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Blue Ray or Not Blue Ray

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    Amnesty11

    I am entertaining the idea of purchasing the newly released Seven Samurai Blue Ray edition, in anticipation of our July pick. It may seem like an obvious choice to do so, but I have reservations.

    When I purchased my HD television last year I was excited to finally have that crystal clear quality programming in my own home. However, what I didn’t expect was that every film I viewed was so realistic that it didn’t feel like watching film anymore — somehow the HD quality had taken away that softer, more filmic feel. (Not being a filmmaker or student of film in general, I don’t have the exact vocabulary here…) In other words, every film now looks like it has the production values of a television sit-com. More like watching something shot on tape. The lighting, the richness — all very different.

    One of the first movies I rented was High and Low and although it is still my second favorite Kurosawa thus far, it lost something in the translation over to HD. It lost the softened edge of film.

    Has anyone else ever experienced this? Maybe one of you can explain in better terms what is missing for me when viewing a film in such exceptional definition.

    And so I am loath to try Seven Samurai on Blue Ray for this very reason. Will it look too television-like as if it were shot on tape?

    However, it may be absolutely wonderful to watch more detail of each character’s face and the setting more vivid. Hmmm…Thoughts?

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    Vili Maunula

    This is a good question, Amnesty. It could just be that it will take you a little while to adjust to the crispiness, after which you want it no other way. Or this is at least what many proponents of HD cinema want you to believe: Peter Jackson has this week been defending his choice of shooting The Hobbit with 48 frames per second, instead of the standard 24.

    Questions about Criterion overdoing the HD restoration with Seven Samurai were actually raised at the time of release. Although the overall response was overwhelmingly positive, some wondered whether by extensively cleaning and sharpening the image, Criterion went as far as to change Kurosawa’s original intentions, which leaned towards a softer and grainier image.

    Not that this is anything very new. Ran is another example of a film where you can look at different prints and wonder which one might be closest to Kurosawa’s own vision. There the issue is not so much image sharpness but the colour palette: how vibrant were the colours meant to be? There is quite a huge difference between, for instance, the Criterion and Studio Canal prints.

    Or, you can go outside of the film world and think about music: the LP vs CD vs mp3 vs lossless wars have been raging on for a while now among audio purists.

    My own view is that you should watch and listen stuff in the format that you enjoy most. And it doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both.

    Myself, I have a blu-ray player but no HD TV, so I watch my BFI Ozu releases, which contain both the blu-ray and the DVD in a single case, from the DVDs, as on my setup that looks the best to me. I could of course also watch them on my computer, which has a blu-ray player and a large HD capable monitor, but I haven’t got there yet. I do most of my console gaming on the HD monitor, though.

    I also just paid quite a handsome sum to a carpenter who will make me a new large CD shelf unit. As I ordered it, I was wondering whether that’s totally insane considering that the format seems to be slowly dying. But I like CDs. And shelf units.

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    Longstone

    I really like Blu-ray , I have both a PS3 which seems to be a very good player but region locked , and also a Panasonic multi region to watch U.S. discs on.

    My T.V. is HD but only 32 inch to fit in a small room.

    A good DVD on that size screen is perfectly fine , though I can see more detail in the Blu-rays . I’m told the larger screen you have or if you have a projector then the difference in detail becomes more apparent.

    I’m not an expert but eventually I found out that to watch films at 24fps from Blu-ray I had to turn off some of the default settings on my T.V.

    It’s different for each manufacturer but there are settings called things like “motion smoothing” that need turning off to make the film seem correctly filmic again .

    It’s frustrating trying to figure out the best settings and I had to read through a few forums to find the information.

    It’s very interesting to read the reviews and look at the screen grabs at DVD Beaver to see how they find the difference between different DVD and Bluray editions of films.

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    cocoskyavitch

    I’m all for HD, 100%, and was an early adopter, but much of my film collection is on old school regular DVDs…I was waiting to see who would win the HD WARS…the Blu-Ray or what was that other company…? So, slowly buying Blu Ray. But, I find that my Blu Ray player upsamples old films and they benefit…I can watch them on the HD monitor no worries. What I hated was an old DVD player and HD set combo…created artifacts and digital noise in the image area. Not so nice.

