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Blu-Ray General Discussion Part 2


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Blu-Ray Discussion Part 1

 

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I received my Panasonic BD-50 a couple of weeks ago. I've been very pleased with it thus far. The DTS-MA has been a nice upgrade and the picture is slightly better than the BD-10 it replaced. Load times are lightening fast on it, it's scary how much faster it loads over the 10. Haven't taken any opportunities to check out it's 2.0 features.

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I'd really like it if The Green Mile came out at the same time, or at the very least wasn't too far behind. I also really liked The Majestic but I know we'll likely be waiting longer for that one.

 

On the subject of Darabont, has anyone seen the (fantastic) revised cover art for The Mist?

 

51du94qhv1lss500qw5.jpg

 

Yes, getting The Green Mile at same time would be most welcome. Love the cover of the BR Mist - it's the same one used for the booklet that came with the SD DVD two disc CE.

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I find High Def Digest to be rather poor personally. I think the most consistently on the ball are Kris Deering’s reviews for Home Theater Mag, and the reviews by Dan Ramer over at DVD File:

 

http://www.hometheatermag.com/moviereviews/

http://www.dvdfile.com/

 

They're the only two I know of who have picked up on additional noise reduction Universal actually appear to be adding to their catalogue Blu-rays compared to HD DVD versions and it's when reviewers pick up on this sort of thing that there's better chance of something being done about it rather than those ranting on a web forum where they foolishly assume studios are paying attention and don’t appear to be doing anything constructive with their findings.

 

I do enjoy the reviews by our own Adam Tyner at DVD Talk too:

http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/list.php?reviewType=Blu-ray

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I've pretty much written off High Def Digest except Kenneth Brown's reviews. I don't surf HDD much especially now that the annoying Zyber is over there. Bracke's reviews are pretty worthless.

 

I do echo Dan's reviewers. I like Adam's even though I've disagreed with a few of them but more often than not I feel he's accurate(to me).

 

I also like the reviews at AVS penned by Ralph.

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The problem with Bracke is that he bases his reviews off wanting each Blu-ray to look digitally bright, perfect, with no film grain whatsoever... not off the source material at hand and how it is MEANT to look.

 

I gotta say that honestly though, with a larger screen... there has not really been too many Blu-rays that have let me down. When you're watching a 110" screen from 10 feet, you can REALLY see the difference even if there's a slight improvement from the DVD just because the upconversion will always be better when it is prerendered.

 

There's been ONE blu-ray that I've been totally disappointed with and that's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but I think that's just how the source material has aged without a restoration. If I hadn't picked that up for $8 I'd be really upset ;)

 

I really like the reviews on DVDbeaver.com ... especially the DVD to Blu-ray comparisons he's got. Really professionally written and with a good eye for the details, imho.

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The problem with Bracke is that he bases his reviews off wanting each Blu-ray to look digitally bright, perfect, with no film grain whatsoever... not off the source material at hand and how it is MEANT to look.

 

There?s that, and I also get the distinct impression he doesn?t really go over the disc beginning to end. He makes an awful lot of mistakes too, and is often one to go back and revise his reviews after others have undertaken more critical findings (this, I think, may well support the belief he doesn't really watch a disc all the way through). I?ve also noticed he loves to give himself the right to review the big AAA releases above other HDD staff. HDD in general is also really poor for news. In 2006 they were better in being one of the first HD format websites, but I see news and "first look" features on HDD that I see over at DVDTimes and DVD Active days in advance. Their forum is also a cesspool of people who can't let the format war go and their smackdown forum actually seems to encourage such a mentality.

 

I?ve got 57 Blu?s and I?ve really only got three I find to be a let down (Dark City/Patton and to a lesser extent The Assassination of Jesse James). There?s only been a couple of titles I wanted but have put off buying due to their quality (Gangs of New York and The Longest Day) so I?ve been fortunate with my choices I think. There isn?t really a studio putting out consistently average work - though it could be argued New Line did but I am more confident now that their catalogue will be handled by Warner as with luck they?ll put money their sister company couldn?t afford to spend on doing new masters where required. I'm curious to finally own a Universal disc.

