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Writer, director, musician, and multimedia junkie. www.felixemartinez.com © 2008-2009 F.E.M.

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    Monday, July 21, 2008

    Recession Blues? Not For Blu!

    Here's an interesting article that covers home entertainment consumer spending and Blu-ray sales through mid-year. A couple of eyebrow-raising tidbits:
    • Overall home entertainment spending is flat through mid-year, compared to 2007 - actually good news, considering the challenging economic environment.
    • Blu-ray sales are up 300% over last year.
    And the second half of 2008 should be a boon for Blu-ray fans. Warner has already announced their plans for lowering Blu-ray pricing starting in the fall, and I'd bet that we will once again see a plethora of online and brick-n-mortar sales as the year comes to a close. Add to that a number of hot titles coming down the pike, and we should have some wallet-busting Blu-days ahead!

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008

    Will The Real "Grain-Raper" Please Stand Up?

    Awright, I'm gonna try and give this "grain-rape" stuff a reprieve, but there's been an interesting development I can't resist highlighting: an individual connected with the post house that "grain-raped" the Patton and The Longest Day Blu-ray releases has spoken up over at HighDefForum.com. Check out the posts by "1080PsF."

    The attitude displayed just boggles the mind.

    About the rush job:
    "It was a lot of work for a bunch of people here at where we did it. I even pulled a 39 hour shift to get it out the door. We did the scan and all of the work to make the master that was sent out to make the BD's. We also did "The longest day" at the same time but I never did even get a chance to see either movie all way through after we finished them."
    About the elements (emphasis mine):
    "It was from the 65mm film and it was a 4K scan and no it didn't have all of the film grain. I can't say everything we did to it, but we scan each frame one at a time and those frames are recorded on a SAN and then we have someone QC the reel of film off of the SAN to note all of the dirt and problem items. We repair all of the items that were listed, after that someone does another QC pass to make sure all of the items listed were fixed. Then it was recorded on an HDCAM SR (4:4:4) from the SAN, that tape is also QC'ed and then it is sent to Panasonic to make the Blu-ray disks. I don't work on the computer side or the film side I'm only a tape guy. Some people like this transfer and some don’t. Grain isn't something magic it's a limitation of the film. I have never liked film and never will, I can’t wait until it is never used again, but that’s just me. When I look at the world I don’t see grain, I see a nice clear view."
    Wow. Just wow. Personally, I don't see dissolves or slo-mo in real life either, "but that's just me."

    Comments? Thoughts?

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Grain Is Good; Grain Is God

    There are some folks in the entertainment industry that believe the general public rejects the presence of film grain on hi-def (i.e. Blu-ray) releases. I've posted recently about some of the home video atrocities committed in the name of this religion.

    Maybe I'm feeling optimistic today, but I recall a time in the not-too-distant past when DVDs of major films were released pan and scanned or not enhanced for 16:9 displays. I think this goes some way in proving that Joe and Jane Public do indeed care about letterboxing. And I think they will care about seeing grain, too - if we educate them.

    So, I propose a new religion. I'm picturing a bumper sticker. No, better yet: a label on Blu-ray cases - as part of the cover artwork or a sticker; makes no difference to me - that's similar to the little blurb we saw on audio CDs during the 1980s (paraphrase mine):

    "This motion picture was created using the photochemical film system. We have attempted to preserve, as closely as possible, the look of the original elements. Because of its high resolution, this Blu-ray Disc can reveal grain and other analog attributes of the source."
    All kneel and repeat after me: "Grain is good; grain Is God."

    Or - for the agnostic, how about a T-shirt:

    Monday, July 7, 2008

    Blu-ray Pioneer and the Future of DVD Hardware

    A couple of news bits (or is it bytes?) about the good folks at Pioneer:

    According to Techradar, it seems like they've come up with a monster storage solution - a 400GB Blu-ray disc.

    Yowza - that's serious storage on a disc!

    According to the company, "Since the optical specifications of the objective lens…are the same as those for the existing BD discs, it is possible to maintain compatibility between the new 16-layer optical disc and the BD discs."

    One question: how long does it take to burn and finalize the thing? A month? Methinks this is for industrial use only. Don't hold your data while you wait to pick up this "behemoth" at your local electronics store.

    Also, Digitimes reports that Pioneer has "landed OEM orders for Blu-ray Disc (BD) Combo drives from Hewlett-Packard (HP) with shipments to begin in July 2008, according to industry sources in Taiwan."

    With these combo drives priced around $110-120, it now seems very likely that the cross dissolve from DVD-R to BD-R is finally under way.

    Thank goodness. Now to start thinking about all those HD home movies I gotta burn...

    I also heard from another source (not Pioneer - actually it was a retailer), that the plan is to discontinue DVD set-top players as quickly as possible (actually, he said by Christmas 2009, but that seems pretty aggressive) so that Blu-ray hardware is what's left on the shelves.

    Mind you, DVDs will not go away, but the Blu-ray format will be what DVDs will be played on - at least until folks catch the drift that they now have a Blu-ray player and they say, "hey, wouldn't it be neat to see a hi-def disc on this widescreen TV we already have?"

    Hey, if the price is right, more power to the Blu!

