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An ode to B-movies that looks oddly glossy

Blu-ray

Last week, I ordered the recent US Blu-ray releases of both volumes of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. I’m sure I said at some point that I wouldn’t buy Volume 1 in high definition unless it was the longer, gorier Japanese cut (which most people know as the version which includes the House of Blue Leaves fight scene in full colour, but which in fact also features increased bloodshed and some additional tweaks here and there), but that doesn’t appear to be anywhere on the horizon at the moment. Anyway, the image quality of my Japanese DVD of Volume 1 is so god-awful I decided “to hell with it” and ordered the cut American BD.

Due to a delay in dispatching, Volume 1 hasn’t arrived yet, but Volume 2 turned up yesterday while I was at work, and I took a look at it last night. The bottom line is that this is a good transfer and one that I suspect is an accurate representation of the master. I say this because I seem to recall that, at the time of the films’ release, Tarantino stated that he wasn’t entirely happy with the look of the DIs (digital intermediates) prepared for them, feeling that they were too clean and failed to successfully recreate the gritty texture of the films he was aping. (I’m afraid I haven’t been able to dig up a source for this - sorry.) I have a feeling that the cleanness he complained about was in fact the level of temporal noise reduction that has been applied to the material. It’s not the horrible waxy kind you see in the likes of the Dark City BD, and as such doesn’t really show up to a great extent in the captures posted below, but it is noticeable when in motion, giving the image a slightly synthetic look, with textures and facial details tending to drag a bit. The closest equivalent I can think of is Flightplan, also from Buena Vista and also with the NR applied at the DI stage (a fact confirmed independently on IMDB and by my brother, who noticed the artefacts when he saw the film at the cinema).

What’s particularly interesting is that, on certain occasions, particularly the extended Pai Mei section, the NR is either turned off completely or at least lowered to an acceptable level, which I take as further evidence pointing to this having been done at the DI stage rather than some inept technician simply flicking a switch when the Blu-ray transfer was being encoded. (At the risk of sounding like a jerk, most people in the encoding business don’t seem to want to invest the effort required to approach things on a scene-by-scene basis, unless their name happens to be David Mackenzie and they work on DVDs of Andrzej Zulawski films.) The result is that the Pai Mei sequence is the best-looking part of the film, despite the fact that I get the feeling Tarantino shot it with an eye to it looking like the roughest, lowest budget segment.

So, overall what we have is a reasonably pleasing-looking disc that has a slightly synthetic feel to it but is, ultimately, a massive upgrade on the rather mediocre-looking standard definition release. For the most part, all 1080 lines of resolution are being put to use and many scenes feature a per-pixel level of detail. It’s too bad about the NR, but, if my suspicions are correct, then nothing much can be done about that short of going back to the original camera elements and redoing all the post production work.

Kill Bill Volume 2
(Buena Vista, USA, AVC, 35.8 GB)

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Posted: Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 4:06 PM | Comments: 12
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Mondo Vision | Technology

 
Comments

1.

Hi mate,

Can you please check and let us know if Shooter (Blu-ray) has some kind of DNR ? I suspect it has been encoded from a DI that has been subject to a certain degree of NR during it's creation. This type of NR is something which is usually within the acceptable limits but can be disastrous when applied a touch more.

Posted by: LGANS316, September 14, 2008 4:38 PM

2.

Hey,

I haven’t got Shooter, but I’ll add it to my rental list and take a look at it.

Posted by: Whiggles, September 14, 2008 4:43 PM

3.

I remember Pai Mei scene looking a lot grainer than the rest of the film when I was watching it in the theater. I always thought the grain was artificially added to that scene (or it was shot on a low budget film intentionally) as a stylistic choice to make it look older and visually in line with the theme of old kung fu master training, from various low budget kung fu movies of the past.

I seriously doubt the whole movie was shot with that kind of grain originally and then later DNR-ed for DI to look what it looks like now. There's far too much miniscule detail visible in this movie - if it was shot on such a grainy film as in the Pai Mei scene, DNR would have nothing to work with, it would be impossible to create the level of detail seen elsewhere in the movie.

I've also seen other screens of the movie that show some scenes in low lighting conditions, and a level of grain (less than the Pai Mei scene) is visible on them, as expected. Blu-Ray.com has a screen of an airplane landing at night time for example.

Posted by: The Poster, September 14, 2008 5:48 PM

4.

I absolutely agree - the Pai Mei sequence was probably always intended to be grainier than the rest, and was no doubt shot as such to begin with. As such, if my theory that the NR was applied at the DI stage is correct, then you certainly would have seen more grain in this scene when you watched it theatrically. I saw it in the cinema too and my experience of it was much the same as yours.

I would speculate, though (and I must stress that this is just speculation), that, had the same level of NR been applied to that sequence as has been applied to the rest of the film, then the resulting artefacts would have been more visible than they are. I’m not arguing for a second that the whole film was originally shot to look as grainy as the Pai Mei scenes, just that the appearance of these scenes on the BD is that of a sequence that has not been DNR’d (or at least DNR’d so lightly that the resulting artefacts are not readily noticeable). In fact, I suspect it would have looked closer to the black and white sequence at the wedding chapel near the start of the film. Those scenes look to have been shot on very grainy film stock but then NR’d, and as a result the grain takes on a rather slow, unnatural look. The stock has a rather similar texture to the Pai Mei scenes, but appears to have been treated completely differently.

