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High definition navel-gazing


I’ve inherited a copy of the recently released HD DVD of Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s rather good if somewhat depressing film about incredibly self-absorbed people loitering in Tokyo. Lyris picked it up from DVD Pacific, but decided to sell it on when he saw that the transfer was nothing to write home about. I, however, while still discerning when it comes to image quality, am more likely to hang on to an HD title so long as it provides an improvement over its standard definition counterpart (and, to be fair, barring Traffic, it seems that they all do). For the not unreasonable sum of £10, I took it off my hands and now have something which, while hopelessly middle of the road as far as high definition transfers are concerned (think Brokeback Mountain or Enemy of the State rather than Serenity or Casino Royale), certainly means I can now punt my standard definition DVD.

Shuttle P2 3900G

Speaking of flogging, I sold my Shuttle SD37P2 on eBay for £247 - not really too bad, considering that I paid £317.84 for it now. At the very least, it could have been a lot worse - the money I’ve lost will hopefully serve as a reminder to be more careful with my purchases in future (note: I cannot live without a PCI slot). It’s getting picked up tomorrow by Parcel2Go, and the money is on its way to my bank account - which is good, because my last credit card bill made me come out in a cold sweat.


Oh yeah, and my HD DVD of The Skeleton Key arrived this morning from Amazon. Given the mediocre titles I’ve been receiving from Universal of late (Lost in Translation, The Game, Brokeback Mountain), I wasn’t expecting to be too impressed… and it’s true that this transfer isn’t going to win any awards. Detail levels are strong without being exemplary, and there are some obvious signs of temporal noise reduction, but it basically looks pleasing to the eye and finds itself in fairly good company, slotted between Red Dragon and Land of the Dead (also from Universal) in my HD image quality rankings list (which is long overdue for an update).

What I’m really looking forward to now is the arrival of the Studio Canal HD DVDs of Mulholland Dr. and Brotherhood of the Wolf, particularly the former, which is one of my all-time favourite films. Lyris also has the Blu-ray release of the first Pirates of the Caribbean on the way, and, while it’s not a film I’m particularly fond of (actually, I would happily burn everything but the Johnny Depp scenes), I’m certainly eager to see how it fares in high definition, particularly given how shite the standard definition DVD was.

Posted: Tuesday, June 05, 2007 at 9:07 PM | Comments: 3
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | HD DVD



Hi, Michael.

Been meaning to ask: do you ever revisit titles to see if your initial observations hold up? Say, since you've changed equipment, or simply better learned how to identify the likely cause of problems in transfers? Just curious.

Also, while I'm at it, did you ever spend any more time with that KILL, BABY...KILL!!! disc? I'm amazed that people not only find it acceptable, but go so far as to praise it. I've recently upgraded to a Toshiba XA2 HD Player (American), and held out faint hope that its superior up-scaling might lessen the impact of some of the issues with that particular transfer. No such luck - garbage in, garbage out, it seems.

Most distracting is an odd anomaly where stationary objects 'float' against each other slightly in scenes where the camera moves abruptly or haphazardly (or where there's gatefloat in the print). Not even sure what you call this, but I haven't seen such an extreme example of it since the early days of Anchor Bay (and DVD itself, it follows).


Posted by: Jeffrey Allen Rydell, June 5, 2007 11:55 PM


Hi Jeff,

Yes, from time to time I do take a look at older titles and reappraise them. Unleashed is probably the best example of this: when I first saw it, I thought it looked exceptional, but a few months later, when I upgrade from a 32” 720p TV to a 40” 1080p TV, I rewatched it and found it somewhat underwhelming - still a good transfer, but not in the top tier.

And I absolutely agree with you, Kill, Baby… Kill! looks hideous, and I can’t understand why it has been praised. From what I’ve seen, it’s a massive improvement over the earlier Image release, and I wonder if that’s what’s colouring people’s views on it, but personally I just can’t work out why it looks so bad.

Posted by: Whiggles, June 6, 2007 7:29 AM


I suppose the picking of nits is often what this sort of thing boils down to, though I can't help feeling slightly small when doing it: KILL was previously issued by VCI stateside, not Image. But yeah, their attempt was poor indeed: full-screen and sourced from 16mm.

Apparently, the defense is, what with it's low budget and shoddy prior treatment, we should be happy with what we get. I part ways there.

In a case like this, I'll take a reasonably authored transfer of a battered film element with little complaint, but KILL just doesn't look like film, and it's video-based artifacting - that 'floatiness', ringing around any contrast, and appalling, pastel-colored smeariness - just kills, baby, kills the film for me.

Posted by: Jeffrey Allen Rydell, June 6, 2007 8:03 AM

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