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Old 06-30-2010, 05:42 PM   #46
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If you think Gladiator looked fine you should be ok with this--in my opinion Gladiator looked far from fine....
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Old 06-30-2010, 06:21 PM   #47
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Hopefully it's on sale for $15 first week with a $10 movie ticket for Predators, I'll gamble $5 but don't think I want to higher than that (I was prepared to go $30 before reviews).
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$15 with $10 in A-Team cash. I want to buy it just because I'm curious, but I don't want to support it.
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Old 07-01-2010, 12:02 AM   #48
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Bill Hunt over at the Digital Bits has posted a rant that perfectly sums up my feelings on film grain and DNR. So, rather than sit here and type up a long diatribe, I'll just post his rant. The sad fact is that the very people he calls out in this article ... well ... some of those people are on these very boards. I'm not going to name names but you know who you are. Do yourself a favor: read this and get educated!

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All right, here we go again. The rants just keep a-coming these days...

I wanted to say a few words about 20th Century Fox's new Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray. Remember how last week I was ranting about how the studios are putting HD mastering and transfer quality too low on their priority lists? Well... here's a timely example of EXACTLY what I was talking about. Predator is a bit of an interesting case. Let me be perfectly clear: The new Blu-ray is an unmitigated disaster. You remember how awful Patton looked? Well, the new Predator disc is every bit as bad. So much Digital Noise Reduction (the infamous and dreaded 'DNR') has been applied to this disc, that even the sky looks like it was molded from shinny plastic. Fox has actually managed to take a dark, gritty film and make it look like video. Not even high-def video, but old analog video. There is not a speck of grain to be seen anywhere, and hardly a speck of fine image detail either. The subtle textures of clothing, walls, hair, skin - they're nearly all gone. And Fox did this deliberately.

Why, you might be asking? I'll tell you why, and in my mind this is the even bigger travesty: Because when the first Blu-ray edition came out, a bunch of fans and reviewers in all the online A/V forums complained about the video quality. "There's too much grain! The transfer looks like crap!" (Kolpitz's note: This sounds oddly familiar ... hmmm ...) Well, let me tell you... I'll take that original Blu-ray over the new one any day. It's just deeply disheartening to see a Blu-ray released with shockingly mishandled video like this. But it's even more disheartening that there are apparently so many fans online who don't seem to understand the most basic, most important thing about film restoration and mastering: A FILM SHOULD LOOK LIKE A FILM! Yes, I know that original Predator Blu-ray was full of sometimes coarse grain. But how many of those who complained about it have actually seen Predator projected in a theater? That's how the film looks, guys. That's how it looked on Day One when it hit theaters. It's ALWAYS looked like that - dark, gritty, grainy - the result of choices in film stock and camera process made by director John McTiernan and his cinematographer. Predator does not look crisp and clean like Watchmen, and it's not meant to look like that. It was NEVER meant to look like that! In this particular case, the studio (and I'm giving them a bit of credit by recognizing this, and the fact that they have generally improved their catalog BD quality in recent months... until now) was stuck between a rock and a hard place: They released the film on Blu-ray, and some fanboys online freaked out that there was too much grain. So now they've responded and re-released the film on Blu-ray in a version so scrubbed to death with DNR that the film now looks like Pixar produced it. Don't believe me?

Here's a screenshot from the new Blu-ray to illustrate what I'm talking about (the original image is here, and all credit due to whoever posted it). The last time I saw the Governator's cigar-chomping mug polished up this shiny was at the Hollywood Wax Museum. His shirt is so smooth it looks like Mattel molded it for Mr. Potato Head. If you're not fully sickened by this, what kind of film fan are you? Trust me, this is NOT how Predator was EVER intended to look...



The problem here two-fold: First, too many people in both the fan community and film industry have taken Blu-ray's "look and sound of perfect" marketing far too literally. Once again, the word "perfect" with regard to Blu-ray does not and should not mean 100% sharp, crisp and completely blemish free - that everything should look like it was shot with an HD video camera yesterday. It means that the film on the disc should look as good as it did in the very best theatrical screening on Day One. If you were sitting in the director's private screening room on opening day, that's how good the film should look - THAT'S the experience that Blu-ray should work to recreate in the home.

