Reduction

For those who don't know, there's been controversy brewing on internet forums regarding the picture quality of Blu-Ray releases.  DNR is a process being used to reduce the amount of grain present in Blu-Ray picture.  For most of the past 115 years movies have been shot on film, thus making grain an inherent part of the image.  The advent of HD has all but completely eliminated the grain layer to modern movies.  However, with Blu-Rays becoming the new "DVD" there has been a swell of classic films being released in the HD format.  With most of these films having been shot on film there is a dispute over the use of DNR to get rid of or reduce the grain that these films carry.

The case against DNR is it takes away from what the director intended his vision to be.  Since, as I said, grain is inherent in film a lot of people feel that the Non-DNR'd look should be preserved on Blu-Ray, grain and all, straight off the 35 or 70mm master.  Most feel that grain gives the Blu-Ray a film look that replicates what was experienced in theater.  All this is sounds like a good idea on paper, but I have one big problem with this thought process.  Most people have 1080p LCD Flat Screen TVs, and nothing on them looks even remotely like film.  The only thing that looks like film, is film.  On top of that HD TVs are not very flattering to films that haven't had any kind of DNR applied.  The grain makes the colors extremely blotchy and it looks more like it's being tuned in on an antenna rather than being projected in a darkened theater.

In case you couldn't tell, I'm an avid supporter of DNR.  Excessive grain on an HD TV is way more distracting than a 35mm or 70mm projection. Movie theaters get away with this because the projection is usually soft and somewhat dim.  With modern TV's pretty much every pixel is prominent.  Here's another question, if film geeks think grain should be put in to give a movie a "film" look what about those projection picture jitters? That shaky look that occurs from a strip of celluloid zipping past a light bulb? Thats an inherent part of film, should blu ray try to recreate that?

That is my big problem with this whole debate, how much DNR is too much? How much is too little?  Is it acceptable in some movies and not in others? What makes a movie acceptable for DNR? What makes it unacceptable?  Everyone has a different answer, even the most acclaimed blu-rays with re-mastered picture have someone bitching about too much DNR or too little or someone saying none should've been used at all.  Also, where was this debate with DVDs?  When it came to DVDs all people cared about was the clearest picture possible, why the shift all the sudden?  DVD's aren't too far behind in picture quality.

Although I am opinionated I am not unreasonable, with most Blu-Rays having enough room for two versions of a film I would like to see one DNR'd and one straight off the 35mm or 70mm transfer.  That way everyone is somewhat pleased. With 50 GB of space on Blu-Ray I can't imagine this being a hard thing to do.  Though even if this was common practice, someone would find something to complain about.