    Wednesday, July 2, 2008

    A Restored Godfather On Blu-ray

    On June 30, the news hit: The Godfather Collection - The Coppola Restoration - on Blu-ray, September 23, 2008.

    Before we get to the Blu-ray set's specs, allow me to draw your attention to this fascinating article on the restoration of these classic films.

    From the May 2008 issue of American Cinematographer, an excerpt:

    Paramount delivered the film’s surviving elements — original camera negative, YCM separation masters, intermediate separation masters and thousands of feet of miscellaneous elements — to Pro-Tek Preservation Services in Burbank, where an inspection confirmed that radical surgery was required. Held together with tape, the original negative was filthy and riddled with scratches, rips and tears, some of which broke into the image area; in some sections, parts of the image had actually been torn away. An entire reel (1B) had at some point been removed and replaced with a dupe. Scenes were even missing from the final separation masters because they had been made before the cut was final...

    ...(cinematographer Gordon Willis) had this to say: “I think a remarkable job was done repairing all the damage done to the negative — very difficult work. The Godfather is a very good-looking picture now."

    A happy ending, perhaps, but this rather depressing article reveals how close we came to losing these films for good.

    From Peter Bart's June 23 blog entry in Variety, an excerpt:
    Here’s the darkest Godfather secret: The negative was literally turning into dust until Steven Spielberg, upon closing his DreamWorks deal at Paramount, made a personal call to Brad Grey pleading with him to salvage it. Grey was himself shocked to learn that one of the studio’s major assets was falling apart and he authorized payment of over $1 million for the restoration.
    Okay, then. Here's the official press release.

    Here's the relevant info. Cue Pavlov; start salivating:

    THE GODFATHER: The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray Collection
    The Coppola Restoration Blu-ray four-disc set is presented in 1080p high definition with English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and English Mono (except The Godfather: Part III) and English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles. The following special features are presented in high definition as noted:

    Disc 1:
    -- The Godfather feature film
    -- Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola
    Disc 2:
    -- The Godfather, Part II feature film
    -- Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola
    Disc 3:
    -- The Godfather, Part III feature film
    -- Commentary by director Francis Ford Coppola
    Disc 4:
    -- Godfather World (HD)
    -- The Masterpiece That Almost Wasn't (HD)
    -- ... when the shooting stopped (HD)
    -- Emulsional Rescue-Revealing The Godfather (HD)
    -- The Godfather on the Red Carpet (HD)
    -- Four Short Films on The Godfather
    o The Godfather vs. The Godfather, Part II (HD)
    o Cannoli (HD)
    o Riffing on the Riffing (HD)
    o Clemenza (HD)
    -- The Family Tree
    -- Crime Organization Chart
    -- Connie and Carlo's Wedding Album
    Disc 4 (cont'd):
    2001 DVD Archive:
    -- Behind the Scenes
    o The Godfather Family: A Look Inside
    o On Location
    o Francis Coppola's Notebook
    o The Music of the Godfather
    o Coppola & Puzo on Screenwriting
    o Gordon Willis on Cinematography
    o Storyboards from The Godfather, Part II
    o Storyboards from The Godfather, Part III
    o The Godfather Behind the Scenes 1971
    -- The Filmmakers
    o Francis Ford Coppola
    o Mario Puzo
    o Gordon Willis
    o Dean Tavoularis
    o Nino Rota
    o Carmine Coppola
    -- Additional Scenes
    -- Acclaim & Response
    -- Trailers (HD)
    -- Photo Gallery
    -- Rogues' Gallery

    Tuesday, July 1, 2008

    Have A Sip Of Homogenized Blu-ray

    Just came across this.

    To paraphrase Pink Floyd - it's nearly a laugh, but really a cry.

    Panasonic Hollywood Labs is, I believe, the shop responsible for the recent controversial Blu-ray releases of Patton and The Longest Day - two titles that use pretty severe digital noise reduction (DNR) to remove grain (and unfortunately much of the high-frequency detail).

    Here's an excerpt from the article. The emphases are mine:
    Takeshi Kuraku, Manager, Audio Video Marketing Team, Overseas Sales & Marketing Group, is quick to point out that the technologies used to improve video comes from the PHL’s work with proprietary encoding and authoring software in tandem with movie studios who have spent serious time analyzing how their films will translate to disc. When viewed on the huge projection screen next door to where we’re seated, every imperfection (film grain for example) of a BD transfer from film stands out like a sore thumb. “Studios want the film grain to look realistic,” Kuraku says. “It must be properly accounted for, appear natural and not look as if it was added in.”
    Now, I have no reason to believe that PHL is comprised of anything but skilled, professional people using state-of-the-art equipment, capable of producing fine work. Nonetheless, Mr. Kuraku's comment brings focus to my view that the decision to remove grain from HD releases in order to satiate the grain-hating masses is made from a position of weakness, fueled by fear and insecurity.

    But this should be no surprise to all those viewers who have rolled their eyes at the special feature disclaimers about "the opinions of the filmmakers" not being endorsed by the studio.

    Maybe they should add yet another disclaimer that states:
    "The look of this Blu-ray may bear no relation to the original creative decisions of the filmmakers, in order to provide you - The All-Knowing Viewer - with the most homogenized version possible. We thank you for your patronage."

    © 2008 Felix E. Martinez