Second, there are WAY too many fans today who came of age in a world in which DVD always existed and so they've rightly grown to love lots of great films... but without EVER having seen these films projected in an actual theater. Too many guys first experienced Predator and similar films on late-night HBO and on DVD in the old analog TV days, and so they never actually saw all the detail - and yes, the inherent defects - that were present in the negative. Standard-definition, analog TV simply didn't have the resolution to show all the detail. So now, those fans are seeing their favorite films for the first time as they actually are, and they're freaking out. "Oh my god, look at all that noise?!" It's not just noise - it's film grain. Some of it is actually supposed to be there. And NO, it's NOT simply a matter of preference any more than colorizing a black and white film is a matter of preference. Image grain is an inherent part of what makes film look like film.

But lest you think me harsh, you should know that I'm not a hardliner for grain either. A few years ago, Home Theatre Magazine interviewed Mike Inchalik about the film restoration process at DTS Digital Images - formerly Lowry Digital. Here's what he had to say about film grain in the age of high-def discs...

Question: How much film grain is appropriate in a modern video master?

Answer: Film purists have often taken the position that film grain should never be changed. Having worked for Eastman Kodak for 25 years, I am extremely sensitive to this way of thinking and completely agree that many cinematographers use film grain as a part of their craft and make it an integral part of their storytelling. Nevertheless, I believe that the opinion that the film grain should never be altered is too sweeping a generalization.


I agree with this position - it's a balance that's required here. You know who's getting it right (aside from Criterion, of course)? Grover Crisp and his team over at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Here's an interview with Crisp done by our friends over at HDNation (Love you guys!) from the Blu-Con 2.0 conference last year, where he talks about some of these very issues. And now here's what director Martin Scorsese had to say about the proper presentation of films on Blu-ray from the same conference (and the same HD Nation episode). Note his comments about the importance of grain, and how Blu-ray should work to replicate the original theatrical experience of a film. The amazing thing to me is that Scorsese and Crisp were speaking before a conference of MOSTLY studio executives, and what they were saying about Blu-ray was CRITCIALLY important! I even said so at the time, in my column here on The Bits. But it's obvious that painfully few of them seem to have been paying attention.

Look... modern audiences aren't used to seeing film grain, and modern HD display technology is capable of showing every flaw in an image. Coarse film grain can be distracting for some, and I understand that. So if grain can be reduced without compromising fine image detail and without removing so much of it that the film look is actually lost, that's one thing. But it's very subtle work and should be done by trained digital film restoration technicians with a light, careful touch. Dialing up the DNR knob to '11' and heavy-handedly stripping every bit of grain away in a process that is actually destructive not only to the film look but also to the integrity of the image is absolutely wrong and downright APPALLING. And to the extent that ANYONE - fan, digital technician or studio employee alike - thinks that's okay or a good thing, all I can say is shame on you! Sadly and predictably, there are far too many "expert" online reviewers (based on a sampling of comments about the disc on the Net today) who clearly don't understand any of this and are all but raving about how clean and wonderful Predator now looks, and what an improvement this disc is over the original Blu-ray. Guys, you are actively undermining EVERYTHING that a lot of good film preservation people in this industry have worked so hard for over so many years. You are doing yourselves, the film, the legacy of classic, pre-digital cinema, your fellow movie fans, and the Blu-ray format as a whole a terrible, TERRIBLE disservice.

In any case, as someone who personally put their reputation on the line to see high-def discs get a chance to thrive, and to ensure that movie fans would get to enjoy the very best quality versions of their favorite films in high-definition... well, for me, seeing a disc like this is just truly depressing. After all that - after fighting for anamorphic-enhancement of DVDs and slogging through two format wars - is this REALLY "The Look and Sound of Perfect" we were fighting for? God, I hope not...

Make no mistake, the new Predator Blu-ray is a disaster. It's simply unwatchable. Compare it to the original and you will be shocked at just how much image detail has been scrubbed away. You want to see DNR, you want to see a perfect example of everything that Blu-ray SHOULDN'T be? Exhibit A: The new Predator: Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray. The other sad thing is that all the previous DVD extras that SHOULD have been included on the first Predator Blu-ray? They're all here... on a double-dip disc that TRUE fans of the film should want to run over with their cars. I don't mind a double-dip that really gets things right. But this isn't one of 'em.