Posted by: Whiggles, September 14, 2008 6:05 PM

5.

I can never go back to watching the cut version ( MPAA approved ) after viewing the uncut so despite the faults and the fact i had to keep turning the subtitles on i still kept the Japanese version as a prized possession. Now i have Blu Ray i will sell mine on Ebay and keep my fingers crossed for a superior Japanese full uncut edition assuming they still have the rights to the film.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, September 14, 2008 6:27 PM

6.

Please tell me that you're not whinging about the glorious transfer on this disc. You miserable Scottish cunt!

Posted by: Quentin Tarantino's Chin, September 15, 2008 2:06 AM

7.

The only one doing any whinging is you, you aggressive little creep.

Posted by: Whiggles, September 15, 2008 10:12 AM

8.

Hi Whiggles,

It would be great if you can check and confirm on the following items

1) Shooter - Blu-ray - Mild application of DNR on the DI but picture quality nevertheless remains excellent.

2) There will be blood - (U.S Blu-ray) - Thin transparent vertical line appearing on the left hand corner of the screen between the time codes 08:10 ~ 08:21. Also please confirm presence of EE.

3) I am Legend - (Blu-ray) - In-depth analysis on the encode and whether the picture quality is really reference grade ? I discerned banding artefacts and compression noise on few scenes on my Panny Plasma but these claims were disregarded by AVS forum members which is fine. However there is some amount of DNR smearing going on in certain fast motion scenes.

4) Aviator - Blu-ray (U.S vs Dutch) - Presence of high frequency EE on both versions at certain spots and whether the U.S encode features a slightly filtered look in comparison to the Dutch import.

Thanks a lot for confirming presence of NR on the MPEG-2 encode of Descent.

Posted by: LGANS316, September 15, 2008 12:21 PM

9.

LGANS316:

I can definitely rent the UK releases of Shooter, There Will Be Blood and I am Legend and check them for you. The Aviator is tougher, as it doesn’t appear to have been released in this country, so the only way for me to get my hands on the US release would be to buy it (or have someone ship their copy to me). I’ll get my hands on the other three titles as quickly as possible, though, and get back to you with my thoughts on them.

Posted by: Whiggles, September 15, 2008 12:29 PM

10.

Thanks Whiggles for the prompt reply.

There Will Be Blood - Miramax holds the overseas distribution rights for There will be Blood and I am not sure if their encode would be the same as the one done by Paramount though both are VC-1.

Aviator (Dutch) import features high bit rate VC-1 encode and 16-bit DTS-HD MA in comparison to the U.S version which is encoded at an average video bit rate of 15 Mbps featuring lossy DD audio. However I was able to catch some high amplitude EE in the dutch version on certain scenes which I don't remember seeing in the U.S version. On the other hand, the Dutch version had more film grain and looked less filtered to my eyes. You can import from the dutch version from www.mediadis.com or freerecordshop.com for less than 20 EUR. If you have more money you could also import the dutch version of Walk the Line released by FOX which is Region Free.

Looking forward to hearing from you soon. All the best with your Ph.D !!!

Posted by: LGANS316, September 15, 2008 2:55 PM

11.

Hi Whiggles,

Please add the Blu-ray titled Days of Glory (U.K - Metrodome) to your rental queue and let us know if it's encoded from a 1080i master ?

Posted by: LGANS316, September 15, 2008 3:01 PM

12.

“There Will Be Blood - Miramax holds the overseas distribution rights for There will be Blood and I am not sure if their encode would be the same as the one done by Paramount though both are VC-1.”

Okay, well, I’ll keep There Will Be Blood in the rental queue but won’t assume it to be representative of the US disc. I want to see the film anyway, so it’s no skin off my nose.

“Aviator (Dutch) import features high bit rate VC-1 encode and 16-bit DTS-HD MA in comparison to the U.S version which is encoded at an average video bit rate of 15 Mbps featuring lossy DD audio. However I was able to catch some high amplitude EE in the dutch version on certain scenes which I don’t remember seeing in the U.S version. On the other hand, the Dutch version had more film grain and looked less filtered to my eyes. You can import from the dutch version from www.mediadis.com or freerecordshop.com for less than 20 EUR. If you have more money you could also import the dutch version of Walk the Line released by FOX which is Region Free.”

Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll definitely give it due consideration. Walk the Line is another film I haven’t seen but would really like to. The HD trailer for it on the UK Fantastic Four BD looked very good indeed, so if the transfer for the film itself is anything like it, I’ll be extremely satisfied.

I’ve also added Days of Glory and will report back on it in due course.

“All the best with your Ph.D !!!”

Thanks!

Posted by: Whiggles, September 16, 2008 10:29 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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