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Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

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Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Old 05-11-10, 08:26 PM
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Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

http://www.hometheaterforum.com/foru...eth-in-blu-ray

Shekhar Kapur's Elizabeth was a quality film when it arrived in 1998.

Now via Universal's new Blu-ray, the direction is unprofesional, the acting by plasticized replicas of Blanchett, Rush, Gielgud and Attenborough is as stilted and unpleasant as the fake hairpieces. The audio still works, but to what avail. This was never meant to be Elizabeth: The Radio Show.

Heavily processed for grain removal, softened -- and then, of necessity, sharpened, with all of the requisite force fields and halos intact. There is no remaining fine detail whatsoever. This horrific Blu-ray should be put out of its misery.

The fate of cinematography, direction, acting and art direction in the cinema all hinge on reproduction. When quality reproduction fails, so does the film.

As I'm certain that this will not be recalled for some error or other, I believe that the best move for Universal is to halt all distribution of catalog titles. Stop transferring. Stop mastering. Stop distribution. If not for the sake of the films, do it for our planet.

Fail.

RAH
Gotta agree. They already screwed up several BD launch titles, recovered, and have recently gone completely downhill. (Elizabeth, Spartacus, Out of Africa)
Old 05-11-10, 08:59 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Please forgive my ignorance but, who is Robert Harris and why do we care what he says one way or another? I don't have the BD of Elizabeth, rather I have the HD DVD which is marvelous so, I can't comment on the accuracy of his description but, I am assuming he's something of a DVD/BD/HD DVD muckety muck of sorts?
Old 05-11-10, 09:03 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Harris

Robert A. Harris is a film historian and preservationist who specializes in restoring the large-format widescreen films of the 1950s. He has restored and reconstructed a number of classic films including Lawrence of Arabia (in 1989), Spartacus (1991), My Fair Lady (1994), Vertigo (1996) Rear Window (1998), as well as The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (2008). He frequently collaborates with James C. Katz.

Their pristine restorations of classic films have earned a great deal of respect from cinephiles and critics.
Old 05-11-10, 09:04 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

From Wikipedia -

Robert A. Harris is a film historian and preservationist who specializes in restoring the large-format widescreen films of the 1950s. He has restored and reconstructed a number of classic films including Lawrence of Arabia (in 1989), Spartacus (1991), My Fair Lady (1994), Vertigo (1996) Rear Window (1998), as well as The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (2008). He frequently collaborates with James C. Katz.
Their pristine restorations of classic films have earned a great deal of respect from cinephiles and critics.
EDIT: Too slow . . .
Old 05-11-10, 09:05 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Ooooooooooooh, That Robin Harris.
Old 05-11-10, 09:15 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Universal better not fuck up Psycho. I agree that they should stop releasing catalog titles until they learn how to do it correctly.
Old 05-11-10, 09:37 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Isn't he also the guy that said The Dark Knight had a flawless BD transfer? I'll rent the BD of Elizabeth before taking his word that it's crap.
Old 05-11-10, 09:50 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Originally Posted by RocShemp View Post
Isn't he also the guy that said The Dark Knight had a flawless BD transfer? I'll rent the BD of Elizabeth before taking his word that it's crap.
I started one thread in the DVD Reviews group about "Elizabeth". I too am disappointed with it's PQ. It's better than the SD, but not by much. "The Golden Age", only 3 years old, is stunning on BD. I also responded to the DVDTalk review of "Out of Africa". I believe it got a 3.5/5 PQ rating. And I said I couldn't disagree more. It's one of the worst BD's I've ever purchased.
Old 05-11-10, 09:56 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Pretty worrisome with big ones like BTTF, and possibly JP coming up. Looks like Carlito's Way got a good review from Dvdbeaver though. Maybe it's just one bad person, or team over there...
Old 05-11-10, 10:31 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

"Who's running the remastering machines today?"
"Larry"
"What's he working on?"
"Elizabeth and Sparticus"

So maybe it's Larry fucking shit up over there.

In all seriousness, I don't think it's an across the board condemnation he should give to Universal, but the catalog titles are something to be desired. Of course, it is Robert Harris, and he's about as much as expert as they come when it comes to restoring film. I don't know if I quite agree fully, but maybe this will cause people over at Universal to take pause and review how they approach their catalog titles.

