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Warner accidentally releases really detailed BD


I often think that Warner tend to release the most underwhelming high definition discs of the lot. While Universal have put out some almighty cock-ups, they have also released some excellent-looking titles, particularly where there newer films are concerned. In contrast, a lot of Warner’s material just tends to look above average, with virtually every title being afflicted by some degree of filtering, robbing the image of detail. (I actually laughed out loud when someone described Lions Gate’s filtered MPEG-2 re-release of The Descent as having been “Warner’d”.) Recently, however, I began to hear very good things about Warner’s Blu-ray release of How the West Was Won, and decided I had to see for myself.

My copy arrived yesterday, and golly, yes, this is an amazing-looking disc. In actual fact, I can’t think of a single other disc that demonstrates this level of detail. As is widely known, How the West Was Won was shot in Cinerama, employing three separate cameras filming in synchronisation, with the three resulting 35mm negatives being projected side by side. The result is a phenomenal level of detail which goes well beyond what the 1920x1080 resolution of full HD is capable of. This release contains two separate versions of the film, the first a standard “flat” presentation in a 2.89:1 aspect ratio, and the second a “SmileBox” version emulating the curved “wraparound theatrical experience”. The latter is obviously only an emulation of the original experience, given that none of us have curved televisions or projection screens (if I’m mistaken, let me know!), so I ultimately found myself favouring the “flat” presentation, but it’s nice of Warner to have provided both versions, allowing the viewer to decide how they want to experience the film.

Screen captures are included below. Marvel at the sheer level of sumptuous detail on display in them.

How the West Was Won
(Warner, USA, VC-1, 35.5 GB)

How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won How the West Was Won

Posted: Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 4:22 PM | Comments: 11
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology



Arizona is indeed the perfect place to show this kind of wiiiiide camera angles and aspect ratios.

Guess the last two pics are not from the original movie? ;)

Posted by: MCP, October 23, 2008 9:12 PM


No, they’re from the very end of the movie. ;)

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, October 23, 2008 10:04 PM


Can you post screenshots of the smilebox version?

Posted by: Stoney, October 23, 2008 10:10 PM


Did you detect any EE or color bleeding? It's pretty visible in a few shots, like on the flag in the 6th shot. Other than those flaws this is a gorgeous presentation and I've seen it in true 3 projector Cinerama.

Posted by: Kram Sacul, October 23, 2008 10:24 PM


Yep - I've seen it at the Bradford Cinerama festival in the UK: the print they show is pretty beat up and the left panel is missing about ten seconds of material (it goes black to stay in sync with the others, iirc) but it's one of the few times I've really been breathless in a cinema, including watching IMAX stuff (I suppose that's because most of the IMAX things I've seen were tat).

This is one of the first HD releases that really makes me pang for Blu and seriously consider upgrading.

Posted by: anephric, October 24, 2008 12:48 PM


For another accidentally good Warner disc check out Dirty Harry, which I believe was from a new 4K scan. Compression might be a bit lacking, but there is a lot of very fine grain they forgot to filter.

Posted by: Pyoko, October 25, 2008 12:35 PM


I watched the smilebox edition.....Real good transfer and slightly sharper to my eyes than the standard edition.

Incidentally i love the bookset editions that Warner have started....I also have Poltergeist which i have briefly looked at....Poltergeist appears to have print damage over the opening titles and they have softened the titles slightly to try and hide this....Some other scenes in the movie are also slightly DNRed but overall it felt like i was watching film and it looked film like to me....I still think it needs a complete restoration though and not just remastered.

Back to How The West Was Won......Much better movie when viewed the second time around....First time i saw this several years back i didn't like it but now i appreciate it so much more.

Incidentally you should check out this page.... It looks like they have contrast boosted Leon which will destroy the look of the movie no matter how good the detail levels are....Some idiot did the same thing to the Blu Ray release of RoboCop.

I only have a U.S. Player so i won't be able to view this and have cancelled my order as it's region locked.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, October 26, 2008 6:07 PM


Screen captures of the SmileBox version to follow, hopefully tonight.

I’ve only looked at it briefly, but to my eyes there was a bit of edge enhancement in the SmileBox version, which would account for it looking slightly sharper. I could be wrong, though - I’ll need to examine it more closely.

Regarding Leon, that’s really disappointing to hear that it’s region-coded. It means I can watch it on my PC, but not my PS3. Oh well, I think I’ll keep my order open, despite the region coding and contrast boosting. While it doesn’t appear, from the screen captures, to be a brilliant transfer, it’s still a much bigger step up from the DVD than I was expecting, given that I previously assumed it would be taken from the same awful master. I’ve also got the German BDs of Monster and Hannibal in the same order, and will report on all three discs when they show up.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, October 26, 2008 7:42 PM


I think both versions of How The West Was Won have what i would personally call minor EE....I believe the reason the smilebox version appears sharper is more to do with the smilebox presentation than any EE though.

I know you have Hannibal on the way but i really wish they would hurry up and release The Silence of the Lambs and hopefully correct the issues with the dungeon sequences.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, October 26, 2008 9:22 PM


The Smilebox version has a bit more screen area (=resolution) to work with so it's natural that it would look a bit more detailed, however it also has a level of EE not in the flat version. Just take a look at the top curve and most often you will see a 1-2 pixel wide halo along it, and this extra sharpening visibly transfers to objects in the image in some shots (hat brims and such).

Posted by: Pyoko, October 26, 2008 9:55 PM



To be honest, I’m not actually convinced that there’s any EE in the flat version - I’d say that any ringing there might be is optically induced.


Yeah, I immediately noticed the ringing on the top and bottom curves. I’ve taken some screen captures and am currently putting together a post on the SmileBox version.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, October 26, 2008 10:39 PM

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