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Movie Preservation and Home Media: An Opinion

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This topic will probably be deleted since there’s no project dicussion of any kind, but I feel this is the ideal place to post this so here I go.

As a film aficionado whose interest in the technical aspects of moviemaking has grown over the years and being a member of this forum for as long as I have been I’ve started to notice how many home media releases are so drastically different from their film print counterparts, from changes in colour timing to stuff like DNR and edge enhancement or the level of contrast which has been lowered or heightened to the point of crushed blacks.

What I find truly baffling is that we have reached a point in which home video can perfectly replicate the look of a film-projected image as shown by the many film scans that have either been released or are in progress by members of this online community, yet many blu-ray releases are still far from the original look of the movies presented, with revisionist colour timing, digital “clean-up” that wipes away the texture of surfaces which is most apparent in the actors’ faces looking like wax figures to oddly dim-lit looking images and so on and so forth. It’s gotten to a point where I have grown paranoid about home media and don’t know what to trust anymore, especially with much older movies like Ben-Hur or The Godfather, which I never saw in cinemas since those were well before I was born so for all I know 2001: A Space Odyssey had a bright green tint in the original 70mm film prints, and you don’t even have to that far back in time. For instance, from what I’ve gathered watching online photos of the many film cells of Interstellar it’s clear the movie has a cyan tint and higher contrast, yet the blu-ray presents us with a digital transfer that has a blanket yellow tint, a somewhat desaturated colour palette and lower contrast.

The people in charge of handling digital transfers of movies are supposed to be the best of the best yet we are still treated to several piss-poor transfers on our blu-ray discs, and many so-called amateurs on these boards have taken the time to correct the many issues they present, case in point: Neverar’s correction of the official Star Wars blu-ray which blows the official digital presentation out of the water, or the film scans of movies that despite a few scratches here and there still look way better than the official blu-ray discs.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the people who work on official transfers as they still have deadlines to meet and sure they’ve a few things right like some of the early James Bond movies with Sean Connery, but the fact members of this forum have come up with improvements in their spare time that put their work to shame leaves me wondering.

Just needed to get that out of my chest, guys.

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well dnr is annoying when they do it, too many weirdos hate grain on 50 year old films, as for color timing, I think alot of them are imaginary. A lot of the “colour timing” projects I’ve seen are so subtle I personally can’t tell the difference. And wouldn’t old film reals of varied from batch to batch a bit to begin with?

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timemeddler said:

well dnr is annoying when they do it, too many weirdos hate grain on 50 year old films, as for color timing, I think alot of them are imaginary. A lot of the “colour timing” projects I’ve seen are so subtle I personally can’t tell the difference. And wouldn’t old film reals of varied from batch to batch a bit to begin with?

Pretty much this, though there are some films that certainly have revisionist color timing (Aliens, the Final Cut of Blade Runner, the BR Extended Cut of Fellowship of the Ring, and of course, the Blu-Ray SW trilogy, among others), but what I really don’t get is regrading modern films that are mastered from a DI.

ChainsawAsh disappears a lot - bkev

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As far as modern films go I really don’t see any reason why the Bluray should look any different to the DCP sent to theaters, though if I had to guess, I would say that it is because the studios are probably handling the bluray releases entirely unsupervised by the directors. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the studios just take the DCP, apply a blanket yellow, teal, or teal and orange LUT to it, then apply some standard Edge enhancement and DNR and call it done. That way it looks like all the other modern blurays. The director probably hates it as much as we do when and if (s)he gets a look at it, but by then it’s too late, and they are busy with their next project anyway.

For older films I think it is a little more complicated. In the 1980s they would often just transfer an IP print to tape, with the levels and colors adjusted to work within the limitations of PAL/NTSC/SECAM/etc tube TVs. In the late 90’s and early '00s DVDs suddenly started selling like hot cakes and it was worth the investment by the studios to remaster as many of the old films as they could. Sometimes this involved A GOUT style rush job, where they just took the digital laserdisc master and slapped it on a DVD, while others took more care.