And maybe fire Larry. Get him off those remastering machines ASAP.
Old 05-11-10, 10:46 PM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Originally Posted by Daytripper View Post
I started one thread in the DVD Reviews group about "Elizabeth". I too am disappointed with it's PQ. It's better than the SD, but not by much. "The Golden Age", only 3 years old, is stunning on BD. I also responded to the DVDTalk review of "Out of Africa". I believe it got a 3.5/5 PQ rating. And I said I couldn't disagree more. It's one of the worst BD's I've ever purchased.
Well I'd sooner take your word for it so now I'm sad. Too bad cos I love Elizabeth.
Old 05-12-10, 12:24 AM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

I believe the thread title should read "stop releasing catalog".
Old 05-12-10, 12:56 AM
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re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

I have many Universal Blu-Rays, and I think to suggest that the majority of their releases are bad is unfair.

That said, the ones in question here are not ones that I have purchased or have much interest in purchasing.
Old 05-12-10, 09:23 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

You also have to realize were a nit picky group as it is, in a world where people still buy full screen dvd's, I would wager the vast majority wouldn't notice the difference.
Old 05-12-10, 09:31 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

And now Spartacus:
Home Theater Forum

A few words about...™ Spartacus -- in Blu-ray


Robert Harris
Archivist

Joined: February 1999
Post Count: 2,991

Twenty years ago, under the aegis of Universal’s Tom Pollack, and with the cooperation and support of both Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick, we spent a year reconstructing and restoring Spartacus from extant film elements. The process was difficult, tedious, and expensive. Work was performed virtually on a shot by shot basis.

An HD master was created from our 65mm interpositive some ten years ago. AFAIK it has previously been used for all SD as well as HD releases of Spartacus, I am told that the master was returned to HTV for clean-up and removal of unwanted noise and grain.

HTV, which performed meticulous dirt and grain removal on another large format production, Franklin J. Shaffner’s brilliant 1970 Academy Award winner Patton, has been brought back to perform similar duties with Mr. Kubrick’s Spartacus. Only now, with newer, next gen software, the final results, both based upon the original transfers and the newer software are different.

Many people were thrilled with the look and overall textures of Patton, which was smoother than a baby’s bottom, and to give it proper credit, looked beautiful on smaller screens.

Where are we now?

Where before, we had heavy noise as captured by the HD transfer, we now have something akin to the surface of a quiet pond in which not even the smallest ripple distorts the surface. Make no mistake, the video noise inherent in the HD master was a problem. The film element upon which the master was based had the normal grain attributes of large format separation masters, which are nominal. No grain reduction was necessary.

The information that I received is that HTV noted the problems, and instituted a fix based upon their newest generation noise and grain reduction software.

After doing a comparison of the HD vs. the new Blu-ray, here’s what I’m seeing:

The video noise, inherent in the HD master is gone. That’s a good thing, but keep in mind that it should never have been there to begin with. In removing the noise, all grain is also gone, replaced by what appears to be a pleasant sheen of artificial film grain.

All of the detail captured by Academy Award winning cinematographer Russell Metty’s meticulous large format Technirama camera, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography, is unfortunately also gone.

All high frequency information has been lost, and with it all of the detail in the image.

In its place the newly softened image has been electronically sharpened. We now have a halos. Contrast has been boosted to make the image appear sharper than it is, but this is perceived as opposed to actual sharpness. Fortunately, possibly based upon the new software, we have not gone plastic.

During the restoration of Spartacus, we went through numerous tests to find the optics that could reproduce the immense amount of detail found in the original elements. I recall one test that we screened in the Hitchcock Theater at Universal. The image quality wasn’t quite there. It was slightly soft. When I mentioned that detail was missing in the wood that surrounded the gladiator’s arena, one of the gentlemen from the post house responded “But you can see the wood grain.” I distinctly remember getting an elbow in the ribs at that moment from our tech assistant, Mike Hyatt. He knew where this was going. What we needed to properly represent Mr. Kubrick’s film was not the ability to see the wood grain, but rather to see the insects eating their way through the wood grain. Within two weeks an optical system was put in place that enabled us to reproduce the information as exposed to the original elements.

In Universal’s new Blu-ray release of Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, you can almost see the wood grain, but now that grain is covered in electronic enhancement, halos and unnecessary contrast.

The pity is that Spartacus, like Out of Africa and Elizabeth makes Blu-ray appear to be something that it is not – a flawed technological system for viewing motion pictures in home theaters. I was hopeful that the lessons learned with the Blu-ray releases of Patton, The Longest Day and Gangs of New York might have been taken to heart.

They have not.