 

Findings with the Universal titles appear rather inconsistent. I know Xylon threw a hissy fit over the Mummy discs over at AVS but close examination appears to actually show neither is truly superior to the other, but that the HD DVD is better than the Blu in some places, and vice versa in others and I?m not convinced it?d even be as obvious in motion (someone did some good ?mouseover? comparisons of Xylon?s shots to highlight this best). U571 appears to have had more extensive noise reduction however with it?s clear lack of grain. Universal have yet to release a movie I want but The Thing and Casino are coming up ? two of their best catalogue HD DVDs ? so it would be a real shame if they ?enhance? those. I am hoping they wont since both come from fairly recent masters done for the last DVD releases and I get the sense that noise reduction is only being applied to much older catalogue masters ? although having said that most people are claiming End of Days was left alone with its grain, and dirt, left intact so it?s all a bit confusing what their criteria is for applying DNR. More recent films from a digital intermediate source appear to be left alone if Doomsday is anything to go buy, so I?m not really concerned about how Bourne?etc will turn out.

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If they "enhance" The Thing I will be royally pissed, because that is one I am double-dipping from the perfectly fine HD DVD simply because of the lossless. But I am thinking of waiting at least for a few online reviews, because if the DTS-MA doesn't blow away the HD DVDs DD+, I won't be getting the Blu at all.

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If they "enhance" The Thing I will be royally pissed, because that is one I am double-dipping from the perfectly fine HD DVD simply because of the lossless. But I am thinking of waiting at least for a few online reviews, because if the DTS-MA doesn't blow away the HD DVDs DD+, I won't be getting the Blu at all.

 

I'd be surprised if the DTS HD MA was that much better. I'd definitely hold on to the HD DVD if you still have it until reviews are in, particularly if that documentary isn't on the disc (it's not listed though I've a feeling it will be turned into the PiP content). I've still got my old DVD for that documentary.

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Well, going back to my HD DVDs last week, I found the DD+ very lacking after being exposed to lossless. But there are so many dang Blu Rays coming out soon that I have to be very picky from now on, with the holidays coming and money not as readily available as last year.

 

Rented U-571 today. If the DTS-MA on this one doesn't blast me out of the HT, I may just pick up the HD DVD for less than $10.

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Personally I never found u571 to blast me out even on the DTS DVD. I find the sound to be highly overrated. The depth charged bass is all centered above 30hz which isn't really deep bass to me.

 

RE: Peter Bracke: I'm convinced he doesn't watch everything he mentions. I've seen way too many mistakes that a simple QA would have revealed.

 

RE Universal: I have several of their discs. Doomsday is spectacular(though one could argue the movie wasn't good). Mummy looked and sounded pretty decent to me. Certainly in my view better than the HD DVD I sold off. The video seemed like a slight upgrade and I can't say I noticed any of the issues that Xylon had but then again I only have a 50" screen. There are some issues I have not seen on a smaller set like a 60" that I can see plain as day on a 100" screen especially if you are viewing in 1080P. Dark City's DNR being the most noticable on a screen that large. On my 50, it's not objectionable but I couldn't stand it on a 100" screen. I wouldn't say New Line was that great for BR.

 

Shoot Em Up and Orphanage are their best 2 discs.

Pan's, Hairspray, GC, and DC were a mess with DNR and other problems

The rest were unspectacular.

 

With Warner's lowest common denominator HD approach, I really fear for what will come next. Given the source material, I suspect Sex and the City to be great.

 

Now given all of this I still bought Pans(Despite the dnr), the Orphanage, DC and GC. But I don't give them a pass for what I consider to be poor quality. Certainly they are not as poor as GONY for example.

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The sound, although it did not BLAST me out of my HT, was nice on the Blu of U-571. Enough for me to buy it? Probably not, but it was nicely immersive and detailed. Only watched about 2/3 of the movie before I had to get back to my writing, but will finish tomorrow.

*concerning the original DVD not having enough OOMPF! I have to admit that I used to watch it with my Buttkicker and that thing will add plenty of OOMPF! to any disc.

 

The Mummy looked nice on Blu to me, but not enough for me to purchase.

Doomsday looked and sounded good, but the movie itself was like a half-assed remake of 3 movies from the 80's and since I've had it up to here with remakes, that alone makes it a won't-watch-again movie.

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RE Universal: I have several of their discs. Doomsday is spectacular(though one could argue the movie wasn't good).

 

Again it does not appear Universal are doing anything to recent films from a digital source (Miami Vice) or from a digital intermediate source (Doomsday and, let's face it, the majority of modern movies today). It's just with older catalogue telecined masters where there seems to be some inconsistency that's seems worth keeping an eye on at this point. I want to get Knocked Up next month and am not expecting any tampering as its master would have come from its digital intermediate source which Uni, or whoever is doing their encoding, seems to take as the signal to leave the image alone.

