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View Full Version : Excuse me, I'll get my coat...



Mike T
03-31-2011, 03:26 AM
So, I've always wondered (and this is directed at Ian in no way at all) why people who write DVD and Blu-ray reviews come up with gloriously wrong-headed misnomers such as...

1. The image exhibits a liberal coat of grain. How? Grain is part of the image structure from film (as opposed to digital). It can't be "put on" over the image like a coat can over the body, as it's already there. Grain isn't something that is "added" to a film's image, or layered over, or whatever hip nonsense is being spread this week. Grain structure comes from lighting, aperture speed etc etc and is the intrinsic element of standard film's image that attributes it its detail. It's not something that has been painted over a pinsharp pristine image for fun or like putting an extra coat of paint on your house. This, and expressions like it, are amongst the dumbest nonsense I've seen (and part of the reason I've stopped reading so-called "tech specs" on reviews of home video media)

2. The image exhibits...a light dusting of grain, a shitstorm of grain etc etc. Again, how? See point one. If it wasn't meant to be there, it wouldn't be there! 35mm doesn't look like it's been shot through glass once it's processed -- and then some dope comes in and pours grain all over it like glitter out of a tin.

3. The image preserves (Ian, you ARE to blame for the proliferation of that word around the internerd, though -- seems once you used it at AVM, everyone and their dog across the planet copied suit) its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78. How? 1.78 is a 16:9 widescreen TELEVISION standard, not cinema projection AR. Typically, films are projected in cinemas at 1.33 (rare), 1.66 (even rarer), 1.85 or 2.35; if the aspect ratio on home video isn't one of those then sorry, but it isn't in its "original" theatrical ratio at all.

4. The image is presented open matte/Academy ratio 1.37 as seen on original theatrical exhibition. Again, how? Theatrical/Drive-in exhibition conformed to the OARs as listed in point three, and a film shot "open matte" was generally masked off with a fixed aperture gate IN THE PROJECTOR, so how does suddenly deciding to "present" a film open matte make it the OAR? Even Sam Raimi fixed the home video gaffe of The Evil Dead when he instructed Anchor Bay to mask the open matte image off at 1.85...as that was he had shot in mind for (whether people prefer one AR or the other is moot, as Sam shot for 1.85 and that was what he eventually ended up with on home video).

5. Click on image for full size Blu-ray capture...only when you do you get a compressed jpeg image that is compressed down to anywhere between 10 and 1% of the native BD image's resolution (plus it's probably been "tweaked" in Photoshop to boot). Please tell me how a jpeg image at a size of 80kilobytes is anywhere representative, or retains significant resolution, of an image that was originally 6 to 8 Megabytes in size when it was orignally captured? An average seems to be around 500 kilobytes for a BD capture on most so-called "expert" sites -- I get up to that size after Photoshop fiddling and jpeg compression on DVD captures for my blog, and I'm not even doing them for the sake of tech-centric reviews...they're just pics to give people reading the reviews something to look at (because, let's face it, the majority of adults these days are like little kids: if you don't give them a picturebook to read, then they're not going to read it period). If I can do decent screenshots for fun, why can't these people who run the "expert" sites do the same? They do want to be seen as "authoritive", right? :dunno:

There's more...but my brain is threatening to explode just thinking about all the misleading BS you find in online BD/DVD reviews that tends to sway general public opinion (as Joe Public doesn't normally give two shits about this stuff, but once a handful of wrong-headed internet reviews pop that say similar things they suddenly find that they've become an EXPERT on the matter). :nono:

PS: It should be noted that none of the above apply to this site or its reviews!

Ian Jane
03-31-2011, 09:14 AM
A few thoughts related to your numbered points:

1/2 - I think a lot of that just has to do with trying to express how much grain there is. Yes grain is part of film and sometimes it looks awesome and nice and film like and natural and all that good stuff and other times depending on the source material it can get a little overbearing. It all comes down to trying to describe what you see I think.

3 - I've seen stuff digitally projected at 1.78.1 in theaters and with digital projection becoming more common, I think that ratio qualifies as a theatrical aspect ratio at this point in the game. That's not necessarily retroactive though.

5 - Blu-ray screen caps can be tricky because once those files get to be big, the site takes a performance hit and the longer your site takes to load, the more likely it is your read it going to get frustrated and close the browser or go somewhere else (the internet is all about instant gratification after all!). That said, yeah, I agree, screen caps should be of reasonable size when possible. Hosting 6-7MB files isn't going to happen for most people but you can convert an image to jpeg properly and still get a pretty accurate likeness. As far as Photoshopping the image goes, if you mean cleaning it up or adjusting the colors or contrast, I don't think that should ever happen as once you start doing that the integrity of the image goes out the window and it is no longer even remotely representative of what the disc might look like.