Where Fox and Disney have been releasing gorgeous Blu-rays of their catalog titles, and Disney recently released a fully corrected version of Gangs, it is now Universal that is placing data of less than stellar quality in the holding container that is Blu-ray. This potentially damages the reputation of the Blu-ray system, while it absolutely damages the concept that is the “art” of cinema, and proper representation of the what was created by the filmmakers. Where we often have to make compromises between art and commerce, with this Blu-ray of Spartacus there appears to be no compromise -- only the resolute purity of commerce.

There will be many people who will love the Blu-ray of Spartacus, especially on smaller screens. I’ll not get into color, densities, black levels or audio because any discussion of those attributes is irrelevant.

There is no problem with the film elements held on Spartacus. There is a 65mm interpositive with virtually all of the basic color timing and densities intact. There are two audio masters. One which replicates the original 6-track 70mm Todd-AO mix, and another, which updates it for those theaters, equipped at the time of the restoration with “baby booms.” It is the Todd-AO mix that properly represents the wide proscenium mix for properly spacial dialogue.

A return to the 65mm IP would not be an extremely expensive undertaking, especially based upon the importance of the film, and of potential worldwide income. The pity is that whatever entity is controlling the purse strings is unable to recognize that fact.

Here we have an example of great classic cinema. Written, produced, photographed, edited and scored by some of the finest talent in the industry. Spartacus is a huge, epic film about the enduring spirit of mankind and the concept of freedom.

It has been turned, on this Blu-ray, into a sideshow pipsqueak, an ugly and unfortunate bit of home video fodder, which would be far better suited to VHS.

I would suggest a recall. Spartacus on Blu-ray could have been as Mr. Kubrick wished it to be – a heroic and majestic piece of epic entertainment. With a simple new image harvest, Spartacus could be a piece of brilliant Blu-ray software.

As it is, Spartacus receives an absolute and undeniable…

Fail.

RAH
Old 05-12-10, 09:31 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

And now Spartacus:
Home Theater Forum

A few words about...™ Spartacus -- in Blu-ray


Robert Harris
Archivist

Joined: February 1999
Post Count: 2,991

Twenty years ago, under the aegis of Universal’s Tom Pollack, and with the cooperation and support of both Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick, we spent a year reconstructing and restoring Spartacus from extant film elements. The process was difficult, tedious, and expensive. Work was performed virtually on a shot by shot basis.

An HD master was created from our 65mm interpositive some ten years ago. AFAIK it has previously been used for all SD as well as HD releases of Spartacus, I am told that the master was returned to HTV for clean-up and removal of unwanted noise and grain.

HTV, which performed meticulous dirt and grain removal on another large format production, Franklin J. Shaffner’s brilliant 1970 Academy Award winner Patton, has been brought back to perform similar duties with Mr. Kubrick’s Spartacus. Only now, with newer, next gen software, the final results, both based upon the original transfers and the newer software are different.

Many people were thrilled with the look and overall textures of Patton, which was smoother than a baby’s bottom, and to give it proper credit, looked beautiful on smaller screens.

Where are we now?

Where before, we had heavy noise as captured by the HD transfer, we now have something akin to the surface of a quiet pond in which not even the smallest ripple distorts the surface. Make no mistake, the video noise inherent in the HD master was a problem. The film element upon which the master was based had the normal grain attributes of large format separation masters, which are nominal. No grain reduction was necessary.

The information that I received is that HTV noted the problems, and instituted a fix based upon their newest generation noise and grain reduction software.

After doing a comparison of the HD vs. the new Blu-ray, here’s what I’m seeing:

The video noise, inherent in the HD master is gone. That’s a good thing, but keep in mind that it should never have been there to begin with. In removing the noise, all grain is also gone, replaced by what appears to be a pleasant sheen of artificial film grain.

All of the detail captured by Academy Award winning cinematographer Russell Metty’s meticulous large format Technirama camera, for which he won an Academy Award for Best Color Cinematography, is unfortunately also gone.

All high frequency information has been lost, and with it all of the detail in the image.

In its place the newly softened image has been electronically sharpened. We now have a halos. Contrast has been boosted to make the image appear sharper than it is, but this is perceived as opposed to actual sharpness. Fortunately, possibly based upon the new software, we have not gone plastic.