    Vili….aren’t you streaming everything? I do think that’s the future. Right now, I have a friend who has record albums lining his entire dining room wall floor to ceiling (jazz collection-and we must be talking real money here) I have old school DVDs and even some videotapes (but no player), and e have people who just stream. Media is in transition.

    As long as the rest of you are confession your gaming…I’ll pitch in and say I love Sonic the Hedgehog Unleashed for XBox 360. At the rate of my play, and in consideration of my poor skills, I think it will take 20 years for me to finish all the scenarios.

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    cocoskyavitch

    I was gonna say, Amnesty, go for Blu Ray. Vili is right-the digital version makes a significant difference, depending on the quality of the transfer and cleaning of artifacts. I say buy the Criterion and you will have the very best available copy. Then, the clarity will actually be helpful in allowing you to enter the images.

    I saw 7 Sam on the big screen in a new print-and it was gorgeous. But it will never be replicated in DVD just because of the physics of light and the way film works as opposed to video. What you can hope for is the least intrusive, most faithful copy in digital from essentially a very different medium-that of film.

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    Vili Maunula

    Longstone: I’m not an expert but eventually I found out that to watch films at 24fps from Blu-ray I had to turn off some of the default settings on my T.V.

    This is also an interesting point. With all the settings that we can adjust, it no longer is a simple question of whether the remastered disc contains the film “as intended”, but now you are also responsible for finding the right settings in your equipment. We have come a long way from an era when films were made for the relatively standard and controllable setup that cinemas provided.

    Fortunately, I’m not that much of a videophile to get too bothered about getting out a perfect picture. With sound though, it’s a little different…

    Coco: Vili….aren’t you streaming everything?

    For film, no. Where I live, there are no options available for that.

    For music, I do use Spotify a lot, especially to explore music new to me. Unfortunately, the quality of streamed music, just like standard mp3s, leaves a lot to be desired. I often tell myself that I only think I hear the difference, but whenever I do a blind test it turns out that I do recognise streams and low quality mp3s from lossless formats and CDs. The latter just sound richer.

    So, I’m ok with streams, but I prefer CDs.

    I also love album art and booklets, and hate having to deal with disorganised files, so CDs have remained as my preferred format. A little over a year ago I actually started a project to convert all my CDs into lossless FLAC files, but that ended pretty soon when I realised that it would take ages to convert my whole collection and that I would still like to have the booklets around.

    It’s kind of funny though that I remember laughing at people in the 90s about their huge LP collections. Well, the joke’s on me now. Their collections are suddenly much more current and valuable than my stack of CDs. It’s interesting how LPs have made a comeback.

    Coco: As long as the rest of you are confession your gaming

    Oh, I don’t think that there is anything to confess there. I have played games (video games, card games, board games, paper and pen role playing games, sports, basically anything you can call a “game”) practically my whole life, and see them as just as valid an art/entertainment medium as film or tv or books or what have you. As one of my big interests in life is narration in all of its forms, I tremendously enjoy the interactivity of the narrative experience that games can provide. There is a lot of potential there.

    There of course aren’t many Kurosawas out there yet in the video game world, but there have always been some. And the signs are fairly good for the future, as the latest wave of indie developers are putting out some fairly thought provoking titles.

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    Ugetsu

    To go back to the subject of Seven Samurai and blu-ray, I’m not really a videophile, but I found a very distinct quality improvement over watching the Criterion blu-ray over their previous version, and in turn Criterion’s version is a quantum leap of improvement over BFI. For me there is greater depth, a more cinematic feel to the blu-ray version, and that alone makes it worthwhile. I do though watch it on a relatively small screen, and 18” Sony, that may make a difference.

