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French High Definition ‘Ran’ in March

Studio Canal seems to be about to release a High Definition (HD) DVD of Kurosawa’s Ran on March 5th, 2007. I may be wrong here, but this might just be the first HD-DVD release of Kurosawa’s material.

Details are scarce, and Studio Canal’s website doesn’t seem to mention the DVD at the moment.

Thanks to Master Thief for digging this up and bringing it to my attention. I’ll keep you updated if something new pops up.

Update: Master Thief notes (scroll down to comment #6) that the release has been delayed until May 21. Note also that the release has no English subtitles.


Discussion

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Jeremy

Personally dont see the point, although film from that time, would allow to take advantage of the increased resolution. I dont believe it will be noticeable over its DVD counterpart from Criterion or the original Studio Canal version. Even with some re-mastering work, I dont think Ran has the critical focus, contrast or color to benefit from a HD version.

It seem to me that the older films being released to HD, is simply to add to the library, rather then for the benefit of a better picture. I’ll purchase new movies on HD, but dont think its make sense to do so with older movies, unless it offers something new such a commentary.

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Vili Maunula

To be honest, I don’t think that I will be desperately hunting for HD-DVD releases of Kurosawa’s films, either. I still need to update my DVD collection, to accommodate all the Criterion releases.

Looking forward to your good news. ๐Ÿ™‚

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BMWRider

I am not so sure that “older” films cannot benefit from HD releases. I read an article in Home Theater magazine regarding this and they tend to agree. First, Ran is not an ancient release, it was released in 1985. Consequently decent film technology was used during its production. It was probably filmed with 35mm stock which can be made to look quite good. If it was filmed with 70mm we would really be in for a treat. Secondly the work that could be done with its soundtrack could be amazing. Finally, I have seen the HD version of Dreams and it is stunning. I would say its picture quality in HD is far superior to any regular DVD I have ever seen. If the same could be done for Ran I would be ecstatic. While I am not one to just buy new releases for the sake of having them, improvements to the master’s catalog are always welcome.

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Jeremy

Film as far back as the late 60’s is roughly equal to 780P lines of resolution. Indeed they can benefit, my personal opinion however is that few offer a visible difference over its original DVD counterpart played by a good DVD player on a TV less then 60″ . There are a few exceptions to this, as I have read reviews on HD transfers of older films that have greatly improved their picture. I was just mentioning that I dont think its really worth it, to own a HD transfer of any film that is not recent.
The film stock that is used today far exceeds that of what TVs can display, HD 35mm film is roughly equal to 1440 lines of resolution, so display on a 1080 TV would offer a huge advantage over a DVD’s 480 lines.
New films on HD is clearly a big difference but to me older films on HD are simply to add to the library of Blu-Ray or HD-DVD to help fight the war, rather then for the sake of a better picture.

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BMWRider

Well I project onto a large screen so you can see my desire to upgrade my Kurosawa catalog, particular regarding the color films.

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Master Thief

The HD release has been put back until 21 May – http://hddvdformat.blogspot.com/

Ran [HD-30]
– 1080p / 1.85:1 (16×9) / VC-1
– DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (Japanese) & DTS-HD High Resolution (5.1 French & 2.0 German)
– French, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, German & Dutch subtitles

There is a picture of the cover on this page – http://hddvdformat.blogspot.com/2006/12/studio-canal-hd-dvd-titles-in-france.html

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Vili Maunula

Thanks for the heads-up, Master Thief!

(By the way, the reason why your comment didn’t appear immediately is that under the current settings any comment with more than one link is flagged for moderation. I will need to see if I can somehow change this so that comments from “trusted” visitors don’t get flagged.)

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Master Thief

I bought a copy if this

I have not been able to view this HD version yet as I do not have the equipment.

I will take it into a local store to compare with the Optimum/Universal versions as my benckmark.

I’ll post further details when I have been able to view it.

I have posted scans of the cover & disc at: http://kurosawa.jokerman.net/ran.html

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Vili Maunula

Looking forward to your review, MT!

