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Alien/Aliens Color Regrade

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Alien Project Info:

The basis of this project is to color regrade the Blu-ray (BD) to look more like the 1995 THX laserdisc (LD). While the transfer of the BR is not bad there are a lot off odd things that stick out, particularly in the colors. Overall the appearance looks like a attempt to modernize the look of the film.

There are several reasons for using the 1995 LD as the basis for a regrade. Jonno from the OT has a book of 35mm film scans from the release of the film and the closest in color home video is the 1995 THX LD. Looking at other 35mm cells they look closest to the 1995 LD. The LD has many blues where there are greens in the BD. That added green tint is similar to the green tint that gets added to all modern BDs. The LD also has fleshtones which are warm. The Nostromo looks more gray in color. The interiors have more "earth tones" colors. All of these are in keeping with a late 70's look. The BD lacks that. Overall through a lot of circumstantial evidence points to the 1995 LD being closest in look to 1979 theatrical release print.

Video:

2010 Blu-Ray (Theatrical Cut) video color regraded to the 1995 THX laserdisc

Audio:

1. 1995 Laserdisc Dolby Digital 5.1 (This soundtrack is a rare 70mm mix that was used to test Alien in the Sensurround format before it was abandoned for conventional Dolby Stereo 70mm, it contains numerous differences with the existing soundtrack) 

2. 2010 Blu-Ray (Theatrical Cut) Dolby Digital 4.1 (This soundtrack represents the original Dolby Stereo 70mm mix as heard in theaters on 70mm film)

3. 1992 Laserdisc PCM 2.0 Dolby Stereo/Surround  (This soundtrack represents the original Dolby Stereo SVA mix as heard in theaters on 35mm film)

Subtitles:

TBD (mostly all the subs on the existing BR

Pics:

BD/BD regraded to the 1995 LD

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Original Thread Opener:

I was wondering if anyone would be interested in a color regrade of the Alien movies. Specifically, Alien and Aliens but maybe looking into the other two later. The goal is to regrade both these movies back to early versions. I'm a novice but in the last few months my skills have improved to the point that I want to try to take on a project (in my spare time) and what better project then two of my favorite films.

Alien:

For Alien I was looking at the 1999 DVD from the Alien Legacy set and/or the 1995 widescreen laserdisc.  I have completed about 25% regrade of Alien to both the 1999 DVD and LD.  I want to run a comparison to see which plays better. The rumor was that the 1999 DVD of Alien was the closest to the original theatrical prints. It lacks the overall blue and green timing of the later D-theater's and Blu-ray's masters but does have those colors in a few spots. Beside the color changes it is also a touch brighter. The laserdisc (http://www.lddb.com/laserdisc/06718/8760-85/Alien-%281979%29) is darker then the Blu-ray and much warmer. It also lacks green timing but has several scenes with unique color timing. People don't look like bloodless vampires.

Soundtrack wise, I want to include the 1995 LD's 5.1 70mm "test Sensurround" soundtrack (graciously provided by _,,,^..^,,,_), the Dolby Stereo PCM soundtrack from the oldest LD I can find (http://www.lddb.com/laserdisc/10590/1090-80/Alien-%281979%29) and maybe the DVD's 5.1 the BD's 4.1 soundtrack, which is hopefully the refined 70mm mix.

Aliens:

For Aliens I was looking at the DVDs and/or the last widescreen laserdisc. Unlike, Alien all the pre-BD DVDs and HD version of Aliens have the same color timing, whereas Alien's color timing is different in almost every iteration. I started grading the Theatrical cut of Aliens to the last widescreen laserdisc (http://www.lddb.com/laserdisc/06719/8761-85/Aliens-%281986%29). The laserdisc looks similar to the DVDs in color tones (blues and purples and no blanket green of the BD) but with much higher saturation and unlike the DVDs warmer skin tones.