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    Longstone

    I actually purchased the PS3 for it’s Blu-ray and audio output qualities and not really as a games machine. The analogue stereo audio output on the PS3 takes the best possible uncompressed audio straight out into a standard stereo hifi amp . I love the audio from Blu-ray played like this as I don’t need any type of surround sound , just good old stereo (or mono in the case of many films I watch ) . Plus it doubles as an excellent CD player as it’s coupled to my hifi.

    I’m a musician as a hobby and have released a few CDs ( even the odd piece of vinyl) , recently we have had to admit defeat and issue our material on iTunes/Spotify etc. but I still prefer real product with booklets , artwork etc. especially when it comes to films .

    That’s why I love labels like Criterion and especially masters of Cinema for the great booklets and extras they bundle up with DVDs and Blu-rays. It’s my old record collecting mentality reborn with film.

    Because of compression MP3s really offer poor audio quality ( though adequate for many listening opportunities) CDs are a lot better but still compressed , vinyl is popular because the audio is uncompressed . Equally Blu-ray audio is usually uncompressed too so currently the best way to present digital audio and the closest you can get to the analogue quality of vinyl.

    Having said that it’s quality and enjoyment of the music itself ( or the film ) that really matters .

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    cocoskyavitch

    Vili and Longstone, make great points about “extras” -those bundles of art and booklets Criterion releases! One of my faves of all time is the Ugetsu Monogatori bundle from Criterion with the biographical info on Mizoguchi and the beautiful booklet.

    As for surround sound-got it, check. And does it make a difference? Pretty much! Here’s the deal-I wanted clean and easy, and my setup does it all-streaming via Netflix, X-Box gaming and interactive, HD video, surround sound with wireless bass boom. I don’t think I have all that much invested…bought everything individually on sale…over time, piece by piece-and when I do sit down to enter a movie-I am immersed in a wonderful way! Because my DVD player does Blu Ray and upsampling-it’s all done for me-I get great images and insanely crisp! No worries.

    Si, yes, Blu Ray rocks, and si si si Amnesty, if you invest in the Blu Ray you will be able to really enjoy the film-after you get over the lack of scratches, dust, artifacts, etc. Criterion does such a lovely job…they really do care, and they take their time with the cleanup and subtitle translations, so you are the beneficiary of their careful work.

    Here’s the deal-digital transfer images are not the same as film-sure. On the one hand, every screening of a film puts scratches, noise, and distorts color and fades values…the light of the projector and the mechanism of the film advancement hurt the film. Kinda like vinyl-each play does damage to the “original copy”, obviously. On the other hand, some people find that “warm” and miss the hiss and pop, the visual noise.

    I am not one of those. And, digital film is not at all equivalent to a vinyl record being turned into an MP3. We know the digital compression of sound is a lossy environment. The good news is that there is no loss of detail, contrast or dynamic value range from the original print to digital when it is done carefully as Criterion does. I cannot and won’t speak to the sound…

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    Vili Maunula

    Hmm. For some reason I originally attributed Coco’s earlier comments to lawless. Not sure why I did that. Sorry, gotta be more careful in the future.

    Coco: The good news is that there is no loss of detail, contrast or dynamic value range from the original print to digital when it is done carefully as Criterion does.

    This is total nitpicking, but technically speaking, unless the digital conversion models every atom in the original film print, wouldn’t there automatically be some loss of detail?

    Of course, ultimately we won’t notice the difference on standard size TVs after a certain point, and what really matters is, as Longstone said, the “quality and enjoyment” itself.

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    cocoskyavitch

    Oh! You are right, Vili. I should have said that there is less loss of detail than in standard digital transfer-and no visible loss of dynamic range or contrast at t.v. (not projected film) size- (honestly, there is nothing so immersive as the greys of a beautifully-shot film, clean print, projected on the silver screen!). A 35mm film has higher res that HD….1800 compared to 1080 dpi. Obviously, standard digital at 480 dpi is of visibly lower quality.

    My mother has macular degeneration, and 1080 dpi seems so much crisper and clearer, and that’s the reason I originally purchased full HD about 6 years ago. Then, of course, I wanted it myself!