 

I've written about this before but I really want to see what 40yr Old Virgin will look like because it was easily one of Universal's worst HD DVDs. A downright ugly and artificial image. My expectation at this point, with no evidence that Uni are interested in investing in creating new masters, is that the BD will look no better but we'll see what the usual suspects at AVS find.

 

 

With Warner's lowest common denominator HD approach, I really fear for what will come next.

 

I think that?s a bit unfair. Warner have been subjected to a lot of exaggeration when it comes to criticism of their output and whilst I do think on occasion there is room for improvement they rank amongst the best in terms of how they treat their masters and choosing which masters are fit for use. For this reason I am more confident about future New Line titles under Warner than I might have been under New Line themselves (although we can probably still expect some future catalogue releases to come that were prepped under New Line).

 

Having said that, obviously it?s difficult to overlook the fact that they are the one major studio who does not have a self imposed mandate to provide lossless audio on all of their releases. That?s still the main area where they fumble, and even when they do TrueHD it?s always 16bit even if it?s for a more recent movie that would have had a 24bit audio mix (the only example I can think of where Warner did use 24bit audio is the PCM track on the UK version of Flags of Our Fathers).

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Other than the way Warner restores and treats their masters which should be applauded, I find their HD releases to be underwhelming. They constantly release lowbitrate stuff, the last to use Profile 1.1, inconsistent at best on Lossless and I'm being kind and traditionally they just only seem to do what's necessary. The good enough scenario. The big boxset for Dirty Harry was quite neat and the Blade Runner release was stellar but those are exceptions not the rule. I'm completely ignoring the other big complaints like filtering the master and such that pretty much give us a 720P image at best such as Batman Begins for example.

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The problem with Bracke is that he bases his reviews off wanting each Blu-ray to look digitally bright, perfect, with no film grain whatsoever... not off the source material at hand and how it is MEANT to look.

 

I gotta say that honestly though, with a larger screen... there has not really been too many Blu-rays that have let me down. When you're watching a 110" screen from 10 feet, you can REALLY see the difference even if there's a slight improvement from the DVD just because the upconversion will always be better when it is prerendered.

 

There's been ONE blu-ray that I've been totally disappointed with and that's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but I think that's just how the source material has aged without a restoration. If I hadn't picked that up for $8 I'd be really upset ;)

 

I really like the reviews on DVDbeaver.com ... especially the DVD to Blu-ray comparisons he's got. Really professionally written and with a good eye for the details, imho.

 

I think I'm aligned with Lutter here. I've yet to see a BD/HD-DVD that disappoints on the video front - on the projector they are always a lot better than DVD.

 

I'm not too picky on the sound, being an audio skeptic...so for me it's more about how many special features did they leave off of the BD vs the DVD. So HDD and the beaver sites are both pretty good for that.

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One other suspicion I have about Universal?.

 

I don't think they have actually bothered creating new masters for The Mummy movies and U571 since their original DVD releases. They promoted the Mummy titles (recent DVD re-issues and BDs) as being "digitally remastered" which is basically marketing bollocks for "we've not done a new master but have taken the old one and digitally touched it up to sharpen it and remove some dirt...etc" so that would explain aspects of noise reduction on those discs. I'll come back to The Mummy at the end though...

 

U571 was a 25GB disc with PiP and curiously enough the movie?s average bitrate is lower than the HD DVD so it may be that they felt in order to get the movie, PiP and DTS HD MA onto the disc they had to apply noise reduction to make the video encode easier to do at lower rates. It could just be that they felt it was so old a master they had to touch it up. Still, why not do that to End of Days in which case? That one is 25GB too and there?s little doubt that its master is as old as its original DVD release as well but they dropped all of its DVD and HD DVD extras for the Blu-ray version (save audio commentary) which may well explain why it has been allegedly left untouched (comparison pics have yet to actually confirm).

 

So lets ignore the Mummy titles and assume they were touched up on the basis that Universal simply felt the need to touch up their old masters in an attempt to try and create a hook to try and sell the movies on DVD again (and naturally the BDs came from the same touched up master). Looking at U571 and End of Days then it?s quite possible we can work out a pattern of what to expect from Universal in the future. For any single layer release of a film from an old master but with extras, particularly PiP which eats into available bandwidth, U571 like tampering may be what we get. On the other hand for a film with an old master on a 25GB disc void of any extras or on a 50GB disc with the most room to breathe may be left alone.