Edit: Also using 35mm pics/scans of the theatrical trailer

I'm not sure if I want to do the theatrical cut or extended cut. I have been thinking about doing a preservation of the CBS cut. The CBS cut is basically the extended cut without the Hadley's Hope scenes at the beginning. Basically, it keeps the focus totally on Ripley, keeps the important emotional points of her daughter but retains the tension of not knowing what happen on LV-426 till you get there. It is my preferred version of the film...

Soundtrack wise I have AC3 5.1 soundtrack from the LD and the Dolby Stereo PCM soundtrack from the oldest LD I can find (http://www.lddb.com/laserdisc/10644/1504-80/Aliens-%281986%29). If I do any of the longer cuts, I will need the longer cut's PCM soundtrack.

I'm not sure if the final form will be MKV or Blu-ray. Anyone interested? Branching off the discussion in the Alien/Aliens Color Regrade thread here:

http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Alien-Aliens-Color-Regrade/topic/17002/page/5/

While taking a break from grading Alien, I posed a question whether anyone was interested in a color regrade of Blade Runner. Using a 80s era laserdisc someone uploaded to the spleen. I regraded parts of Blade Runner to see the results.

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Cleaning up a bit, here is a comparison on the various regrades that I have done so far. First is the Blu-ray, second is the BD regraded to the '99 DVD and third is the BD regraded to the LD

BD (Top)/ BD Regraded to '99 DVD (Middle)/BD Regraded to LD (Bottom)

The LD has two scenes that are radically different in color timing then anything else. This is why why I am leaning away from it and towards the DVD. The first is the decapitated Ash scene as seen in _,,,^..^,,,_'s pics here:

http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/Movies-with-wrong-color-grading-UPDATED/topic/15873/page/4/

which has a major blue tint. The other is all Mother scenes are all very yellow/gold as in this example (BD/BD with LD's colors):

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Any work done on Alien is certainly a tick in my book

I saw an original 35mm print of Alien a while back but it was faded with a pink tint to it so no use there I'm afriad

jonno though is certainly someone you want to contact regarding this project

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Speak of the devil and he shall appear ;-)

Funnily enough I saw yet another iteration of Alien yesterday, a DCP which appeared similar - but not the same - to the BD colouring. It was quite pleasingly balanced, though perhaps still a little cool for some tastes.

Anyway, having seen this film theatrically three times in its original version (twice on celluloid), I personally favour the laserdisc colouring as the overall truest, albeit with the occasional wobbles. Perhaps a next step would be to obtain a copy of this book if you don't already have it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alien-Movie-Richard-J-Anobile/dp/0708816886

Subject to the limitations of the printed page, it gives a good flavour of what an original film print would have looked like (the short version is it's much like the laserdisc, only pushed slightly further towards green).

As far as versions go, I'm an original theatrical man all the way (for both films). It's your project of course, but that would be my suggested starting point, which could then extend to other versions.

Anyway, let me know if I can help in any way. I've no shortage of (otherwise) useless knowledge and opinion on this subject...

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The laserdisc colors look the best by far.  I definitely recommend using that as the primary reference, since not only is it the most pleasing to the eye, it is much closer in 'feel' to what movies back then looked like, generally speaking.  If it is the closest to the appearance of film prints, as Jonno says, then that makes a great deal of sense for why it feels right.

You shouldn't necessarily adhere to it slavishly in every detail, of course; after all, old home video masters are not known for perfect accuracy in color or contrast.  But get it looking pretty close to that and I for one will be very, very pleased.

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I for one would happily welcome the theatrical "Aliens" in its original colors! The CBS cut does sound like a nice compromise between the theatrical and the extended cuts, but for the sake of preserving the original film, I'd advocate for the theatrical. At least to begin with ... :)

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I agree that the laserdisc colors are the best overall for Alien, although I think you can give yourself a little latitude here and there. And I really like the idea of having the original 70mm audio track as an option, as I missed that particular laserdisc.

Regarding Aliens, I think that you should definitely start with the theatrical because I think that it would be worthwhile preservation (was the AC-3 track on that last laserdisc edition also the 70mm track?). That said, I think it would be a great idea to re-create the ABC cut.