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Jeremy Quintanilla

^^me too

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Master Thief

It is a long time since I last posted on this subject, but I have still not seen more than the opening minutes of this high definition version when I took it into a shop, but it did look stunning.

I have found a review here though which re-enforces my impression: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews31/ran_HD.htm

I don’t think I will ever buy an HD player as it looks like the format will not survive against Blue Ray.

I have bought a 1080p Sony LCD and a PS3 which plays Blue Ray. I have a small collection of films including the final cut of Blade Runner which is a big improvement on other DVD versions.

I do hope we get some Kurosawa on Blue Ray soon.

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Vili Maunula

Thanks for the link, Master Thief!

The review raises up an interesting question regarding the colours. I seem to remember Kurosawa remarking somewhere that when he saw the final cut of Ran he wasn’t entirely happy with the greens, and was hoping that they would have come out more vivid and vibrant.

Hypothetically speaking, then, what should we consider the definite version of Ran in terms of colours? Could the Canal’s more vibrant HD-DVD version, then, be closer to Kurosawa’s intended vision?

I am not a huge hi-fi enthusiast (I’m perfectly ok with non-HD image and mono sound), and while I am therefore the first to suggest that in most cases questions like these are ultimately quite meaningless, I’m not so sure if I can hold that opinion in the case of Kurosawa. We all know his perfectionism, especially when it came to colours. Colours in his films tend to have strong meanings associated to them, and therefore, getting the colours wrong in a Kurosawa release may well be as big a blunder as mistakenly leaving out a scene from the narrative.

Obviously, I still have no answer to what transfer should be considered the most accurate one, and I don’t think anyone does. After all, as I noted, if Kurosawa wasn’t entirely satisfied with the final transfer that he administered, we don’t necessarily have the real (or at least intended) reference point even with films where the original transfer is still more or less in the condition that it was in at the time of the release (if any such even exist).

I do sometimes wonder what Kurosawa might have done had he lived 10 years longer and therefore had the time to administer the digital transfer and restoration of his works. Of course, probably even those transfers could not have been considered the “definitive” versions, as the Kurosawa administering the transfers would in the end have been different from the Kurosawa originally working on the movies.

Anyway. On the subject of Blade Runner, I just got the new DVD set last week, and I must say that the film looks excellent. It’s not like the older DVD transfer that I had of the Director’s Cut was bad in any way, but the new transfers do look better, and of course this release is also more or less complete in that there’s everything in it. Including the Final Cut, which I still haven’t watched.

I was also quite surprised how good the Workprint looks like – they must have done quite a bit of work on that one as well.

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Master Thief

Here is a link to the “Blade Runner Final Cut” Blue Ray review:
http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews34/blade_runner_HD_Blu-ray.htm

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Vili Maunula

Damn, now I officially want a Blu-Ray player. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Master Thief

Yeah, but you’ll also need a full high definition (1080) LCD like a Sony Bravia X to really appreciate Blue-ray. The PlayStation 3 is really the cheapest Blue-ray player at the moment and has lots of cool features aside from games (which I don’t play). It has WiFi and you can add hard drives and other operating systems to its hard drive. It is really a media centre PC with a Blue-ray player in it.

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Vili Maunula

On the front of my Samsung rear projection TV it says “HDTV Ready: 1080i”, which I have always taken to mean that it is indeed HDTV ready. However, I suppose an LCD screen would provide a much better picture quality compared to this.

Three years ago, when I was shopping for a TV, I was actually going to buy an LCD, but then I ended up getting this one mainly because the price was quite excellent. It was the last unit in a post-Christmas sale, so it cost me very little indeed.

I have given PlayStation 3 some serious thought. I actually also just converted the old Xbox that I got a year ago into a multimedia center with a 250gb hard drive and whatnot. Of course, no Blu-ray in that one (by the way, isn’t it spelled without the ‘e’?).