With the advent of HD video and bluray, digital scans from the negatives became much more common as a way to achieve the best possible picture quality - upscaling the DVDs just wasn’t good enough. However, by going back to the negatives the original color timing is lost completely and has to be recreated. Color timing digitally, rather than chemically, makes it much cheaper and easier to experiment with new “looks”. I like to imagine that the colorist for the new bluray is sat in a hi tech room with his digital workstation and a projector, screening a theatrical print of the film on a huge screen, allowing the colorist to try to match each scene as closely as possible… But I don’t think that happened very often. Perhaps they were handed the old DVD, or nothing at all. Perhaps sometimes the film’s director would supervise - but of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that the colors wouldn’t be “improved” in the remaster, made perhaps many years after the original film was released.

There is also probably some concern that the grainy, film like image will look out of place among all of the modern, blurays, shot and processed digitally from start to finish. Hence the need to scrub them clean, and sharpen them to hell.

Finally, as somebody who has tried grading scans of film prints, and encoding them, it is very easy for me to see how the addition of a fixed budget and a fixed deadline can lead to less than optimal results. Sometimes the encoder changes the colors, or the levels from your carefully created master, or you forget to change one of the settings, and a re-encode is necessary. But if the adverts have already been broadcast that this film will be available to buy on Bluray on this date - Best Buy already has the cardboard stands to display them, and the master tapes need to be sent to the factory for authoring, then your time is up… Now of course with professionals this isn’t supposed to happen, but I’m sure it does. How else do you explain the Star Wars Blurays? When the final encode was done, somebody must have piped up and said, “oh shit, these are as magenta as fuck!”, but they had to be in stores by October, so that’s what we have… Since then they have been repackaged a number of times, ample opportunities to fix the colors, but that would cut into the profits - and we bought them anyway, right?

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The Star Wars Blu-rays are a different case though, aren’t they? Because they seem to be the same version that the 2004 DVDs were based on (but with some further modifications). And so, if deadlines were what contributed to their botched colors, then it would be the deadline for getting the 2004 DVDs out in time for the holidays and to promote the last prequel movie. But what’s baffling is that the Blu-rays came out 7 years later…and still had the same color issues! You would think that they’d at least try to make some kind of effort to improve the colors. But nope, perhaps they were okay with all the characters looking magenta.

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fmalover said:

This topic will probably be deleted since there’s no project dicussion of any kind,

No mate, any decent discussion of film, the process, technical aspects etc are encouraged (and always good to see them and other people’s opinions and viewpoints too).

but I feel this is the ideal place to post this so here I go.

Seems a good place to me too.

There are a few more discussion topics listed in the Index for this section of the site too (as well as discussions for unfinished projects and general ideas etc), and a few topics in the ‘Fan Edits of Other Films’ section Index as well, which may be of interest.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

Justice For The 96 - Justice For All.

Why don’t you knock it off with them negative waves? Why don’t you dig how beautiful it is out here?

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theMaestro said:

The Star Wars Blu-rays are a different case though, aren’t they? Because they seem to be the same version that the 2004 DVDs were based on (but with some further modifications). And so, if deadlines were what contributed to their botched colors, then it would be the deadline for getting the 2004 DVDs out in time for the holidays and to promote the last prequel movie. But what’s baffling is that the Blu-rays came out 7 years later…and still had the same color issues! You would think that they’d at least try to make some kind of effort to improve the colors. But nope, perhaps they were okay with all the characters looking magenta.

That’s true, it is odd that they didn’t fix it in 2011.

http://www.thestarwarstrilogy.com

http://www.the007dossier.com

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This is why I like DVD so much still to this day.

Nothing had to be re-created as you say. I don’t think anyone really budgeted for having to re-do every films color.

It was a severe under sight and as we continue to Ram higher Resolutions HDR HFR what ever other different methods.

As you say nobody gives a monkey’s what anything used to look like.

Perhaps people should start de-facing Leonardo Da-vinci paintings in Museums like coloring books or dot to dot 😃

This should be treated like Food Standards at the end of the day.