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I'm kind of surprised that everyone favors the laserdisc regrade. Is it because of the skin tones?

Jonno said:

Speak of the devil and he shall appear ;-)

Funnily enough I saw yet another iteration of Alien yesterday, a DCP which appeared similar - but not the same - to the BD colouring. It was quite pleasingly balanced, though perhaps still a little cool for some tastes.

Anyway, having seen this film theatrically three times in its original version (twice on celluloid), I personally favour the laserdisc colouring as the overall truest, albeit with the occasional wobbles. Perhaps a next step would be to obtain a copy of this book if you don't already have it:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Alien-Movie-Richard-J-Anobile/dp/0708816886

Subject to the limitations of the printed page, it gives a good flavour of what an original film print would have looked like (the short version is it's much like the laserdisc, only pushed slightly further towards green).

As far as versions go, I'm an original theatrical man all the way (for both films). It's your project of course, but that would be my suggested starting point, which could then extend to other versions.

Anyway, let me know if I can help in any way. I've no shortage of (otherwise) useless knowledge and opinion on this subject...

Thanks for the help Jonno. I have also seen an 35mm print but its been so long I can't remember the look. 

Do you have that book Jonno? If so can you maybe send me a couple of pics from it. It looks like a good guide for this project. Especially, the problem areas. I'm not only looking for the coloring but the dark/contrast. I assume the skin tones are warm like the LD and not pale like in the DVDs and BDs?

This will definitely be a theatrical cut. Besides Jetrell Fo and Doombot are working on a Director's cut preservation via the D-theater which I myself am looking forward to.

hairy_hen said:

The laserdisc colors look the best by far.  I definitely recommend using that as the primary reference, since not only is it the most pleasing to the eye, it is much closer in 'feel' to what movies back then looked like, generally speaking.  If it is the closest to the appearance of film prints, as Jonno says, then that makes a great deal of sense for why it feels right.

You shouldn't necessarily adhere to it slavishly in every detail, of course; after all, old home video masters are not known for perfect accuracy in color or contrast.  But get it looking pretty close to that and I for one will be very, very pleased.

 Thanks hairy_hen. Going to try to get as close as possible but definitely won't be slavish to it. I might just grade to both sources and maybe release both.

applesandrice said:

I for one would happily welcome the theatrical "Aliens" in its original colors! The CBS cut does sound like a nice compromise between the theatrical and the extended cuts, but for the sake of preserving the original film, I'd advocate for the theatrical. At least to begin with ... :)

 Aliens will be theatrical first. Not sure what I will do after that but theatrical first. I'll post some of those pics tomorrow.

StarThoughts said:

I agree that the laserdisc colors are the best overall for Alien, although I think you can give yourself a little latitude here and there. And I really like the idea of having the original 70mm audio track as an option, as I missed that particular laserdisc.

Regarding Aliens, I think that you should definitely start with the theatrical because I think that it would be worthwhile preservation (was the AC-3 track on that last laserdisc edition also the 70mm track?). That said, I think it would be a great idea to re-create the ABC cut.

 The Alien 70mm is a pretty great mix. Very bass heavy. I don't know if the AC-3 on Aliens is the 70mm mix. The Alien LD is very specific about it being the 70mm but no mention the Aliens LD. That doesn't mean that it isn't either. Old LDs sometimes had the 70mm mix without indicating it, like the AC-3 LD of Die Hard. Anyone know if Aliens was split surround?

Was it ABC or CBS? I can never remember. 

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PDB said:

Was it ABC or CBS? I can never remember. 

 CBS

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Whichever network it was broadcast on, the cut definitely worth preserving in HD.

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“You don't do ‘Star Wars’ in Dobly.”

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PDB said:

Do you have that book Jonno? If so can you maybe send me a couple of pics from it. It looks like a good guide for this project. Especially, the problem areas. I'm not only looking for the coloring but the dark/contrast. I assume the skin tones are warm like the LD and not pale like in the DVDs and BDs?