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Master Thief

Yes you are right it is Blu-ray. For the best picture you need 1080p I think.

Since my last post I bought a cheap Xbox 360 HD DVD Player on an auction site here. It looks like you can also plug it into a PC and with the right software get it to play HD discs. I have a 22″ widescreen so it might work. If not I’ll just get a friend to come around with their Xbox 360 and I can finally watch this version of Ran, but only in French of course.

You might remember I also bought an old laser disc player mainly so I could watch the Criterion Dodeskaden which has good subtitles and the correct aspect ratio. Who said I am obsessive?

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Jeremy Quintanilla

I’ll spare getting technical, but if you want more infomation I can easily provide some or tell where to look for yourself.

To keep it simple 1080p and 1080i offers no difference for movies and only a small amount in current generation of video games (x360, PS3). Although all new TVs are 1080p, the truth is it was a more a marketing scam to trick people into thinking their 720P/1080i TVs are no good.

Whats the most important thing to enjoy movies correctly is to have your TV calibrated correctly. No TV comes from the factory with the correct color settings, I suggest purchasing a calibration DVD to help aid in adjusting the TV.

If your a bit more adventurous then you can adjust the overscan/underscan properties to ensure you actually are seeing the movie in the correct aspect ratio, as again no TV from the factory really shows the complete picture. This is dangerous in the wrong hands.

This is why Criterion boxes in their movies to ensure the movie is the perfect aspect ratio, the only thing is when your TV is set perfectly, it actually causes problems.

No need to spend lots of money on a TV, but dont get anything too cheap. There are a lot of audio/video forums in which many knowledgable users give review to various TVs.
I found the best value for the money is Westinghouse.

Since the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray war has nearly ended (Blu-Ray won) Then I agree the PS3 is currently the best and cheapest Blu-Ray player.
Plus you can play Metal Gear Solid soon.
I would only get a 360 if your into videogames, since their gaming libary is much better then PS3’s for now, otherwise there is no point in getting on since all major games will for the most part go multi platform.

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Vili Maunula

I might look into the colour calibration issue, if I can find a DVD for that. I sometimes feel that the default “movie” setting on the TV is slightly too dark.

I personally think that when I bought it I at the time got a good deal with the rear projection TV, even if the technology itself was perhaps already a bit behind its time at that time. However, for approximately half the price, I got a screen much bigger than I would have with any LCD, and with our living room setup the size of the screen was quite an important factor. The sofas are kind of far from the TV.

Yesterday afternoon, I watched the main documentary from the Blade Runner box. It was well made, although provided quite little new information in the end, at least if you have read Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner. It was great to see Harrison Ford talk a bit about his experiences, though, and of course Ridley Scott is always captivating to listen to.

I wonder if Kurosawa ever saw Blade Runner, and if he did what he thought about it. To me, the film holds an incredible number of those “cinematic moments” that Kurosawa often referred to as something that he was constantly pursuing in his film making.

I am not sure how well the overall setting of the film would have resonated with Kurosawa, of course, as androids weren’t quite up his alley. But the theme, I feel, he should still have felt at home with.

Although I am not a special fan of science fiction or anything, I sometimes wonder what a Kurosawa-made futuristic science fiction film might have looked like. Tarkovsky had his Solaris and Kubrick his 2001, while with Kurosawa Record of a Living Being is probably the closest we can get in this respect.

And while I say a “futuristic” science fiction film, I do it with the intention to specifically exclude Godzilla. While it would probably have turned out an interesting experiment, I’m not so sure if we lost all that much by Kurosawa not getting his chance to make a Godzilla flick, even if he had supposedly wished to try his hands on one.

Or maybe I just don’t get the whole Godzilla business.

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Jeremy Quintanilla

It appears I’m the only one that dislikes Blade Runner, have yet to find anyone else.
Theme wise, I would agree to some extent that it does follow in line with a Kurosawa movie.

(I’m currently typing on a pocket pc so forgive my inability to type in length and offer just a quote thought.)