Screen caps are a pain in the ass, really. It takes time to do them properly and causes hosting issues (when that Beyond BD review hit those caps got linked all over the place and it crashed the site) and as many are apt to remind us they don't always represent what the image looks like in motion (which I think is stating the obvious) - at the same time, I think it's important to include them whenever possible.

Mike T
03-31-2011, 09:37 AM
RE: Aspect ratios, yep...I was referring retroactively. It's amazing how many sites that are out there that will insist 1.78 and 2.40 are theatrical ratios on films made before the advent of digital film technology (btw, the widest scope image you'll usually get at a cinema is somewhere between 2.15 and 2.20, on average). It gives Joe-Schmoe Public the completely wrong idea about how stuff works.

As an example: I saw a comment recently on the IMDb forums asking if Mr. Vampire was shot on film or digital! Of course it was film, as HD cameras weren't in use back in 1984 -- but the putz thinks, because he saw the film on DVD and it "didn't look right to his eye" on that medium (without a clue as to what it might have looked like in a cinema nearly thirty years ago, mind you), and because a lot of "expert" home video sites spin an unconscionable amount of bullshit, that it must have been shot digital even though no such thing even existed when the film was made.

As for the grain thing...I was just trying to articulate more the types of words, that are misleading for the ill-informed/don't care Joe Public, that a lot of second/third/nth rate reviewers use when discussing grain in a picture. As soon as you start using words like "coat', "dusting", "shower" etc etc...it automatically implies to the uninformed that it is something that shouldn't be there. Like it was added on, as such...

Screenshots: well, it's obvious no-one can try and host fullsize files, but on the otherhand neither should they host mini, useless ones. As for the Photoshop thing, yes I have seen screenshots (sometimes the same frame, quite by coincidence) that look completely different by way of colour and contrast (the ones that did the rounds for the Ip Man BDs are a good example). I'm guessing there's a few folk out there who hit the "auto-correct" button in Photoshop before they're done scaling their grabs down to postage stamp size... ;)

Ian Jane
03-31-2011, 09:43 AM
As for the grain thing...I was just more trying to articulate the types of words, that are misleading for the ill-informed/don't care Joe Public, that a lot of second/third/nth rate reviewers use when discussing grain in a picture. As soon as you start using words like "coat', "dusting", "shower" etc etc...it automatically implies to the uninformed that it is something that shouldn't be there. Like it was added on, as such...

I see your point and from a technical stand point, you're right, it does sort of impy that. I guess I never really took it that way, as I know grain is part of film but I can see how someone might take that away from it. I generally just take it to mean that the image is grainy enough that you notice it is all.


Screenshots: well, it's obvious no-one can try and host fullsize files, but on the otherhand neither should they host mini, useless ones. As for the Photoshop thing, yes I have seen screenshots (sometimes the same frame, quite by coincidence) that look completely different by way of colour and contrast (the ones that did the rounds for the Ip Man BDs are a good example). I'm guessing there's a few folk out there who hit the "auto-correct" button in Photoshop before they're done scaling their grabs down to postage stamp size... ;)

If that's being done (and while I can't think of an example I've found I don't doubt that it happens) then it completely negates the video portion of a review. It seems odd that someone would want to alter an image that way - and for what reason? Unless you're trying to kiss up to or put down a studio's efforts rather than offer an unbiased opinion.

Mike T
03-31-2011, 10:55 AM
It seems odd that someone would want to alter an image that way - and for what reason? Unless you're trying to kiss up to or put down a studio's efforts rather than offer an unbiased opinion.

Kissing up seems blatantly obvious with some sites, as there's a few out there that NEVER offer a negative review. If they can't say something nice about a release, you know they're fishing to stay on the screeners' list when they end up saying something neutral instead of negative. Positive + neutral reviews = kiss-up review site.

But as someone said somewhere recently (it might have been one of the guys at the AVM forums), there are people out there doing these review sites that operate on their own personal agendas and will take great delight in always proving themselves right, be that a misrepresentative screenshot or a Photoshopped one.

I think the key is that the reviewer and the site has to be neutral (with no label or title bias) and honest - pretty much like you do here. When people do stupid shit like rave on and on about how bad Optimum's Peeping Tom BD was and claim there's no grain in the image when it's there plain as day for Blind Freddy to see, that's when I switch off...

Ian Jane
03-31-2011, 11:10 AM
On this we agree. Neautrality is important, integral even, to writing a fair piece.