I do have it, but I'm not sure if scanning it is a great idea - for one, I don't want to add another generation into the mix unless absolutely necessary (I can't guarantee my scanner is 100% accurate) and, to be honest, I don't want to put its 35-year-old spine through any trauma! I'm sure you'll be able to pick up your own copy for a few quid/bucks/Republic credits, just check the Amazon link for sellers (they often come up on Ebay too).

The Alien 70mm is a pretty great mix. Very bass heavy. I don't know if the AC-3 on Aliens is the 70mm mix. The Alien LD is very specific about it being the 70mm but no mention the Aliens LD. That doesn't mean that it isn't either. Old LD sometimes had the 70mm mix without indicating it, like the AC-3 LD of Die Hard. Anyone know if Aliens was split surround?

Here are a couple of lists of 70mm films with split surrounds:

http://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php?p=7418527&postcount=35

http://www.in70mm.com/library/process/dolby/ (where 'SS' denotes split surrounds)

Aliens doesn't appear on either list, so like Alien it would appear to have been a 4.1 mix. Since the actual content would likely have been comparable to that of the Dolby Stereo mix (staggered releases weren't such a factor this far into the 1980s), only presented in discrete channels, the laserdisc's 5.1 AC-3 is very likely to approximate it. I wonder if our Italian friend would be prepared to work his magic again?

 

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And here is some of the work I did matching the Aliens BD to the LD. Like I said at the top thread it is closer to the DVDs but a lot more saturated and with warmer skin tones. I'm going to put this aside for now and finish Alien first.

BD (Top)/ BD regraded to the LD (Bottom)

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Jonno said:

PDB said:

Do you have that book Jonno? If so can you maybe send me a couple of pics from it. It looks like a good guide for this project. Especially, the problem areas. I'm not only looking for the coloring but the dark/contrast. I assume the skin tones are warm like the LD and not pale like in the DVDs and BDs?

I do have it, but I'm not sure if scanning it is a great idea - for one, I don't want to add another generation into the mix unless absolutely necessary (I can't guarantee my scanner is 100% accurate) and, to be honest, I don't want to put its 35-year-old spine through any trauma! I'm sure you'll be able to pick up your own copy for a few quid/bucks/Republic credits, just check the Amazon link for sellers (they often come up on Ebay too).

The Alien 70mm is a pretty great mix. Very bass heavy. I don't know if the AC-3 on Aliens is the 70mm mix. The Alien LD is very specific about it being the 70mm but no mention the Aliens LD. That doesn't mean that it isn't either. Old LD sometimes had the 70mm mix without indicating it, like the AC-3 LD of Die Hard. Anyone know if Aliens was split surround?

Here are a couple of lists of 70mm films with split surrounds:

http://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php?p=7418527&postcount=35

http://www.in70mm.com/library/process/dolby/ (where 'SS' denotes split surrounds)

Aliens doesn't appear on either list, so like Alien it would appear to have been a 4.1 mix. Since the actual content would likely have been comparable to that of the Dolby Stereo mix (staggered releases weren't such a factor this far into the 1980s), only presented in discrete channels, the laserdisc's 5.1 AC-3 is very likely to approximate it. I wonder if our Italian friend would be prepared to work his magic again?

 

 Thanks Jonno. I would hate for you to damage that book. It looks pretty cool. Maybe a camera phone pic or two? I'm just curious about the Ash and Mother scenes. 

I'm happy to hear that about Aliens not being a split surround. When I capture the 5.1 from the LD I can check the surrounds and see if they are mono. That's not a guarantee that its the 70mm mix but it does significantly increase its chances. Why do a modern remix of a movie and give it mono surrounds?

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That's a fair argument, though there's also the possibility that they might have upmixed the Dolby Stereo rather than sourcing and digitising the 6-track... I don't know what the approach was in the early days of AC-3.

I'll see what I can do about the book stills. Do you want to work up a list of problematic scenes, and I'll dig out the relevant images?