Is it not correctly translated as “live in fear” and the more correct title? Rather then “Record of living being?

I actually would consider “record of a living being” to be much closer to a Godzilla then any science fiction/futuristic movie.

Nuclear attack wasn’t a futuristic notion, it was very real- in the real way Godzilla(Gojira) is represented as the visual incarnation of the bomb and radiation.

A Kurosawa Godzilla, would be along the lines of a “I live in fear” the only difference would come from a fear of the possibility to a fear in the reality and current.

I always found the symbolism used in Godzilla movies to have a great impact. To me a Godzilla movie from Kurosawa would be of greater interest then a space/science/future movie. The later in which I would think would be a experiment doom to failure.

Then again I would of thought “Dreams” to be a disaster and its one of my fondest films of Kurosawa’s.

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Jeremy Quintanilla

“I always found the symbolism used in Godzilla movies to have a great impact.”

I intended to add, due to this I think Kurosawa would of taking full advantage and make a rather deep film displayed in a rather simple concept.

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Vili Maunula

I know a few people who absolutely hate Blade Runner, so you are not alone, Jeremy. ๐Ÿ™‚

็”Ÿใใ‚‚ใฎใฎ่จ˜้Œฒ (ikimono no kirogu) would to me be directly translated as:

– Living Being (็”Ÿใใ‚‚ใฎ)
– [possessive] (ใฎ)
– Record, Document (่จ˜้Œฒ)

Now, if ็”Ÿใใ‚‚ใฎใฎ่จ˜้Œฒ is also some kind of a phrasal expression that means “I Live in Fear”, I don’t know. But I would personally translate it as “Record of a Living Being”, and I must say that I also like the title more than the first-person “I Live in Fear”.

Furthermore, “kirogu” (่จ˜้Œฒ) reminds one of “kirogueiga” (่จ˜้Œฒๆ˜ ็”ป) ‘documentary movie’, which I have always taken the film in some ways to be in terms of its narrative and stylistics.

In any case, you are right that the film is not science fiction, even if it is sometimes tried to make into one just to be able to say that “look, Kurosawa had such a wide range of themes”. As if it would be necessary. In any case, that’s what I referred to in saying that it’s the closest we can get.

You are probably more familiar with the Godzilla genre, so I won’t start arguing about that. ๐Ÿ™‚ However, whenever I think of Godzilla, I somehow think of card board boxes that I should believe are ships or buildings or monsters or whatnot. But maybe I just don’t see the forest for the card board boxes…

So, if I were to give Godzilla another chance, which film should I start with?

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Jeremy Quintanilla

Well the true Godzillas are the ones where (s)he represented the bomb and the nonsense of mindless destruction.

Gojira -1954 is a sort of an odd masterpiece.

Godzilla-King of the Monster -1956 is a less movie then Gojira but still rather good.

The others Godzilla movies are just mindless monster flicks, and the meaning and idea behind the original are no longer there, only the name is the same really.

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Vili Maunula

Thanks, Jeremy!

I think I have actually seen something like half a dozen of the old (pre 1980s) Godzilla films, as they used to show them on Canal+ quite often. But I’ll give the original Godzilla a new chance soon!

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Master Thief

Back on topic now.

I have now acquired the XBox 360 HD player which I have managed to get working with my PC to watch the HD Version and it looks stunning.
I have also managed to rip the video onto my PC, from which I have taken some screen shots.

I have posted one with a comparison with the Optimum release which is also a Studio Canal version. However screen shots at this resolution do not do the HD version justice. I hope to be able to hookup my PC to my 40″ Sony Bravia 1080p to see it in its full glory soon. Only downside is there are no English sub-titles. But the main benefit is the vision and sound of this version, so trying to read sub-titles will just be a distraction. I think I know the story well enough anyway.

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Master Thief

I have added a few more screen shots. If you now click on any of them you will get a much higher resolution version.

http://kurosawa.jokerman.net/ran.html

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Vili Maunula

Wow. Thanks for the screenshots, Master Thief! The quality is stunning, indeed.