To all of you readers of The Digital Bits who care about presentation quality and about the Blu-ray format, it's time to make some noise. Do it politely, but do it loudly and don't stop until the industry responds. Don't let those who are misinformed or apathetic decide the future of film presentation quality in this new digital age. Let the studios know that this is a HUGE problem and that your Blu-ray spending will reflect your desire for the proper A/V treatment of films on disc. And for goodness sake, PLEASE DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN to educate yourself and others as to what exactly a "perfect" quality film presentation on Blu-ray should be, and what it should really look like! This is even more important than the debate about Pan and Scan vs original aspect ratio presentation of films on DVD, or of colorization vs. original B&W presentation of vintage films on DVD, or of anamorphic enhancement of widescreen films on DVD. Demand a higher standard... or the likes of Spartacus, Patton and Predator will become the new, all-too-easy normal on Blu-ray.
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Old 07-01-2010, 04:41 AM   #49
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Excellent article and rant by Hunt. Perfect!
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Old 07-01-2010, 05:20 AM   #50
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in that Digital Bits rant, what differences am I supposed to be seeing in the image of Arnold in the rant and then the one linked to in the "here"? They both look plastic to me.
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Well as the video explains, I do not think it is a great film, nor do I think.
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Old 07-01-2010, 02:34 PM   #51
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Bill Hunt's rant is dead on. So how are we to be heard? Predator is so mainstream that passionate fans ranting on the Internet aren't going effect sales because Joe Sixpack doesn't read reviews before browsing the aisle at Best Buy or when adding things to his Amazon Wishlist. I doubt there is an email address that someone actually monitors. If they aren't listening to Scorsese and Crisp than they sure as hell aren't even putting themselves in a position to listen to us.

Damn, I almost pick this up on sale just to see if it can really be that bad.
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Old 07-01-2010, 04:32 PM   #52
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I watched the new Predator Blu the other night, and I have to say, I donít think the transfer is as bad as everyone has made it out to be. The first act is definitely the biggest travesty the transfer faces (probably doesnít help Arnie and Carl are each wearing 8 bottles of Vasoline), but I have to tell ya, the jungle shots look pretty good and far more detailed than anything I was expecting. It could have been the contrast boost or the sharpening, but the colors just leap off screen. Especially Predatorís neon blood, it just radiates off my television. The new transfer also benefits extremely with the higher bit rate.

I am definitely not condoning scrubbing the grain completely away from movies like Predator or Aliens, but if Fox would have used it sparingly in shots that needed it instead of just keeping it consistent throughout the entire film, I think you wouldnít hear such an uproar.

I still donít understand why anyone would purchase the old Blu over this one. The old Predator Blu is far from perfect even if all the grain is intact. Itís a poor recycled HD master (at a very low bit rate) and there are no special features. Itís a lazy discÖitís a lose/lose situation any way you look at it.
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Old 07-01-2010, 04:56 PM   #53
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in that Digital Bits rant, what differences am I supposed to be seeing in the image of Arnold in the rant and then the one linked to in the "here"? They both look plastic to me.
It's the same image. They were just linking back to the original posted image to give it credit.
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Old 07-01-2010, 08:42 PM   #54
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If you think Gladiator looked fine you should be ok with this--in my opinion Gladiator looked far from fine....

Maybe fine is the wrong wording, it didn't bother me that much though.

So I caved at Best Buy. Last copy, $14.99 with $10 for Predators (if that ticket was A-Team or Knight and Day I would've passed) so $5 bottom line is about the cost of a rent anyway. Here's hoping....
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Old 07-01-2010, 10:36 PM   #55
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I still donít understand why anyone would purchase the old Blu over this one. The old Predator Blu is far from perfect even if all the grain is intact. Itís a poor recycled HD master (at a very low bit rate) and there are no special features. Itís a lazy discÖitís a lose/lose situation any way you look at it.
I just watched the 2008 Predator Blu and thought it was serviceable (I actually enjoyed the hell out of it). Definitely an improvement over the DVDs. Admittedly, Carl and Arnie look waxy on the 2008 release even with the film grain. The Special Features are recycled from the 2004 DVD release that can be had for a few bucks and anyone that cares about them would have already bought the DVD.

I did go to Best Buy because I'm curious and what's $15 when I've already got 4 versions already laying around. Unfortunately but fortunately they were sold out.

At the end of the day I'm sure I'll prefer the 2008 release.
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Old 07-02-2010, 02:31 AM   #56
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I've been so patiently waiting for this Hunters Edition since Predators was announced.

I should have just bought the 2008 disc when it was released.
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Old 07-02-2010, 02:56 AM   #57
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I ended up and kept the new Blu-ray. I'm just not going to mess with paying return shipping, etc. It does have the free movie ticket included for Predators, so at least that's something.