Toyboy
03-31-2011, 12:14 PM
2. The image exhibits...a light dusting of grain, a shitstorm of grain etc etc. Again, how? See point one. If it wasn't meant to be there, it wouldn't be there! 35mm doesn't look like it's been shot through glassonce it's processed -- and then some dope comes in and pours grain all over it like glitter out of a tin.

I would guess that while the majority of filmmakers have come to accept, or even embrace film grain, it's presence isn't always wanted, so I don't know if it's always been "meant to be there". Many people gush over the crack and pop when they play a vinyl record, or love to see the benday dots in a silver age comic, but those elements were by no means stylistic choices on the artists' part during the eras in which those "defects" were just par for the course. Now, of course, you can add that stuff digitally for a retro feel, and film is no different (see GRIND HOUSE), but I would imagine that many directors and cinematographers weren't overly thrilled to see their work projected on a big screen and to experience what now may be termed a "welcome" or "natural" amount of grain. A lot of them probably said "Fuck, that looks grainy as shit" especially when they shot on 16mm and saw a 35mm blow-up.

I know that doesn't really speak to your point, but it's something that I've always questioned - whether or not grain was welcomed by the filmmakers instead of just tolerated.

Horace Cordier
03-31-2011, 12:57 PM
Without naming names I will say this: there are some reviewers who simply are not qualified to review Blu-ray or HD in general. Sometimes it has to do with their equipment, but it often has to do with not having a solid understanding of the various principles involved. Sadly, some of these reviewers are very good writers when it comes to talking about the artistic merits of a film. These really are 2 different skill sets so it can get tricky.

As for some of the stuff that Mike has alluded to - I agree. Some not-to-be-named labels have received remarkably generous write-ups from certain quarters despite SERIOUS screw-ups. It really does put into jeopardy the trustworthiness of certain writers (for whatever reason).

Honesty is key: for example BLUE UNDERGROUND do stellar work for the most part. I consider them one of the best companies around and Bill Lustig is a truly legendary figure in the industry. But that does nit mean that someone cannot point out the flaws in the UNCLE SAM or MANIAC Blu-rays.

Alison Jane
03-31-2011, 01:19 PM
Horamce is a pro now. :pyoo:

Mike T
03-31-2011, 02:44 PM
Without naming names I will say this: there are some reviewers who simply are not qualified to review Blu-ray or HD in general. Sometimes it has to do with their equipment, but it often has to do with not having a solid understanding of the various principles involved. Sadly, some of these reviewers are very good writers when it comes to talking about the artistic merits of a film. These really are 2 different skill sets so it can get tricky.

This is also a verifiable home truth. As an example, I know of at least one individual in the Asian fan community who has been very vocal over time about the faults and flaws in the Shaw Brothers library as commissioned by parent company Celestial Pictures via the IVL label in Hong Kong (whilst, I am guessing, deliberately neglecting to mention that they’re a rabid supporter/advocate of the various bootleg labels that rip off the Shaw library and those very same transfers they criticise).

Well, imagine my surprise when this person posted pictures of their DVD library on one of those (sad) “show us your DVD collection” penis envy threads you find enmasse across almost every movie forum known to man and there, in the middle of two ridiculously large sets of shelves packed to max with DVDs and junk, was a big fat old 4:3 CRT TV, with a cheap DVD player balanced precariously on top of it!

No 16:9 HDTV, no amp, no speakers (surround or otherwise), no BD player, in fact no nothing that would even suggest the person had the remotest of clues what they were talking about. There was nothing on show to support their claims of being “tech-savvy”. It was then that I figured out that they had been “paraphrasing” stuff they’d read from whiny fanboys on various forums and patching it together as their own critiques.

Way to out yourself as a less-than-honest “expert” – I guess the penis envy of showing off/boasting about their collection clouded their judgement on that occasion.

On the flipside: I once used to correspond regularly with a guy who, outwardly, seemed really into Hong Kong movies (website and all). Like most, over time he branched out and dabbled in other Asian films. But it turned out he had picked HK/Asian films as a niche area to try and prove to a certain long-running DVD review site (as well as a couple of publishers) that he was a good writer and knew his stuff enough to tackle other areas and fields. And then...he slipped up badly.

He posted a review on his website that was, quite honestly, absolutely awful: it was poorly written, researched and thought out in general. I emailed him over the review and asked what was up with it - no response. So I waited a few days and, when there was no repsonse forthcoming, I posted a polite "this isn't up to your standard, what happened?" comment in the feedback under the review. In that medium, he replied in no time -- he claimed that he had only got a copy of the film because of the good rep it had around forums and the 'net, watched it, Hated it, and then SPENT HALF AN HOUR, on and off over lunch, GOOGLING INFO AND READING AN ASIAN NEWS SITE as research before he wrote one of his worst ever reviews.