Which Kurosawa films do you think would actually benefit from HD transfers? Would there be any point in remastering the black and white films to HD quality?

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Jeremy Quintanilla

As a mentioned above all movies exceed the resolution of DVD, and B&W are no different(I should add to my previous comment films of the 50’s are roughly equal to 620-650P)
So yes, all movies benefit.

However for me I dont see the point in making a HD version.

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Jeremy Quintanilla

oops, I intended my last sentence to say
However for me I dont see the point in making a HD version of old movies.

There is indeed a point in HD for current films

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Vili Maunula

Actually, I remember Criterion’s last year’s Sanjuro and Yojimbo releases having been marketed as “new high-definition transfers”. Do you think that this means that the films were already transferred to HD and just released on DVD to wait out the definition wars, or were they using the term in a non-technical way and not actually referring to HD?

I don’t think that the term was actually ever capitalised (as “High Definition”) in the promotional materials, though.

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BMWRider

I watch a lot of HD television, which is of lessor quality than Blu-ray, and I can assure you that any movie, new or old in high def looks better. The question becomes, is it worth upgrading, and that is the decision we will all have to make. For AK, I upgrade.

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Jeremy Quintanilla

Yes, old movies look better in HD, but whats better is rather subjective. I’ll spare a long writeup, since its just my opinion’s, and tossing out technicalities comes off condescending, which I dont wish to imply.
I simply dont like the idea too much. Old movies shouldnt look better now, then they did brand new, which often what happens.

Vili, when Criterion gets a old movie its on film, in order to begin cleaning the film, and ulitimately release it on DVD, that need to make a digital image copy for the computer to have something to work with.
So they run the film in a fancy purpose built scanner, which basically takes a digital picture of each frame.

I dont know the specs of the machine, I’m sure its something really great and beyond anything I’m aware of.

…but just say you take a ordinary cheap 3MP digital camera, and take a picture of each frame. You now achieved technically a high definition digital transfer.
Although you shouldnt think of digital cameras in this way, if however you do use them for TV usage and as I mention, your criteria to be “HD” is just 1920 ร— 1080, in which even the cheap 3 mega pixel camera has produced a 2048ร—1536 picture of the film frame.

So now you take the thousands 2048×1536 digital pictures, let the computer clean them up, stitch them together, etc,etc. You now have a high definition digital transfer of a old movie, originally on film.

To answer your question, yes the film is in “HD” but its a technical term as its a “high definition transfer” by default really. It can however be easily released as a HD movie, if Criterion ever wishes to do so.

As for the “new high-definition transfer” part, the “new” would come for a better higher resolution scanner the before, which would enable more precise restoration due to the larger, better copy of film to digital image, along with newer, better versions of the software they use to clean the films, and properly better techniques they discovered along the way.

Criterion’s computer copy of the movie would be extermely high in resolution (higher then anything needed regardless of screen size, and higher then the source material which is useless, other then for restoration purposes) so they sort of downsize it to DVD, and at some point Blu-Ray resolution. So you get a very nice downsize image.

Hope it makes sense, this is really, really putting it simply. I can only offer so much, its starting to get outside my field of knowledge

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Master Thief

Given Criterion have issued the same films on VHS, Laserdisc & DVD, I expect they will now re-issue a lot of their catalogue on HD if they want to get us to buy them all again. If Blu-ray does take over from DVD in 4-5 years, then they probably have no choice if they want to stay in business.

. . . until the next technology comes along offering even higher resolution. From what I’ve read, next will be some form of holography disc holding 1.5TB, so the complete AK catalogue would fit in current HD format on the one disc.

I am not sure that any higher resolution picture will be of much benefit to those of us with deteriorating eye site though. But maybe we will be able to get back our 20/20 vision easily by then.

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Jeremy Quintanilla

Does anyone know the projected life span of a Blu-Ray disc?

