HD DVD debacle
The HD DVD release of Being John Malkovich arrived yesterday from Amazon. Knowing that the most recent Universal catalogue titles generally haven’t looked all that hot, and having read some rather critical reports from individuals known to be - let’s say - less than discerning, my expectations weren’t exactly all that high. In fact, I was partly fearing a 480i upconvert à la Traffic, so I was actually somewhat relieved to discover that it doesn’t look all that bad. No, I wouldn’t call it good as such - there is some fairly obvious DVNR and also quite a bit of edge enhancement - but it’s far from the worst HD transfer I’ve ever seen. I’d put it on about the same level as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which, coincidentally, shares the same writer, Charlie Kaufman, and the same studio, Universal) - a low to mid 6/10.
This morning, Blood Diamond, which I must confess I’d actually forgotten I’d ordered, arrived from DVD Pacific. It came out on Blu-ray more than a month ago, but, given that, thanks to the incomplete status of the BD-Java spec, that release lacked the picture-in-picture In-Movie Experience feature, so I decided to just wait and get the more complete package. I haven’t had a chance to watch it from beginning to end yet, but I’ve taken a look at the transfer and it seems to be pretty decent. I was initially concerned that it looked a little diffuse, but a quick look at its technical specifications on IMDB reveals it to have been shot using an anamorphic process called Hawk Scope. I’ve been tending to notice that anamorphic films tend to look a little soft at 1920x1080, presumably as a result of the short focal range of the lenses, and, looked at in that light, my guess is that Blood Diamond’s slight softness is inherent in the source material rather than as a result of digital tampering. Certainly, there is no ringing or clumpy grain to suggest filtering.
By the way, I’m aware that I haven’t posted an updated HD Image Quality Rankings list for some time. I’ve got a handful of titles that I haven’t looked at closely enough to rate with any certainty yet (La Haine, Layer Cake and Syriana), so I’ll leave it till I’ve had a chance to watch them from beginning to end. My current (35 and a half hours per week) job ends in just over a fortnight, so my lighter load come mid-August should afford me ample opportunity to engage in some much-missed movie-watching.