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Universal vs. Sony Pictures: Round 2

Blu-ray HD DVD

This morning, my copy of the Japanese Blu-ray release of Danny the Dog sailed through my letterbox and flopped gracefully on to my door mat. I’d been waiting for this release with some anticipation for a few reasons.

Firstly, while this title is (well, was) an HD DVD exclusive in the US, put out by Universal, in Japan the results are held by Sony Pictures, making it a Blu-ray exclusive. Whenever the rights are held by different companies in different territories, the possibility arises for rather interesting results as the two studios each handle their separate encodes (and, as the case may be, masters) differently. Additionally, two different cuts exist for this film: the American/British version, entitled Unleashed, is about a minute shorter than the international cut (Danny the Dog), lacking some character-building scenes and slightly extending an early montage, in addition to substituting the film’s final shot. Personally, I was disappointed when Universal failed to include the international cut on their HD DVD release, so, since 2006, I have been eagerly anticipating another distribution getting a crack at it.

Good news, then: Sony Pictures’ Japanese release is the international cut, complete with Morgan Freeman and Jet Li bonding over groceries (that’s not as weird as it sounds). Even better news: it includes subtitles in Japanese and English, both of which are optional. Beyond that, though, things become a bit confusing, particularly when it comes to the transfer.

In my DVD image comparison between the US, UK and French standard definition releases, I remarked that the French release (the international cut) had a markedly different colour palette in comparison with the other two (both the shorter cut). The short version, by and large, looked to have its colour values more heavily manipulated, resulting in “the warm-tinted scenes looking warmer […] and the desaturated ones looking more monochromatic” (to reiterate what I said in the Comments section of my comparison).

Well, the Japanese release features different grading again, less contrasty than either the French DVD or the UK/US DVD and HD DVD releases, which were quite heavily “pumped”, crushing some of the shadow detail and blowing out the highlights. In addition, while the US HD DVD was clearly taken from a digital intermediate, the Japanese version comes from a film source. It exhibits more grain (I strongly suspect that some noise reduction was performed on Universal’s HD DVD), but, while it seems to superficially show more detail, this is in fact due to edge enhancement, resulting in some unsightly halos around highly contrasted edges.

So, a toughie. I definitely prefer the look of Universal’s release, which appears smoother and more natural, and has (to me) a more aesthetically pleasing colour scheme, but have a look at the images below and see which you think is the more eye-pleasing of the two.

Unleashed
(Universal, USA, VC-1, 12.8 GB)

Unleashed Unleashed Unleashed Unleashed Unleashed Unleashed Unleashed Unleashed Unleashed

Danny the Dog
(Sony Pictures, Japan, AVC, 26.1 GB)

Danny the Dog Danny the Dog Danny the Dog Danny the Dog Danny the Dog Danny the Dog Danny the Dog Danny the Dog Danny the Dog

 
Posted: Monday, March 03, 2008 at 7:27 PM | Comments: 6
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | HD DVD | Technology

 
Comments

1.

I think AVC tends to preserve grain in an image better than the VC-1 Codec. I was looking at image 4 and thinking it just looks better in the Japanese edition because the grain looks natural.

From all the screen shots of various movies i have seen on high definition it just seems to me that grain is preserved better with AVC.

Maybe i'm wrong ?

Posted by: FoxyMulder, March 4, 2008 3:45 AM

2.

To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I think it may have something to do with VC-1 generally being used on HD DVD with lower bit rates, while AVC tends to crop up on Blu-ray, which has a higher maximum bandwidth. The Blu-ray release of Gone Baby Gone, from Buena Vista, which is VC-1, shows plenty of grain.

In the case of Unleashed/Danny the Dog, I think there’s more grain on the Japanese Blu-ray release simply because the source they use is inherently grainier, coming from a print and therefore having gone through an additional generation of film when compared to the Universal HD DVD (which, as I mentioned, I suspect was degrained).

Posted by: Whiggles, March 4, 2008 9:43 AM

3.

I prefer the Japanese edition. From the images i looked at i didn't see the edge enhancement really sticking out in a bad way and it just seems better in a way i can't describe. The other version seems like it has had DNR applied.

Not much in it really because if you look at the bus and the writing on the back of it there isn't any real extra detail present in the Japanese version from what i can tell but still images really don't tell the whole story.

I just think if there is grain and it's from a film source then it's truer to the original cinema version even if there is some added EE. I would prefer the grain without the EE though.

Can you blow up an image ?

Like this site does https://www.videophile.info/Guide_EE/Page_01.htm

Posted by: FoxyMulder, March 4, 2008 9:45 AM

4.

Take a look at shots 2 and 6, and the lettering in shot 8. The edge halos are far more noticeable in these examples. Yes, I’m pretty sure that the Universal release has been DNR’d, but at the same time it stands out as the more eye-pleasing of the two. In motion, the Japanese release looks more harsh and “video-like”.

And yes, I can indeed to some blow-ups. I’ll do another post later today to examine the differences in more detail. Having watched both on the same display, though, I’m personally in no doubt that I prefer the Universal release.

Posted by: Whiggles, March 4, 2008 9:48 AM

5.

Okay, here are a couple of 300% size blow-ups (each taken from 200x200 crops):

1:
US
Japanese

2:
US
Japanese

Posted by: Whiggles, March 4, 2008 7:08 PM

6.

After looking at the blow up images i can clearly see the edge enhancement is pretty bad on the Japanese edition.

Talking about edge enhancement am i the only one keeping my fingers crossed that Tombstone has none when it finally gets released on Blu-Ray. ( mention that because the current Vista series Region 1 edition is loaded with EE )

Posted by: FoxyMulder, March 5, 2008 3:11 PM

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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