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Blade Runner bad video quality exaggerated

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Blade Runner bad video quality exaggerated

Old 04-16-02, 11:12 AM
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Blade Runner bad video quality exaggerated

This is a continuation of a conversation started in the DVD Talk forum.

Originally posted by Josh Z
The "terrible video" quality of the Blade Runner DVD is wildly exaggerated. It looks better than any previous video release of the film.
Originally posted by Grubert
I would love to differ and substantiate my statement, but going into that on this thread would be hardly apropos.

I only mentioned that movie as an obvious example of my buying principles (ie, barebones Blade Runner goes before ultimate edition Mummy Returns).
OK, then, have at it.

The disc is not reference quality, but it is nowhere near as "terrible" as I have heard people complain. The picture is sharp and anamorphically enhanced, the colors are strong, the black level is solid. I own every laserdisc edition of this film (no joke, 8 of them). The DVD is not perfect, it could use a remaster, but it is the best video edition of the film I have yet seen.

So, what's so terrible about it?
Old 04-16-02, 02:57 PM
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Hey Josh, is one of those Embassy pressings the one I sold you a year or so back?


Anyways, I just sold off this disc in anticipation of the SE DVD (I've got the Criterion and DC LD's), but I don't remember this disc looking near as awful as many make it out to be. It is quite dark, and that's not easy to compress so I'm sure it could benefit from a new transfer and spread out to a dual layer. But it's certainly no Madacy
Old 04-16-02, 04:47 PM
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Originally posted by milo bloom
Hey Josh, is one of those Embassy pressings the one I sold you a year or so back?
Must be!

Anyways, I just sold off this disc in anticipation of the SE DVD (I've got the Criterion and DC LD's), but I don't remember this disc looking near as awful as many make it out to be. It is quite dark, and that's not easy to compress so I'm sure it could benefit from a new transfer and spread out to a dual layer. But it's certainly no Madacy
Exactly.

Last edited by Josh Z; 04-16-02 at 04:49 PM.
Old 04-16-02, 07:20 PM
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The DVD doesn't look bad -- especially considering the age of the movie and the fact that it was one of the first DVDs released.

"Blade Runner" has always looked a bit dark, washed-out, and grainy when I've seen it on video and cable. I always assumed that was by design.
Old 04-17-02, 03:15 AM
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Okay, let's go:


Although detail level is good, there is a lot of noise in the picture, which at first sight you could mistake for film grain but it isn't - it's compression artifacts. This can be confirmed by pausing, e.g., on the scene where Deckard calls Rachael on the vidphone. Macro blocks are everywhere.

Of course, the problem is that Blade Runner is filled with dark scenes, the bane of MPEG encoding, which usually require a higher bit rate. But the BR disc is single-layered, and the bit rate stays around 4.0 throughout. There are several examples of newer DVDs which cope with dark scenes a lot better, such as Dark City or Sleepy Hollow (sorry, I haven't seen Pitch Black in order to judge).

It has one of the worst cases of telecine wobble I have ever seen. Right from the beginning (the Ladd Company tree logo) you can see the image shakes horizontally. It is very obvious and distracting.

Finally, the copy is far from clean and suffers from a lot of small nicks and scratches. Most of them are partially obscured by the general darkness of the picture, but they are nonetheless noticeable.

Note: It didn't take a seven-feet-wide screen to spot all of this. I use a 28-inch direct view TV.

I have to agree with Josh Z in one thing: this DVD is much better than any other previous incarnation of the movie. I think I'm even worse off than him, because I only had three VHS tapes: two pan-and-scan copies of the 1982 release (one in English, one dubbed in Spanish) and an off-the-air recording of the director's cut in letterbox.

If and when we get a carefully transferred and encoded special edition of this movie, a side-by-side comparison will emphasize the flaws of the current release.

Regards.
Old 04-17-02, 12:47 PM
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Grubert,

I will go back and rewatch the scenes you mention (it's been a while) to look for compression problems. I don't recall any standing out as a problem, especially given how grainy the film is, but I will take another look.

However, regarding this point:

Originally posted by Grubert
It has one of the worst cases of telecine wobble I have ever seen. Right from the beginning (the Ladd Company tree logo) you can see the image shakes horizontally. It is very obvious and distracting.
That wobble is an inherent artifact in every copy of the Director's Cut. It has something to do with the way the DC was created from workprint materials. I wish I had a specific technical explanation for it. This wobble was present in the 1992 theatrical screenings, but was probably easy to write off at the time as a projection problem. It wasn't, though, nor is it a telecine error. The DVD was a new remaster, yet the wobble is identically present in the older VHS and laserdisc copies.

It is only a problem with the Director's Cut, not the original theatrical cut(s) of the film. Honestly, I think it's only noticeable during the opening and closing credits. I can't think of anyplace during the course of the movie where it is noticeable.

If you want to look at a real case of telecine gatefloat, check out the Star Trek Insurrection DVD. The Paramount logo and opening credits are all over the place.
Old 04-18-02, 10:53 AM
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Grubert,

OK, I took another look at the DVD last night.

It's true that the video bitrate averages between the 4s and 5s, and no doubt could be much improved by a dual-layer remaster, however I did not see any particular compression artifacts in the videphone scene you mentioned. Is there a particular time-code I should be looking at?

Yes, there are some minor dirt and scratches in parts, but this is a 1982 movie and overall I was not bothered by the severity of any of them.

Now, re: the telecine gatefloat. Allright, I'm just going to say it, I was wrong. I dug out my LD copy of the Director's Cut, and although the credits are a little unstable, they are nowhere near as bad as the DVD's wobble. It's funny, because I could swear that I had this discussion at one point in the past and came to the conclusions in my previous post. But no, the DVD is much worse. In fact, I flipped over to the pan&scan side of the disc and the credits there are rock solid!

This is indeed a transfer error. I will repeat, though, that it is only noticeable during the opening and closing credits, not the body of the movie itself.

(Doesn't Warner's Batman DVD have a similar problem, actually?)

Anyway, I still contend that this DVD does not look "terrible" by any means. Could use a remaster, sure, but is not as bad as it has been made out to be.

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