How on earth did that happen?
So far, the Universal titles that have made the jump from HD DVD to Blu-ray have been a bit of a mixed back. Broadly speaking, titles on BD that are sourced from a digital intermediate (DI) have generally at least been the equal of their HD DVD counterparts, if not actually bettering them (some, including Miami Vice, have benefited from the increased bandwidth and bit rates afforded by BD), while those taken from print sources (such as U-571 and the first two Mummy films) have suffered from an added layer of DNR, resulting in the not-so-hilarious irony that the versions available on a defunct format actually look better than those released on the winning system. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it has applied to most of the cases that have come under the microscope.
When I posted captures for the HD DVD release of The Bourne Identity back in December, I half-jokingly said that I’d taken these screenshots so I had evidence ready for when the BD version came out in January, probably looking inferior. Well, fortunately for all concerned, I now have to eat a slice of humble pie. You see, not only does the BD of The Bourne Identity not look worse than its HD DVD predecessor, it actually looks better.
Yes, in a curious twist, Universal would appear to have finally woken up and heard the criticism being hurled at them on account of their inferior BDs. The newly released BD of The Bourne Identity, available in The Bourne Trilogy box set, actually shows more visible grain and detail than its predecessor. Captures have been posted by Xylon at the AV Science Forum, and they show that, while not night and day, the improvement is significant enough to potentially warrant double dipping (although I personally will wait for the set to come down significantly in price). The increased bit rate afforded by BD’s larger capacity also means that noticeable improvements have been made to the compression on The Bourne Supremacy, while The Bourne Ultimatum, already a magnificent HD DVD, looks set to be at the very least its equal on BD.
All in all, this is very promising news, and I hope it means that we can now expect better from Universal on BD. I don’t doubt that they’ll continue to dust off grotty masters for some of their catalogue titles, but at least it looks like there’s now a good chance that they won’t look any worse than their HD DVD counterparts. Potential customers can buy with impunity: the Bourne BD box set looks like a winner.