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    Amnesty11

    Well, have learned a lot tonight! (For some reason replies not showing up in my email these days, didn’t even know there WERE replies until tonight…Vili, any suggestions? They aren’t showing up in Spam either)

    Anyway, here’s the thing. I don’t think I can make this clear, and I have only ever really found one poster on another site a long time ago who was trying to say the same thing I was about HD with Blue Ray… It’s not the crispness of the image that bothers me so much, or the lack of well worn visual hiss and pop. It’s the quality of light and how that feels in HD (on a PS3 player with a 42″ screen).

    Do you remember the old 60’s black and white made for tv Live Dramas? I mean I watched them in re-run as a kid. But they had that sense that you could tell there were studio lights. The softness of film was missing. I don’t mind crisp (even though I did mind seeing a certain actresses stretch marks in a love scene while watching on Blue Ray) but I do mind feeling like I know where the lights are hung in the scene, which creates this kind of “extra awareness” at all times of watching a film being filmed and it takes me right out of the magic.

    I think me and just one other person in the world (who also owns a Samsung apparently) have this issue. I’ve adjusted settings on my own tv to try to get it right and have seen it on other TVs too. Maybe just have to bite the bullet in this new medium (since as you have all noted, it is the way of things or soon will be) and deal with my light-centricity. I feel pretty alone in this awareness though and even slightly crazy and self-doubting!

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    cocoskyavitch

    Amnesty, you are most certainly not nuts, you likely have a sensitivity to visual things…and I find that admirable and worthwhile discussing.

    BTW I have a little 18 inch Samsung in the guest room that I use for my (infrequent) Wii workouts. I notice the picture is markedly different from my other set-and it is a bit harsh-seeming. And, different from the one I purchased for my mother-which has a wonderful image. So, image quality is different from set to set and individual set callibration can only do so much….

    So, we can probably jettison the idea that you are using the argument; “I liked Michelangelo’s ceiling better before the cleaning” and locate the issue in the actual set itself.

    There’s yet another issue: “seeing too much information” e.g; stretch marks et al; and we can park that puppy up to the cinematographer’s wagon and call it his mistake. After all, I have read critiques of Kurosawa’s “Throne of Blood” (or was it Red Beard?) descrying the hot spots against the wood panelled walls-finding them distracting and throwing the viewer out of the illusion of watching a drama unfold and into the film studio and its technologies-which is exactly what you are complaining of! So, that exists, and will continue and there are good and bad cinematographers for sure!

    The challenge of seeing more clearly is that you can be bogged down in extraneous detail or distracted by unnecessary visual information, blinded by hotspots…

    True! But, HD alone is not going to add any information to previously filmed works that didn’t exist in the original (Even Ted Turner’s colorization of black and white films is an issue beyond HD-and is an issue of retouching/altering digitally-that’s a separate issue).

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    Amnesty11

    I never really thought about it being a problem with my Samsung, since I’ve noticed it on other sets too. But maybe Samsung is one of the worst of them. Perhaps.

    But this is why I moved to Los Angeles too. The quality of light where i come from (San Francisco) is more golden and deep amber and sometimes that is wonderful. But sometimes it weighs heavy too.

    But the high white, bright yellow of coastal Los Angeles affects my head in a very good way all year round.

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    Vili Maunula

    Amnesty: (For some reason replies not showing up in my email these days, didn’t even know there WERE replies until tonight…Vili, any suggestions? They aren’t showing up in Spam either)

    I’m sorry about the confusion, Amnesty. The reason for this is that although you perceive akirakurosawa.info as a single website, in reality it runs as two fairly separate websites. The “news and information” sections run on the blogging software WordPress. Outside of that is the discussion forum, which runs on the forum software bbPress. The two do discuss with one another (you for instance only need one login, and the visual layout is obviously integrated to both), but they still are separate entities. This means that they have different functionalities, one of which is that for WordPress I have set up the possibility of email notifications, whereas for the forums I have not.