 

My definition of an ?old master? incidentally would be 6-10yrs old. The Scorpion King, another 25GB disc with only a commentary and PiP for extras, but from a more recent master, seems to have been left untouched from the screencaps I have seen. So my hope is that The Thing may turn out OK since it had a new master done in 2004 and the movie only took up 15GB on the HD DVD so with luck it?s not one Universal will find incentive to apply noise reduction to. Casino had a new master done in 2005, it?s going to be a 50GB BD so again I?d like to think that one will pass through unscathed as well. We?ll have to see.

 

We?ve not had enough Universal releases on Blu-ray to really get a definitive idea of what possesses them to make the decisions they?ve been making, but I?m not yet convinced U571 is necessarily a taste of things to come and personally I do think that The Mummy's BD encode is victim of exaggeration over at AVS. You can see Xylon's comparison shots again here but as 'mouseover' comparisons which I think are great as it's far easier to see a difference than seeing two images beneath one another on a forum and you can clearly see where the HD DVD is better over the BD and vice versa. Look at comparison five for example. The hieroglyphics on the pillar on the left are most distinctive in the HD DVD yet the BD has the edge for overall sharpness (whether this is result of artificial sharpening or the higher bitrate is difficult to pinpoint. I suspect a combination of both as edges seem a little harsh, bordering on noisy, but not actually robbing the image of its filmlike qualities). Comparison Six with the medium close up of Weisz and Hannah is similar in that noise reduction has removed some facial detail from both actors in the BD but there?s more detail in the clothing and fewer compression artefacts compared to the HD DVD.

 

 

They constantly release lowbitrate stuff

 

I'm completely ignoring the other big complaints like filtering the master and such that pretty much give us a 720P image at best such as Batman Begins for example.

 

Nobody should obsess about bitrates so long as they?re appropriately levelled in relation to the imagery on screen at any given time. After a point you will get diminishing returns in letting bitrates run high and many studios just let that happen simply because they can since it takes time/money to work on reducing them without noticeable loss of quality. Have you ever seen comparison shots of Warner?s European VC1 HD DVD/BD encode of The Prestige vs Disney?s US AVC BD encode? There?s a hairs difference between them despite the BD having a higher average bitrate and it's not going to be a difference your eye would detect when the images are in motion. We can?t just assume Warner?s titles don?t look as good as they could as they run lower average bitrates than other studios, not when they each have different approaches to authoring and especially not when each video codec has its own number of encoder variants on the market with different learning curves and features.

 

Again I agree on the lossless front, and I can also agree that Warner - primarily due to them authoring single encodes for both formats that could not stretch beyond HD DVDs bandwidth limitations - have pushed bitrates lower than their VC1 encoder can realistically tolerate on a handful of titles (I find this most noticeable on V for Vendetta which exhibits some obvious compression artefacts as a result) but please don?t fall for that ?it?s only 720p? nonsense that certain AVS members spewed out for a period of time. It?s bad science with minimal basis for accuracy when it comes to examining movies as there are just too many factors involved with regard to how filmed images are captured, transferred and consequently encoded.

 

Batman Begins is actually a good example of why you can?t possibly simplify an explanation as to why certain films on disc look the way they do. It?s a film photographed with anamorphic lenses that did not have a digital intermediate meaning it is a bit of a rarity this day in age in that its HD master would have been made from a telecined IP rather than a scan (so already it?s a film at what some might consider a ?disadvantage? as far as visible sharpness is concerned). If they went back, avoided a telecine and instead scanned the IP before doing a new encode where they never let the bitrate drop below the high teens I do think it would be an improvement over the existing encode, but I?m not convinced it would be night and day like so many presume.

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Hopefully Beauty and the Beast is sooner rather then later

 

I think that will come in 2010. I'd be excited about that too as I think the DVD was a mess of compression. All Disney have done is basically name their next three Platinum DVDs with this news as we already know Pinocchio is February's Platinum release on DVD and BD. I believe October 09's platinum disc is going to be Snow White and I'd think that, like last time, Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 will be packaged together when they do arrive so - again - we've just been told the next four Platinum releases.

