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Australia to the rescue

Blu-ray Blu-ray

My copy of the Australian Blu-ray Disc of The Descent, distributed by Icon Home Entertainment, arrived today (along with some other BD goodies which I’ll hopefully get a chance to post about tomorrow evening). You may remember my post from a week ago which outlined the situation regarding this release and its rather dramatic colour palette difference from the US version put out by Lions Gate. So, how does it measure up? Given that the pressing of the US release which features the superior AVC encode is now extremely hard to come by, with the poorer quality MPEG-2 version having all but replaced it, is this Australian version, itself AVC encoded, an adequate replacement? The answer is “yes”… and then some.

First, some screen captures. There are so many significant differences between the two versions that I ended up with a large number and struggled to cut it down to a reasonable amount. Eventually, I settled on 20 images for each, down from approximately 70 beforehand (!!). Hopefully these give you some idea of the improvements made with the Australian release.

(Screen captures after the jump…)

The Descent
studio: Lions Gate; country: USA; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 20.1 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 30.74 Mbit/sec

The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release)

 
The Descent
studio: Icon; country: Australia; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 21.3 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 30.76 Mbit/sec

The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release) The Descent (US release)

It looks to me like the gamma of the US release is out of whack. It’s not that noticeable when you have nothing to compare it to, but place it side by side with the AUS release and you can immediately see that everything looks overlit, with shadow detail crushed as a result. It’s not just brighter, though: there are instances in which the entire colour palette has been altered, with the AUS disc often leaning towards a more stylised, saturated and contrasty look (although this is by no means consistent 100% of the time). I can’t say with any certainty which of these two is “correct”, but I do know that the colour palette exhibited in the AUS release is the same as that of the UK standard definition DVD release. Ultimately, I suppose it comes down to personal preference, but, having now looked at both in high definition, the AUS version gets my vote.

It’s worth pointing out that the chromatic aberration present in the US release (most noticeable during the credits) is completely absent from the AUS version. This, I believe, gives the AUS version the edge in terms of detail, although, to be fair, a lot of the perceived detail boost may in fact be coming from the more pronounced contrasts. The encoding is also slightly better on the AUS disc: the US version (the AVC version, that is, not the MPEG-2 re-release) was no slouch, but the AUS version seems to resolve the grain a little better. (Pay close attention to Example 7.) The fact that the gamma is no longer boosted also means that there is less visible grain in the darker sequences down in the caverns, which looked a little noise-like at times on the US disc.

The bottom line: I’m really glad I got this new version. I previously rated the US version in the top “tier” for image quality, but, having seen the AUS version, I now feel compelled to knock it down a peg. Previously, I thought that, on the US disc, the film looked as good as it possible could (barring personal preferences as regards the aesthetics of the chosen colour palette). I now admit that this is clearly not the case, as the AUS version trumps it. Perhaps the overall difference in quality isn’t night and day, but it’s definitely better in a technical sense, and looks much more striking to boot, thanks to the (IMO) superior colour palette.

 
Posted: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 10:52 PM | Comments: 12
Categories: BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | DVD | Technology

 
Comments

1.

Thank you very much for your dedication !

The subtle variations between the AUS version and both US versions of The Descent in blu-ray made this comparison one of the most interesting I've looked at in months. And it's great to have someone like you providing accurate information and description, and a lot of direct screenshots alongside.

Posted by: Jojos, January 30, 2009 11:58 PM

2.

Thanks Whiggles. Any idea what CUT of the movie is featured on the AUS disc ? Could you also shed some light on the extras ?

Posted by: LGans316, January 31, 2009 6:33 AM

3.

Wow, the Australian BD definitely looks a lot more rich. I may have to purchase this.

Posted by: Christopher D. Jacobson, January 31, 2009 7:06 AM

4.

LGans316:

The only cut on the AUS disc is the original full length version, marketed as the “original unrated cut” in the US. As for extras, this version is slightly less stacked than its US counterpart, featuring:

- Director and cast commentary (no director and crew track)
- The making of The Descent
- Extended scenes
- Storyboard and scene compilation
- Trailer

Another downer where the AUS version is concerned is that, while the US disc features a PCM 7.1 track, the AUS version only has a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track. I don’t have a 7.1 setup, so from my perspective it makes no real difference in practice, but viewers with those two extra speakers may feel a bit short-changed.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, January 31, 2009 7:19 AM

5.

Thank you Mac for your prompt reply. Icon could have at least featured the different endings as part of extras. Not sure if PCM 7.1 to DTS-HD MA 5.1 would shortchange customers. Really appreciate you for keeping your promise clear cut.

Posted by: LGans, January 31, 2009 9:08 AM

6.

Well, given that the US ending is just the original version with the final scene chopped off the end, I’m not entirely convinced there would be much point in including it. It’s not as if the US R-rated cut features any additional footage.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, January 31, 2009 10:10 AM

7.

May have to upgrade, the Australian disc looks better indeed (I see a lot of AVS folks disagree with this, though...)

7.1 is excellent - unless it's a nasty remix that "tries too hard." Particularly effective on horror too. Hear the same thing is the case with THE ORPHANAGE, a better UK disc without the encoding/master problems, but another 7.1 --> 5.1 downgrade.

Posted by: Erik, January 31, 2009 2:24 PM

8.

Michael, thanks for the great shots. While I don't know if I will "upgrade" this one, I must admit that in a number of shots I prefer the Austraian look.

Are the extras in PAL?

Cheers

Posted by: Bleddyn Williams, January 31, 2009 6:05 PM

9.

I’ve just checked, and the extras are PAL, which is probably their native format, given that the behind the scenes material was probably shot with British equipment. Of course, this doesn’t help those who have US (or Japanese, or…) players.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, January 31, 2009 6:15 PM

10.

Wow! Thanks for the quick response. While I'm not planning to buy this immediately, I can see myself succumbing if a nice price presents itself. The only turn-off is that I would have to keep my US version for the extras rather than trading it in.

Posted by: , January 31, 2009 6:24 PM

11.

I recently bought my first Blu-ray from Icon (In Bruges) and was surprised that it was encoded with 25fps. Is this disc like this as well?

Posted by: micnic, February 2, 2009 7:53 AM

12.

No, this one’s definitely 23.976 fps. Odd that In Bruges is 25 fps, as, according to IMDB, it was shot on 35 mm film, so it’s not as if it was an HD video-based production or anything.

Posted by: Michael Mackenzie, February 2, 2009 10:10 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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