Blu-rays and 4K have no proper consumer Standards nor do they have to advertise themselves as cheap fakes. “This film has been modified from it’s original theatrical presentation”

Another one should Definitely be “This film no longer contains the original theatrical Audio it was presented with”

But on the flip side of this is that… Who ever said that a home video release was meant to be the same as going to the cinema? So in that aspect they can do what they want really and they don’t feel guilty about not representing the work of art in Home Video / Streaming and so on. Thus we don’t have consumer labels about the ingredients of any media release.

But if enough people complained then something eventually would be done about it.

Even physical media is a virtual representation of the art that is in a film can or on tape or whatever. Home Media has always been a re-production that is not the same as holding the actual Art in your hand. And there’s no budget for it to be such a quality re-production unless in a few rare instances.

The only thing all this new Technology is good for is Big Corporate and Advertising anything to do with Art is way down the list it’s probably not even given much consideration, just keep the machines churning out and getting you buying the next “best” thing.

Only when Broadcast even get’s better than 720p can you start considering a moderate budget fo all this early tech guimea pig shennanigans.

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Yeah, it’s real shame that the only ones who care about this subject regarding film fidelity are a minority. I would also like to add that much to my displeasure there are no more film projectors where I live. Digital projectors can’t hold a candle to the sheer magic of a film reel running in front of a light bulb. Just like there are some purists who will only listen to music on vinyl records, I am a traditionalist who thinks the best way to watch a movie is inside a large dark room one reel change at a time.

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fmalover said:

from changes in colour timing to stuff like DNR and edge enhancement

I feel like DNR is this generation’s Pan & Scan.

Consumers are annoyed at the black bars and less image? Make it fill the screen.

Consumers don’t like how dirty the image looks? Digitally clean it.

The unfortunate truth is that the majority of consumers don’t care about having the truest master of the original version of the film, but rather what looks the “best”, even if it’s monumentally worse in doing so.

Ronster said:

This is why I like DVD so much still to this day.

Nothing had to be re-created as you say.

Are we talking about modifications from the original DCP to home media? Because I can name plenty of DVDs that suffered similar issues plaguing BDs, like DNR. Prime example given the website; The Phantom Menace.

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fmalover said:

from changes in colour timing to stuff like DNR and edge enhancement

I feel like DNR is this generation’s Pan & Scan.

Consumers are annoyed at the black bars and less image? Make it fill the screen.

Consumers don’t like how dirty the image looks? Digitally clean it.

The unfortunate truth is that the majority of consumers don’t care about having the truest master of the original version of the film, but rather what looks the “best”, even if it’s monumentally worse in doing so.

Ronster said:

This is why I like DVD so much still to this day.

Nothing had to be re-created as you say.

Are we talking about modifications from the original DCP to home media? Because I can name plenty of DVDs that suffered similar issues plaguing BDs, like DNR. Prime example given the website; The Phantom Menace.

fmalover said:

Just like there are some purists who will only listen to music on vinyl records

Unfortunately vinyl pressings can also have somewhat similar issues as A/V home media transfers, but that’s a bit off topic 😉

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Williarob said:

As far as modern films go I really don’t see any reason why the Bluray should look any different to the DCP sent to theaters, though if I had to guess, I would say that it is because the studios are probably handling the bluray releases entirely unsupervised by the directors. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the studios just take the DCP, apply a blanket yellow, teal, or teal and orange LUT to it, then apply some standard Edge enhancement and DNR and call it done. That way it looks like all the other modern blurays.

While I definitely agree, there are some technical limitations that prevent a Blu-ray from looking exactly like the DCP. First is the color space, which is Rec.709 (Blu-ray) vs P3 (DCP); P3 is quite a bit bigger and has colors that Rec.709 simply cannot replicate. Of course I wish that they’d try a bit harder! (Incidentally, UHD Blu-rays can be in the P3 color space, so they can look pretty much identical to the DCP.) Also, DCP can support up to 12 bits of color vs. only 8 on Blu-ray. That can lead to banding. (UHD Blu-rays can support up to 10 bits, which is still a pretty big leap.) There are a few other differences, like DCP having 4:4:4 color vs 4:2:0 chroma subsampling for Blu-ray etc.