 

I'd expect:

Feb 2009 - Pinocchio (confirmed)

Oct 2009 - Snow White

Feb 2010 - Fantasia/Fantasia 2000

Oct 2010 - Beauty and the Beast

 

It's possible that Fantasia might actually be October 09's release making Snow White a 2010 disc as both have been rumoured to be the October 09 Platinum title since they are due to come back into rotation. I think Fantasia is the only title between Snow White and Beauty and the Best that would be OK as a February release though as traditionally Disney reserve October for their seriously popular classics which is where Snow White and Beauty & the Beast would be most at home. That said, Fantasia has never been a Platinum branded release though so they may do that before Snow White as Snow White's re-issue will signal their Platinum label coming full circle and starting all over again.

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Xylon has now done his Miami Vice comparison shots over at AVS and it's a win for the Blu version this time around with greater detail and retention of all the CCD noise. I'm fairly convinced then that for recent films, or older titles with fresh masters, there will be nothing to worry about with Universal's releases (save recent movies that received awful masters like 40yr old Virgin). If those responsible for Universal's authoring were anti-grain/noise Miami Vice would have suffered, but instead it's the HD DVD version that got filtered to ease the encoding.

 

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=1060350

 

I never did see that movie.

 

I'd like to see shots from End of Days now as its master is likely to be as old as U571's so why it has been left alone (if comments are to be believed) and U571 wasn't I'm still really keen to understand.

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That last set of shots was startling.

 

We know Universal is reencoding so I wonder if their problems are because of a BD25 and it's space limitations. Given it's 5 gig less than a dual layer HD DVD, I could see them adding DNR to make it fit better on a smaller BD25.

 

I would think if Uni just used BD50's, it would solve this issue completely.

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We know Universal is reencoding so I wonder if their problems are because of a BD25 and it's space limitations. Given it's 5 gig less than a dual layer HD DVD, I could see them adding DNR to make it fit better on a smaller BD25.

 

It’s possible – particularly since End of Days had all of its extras (save commentary) removed whilst U571 had it’s existing extras re-worked for a new PiP track on the BD [and PiP tracks require constant allocation of bandwidth]. Yet, The Scorpion King is a BD25, feature wise is identical to U571 in carrying an audio commentary and PiP track, and from shots I have seen elsewhere has not had DNR applied as it exhibits a consistent grain structure.

 

U571 is a longer movie than Scorpion King, but only by some twenty odd minutes and both are 2.39:1 which is generally easier to encode than 1.85:1 since wider films are not actually using the full 1080p resolution. Scorpion King is a more recent movie however and visually U571 may still contain more difficult imagery to successfully encode.

 

U571 on Blu-ray, believe it or not (with the movie encode, audio tracks and PiP) only fills 21,368,995,358 bytes of the 25GB disc. The HD DVD version’s movie encode alone was that size, with the entire contents (the film, DD+ and extras) 24,908,225, 928 bytes on the 30GB disc so the BD still had some GB free to play with so it’s not capacity, but it MIGHT be bandwidth however I’m not convinced... Blu-ray’s maximum available bandwidth is the same regardless of a disc being single or dual layered so U571 has no less bandwidtth to play with than Transformers does and I'd wager that Transformers is a damn sight more demanding of peak audio and video bitrates than U571 due to it's near constant dynamic imagery and sound mix (plus it's got PiP on top of all that).

 

I think the answer may well be that they simply felt the master was old, didn’t want to go to the cost of doing a new one, so they cleaned it up digitally just like The Mummy only they went a little too far on U571 (though this would still bring me back to questioning why they apparently didn’t treat End of Days similarly. End of Days is actually an older movie than U571).

 

Hopefully Xylon will look at Scorpion King and End of Days. As I wrote last night, until more Universal titles are on the shelves it's still difficult to get a more definitive idea of what may be prompting their decisions with certain titles. If The Thing suffers, even with having a relatively fresh four year old master, then I think we may be able to lay blame on them thinking they need to cut some corners in order to work with 25GB (which personally I think would be a a poor excuse as Fox for example have used 25GB successfully with good video encodes, DTS HD MA and extras).

 

The Thing looked as good as it did on HD DVD and only demanded around 15GB, less than U571 on either format, so I am still hopeful it will look - at the very least - as good as the HD DVD (there's really little reason why it couldn't be a higher rate encode on BD with its DTS HD MA and PiP). We must play the waiting game...

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