Is this the new Traffic?
Over the last few days, a veritable shitstorm has erupted on the Internet regarding Optimum’s recent UK Blu-ray release of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York. The word of mouth was that this was in fact nothing more than a standard definition upconvert. Comparative screen captures seemed to confirm this, indicating virtually no improvement in detail over the UK Special Edition DVD release (and a rather unpleasant green tint to boot).
Optimum were swift to rebuke these claims, stating, in an announcement posted at DVD Times, that
We at Optimum always try to provide our customers with the best possible quality video from the best source available to us. All our titles meet the required line count to qualify as ‘High Definition’, i.e. 1080p or 1080i. Contrary to reports on some fan forums, we have been assured by our supplier that the original source for the Blu-ray of Escape from New York is HD. We have not released and we will not release films on Blu-ray from masters we know to be up-scaled from SD PAL. The quality of HD masters of older films can vary and we are sorry if you are unhappy with the quality of picture on Escape From New York Blu-ray. Should a better master become available for this or any other Optimum title then we will endeavour to publish it as soon as feasible.
Unfortunately, the evidence, to my eyes, would seem to be stacked against Optimum. I’m sure they were indeed “assured by their supplier” that the master handed to them was HD. Unfortunately, their supplier is Studio Canal, whose track record, in either HD or SD, is not exactly a shining beacon of light. Further faecal matter hit the fan yesterday when pictures emerged of a version of the film that has been broadcast on HDNet, blowing the Optimum release out of the water.
To quote Lyris:
The BD release screen grabs posted look very much like a Digital Betacam tape (or other unadulterated standard definition source) that has been scaled to 1920x1080 then processed. That would explain the SLIGHT gain in detail on the BD: it’s not been low-pass filtered like the DVD will have been prior to compression. Since Optimum have denied that this is the case, we’ll just have to say it’s a poor HD release.
One thing doesn’t change though: the review scores that this has received at some sites are cause for concern.
So, is Escape from New York on Blu-ray the new Traffic? I can’t be 100% sure, but what I do know is that it’s one sorry-looking disc.