After watching the new disc, it doesn't look quite as terrible as expected in most scenes. It's those facial close-ups that look like they were scrubbed with DNR to look as smooth as ice cream. Those scenes truly do look artificial and about as un-filmlike as you can imagine.

Man, I hope Fox leaves the Alien movies intact...
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Old 07-02-2010, 08:42 PM   #58
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For $15 and a free Predators ticket I couldn't resist picking up The Ultimate Hunter Edition so I could see for myself if the controversy has any merit. I watched the 2008 Blu yesterday and I just finished watching The Ultimate Hunter Edition. IMO, the outrage is dead-on. Every few minutes you see a scene that looks amazing. But more often there are scenes that look like a heavy dose of Gaussian Blur was applied to an actor's face, helicopter or weapon. The "20th Century Fox" logo at the beginning looks insane. At times I felt like I was looking at a Photoshop artists representation of the film. The great shots don't make up for or outnumber the disgusting ones. This truly is an abomination. There are things about this transfer that prove that the 2008 Blu could have been much better but as I said before the first blu-ray is serviceable. Without a doubt The Ultimate Hunter Edition is the worst blu-ray currently on the market as the previous DVDs give a better experience overall. I don't understand how no one at Fox had the intelligence or power to send this back to the drawing board before it hit stores. I guess it shows what they think of Predator fans.

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Old 07-02-2010, 08:49 PM   #59
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For $15 and a free Predators ticket I couldn't resist picking up The Ultimate Hunter Edition so I could see for myself if the controversy has any merit. I watched the 2008 Blu yesterday and I just finished watching The Ultimate Hunter Edition. IMO, the outrage is dead-on. Every few minutes you see a scene that looks amazing. But more often there are scenes that look like a heavy dose of Gaussian Blur was applied to an actor's face, helicopter or weapon. The "20th Century Fox" logo at the beginning looks insane. At times I felt like I was looking at a Photoshop artists representation of the film. The great shots don't make up for or outnumber the disgusting ones. This truly is an abomination. There are things about this transfer that prove that the 2008 Blu could have been much better but as I said before the first blu-ray is serviceable. Without a doubt The Ultimate Hunter Edition is the worst blu-ray currently on the market as the previous DVDs give a better experience overall. I don't understand how no one at Fox had the intelligence or power to send this back to the drawing board before it hit stores. I guess it shows what they think of Predator fans.
I think the '08 BD would look much better if, like this release, they had just put it on a dual layer disc, with a really high bitrate. No need for all this DNR bullshit.
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Old 07-03-2010, 02:30 AM   #60
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Another rant from Bill Hunt of Digitalbits:

http://www.digitalbits.com/#mytwocents

"Now then... I promised that I'd have more to say on the whole subject of Predator and excessive digital noise reduction on Blu-ray transfers. For those of you who've heard enough of it, feel free to skip down to here. As for the rest of you purists, masochists and True Believers, read on dear friends...

Predictably, we've gotten a lot of reader responses to my Wednesday rant about the Predator. I'm pleased to say that the overwhelming majority agreed with me and were just as upset as I was, both by the release itself... and by the recently trend of studios over-scrubbing old catalog digital masters for Blu-ray release. A couple of you, specifically those who thought the new Predator BD looked just awesome (to quote HEADGEEK "The print is f--king unbelievably sharp. I'm talking portal into another dimension sharp."), took exception. So be it, I guess. Everyone's got an opinion and this is probably unavoidable. There are also still lots of people who hate those damn black bars on their new HDTV sets, who don't seem to care or notice that AMC HD stretches the hell out of all their full frame films to fit the 1.78 HDTV aspect ratio, and who would prefer to watch the colorized version of It's a Wonderful Life rather than the original black and white. ("If Frank Capra made that film today, he would have used color, dammit!") It ain't my thing, and I continue to have a hard time understanding those attitudes, but to each their own. Nonetheless, I'm still going to do everything I can to try to hold the studios to a higher standard, and to TRY to educate consumers on these issues.

