Saturday, November 08, 2008

I'm Not 100% Sure, But I Think I Hate Blu-Ray

How can this be? The highest (thus far) of the high-definition formats available to home consumers is something I don't like?

It's true.

My local Best Buy and Circuit City have had the full Blu-Ray/1080 HDTV setup on display for a few months now, and every time I go, I make a point of checking it out, especially when they have a new DVD release. And EVERY time, I get freaked out, in a bad way, at the image quality I see.

It's just TOO good. Films look like it's high definition VIDEO. It almost looks like live-action. It's too crisp. Too clean. Too grain-free.

From many many experiences watching TV and movies with non-media people, I know that 99% of the viewing public usually doesn't notice, or can't tell the difference between a video look and a film look, and even when I point it out to them, they don't care. So I know that when I gripe about the look of Blu-ray, I'm going to be in the extreme minority.

I know I sound like those nutjob audio purists that turn their nose up at CD's and mp3's, saying that only analog playback (like albums or audiotape) can truly present music in it's full glory. But my complaint is the exact opposite.

Film, or the 'film look' is NOT a pristine image. It's a purposefully grainy and/or degraded image. It's how film has always been, and how I WANT it to always be. Even films shot on HD video in recent years retain that 'film look' when projected from a film projector, because it's still film as an end product.

But now, we have Blu-Ray, which bypasses the film projection step, so the image that appears on your HDTV is perfect. What's worse, is that the studios have actually gone back and REMOVED grain from films because people with new HDTV's were complaining about it. Gah!

I don't want total clarity with the FILMS that I watch. I don't want it to seem like it's happening NOW, or right in front of me. The 'film look' allows for that layer of separation, that filter of being at least one step removed from the events unfolding on screen. It's still a story being told with some perspective, rather than something happening like a news broadcast or reality show.

I know that it's all over for me. There isn't going to be some "Let's Save the Grain!" movement that's going to pop up. This is what the masses want, even though the don't know it's not what they really want. But it's what they're going to get.

So don't feel sorry for me when in a few years when you see me scouring the plain old DVD releases as opposed to the Blu-Ray shelf. I'm there on purpose. I'm stubbornly and (correctly) holding on to the BEST movie experience available to me.

1 comment:

Sharad said...

Some facts you should take into consideration:

Film stock is a larger "pixel size than blu-ray (1920 x 1080)... so blue ray never has as much detail as the film print or digital projection you see in movie theatres. There are cases in which the original film was shot with ultra grainy film or cheap lenses that make the film seem worse than the average 1920x1980 consumer picture.

Film grain (part of the image of a movie) is recorded onto most blu-ray masters, the professionals like the film grain and preserve it. They even add it for effect like in the case of "300". Unfortunately there are 3 top factors that make consumer blu-ray look like video and lose their film quality:

1. Artificial sharpening. A lot of tv's and disc players have sharpening functions which take an image and increase edge contrast. I'm a videophile (meaning I want fidelity and original quality in what I view) so I keep my tv sharpness off (at zero) so it doesn't do anything artificial.

2. Noise reduction. some tv's and players have noise reduction functions which smooth out grain. Turn it off.

3. 120 frequency playback on LCD HDTV's. This feature artificially introduces more perceived frames a second and makes motion seem lifelike and smooth. IT makes films move like video, so I hate it... Film is only 24 frames per second, not 30, not 60, not 120. I would rather have a plasma HDTV which doesn't have these features and has better contrast, and color.

I just bought the Clockwork Orange blu-ray and the Poltergeist Blu-ray, and they are very faithful and filmlike. I also have my tv settings set according to the specific recommendations for my model on