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Tinkering till perfection

HD DVD

Yesterday, my order of the HD DVD release of Blade Runner (5-disc Complete Collector’s Edition - whew!) arrived from DVD Pacific. Considering the plethora of material contained in this release, including five different cuts of the film and a wealth of bonus features, the asking price of £15.90 seemed like a steal.

Anyway, last night, we watched the Final Cut on the wall. I was very impressed by the presentation - I think this is one of the few film-sourced (as opposed to digital intermediate) high definition transfers I’ve seen without edge enhancement. A handful of shots do appear to have been over-sharpened, but by and large the image looks very film-like and untreated. There are some astoundingly detailed shots, and the colours are eye-popping. Okay, so it’s not as consistently amazing as something like Casino Royale or Ratatouille, but, given the film’s age and the number of effects shots done the old fashioned way, it seems churlish to complain about what are more than likely faults inherent in the source material.

Some direct screen captures are provided below.

Blade Runner: Final Cut
(Warner, USA, VC-1)

Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut

I’ve also thrown in a few comparative shots to demonstrate the visual differences between the various different cuts included in this release. The Final Cut and Workprint both come on their own discs, while the three “Archival Versions”, on a single disc, are essentially a stand-alone version of the film with the differences between the US, international and 1992’s Director’s Cut editions achieved through seamless branching (which the Blu-ray camp at one point claimed wasn’t possible on HD DVD). As you can probably tell, some colour work has been done on the Final Cut, subtly changing the overall look. Oddly enough, though, in some cases, there appears to have been a reduction in detail at the same time (look at Example 2, and see how much crisper the Archival version looks than the Final Cut). Of course, the Workprint is not in the best of shape and, oddly enough, has been cropped to a ratio of 2.20:1, but it does appear that Ridley Scott and his production team went out of their way to find the best possible elements for this presentation. I look forward to further investigating the differences at a later date.

Example 1
(Left: Final Cut; Right: Archival Version; shot not contained in Workprint)
Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut

Example 2
(Left: Final Cut; Middle: Archival Version; Right: Workprint)
Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut

Example 3
(Left: Final Cut; Middle: Archival Version; Right: Workprint)
Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut Blade Runner: Final Cut

 
Posted: Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 3:11 PM | Comments: 9
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

 
Comments

1.

Hi,
seeing those screengrabs reminds me of various times sitting in a theater in the eighties: 35mm, 70mm, mono, stereo, 6-track, german, english.
BLADE RUNNER never had this greenish tint. It was always blue.
Sorry, but Mr. Scott did a bit too much of fiddling around this time.
Greetings from Germany,
Heino

Posted by: Heino Hergemöller, December 21, 2007 11:20 PM

2.

Heino, as far as I understand, the archival version of Blade Runner, contained on Disc 3, presents the film as it was originally shown without any colour tinkering.

Posted by: Whiggles, December 21, 2007 11:21 PM

3.

So, what is the reason for "tinkering"?
Getting older changes Your Eyes? You do not like your white balance anymore?
So now it is the MONA LISA in red.
No argueing, but those changes are not true.

Posted by: Heino Hergemöller, December 21, 2007 11:37 PM

4.

Presumably the same reason that he decided to change certain scenes, removing and adding shots here and there - he had an opportunity to make alterations and took it. Today’s technology certainly gives directors a lot more control over the colour balance of an image, and it seems he decided to take advantage of that.

I’m not saying this was the right or wrong thing to do, but the point is that the original version is still there for us to watch, and looks just as good if not better, so I’m not going to complain.

Posted by: Whiggles, December 21, 2007 11:45 PM

5.

I also got the HD DVD, and in spot-checking THE FINAL CUT last night, I was very surprised to see plenty of white speckling, and even some visible negative splices in inserts.

I'm not complaining, mind - speckles remind me I'm watching a film source, and I've always been able to 'feel' those inserts on every other version I've ever seen.

I'm just sorta amazed, what with all the talk of 4K scans and extensive frame-by-frame corrections, these weren't completely addressed.

It still looks astonishing, however.

-Jeff

Posted by: Jeffrey Allen Rydell, December 22, 2007 6:23 PM

6.

One quick note to Whiggles:

The "Final Cut" WAS taken from a DI. The negative was scanned at 4K (effects shots at 8K taken from the original 65mm sources) and all the changes/corrections were made, then the HD versions were downconverted from the final 4K DI master. The "archival versions" are likely "standard" 1080P HD telecines from 35mm interpositives.

Re: the "color changes"- watching the film, it's never an issue. If you're comparing direct screen grabs, you'll see some changes, but this is nothing like the very artificial/digital-looking color changes to Friedkin's CRUISING, for example. The "Final Cut" of BLADE RUNNER may not look exactly the same as it used to, but it still looks like film.

Vincent

Posted by: Vincent Pereira, December 23, 2007 10:52 PM

7.

Oh, also a quick note re: the "workprint" and the 2.2:1 aspect ratio. The "workprint" in question was actually a 70mm blow-up of the workprint that was used for test screenings, hence the 2.2 shape and slight cropping. You're getting all the picture information that was available on that print.

Vincent

Posted by: , December 23, 2007 10:54 PM

8.

Thanks for the correction regarding the Final Cut, Vincent, and thanks also for the info about the workprint. The aspect ratio difference makes sense now.

The colour difference is certainly not a case of complete revisionism, but there are some quite striking differences between the two different versions. In many cases, I think the original colour balance works better, but I suppose it’s ultimately down to individual viewers which they prefer.

Posted by: Whiggles, December 24, 2007 11:35 AM

9.

Merry christmas and a happy new year!
I was grown up with a blue version where Deckard says:
I don't know, how long she lives.
I don't know, how long I live - but who cares.
In german it is: Wer weiß das schon?
I still think it is the best version Mr.*** ever made.
Greetings
Heino

Posted by: Heino, December 28, 2007 1:15 AM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

https://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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