Interestingly, I've heard from a number of industry sources in the last couple of weeks that a lot of people at the various mastering houses are painfully aware of this problem, and are doing whatever they can to alert the studios to the issue. (And guys, know that we're TOTALLY behind you and appreciate your efforts. If there's anything we can do to help, please let us know.) But there are still too many decision-makers at the studios - good, decent people to be sure - who just don't yet really understand the problem. I've also heard that, many times, studio decision-makers are giving the thumbs-up to these BD masters after checking them on a 40-inch plasma. And that's just not enough to really determine the quality - you need to throw them up on a 100-inch or larger projection screen to really see whether the image is breaking down or not. If you go to any good post production facility that does film remastering, you'll know that's exactly what they do - they digitally project the film in a real screening room space and carefully look for quality issues at that scale. It's the only way to properly do the job.

Lest you all think I'm some kind of anti-DNR film Nazi, let me say this: DNR isn't evil. I don't hate DNR. Virtually EVER high-definition master uses some form of DNR. What I hate, is when DNR is used carelessly and excessively. There are too many people working at the studios who think of ANY grain as some kind of defect, and so they have no qualms just stripping it all out with DNR, which all too often damages the integrity of the image.

Let me be clear: I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with grain reduction, especially if the grain in a film element is coarse and distracting -- unless that was the specific intent of the director and DP. I dislike a "grain storm" as much as the next guy. But when I'm watching a film, shot on film, on Blu-ray, I still expect to see a little very light grain texture in the background - even after DNR has been applied - because that's an inherent physical property of any film negative. When I start quality checking the transfer of a film on Blu-ray, I look for a bright scene, pause the image and start frame-stepping forward. If I can see a very slight/subtle pattern of print grain changing from frame to frame, I generally move on and don't think anything of it. But if can't see that grain anymore, even upon very close inspection, it's likely someone has gone too far. And so I start looking at other detail in the image - skin and fabric textures, etc - and 9 times out of 10, some of that has been removed too. Or in the case of the new Predator disc, a LOT has been removed. And that's when it's a problem for me.

Robert [Harris], myself and others arguing the film purist side of this aren't just doing this to be obnoxious. But I don't care how many sales there are, Blu-ray is still a fairly niche format - a "20% of the market" format. A premium format, sold for a premium price. So I think it's reasonable to expect a little better. But if you don't demand better, you'll likely never get it.

I'm not saying DNR should never be used again. I'm simply arguing that there needs to be some kind of standard. Film, shot on film, should still identifiably look like a film on Blu-ray. If we're talking about Avatar or Toy Story 3, then I expect them to be crisp and clean and grain-free. But if I'm watching Predator, or Night or the Living Dead, or Battleship Potemkin, you know... I expect to see a little grain. It's not rocket science. Criterion is getting it right. Sony is getting it right. All it takes is someone familiar enough with both film and video remastering to know that there's a balance that needs to be struck, and you need to employ a careful, light hand with digitally cleaning these masters.

Look guys - for all those of you who felt the original Predator disc was terrible because it was too grainy, my belief is that the new one is just as terrible... only in a different way. There IS an easy, happy medium to be struck here. Hell, if Fox had even SPLIT THE DIFFERENCE between the two discs with regard to employing DNR, I doubt any of this would be an issue.

And let me make one last argument for the importance of proper, careful digital remastering - the point I think is really the MOST important of all...

How many films in the history of cinema - even just Hollywood cinema history - have been lost to time? The prints were cut, trashed, have deteoriated or been misplaced completely? A HUGE portion of the films made before 1930 simply no longer exist. This might surprise you, but Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation estimates a whopping 80% of the American films made prior to 1930 are gone forever. Let that sink in for a moment.

Who knows how many of our favorite films today will simply be lost 100 years from now? There are many beloved classics with negatives in dire need of restoration and preservation, RIGHT NOW, even today. In a tough economy, film restoration is one of the first things that stops happening. It becomes much less of a priority for the studios. So what happens when those prints are lost or badly damaged - and I assure you if it's happened before it will happen again - and there's no one left alive who even remembers what they looked like?

My point is, it is ENTIRELY possible that, as we move fully into an all-digital world, some of these digital masters will end up being the ONLY surviving versions of our favorite films. So isn't it important get them right? I sure think so.

Anyway, it's important and well worth noting that MOST catalog BD titles these days are pretty well done, and some are downright spectacular. And a lot of good people in the industry are working very hard to deliver the very best quality possible. But sadly, the list of catalog titles with terrible transfers is truly depressing, in that it contains all too many much-loved titles that fans were really excited for: Gladiator, Patton, The Longest Day, Flash Gordon, many of the older Star Trek films... and now Predator. Let's just hope those continue to be the exception and not the rule... and that they'll all be revisited one day on Blu-ray with proper transfers."
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