Universal mangles some more
A while back, I did a series of posts on some of Universal’s particularly repugnant-looking catalogue HD DVD titles, in which I warned Blu-ray users that they had these transfers to look forward to when Universal began rolling out its back catalogue for the winning format. Unfortunately, it appears that I may have been a little premature with this statement. You see, it turns out that, far from simply porting over the same flawed encodes, Universal have, in some cases, taken the opportunity to go back and make them look worse.
I first got wind of this when I took a look at DVD Beaver’s review of The Mummy on Blu-ray. The article features a number of full resolution 1920x1080 screen captures, which immediately struck me as quite a bit more waxy-looking than how I remembered the HD DVD, which I had briefly rented some months prior. Of course, memory can play funny tricks on you, but a little later, the proof arrived in the form of an image comparison by AV Science Forum member Xylon, whose screen captures are one of the main reasons I visit that forum and are worth more than a thousand text-based reviews. The difference may not be massive, but it’s there: Universal have added further noise reduction for the Blu-ray release. The Mummy Returns shows a similar situation: again, the Blu-ray version is noticeably less grainy and more synthetic-looking than its HD DVD counterpart.
Finally, today’s scandal involves U-571, once again released on Blu-ray by Universal with a vulgar level of noise reduction applied to it. The difference should be clear to even the most visually-impaired of viewers: the HD DVD (and its D-Theater counterpart) was hardly a stellar-looking disc, but the Blu-ray version looks positively alarming, sucking much of the grain out of the image and rendering it fake-looking and waxy. Predictably, the usual suspects have emerged from the woodwork to decry Xylon’s findings. Unfortunately, whatever such individuals might attempt to claim, the pictures speak for themselves and reveal the truth that no amount of whitewashing or “it doesn’t look like that on my screen” nonsense can hide.
In summary: as a rule, Universal treated their catalogue titles rather badly on HD DVD, and now they are making them look even worse on Blu-ray. What will it take to hammer it into these fools’ heads that this sort of image degradation is neither necessary or wanted?