If Criterion starts doing Blu-Ray I will buy them, even if they are reissues. I buy anything Criterion-I just love those guys, without them there would be hundreds of great films I could of never seen.

Unless 50 foot TV screen become the norm in the future, there is a point where super high resolution is no longer a noticeable. As of right now, very few HDTV are large enough to take full advantage of 1080 lines.

The only use I could think of for some holograph large storage would be for when 4000P+ digital movie cameras replace film cameras and theaters are purely digital and a super high digital resolution is need for a very large screen. For now, I’ll stick to film, plus I dont a digital movie camera will ever produce the colors of film.

BTW heres a graph about how truly effective resolution is for the advantage TV, this whole 1080 thing is a bit of marketing scam.

Resolution and Screen Size Chart

The next important technology needs to be TVs that can display a true 24 frame a second picture.

–sorry for going off subject, I do that a lot

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Vili Maunula

Thanks, Jeremy, for the information. The process seems to work pretty much as I had imagined. What I wasn’t sure about was whether the resolution of the digital transfers that Criterion made had been higher than what is needed for a DVD release.

Similarly, I think that much of the restoration work on films like Seven Samurai and Yojimbo had to be done by hand, and if that is so, what resolution that restoration work took as the target. I’m sure that restoring something to a DVD resolution would have been easier than doing it to HD, but did they go that extra mile there so that they are ready when they start shipping in the next generation format?

I have read very different estimates for the life span of the Blu-ray format. I would imagine, however, that it will be similar to the life span of VHS and DVD — a decade and a half or so. Sure, we are now saying that the next format up won’t really offer any benefits for the user, but that’s what they said when DVD came out.

Ultimately, I suppose that the whole disc concept will go away, and we will have digital downloads.

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Jeremy Quintanilla

Yes, most of the restoration is done by hand-on computer. I dont know at what resolution they do it on, but a higher resolution then HDTV resolution would be needed to fix small areas without effecting other areas.
It easier to fix something big, rather then small, a large scale offers more room to work in.
The whole really high resolution transfer is more needed for precise working, then what output it will be released on. It just a additional plus, that the transfer can allow for any format coming in the future.

DVD was ground breaking, but blu-ray is just a small upgrade to DVD, its really the same thing. What more do you need for a movie, we can already skip around and never rewind. The picture and picture, and whatever other blu-ray features are just extras, nothing important and none are used when all you want to do is watch the movie.

Other then higher resolution and better sound future formats cant offer anything extremely useful, and even resolution and sound quality have their limits before the difference is beyond human capabilities.

I hope the disc or whatever tangle object doesnt go away. I will always want a physical product over a electronic one.

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Vili Maunula

I hope the disc or whatever tangle object doesnt go away. I will always want a physical product over a electronic one.

I feel the same. Besides, I already have difficulty remember what books, movies and albums I have — if I stored them on hard drives, I’d be totally lost.

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Master Thief

Thanks Jeremy. I have now moved my couch to within 5′ of my 40″ 1080 Sony so that I don’t feel like I have wasted too much money.

I hooked up my PC direct to it on Saturday night and watched the HD Ran (but with no sound connected). It still looked great even from more than 5 feet.

I have also posted a few more screen shots – http://kurosawa.jokerman.net/ran.html .

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Jeremy Quintanilla

The chart is not a exact science, it doesn’t take into account principles like, ambient lighting, color accuracy, contrast, etc,etc. It certainly a good chart to use and fairly accurate, but most important is to just find a comfortable distance from the TV for you, too close is not much better then too far.

Great Job on the screen shots

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Vili Maunula

Brilliant screen shots, Master Thief. I am now seriously considering getting a Playstation 3 just for the Blu-ray.

Ok, for Blu-ray AND to be ready for Tim Schafer‘s Brรผtal Legend. It’s either PS3 or Xbox360 for that one. Schafer’s one of the few computer game designers who I can get quite excited about, largely because of his ability to tell a story.

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