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The DVNR bandits strike again


The other day, I ordered a copy of the soon-to-be-OOP US HD DVD release of Pan’s Labyrinth from New Line. I did this fully aware of the controversy surrounding the noise reduction that had been applied to the transfer, sucking out much of the grain and fine detail. My reasoning behind this was that the UK release, which I reviewed late last year, also showed signs of noise reduction, so I figured that both would feature the same decent but flawed transfer, with the US release having the added benefits of lossless 7.1 audio, picture-in-picture and other additional extras.

Unfortunately, it looks as if I was wrong. Screen captures have surfaced at the AV Science Forum showing, in their full 1920x1080 resolution, the same frame from both releases (as well as the French HD DVD and EU H.264 broadcast versions), and to say that the US release makes the UK version look stellar would be an understatement. This is probably the worst example of grain-sucking I’ve seen on an HD release this side of Cat People or American Psycho, and while many people are predictably praising the US release for looking “smooth” and “clean” (words which always put the fear of Pazuzu in me when used in reference to material shot on film), the more informed among us are justifiably outraged.

Pan's Labyrinth

I’m now really sorry I ordered this release, and at this rate I won’t even be bothering to unwrap the cellophane. It also makes me slightly suspicious of the rave reviews that New Line’s other HD releases have been receiving, and I have a feeling I’ll need to pick up one or two of them to get to the truth of the matter. The problem is that none of the titles they’ve put out so far appeal to me, least of all Rush Hour 3.

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2008 at 11:38 AM | Comments: 11
Categories: Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Reviews | Technology



there was an interesting post on ( about the UK Blu-Ray release (thanks to mli @ #ezquake for .fi translation)

"I got my Pan's Labyrinth British blu-ray today. This HD/BD-release should be interesting because the BD-version is [also] encoded with VC-1 but [the] bitstream is not limited by HD DVD specifications. If PS3's [bitrate] meter can be trusted then the stream is often just a little bit below 40Mbps which can not be reached with HD DVD."

Strangely seems to use this as their source for the Optimum UK BD being Region Free. So not sure whether it truly is or not, unless pteittinen is known to be using a Region A player.

Posted by: Dom, January 17, 2008 12:59 PM


I don't see any indication of region encoding on the UK BD release... And if this is the same "pteittinen" I think it is, he knows his stuff.

As for the other New Line releases, Rush Hour 3 is supposed to look excellent, same with Shoot 'Em Up. And the RH3 thumbs up came from a filmmaker/video guru who hates VC-1.

Posted by: Anon, January 17, 2008 1:29 PM


Having seen these comparisons, I think I'll keep an eye open for a good price on the UK version. Its hard to watch and enjoy a film (especially on a new HD disc!) knowing you're not watching the best version out there.

Posted by: Bleddyn Williams, January 17, 2008 2:49 PM


Hmmm.. then again - lip-sync? Boy, some days you just can't win! :(

Posted by: Bleddyn Williams, January 17, 2008 2:56 PM


The lip sync issue is definitely present on the UK HD DVD, but as the Blu-ray version supposedly features a completely different (higher bit rate) encode, it may be okay - you never know.

Also, I’ve just seen some very nice captures of Shoot ‘Em Up at AVS which would appear to confirm that not all New Line titles look like Pan’s Labyrinth.

Posted by: Whiggles, January 17, 2008 4:50 PM


Oh no, I just ordered the new line set. Too bad, the bonus material is really interesting. I think I'll cancel my order, the screenshot looks really bad.

Posted by: Peter von Frosta, January 17, 2008 6:22 PM


Interesting - I would have favoured the UK HD DVD, but if there's a chance of no sync problems on blu, that would be a good move. As long as the comments on it not having region coding are true.

I have Shoot 'Em Up. Its a great looking disc with grain, and no "processed" look.

Posted by: Bleddyn Williams, January 17, 2008 7:18 PM


Worth picking up the UK BD disc, looks great...

Posted by: Anon, February 2, 2008 4:57 PM


I don’t really put much truck in bit rates myself. I know the pro-BD crowd often herald them as a triumph in a “look how high it can go” way, but I’ve seen all too many poor-looking discs with high bit rates and great-looking discs with average or low bit rates for me to consider them to mean much. That’s not to say that bit rate is irrelevant, but, in the case of Pan’s Labyrinth, the UK HD DVD’s problems weren’t directly related to compression, so even though it does feature a different encode, I’m not entirely convinced that the BD will look appreciably better.

Posted by: Whiggles, February 2, 2008 6:19 PM


Okay, fair enough, but pictures/caps say more than bitrates (although there are some arguments to be made for those, but anyhoo)... ("DNR is to textures as EE is to 2001. The jacket looks like foam instead of a fabric.")

Posted by: Anon, February 3, 2008 12:47 AM


Anon, I don’t see any shots comparing the Blu-ray and HD DVD UK releases in any of the links you posted. We already know that the UK BD looks much better than New Line’s effort, but I’ve yet to see any hard proof that it looks appreciably different from the UK HD DVD. (Ignoring the French HD DVD, which is from a different studio and uses a completely different encode from any other release.)

Posted by: Whiggles, February 3, 2008 11:29 AM

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