During the restoration of Spartacus, we went through numerous tests to find the optics that could reproduce the immense amount of detail found in the original elements. I recall one test that we screened in the Hitchcock Theater at Universal. The image quality wasn’t quite there. It was slightly soft. When I mentioned that detail was missing in the wood that surrounded the gladiator’s arena, one of the gentlemen from the post house responded “But you can see the wood grain.” I distinctly remember getting an elbow in the ribs at that moment from our tech assistant, Mike Hyatt. He knew where this was going. What we needed to properly represent Mr. Kubrick’s film was not the ability to see the wood grain, but rather to see the insects eating their way through the wood grain. Within two weeks an optical system was put in place that enabled us to reproduce the information as exposed to the original elements.

In Universal’s new Blu-ray release of Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, you can almost see the wood grain, but now that grain is covered in electronic enhancement, halos and unnecessary contrast.

The pity is that Spartacus, like Out of Africa and Elizabeth makes Blu-ray appear to be something that it is not – a flawed technological system for viewing motion pictures in home theaters. I was hopeful that the lessons learned with the Blu-ray releases of Patton, The Longest Day and Gangs of New York might have been taken to heart.

They have not.

Where Fox and Disney have been releasing gorgeous Blu-rays of their catalog titles, and Disney recently released a fully corrected version of Gangs, it is now Universal that is placing data of less than stellar quality in the holding container that is Blu-ray. This potentially damages the reputation of the Blu-ray system, while it absolutely damages the concept that is the “art” of cinema, and proper representation of the what was created by the filmmakers. Where we often have to make compromises between art and commerce, with this Blu-ray of Spartacus there appears to be no compromise -- only the resolute purity of commerce.

There will be many people who will love the Blu-ray of Spartacus, especially on smaller screens. I’ll not get into color, densities, black levels or audio because any discussion of those attributes is irrelevant.

There is no problem with the film elements held on Spartacus. There is a 65mm interpositive with virtually all of the basic color timing and densities intact. There are two audio masters. One which replicates the original 6-track 70mm Todd-AO mix, and another, which updates it for those theaters, equipped at the time of the restoration with “baby booms.” It is the Todd-AO mix that properly represents the wide proscenium mix for properly spacial dialogue.

A return to the 65mm IP would not be an extremely expensive undertaking, especially based upon the importance of the film, and of potential worldwide income. The pity is that whatever entity is controlling the purse strings is unable to recognize that fact.

Here we have an example of great classic cinema. Written, produced, photographed, edited and scored by some of the finest talent in the industry. Spartacus is a huge, epic film about the enduring spirit of mankind and the concept of freedom.

It has been turned, on this Blu-ray, into a sideshow pipsqueak, an ugly and unfortunate bit of home video fodder, which would be far better suited to VHS.

I would suggest a recall. Spartacus on Blu-ray could have been as Mr. Kubrick wished it to be – a heroic and majestic piece of epic entertainment. With a simple new image harvest, Spartacus could be a piece of brilliant Blu-ray software.

As it is, Spartacus receives an absolute and undeniable…

Fail.

RAH
Old 05-12-10, 09:36 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

I tell you - it's Larry. Blame it on Larry.
Old 05-12-10, 09:43 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Originally Posted by trespoochies View Post
I tell you - it's Larry. Blame it on Larry.
Old 05-12-10, 10:03 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Old 05-12-10, 10:08 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Old 05-12-10, 10:25 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Old 05-12-10, 10:34 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Old 05-12-10, 10:38 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

I don't necessarily disagree with Robert Harris. We have studios converting over to Blu-ray as fast as possible. So many titles to be put on Blu, it's a shame we will have many becoming inferior transfers.

Take a look at Kingdom Of Heaven. I think the DVD version is better. The Blu version is pathetic. Artifacting everywhere due to the high compression. And here we thought Blu was supposed to take care of compression issues.
Old 05-12-10, 10:50 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Originally Posted by DVD Polizei View Post
I don't necessarily disagree with Robert Harris. We have studios converting over to Blu-ray as fast as possible. So many titles to be put on Blu, it's a shame we will have many becoming inferior transfers.

Take a look at Kingdom Of Heaven. I think the DVD version is better. The Blu version is pathetic. Artifacting everywhere due to the high compression. And here we thought Blu was supposed to take care of compression issues.
What!? I think "KOH" on BD is gorgeous. It's one of the best BD PQ's I own.
Old 05-12-10, 10:53 PM
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Re: Robert Harris tells Universal to stop releasing catalog titles on Blu-ray

Originally Posted by Daytripper View Post
What!? I think "KOH" on BD is gorgeous. It's one of the best BD PQ's I own.
Seconded. Give us some scene examples.

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