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I am pretty sure that the AC-3 track on Alien is a straight transfer of the 70mm mix and not a new mix. It was a selling point on the LD when it came out — granted, there wouldn't be split-surrounds, but the front separation (which was quite significant in this movie), discrete surround and dedicated bass channel would have made it worthwhile.

Regarding your grading for Aliens: I like where you're going, but I think there is just a tad too much red right now. That said, it's amazing how much more vibrant the image can be without the cold pall on the Blu-ray… the two-shot of Hicks and Apone is a perfect example.

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StarThoughts said:

I am pretty sure that the AC-3 track on Alien is a straight transfer of the 70mm mix and not a new mix. It was a selling point on the LD when it came out — granted, there wouldn't be split-surrounds, but the front separation (which was quite significant in this movie), discrete surround and dedicated bass channel would have made it worthwhile.

Not arguing with that - the qualities of the Alien track are well established - we're talking about the Aliens mix right now.

On that point though, I've just gone back to Alien briefly and found these comments about the mix from the old thread:

http://www.avsforum.com/forum/44-movies-concerts-music-discussion/206357-truth-about-alien-dvd-audio.html

It seems that Alien's 6-track mix did have split surrounds, and a close look at the AC-3 version would seem to bear this out (there's not a wild difference between the two rear channels, but it's there). I wonder why those lists didn't pick up on that? Anyway, Aliens is likely to be a great deal more straightforward due to its vintage (not many soundtracks were pushing the technical envelope at this point in time).

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Holy crap -- the "Aliens" shots look fantastic! Extremely anxious to see this happen!

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Jonno said:

That's a fair argument, though there's also the possibility that they might have upmixed the Dolby Stereo rather than sourcing and digitising the 6-track... I don't know what the approach was in the early days of AC-3.

I'll see what I can do about the book stills. Do you want to work up a list of problematic scenes, and I'll dig out the relevant images?

 Back in the early AC-3 LD days, Fox did pull a few of their 5.1 (or 4.1) tracks from a 70mm mixes. I know for sure Die Hard and Patton (has dialog panning) were from the 70mm mix. But we are talking about Aliens and I have zero evidence that it is from the 70mm and an upmix is just as likely. I will know more when I capture it and compare it to the DVDs and BD. I hope back then they wanted a more true to source mix then a super cool remix like today.

No rush Jonno, if you are busy. With a great source like that book it can very helpful and I can't get a copy at the moment. As Starthoughts noticed I am having problems with reds. I did a loseless AVI copy of both the Alien and Aliens LDs. There appears to be a bit of red smearing on the capture as a result of the usual Pioneer LD issues. For example here is the scene I'm in midst of regrading (not finished yet):

BD (Top)/LD (Middle)/BD with LD Colors (Bottom)

I have been pulling the red back a bit to compensate but a pic of it (Ripley refusing to let Dallas and Lambert back in the ship) would help me figure out skin tones. Hell any pic of people would help in skin tones. Also maybe Dallas in the Mother computer room, Ash's decapacitated head and Brett walking into the gold room before he is killed. Like I said no hurry, if you can't find the book, no worries

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StarThoughts said:

I am pretty sure that the AC-3 track on Alien is a straight transfer of the 70mm mix and not a new mix. It was a selling point on the LD when it came out — granted, there wouldn't be split-surrounds, but the front separation (which was quite significant in this movie), discrete surround and dedicated bass channel would have made it worthwhile.

Regarding your grading for Aliens: I like where you're going, but I think there is just a tad too much red right now. That said, it's amazing how much more vibrant the image can be without the cold pall on the Blu-ray… the two-shot of Hicks and Apone is a perfect example.

 Yeah it is a bit too red that's a factor of the LD. Just need to figure out how much to pull out. For reference as to what the changes are, here is that Apone/Hicks shot from various sources:

BD/LD/BD with LD Colors/DVD (Both 99 and Quad)

You can see I did pull a little red out but maybe more is needed. You can also see that the BD and DVD are very cool, compared to the LD's warm. That's why I used the LD as a source, not because I know it to be more accurate to the 35mm (none of the home releases are perfect especially the BD) but because it is an interesting alternative lost to the realm of laserdiscs (it was according to LDDB sourced from the negative...)