    I have been meaning to change all this, now that the newer versions of bbPress (which is being developed by the same company as WordPress) have been made a part of WordPress, rather than a wholly separate entity. I originally wanted to do the update last summer, but they hadn’t ironed out the bugs by then. So, I decided to wait until my winter break, but other things came up and also the conversion turned out to be a little bit more complicated than I had thought. Currently, my plan is to do the updates this July, when I again have a month off work to concentrate on my own things.

    Once the entire website runs on single easier-to-update software, it will be easier for me to make other changes as well.

    Until then, I suggest using RSS feeds, at least if you already use an RSS reader. At the very top of the page, there are links to feeds of all news, news comments and forum discussion. If you want to subscribe only to a single thread, at the top of every forum page, on the same line as the title of the thread, there is the orange RSS icon, which takes you to the thread’s RSS feed.

    I’m sorry it’s not very intuitive at the moment. As I said, I’ve been wanting to tackle this problem, but haven’t had the time yet. 😳

    Amnesty: Maybe just have to bite the bullet in this new medium (since as you have all noted, it is the way of things or soon will be) and deal with my light-centricity. I feel pretty alone in this awareness though and even slightly crazy and self-doubting!

    This reminds me of how I experience 3D cinema. People rave about the three-dimensionality, yet I tend to see just unfocused, blurry stuff that is not very three-dimensional to me at all, in fact more like a Monty Python cartoon with different visual layers moving independently. I too have felt a little solitary with this problem, as well as self-doubting.

    But if it doesn’t look good to you, it doesn’t look good to you. You can’t like ice-cream if you don’t like ice-cream.

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    Amnesty11

    Vili, I have a friend who can’t “do” 3D either. No Avengers at the IMAX 3D for you! (or for her!)

    But to your point, I think you’re right. I think I just have to accept my sensitivity and find ways to work around it.

    And thanks for the info about the website. After reading what you’ve done already to put together the site I’m so impressed! Who could ask you to do any more than you’ve already done? Besides, you must have tweaked it a bit because now I am getting the notifications, so thanks a bunch!

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    Vili Maunula

    Amnesty: Besides, you must have tweaked it a bit because now I am getting the notifications, so thanks a bunch!

    I think that what you are experiencing is notifications from the film club introduction post, which (perhaps again confusingly) is over at the news section, and therefore sends notifications. 🙂

    Amnesty: Who could ask you to do any more than you’ve already done?

    On the contrary, you all should always tell me if there is something that you think could be done better on this website. Whether I have the skills or the time to follow your advice is another question, but I will definitely seriously think about all suggestions.

    As I said, the next major update should, if everything goes well, take place this July, so now is actually a perfect time to let me know what you think this website is missing, or what it is doing wrong.

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    Amnesty11

    Hmmm, was just thinking about this Vili… I wonder if there’s a way to add a button on these discussion threads wherein one could save a draft of something one wants to eventually post? I sometimes want to sit down and write out my (long winded) thoughts while watching a movie or maybe just after and then re-write or have more ideas to add another day. I don’t think there’s that option within the site is there?

    Just a thought…

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    Vili Maunula

    Amnesty: I wonder if there’s a way to add a button on these discussion threads wherein one could save a draft of something one wants to eventually post?

    This is something that I would really like to do, but I haven’t found an easy solution yet, and writing the code myself might prove quite challenging, especially as I would need to maintain it when the software updates. But I’m definitely thinking about this, especially as I’m not the only one now who has requested the feature. 🙂

    At the moment, I usually write longer posts with a word processor program and then copy-paste them here and check the formatting with the preview button. When using a newer version of Microsoft Word, it is good to use the “no spacing” style.

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    Amnesty11

    Ah yes, the old stand by, “cut and paste…” I do that too – it’s a good solution, especially if the programing for “save draft,” seems too tricky. Good luck!

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    Larzz

    Hi, I owne a 100″ screen with HD 1080p projector and watching the blu-ray’s of Kagemusha or Ran are awesome in the high resolution idiom. Also the widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio’s of The Hidden Fortress Sanjuro and Yojimbo are breathtaking to watch in High Definition on such a big screen. A recommendation for all movie fans!

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    Vili Maunula

    Sounds great, Larzz!

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