I have to admit, the internet has given rise to some real half-arsed armchair "experts" (nee: keyboard warriors), as well as people who expect the Pulitzer without a scrap of journalistic skill or elbow-grease...

Horace Cordier
03-31-2011, 04:38 PM
Horamce is a pro now. :pyoo:

Not even remotely.:haha:

I'm trying to learn and not make a fool of myself for the most part. What I have noticed (and NOT on this site I will add) is that some folks elsewhere get VERY opinionated and intense when their views are legitimately criticized. Just to throw out some quick props to a couple of people I think really, really know their stuff I'll mention Ian Jane and Mike T - I find their explanations concise and to the point when dealing with these issues. I have asked Ian a couple of times for info on something and his answers have been clear and easily understood.

That's enough ass-kissing for now. :biggrin:

Mike T
03-31-2011, 10:36 PM
...a couple of people I think really, really know their stuff I'll mention Ian Jane and Mike T...

I am a looooong way off being anything close to a "tech expert", or even tech proficient. But I have learnt enough to call shenanigans when I see them... ;)

Mike T
04-02-2011, 04:07 PM
Another thought: PAL speed-up increases a film's speed by 4%, which is imperceptible to the human eye, and increases audio pitch by half a semi-tone. Unless you have perfect-pitch hearing (or maybe have a background in music which would give you a greater sensitivity towards it), the increase of half a semi-tone is also virtually imperceptible to the human ear. Perfect pitch, or absolute pitch, is only found within approximately 1 in 10,000 individuals = 0.01% of the population.

If studies and figures are correct, then one could surmise that an awful lot of people with absolute pitch have home entertainment systems...if the numbers of posts on home theatre forums from people claiming to be able to both "see" and "hear" the effects of the imperciptible 4% PAL speed-up are anything to go by. If you take into consideration the 0.01% factor, then you could (almost successfully) argue that maybe 70 - 80% of those people post on home theatre/home entertainment forums.

Either that or there's an amazing amount of people on internet home entertainment forums TALKING OF OUT OF THEIR ARSES. ;)

Mark Tolch
04-03-2011, 09:50 AM
I would say that I've never "seen" PAL speedup. And I'm not pitch-perfect. But for the most part, I WILL notice the audio difference almost immediately, especially if the actors have voices that I'm familiar with.

Mike T
04-03-2011, 09:55 AM
Oh, I'm not saying that people don't hear the half a semi-octave increase in pitch. I'm sure a small percentage, yourself included (your music background would help), do.

But what I am saying is that, against supportable facts and figures, there's an awful lot of movie geeks out there on the internerd claiming a whole lot of bullshit just because they want to be seen as "experts" (such are their miserable existences). My suggestion is that many of those people are experts...but experts in having one off the wrist over anything else. It's like the old saying: just because you read it on the internet doesn't make it true. ;)

Mike T
05-18-2011, 12:52 AM
Another thought: Cropping a film from 1.85 to 1.78...what's the big deal? You're losing 0.07 of the frame, unless the picture is being opened up for 1.78. Why do movie nerds on internet forums carry on about this minor fact like someone's nicked their balls with a rusty razor and then rubbed the open cut with half a lemon? I am guessing some folks have no lives... :drum:

Ian Jane
05-18-2011, 09:00 AM
I understand the purist mentality that causes people to gripe about things like that, but personally, the 1.78.1 to 1.85.1 shift doesn't bug me.

Mike T
05-18-2011, 09:03 AM
...the 1.78.1 to 1.85.1 shift doesn't bug me.

Doesn't bug me either, as it's literally a sliver of onscreen information lost/gained. But as I noted, some people on movie-nerd forums act like it's the end of the world. Tossers...

Mark Tolch
05-18-2011, 09:12 AM
I think that if cropping to 1.78:1, the new "fullscreen" is accepted as the norm, that will get out of hand, though it's certainly no pan and scan. I hear what you're saying though...my TV essentially displays 1.78 and 1.85 the same way, thanks to the overscan....not a huge deal for me.

Ian Jane
05-18-2011, 09:48 AM
With other aspect ratios it's obviously a much bigger deal, but since 1.78.1 and 1.85.1 are so close, I don't find it all that noticeable.

Todd Jordan
05-18-2011, 10:44 AM
I probably wouldn't even notice it. Not sure if I ever have.

Mike T
05-18-2011, 11:07 AM
I'm like Mark -- overscan on the HDTV means they both look the same, so it's not an issue...and certainly not noticeable. But as I said, from reading a few tech-heavy (as well as know-it-all) forums about the interwebs, some people seem to treat the matter like some kind of crime against humanity. It's amazing how much shit some people talk when they're bored...