For what it’s worth, I know that you know all of this stuff, Williarob, so please don’t think this is a critique/rebuttal or anything. I’ve enjoyed your contributions to the site quite a bit. I just wanted to provide a bit more technical information for anyone else reading this thread. 😃

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Some of this may stride off topic but just thought I’d give my own views. DVD still remains my preferred method for owning movies. Yes having much more detailed image and in some cases more extras is nice but it’s not mandatory to my viewing needs. Again I’m just speaking for myself. Additionally I feel the extra work they put into a lot of these films for BD is where a lot of the complaints over how it looks stems from. It also depends on how you want it presented.

Do you want it to look like an authentic film print or scrubbed to death so much that the grain and dirt is gone?? Also the coloring. Do you want the theatrical colors or balanced out colors that doesn’t necessarily reflect the original look?? You gotta pick and choose I suppose.

Sometimes DVD is the only way to get the original film or close to it in some cases. The Jaws 30th Anniversary DVD is still my go to copy of that film. I prefer the mono track on that release over the BD mono and also it has the unaltered film without the minor tweaks. Hell I still pop out my DVD-R of my Frankenstein VHS because I like the audio.

Then there’s bonus content. The 2004 Star Wars Trilogy DVD set remains the only way to get Empire of Dreams among other things and only parts of the extras on the Terminator Special Edition DVD were carried over to the BD.

So again you gotta pick and choose. I guess I fall in between. I want the films to be clean but look authentic. I want the colors to be balanced and naturalistic but not stray too far from the original look. And sound?? The original sound remastered to the best of its abilities.

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Ryan-SWI said:

Ronster said:

This is why I like DVD so much still to this day.

Nothing had to be re-created as you say.

Are we talking about modifications from the original DCP to home media? Because I can name plenty of DVDs that suffered similar issues plaguing BDs, like DNR. Prime example given the website; The Phantom Menace.

Sorry let me explain I like older DVD’s where they were more straight up transfers not cleaned up with dirt and scratches and pops and so on.

I don’t mind watching films with pristine presentation either but most of my favorite DVD’s are totally imperfect and have not been digitally enhanced or scrubbed clean. Basically what ChrisRudd said and you have to find the best releases which you prefer.

It really upsets me that Most projects now are of very large file sizes. Anything SD for a project in the community is off the table. Most people I know download a movie to watch whilst travelling away or abroad on flights and so on. Nobody is going to carry around a 50 Gigabyte file on a USB stick or on their laptops, tablets or phones. But for all the good projects here and elsewhere only a small few have catered for the casual travel trip or mobile device or released in SD. Sitting there trying to download huge files for days is also irksome and I basically personally pass up most projects because of file sizes alone put me off not because I did not like or appreciate what a project for what they wanted to achieve.

Anyway not so much a rant but I have lost interest in it all now and have decided that it is now time to step away from the UHD video elite people because I don’t like it all anymore. I feel that all the new technology and digital video editing software has somehow driven the Heart and the sole of many old films from an effort to preserve also begins a new form of destruction. In a community that everything must be all pristine and of the highest quality.

Personally I don’t care what quality something is but to preserve the material in any form is the most important thing.

I bought a CD press kit for gladiator recently and it’s lower than SD quality even but it has more of interview of the special features with the late great Oliver Reed in it that you probably won’t have seen before. This is something perhaps worth preserving but for all my efforts they get lost in amongst the video elite who only care for UHD HDR 8k super video HFR mega TV. And this is why for me I give up with it all now.

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I think part of the problem is that many of today’s tech savvy consumers are looking at things from a digital perspective and so we have blu-ray/4K transfers that try to emulate the look of the latest in high quality digital video rather than preserve the look of film. I suspect this is why even recent movies shot on film look like crap.