Friday, September 05, 2008

Blu-Ray complaints

I don't know if I announced it here, but I love Blu-Ray. I have a 1080p TV and a PS3, and the difference between SD (standard definition -- DVDs and regular broadcast television) and HD (high definition -- Blu-Rays and HD TV signals) is incredible. Amy and I watched the Olympics in widescreen hi-def, and I can't imagine being content to watch them on a 4:3 SD screen ever again. Blu-Rays like The Life of Brian and Blade Runner show a vast improvement over their DVD counterparts. (Go to and click through some of their Blu-Ray vs. DVD comparisons to see what I mean, especially The Life of Brian BR vs. the old Criterion DVD.)

I've spent the last several months dumping my obese DVD collection in favor of picking up their superior Blu-Ray counterparts. I've met frustration at several turns, however, as I realized that some of the releases have been sub-par in various ways. Here are some of my biggest disappointments:

Master and Commander - The word in the reviews is that the picture and sound quality are incredible. Happy day! But the studio this wonderful film belongs to, Fox, has quite a track record right now for releasing movies sans most or all of the special features that the SD-DVD had, and this title is no exception. All the great behind-the-scenes features about the filming of the movie, all the cool stuff about the miniatures, the hours of footage hosted by Peter Weir himself, all absent on the Blu-Ray. Now, Fox, why would I "upgrade" and not expect the Blu-Ray to be better in every department? Sucky move. (The same goes for Fox's releases of Predator, Cast Away and The Usual Suspects.)

The Fugitive - Just rewatched it recently, and it still holds up well as an entertaining thriller. But the Blu-Ray not only upscales an old transfer of the movie (that displays only a marginal improvement over the DVD), it's actually older than the print used for the DVD! There is a scene after the train crash where a crew member's head is visible in the shot, and they digitally removed it for the 2001 DVD release. There's even a special feature that mentions this. But the Blu-Ray version of the film still has the guy's head! And it includes the special feature that talks about removing it! Lazy.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - Another Fox job. This time they included most of the special features that the recent DVD release had, but the transfer is reportedly all kinds of messed up: brightened, processed, and lacking in detail. The scenes with the riders following the titular pair occurs in near blackness on the DVD, but the Blu-Ray looks like a cloudy day.

Patton - A Fox Blu-Ray that includes all of the special features that the DVD had! Excellent! Unfortunately, the picture is weird. At first glance it looks fantastic. Great clarity and crispness. As I watched it, though, I wondered to myself, "I wonder if these guys went overboard with the Digital Noise Reduction." The faces look waxy, and there is absolutely no film-grain. A movie like this surely had a fair amount of film grain originally, I thought. I checked the reviews, and sure enough, they all complained of the overly processed and artificial looking picture. (This is an excellent article on the subject, and it includes a link to a comparison of two Blu-Ray versions of Pan's Labyrinth as an example.) I'm really hoping that the upcoming Godfather Blu-Ray preserves the grain as part of the original film. I understand the reasoning behind the DNR, as the picture of Patton really does look spectacular to your average consumer. But it isn't true to the original film, and thus should be corrected.

The Fifth Element - Excellent picture and sound, no supplements.

Terminator 2 - Nowhere near the depth that the Ultimate Edition DVD had. No different versions of the movie, none of the featurettes on the effects, etc. Includes two commentaries. You know a better version of this is coming. I just wish it was out now.

Terminator - Same deal. Even worse, the Blu-Ray doesn't include the original mono soundtrack. Instead you're stuck with a decent but sometimes gimmicky and distracting 5.1 remix.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Hopefully most of these issues will be rectified with future releases, but it's a shame we have to go through the same cycle we went through with DVD.


Matt said...

For some reason I thought lack of "bonus features" was something that has been lacking on blue ray since its inception. Is that not the case with movies from other studios?

Ryan said...

It is true that many early Blu-Ray "catalog releases" (meaning studios' older films, not new releases) got releases as bare-bones editions, but the format has been around now since 2006, so most studios have moved past that stage.

Fox seems to be a hold-out regarding this issue. While most other studios have been releasing their catalog title with at least all the special features that the DVDs had, Fox is still releasing bare-bones discs.Many other studios, especially Warner Brothers, are releasing spectacular Blu-Ray editions that offer more than the DVDs did (beyond just improved sound and video).

Now that Blu-Ray is a proven and viable format, it makes even less sense for studios to release crap versions. Dual-layered Blu-Rays can hold 50GB of data, and most 2-hour movies only take up 30GB of that. Plenty of space for commentaries and documentaries, especially if they are only 480p.

Ian said...

I would like to watch "Patton" againz in teh brew-lay virgin preez!

Ryan said...

Por supuesto!