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Jonno said:

StarThoughts said:

I am pretty sure that the AC-3 track on Alien is a straight transfer of the 70mm mix and not a new mix. It was a selling point on the LD when it came out — granted, there wouldn't be split-surrounds, but the front separation (which was quite significant in this movie), discrete surround and dedicated bass channel would have made it worthwhile.

Not arguing with that - the qualities of the Alien track are well established - we're talking about the Aliens mix right now.

On that point though, I've just gone back to Alien briefly and found these comments about the mix from the old thread:

http://www.avsforum.com/forum/44-movies-concerts-music-discussion/206357-truth-about-alien-dvd-audio.html

It seems that Alien's 6-track mix did have split surrounds, and a close look at the AC-3 version would seem to bear this out (there's not a wild difference between the two rear channels, but it's there). I wonder why those lists didn't pick up on that? Anyway, Aliens is likely to be a great deal more straightforward due to its vintage (not many soundtracks were pushing the technical envelope at this point in time).

 That is right. From our Italian friend, here are the surround channels off of the LD:

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Ok, see what you think of this:

 photo Ripley.jpg

The scan colours were a little off to begin with, so I've adjusted them by eye to match the book. Look at the warmth of the 'grey' ceiling panels - very much in keeping with the LD tones.

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Jonno said:

Speak of the devil and he shall appear ;-)

Funnily enough I saw yet another iteration of Alien yesterday, a DCP which appeared similar - but not the same - to the BD colouring. It was quite pleasingly balanced, though perhaps still a little cool for some tastes.

I'd love to see the DCP.  I wonder if it will end up in the wild?

:)

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Glad to see these 2 films getting some attention. The blu-ray colors are very annoying. I must say thought that for Aliens, the laserdisc colors are way too red/orange especially with facial tones. Everybody looks like they have a severe case of sunburn with the bright orange hue. The blu-ray went way too far with the teal, but the laserdisc is too warm to my eyes.

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I agree that the second film is pushing red far too much.  This needs to be dialed back significantly to look natural.

It seems there is some confusion about the various sound mixes, so I think I should clear it up.  According to this post by disclord on the LaserDisc Database forum, the version of the Alien soundtrack heard on the THX laserdisc is not actually the 70mm mix that was used for the theatrical release.  It is, in fact, an early test mix made for the Sensurround format, which contained more bass and surround usage than the final version.  It was never released to the public in 1979, because 20th Century Fox didn't end up going with the Sensurround format for various reasons, opting to use Dolby Stereo instead as they had done for Star Wars.  This mix was never publicly heard at all until it was put on laserdisc many years later.

This means that the text on the laserdisc advertising that is uses the 70mm version is actually mistaken.  Technically it is correct, because the mix was indeed made for 70mm prints, but it is not "the" 70mm version—at least not the one that anyone who went to see the film actually heard.  It had likely been sitting in an archive forgotten and unused, and whoever transferred it to home video probably didn't realize that they'd actually unearthed a rough mix, rather than the final version.

Note that since it is an early test version, this explains why it has differences in music and dialog editing than other mixes of the film.

The 70mm mix that actually ended up being presented to the public in 1979, then, would have been a 4.1 track with identical content to the 35mm stereo version.  Such a track can be found on the official Bluray release, as 640 kbps AC3.  The surrounds are mono and the amount of bass is somewhat less than in the test version, but it is more finalized in editing and content than its predecessor.

Taking this into consideration, for the sake of authenticity I would say that any project proclaiming to be Alien in 70mm should include both the laserdisc 5.1 and the Bluray 4.1 versions, and that they should be clearly labelled for what they are.

Editing to add: Furthermore, we can also infer from this that the 4.1 track on the Bluray of Aliens really is that film's 70mm mix, as well.

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