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January 21, 2021

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Mark

Nailed it with the Marvel/Disney directors description, Glenn. Still laughing. Why they haven't let the likes of Joe Dante loose upon their films is beyond me. Anyways thanks for the guide, a great read.

Mike Molloy

I love these guides, always happy when a new one goes up. Thanks!

EddieMarsAttack

Great, now I have to buy the White Album again.

Glenn Kenny

Thanks! By the way, I didn't get into a lot of tech detail here because I'm pitching to the lay reader, but some who've been heavily researching 4K Ultra discs have asked about the Digiraw site that lists 4K Ultra discs and designates them "real" or "fake." (The site, if you're interested: https://www.digiraw.com/DVD-4K-Bluray-ripping-service/4K-UHD-ripping-service/the-real-or-fake-4K-list/?fbclid=IwAR3nO5fytzTyQA75VPS4qAOyUr_Tpzx7TyMKBMLyt2YdZ9fBHJv5Lqi9QNQ )
It designates both "Collateral" and "Spider-Man: Into the Multiverse" as "fake." Now as it happens, "Collateral" was shot in a 1080p format to begin with, and "upscaled" for 4K. "Multiverse" is from a 2160p source. Math heads will note that "2160" is not "4000," OR IS IT? A friend in the field writes: "It might be worth clarifying that 2160P is indeed 4K, it’s simply the vertical number of pixels as opposed to the horizontal (4096 for native 4K, 3840 for TV display resolution). This was the same case for HD, which settled on 1080P as industry shorthand (again, the number referring to the vertical pixel count in the image rather than the 1920 horizontal). Kind of an odd trend really, given that in both cases the higher horizontal number would have been the more impressive one to cite, but there you go."

So the "boost" you'll get from a 4K disc of "Multiverse" compared to the Blu-ray is not illusory or for that matter "fake." And the upscaling of "Collateral" looks...really good.

Andrew Del Monte

Michael Mann is the only mainstream director who's ever done anything interesting with the medium of digital cinematography.

George

All that matters to Marvel/Disney, in terms of visuals, are CGI and second unit. The directors are like TV hacks or studio contract directors in the '30s, hired to make sure the actors hit their marks and speak their lines clearly. And that every shot is brightly lit and in focus. That's all.

Disney has a lot in common with "golden age" MGM, as a place where producers and executives call the shots and directors are interchangeable cogs.

MarkVH

George, I think that's somewhat accurate, though I'd argue that the studio system gave enough creative freedom for some of those directors (Curtiz, Wellman, etc.) to differentiate themselves as, if not auteurs, then something approaching it. With Marvel/Disney I feel like it's the opposite: auteurs go in and their work gets ground up and becomes mostly indecipherable from the less-talented hacks working on the other films (see: Ryan Coogler). Some semblances remain, but they're mostly stamped out in the name of continuity.

In the market for a new player

Glenn, does the Sony UBP-X800E decode HDCD? (If you still have CD's, you may have quite a few.) And do the discs feel very warm after they've been played? Over the years, I've noticed that burn-on-demand DVD-R's are more likely to develop playback issues from heat exposure - some players (like Oppos) will heat up quite a bit while others (like an old Onkyo I still use) stay pretty much at room temperature.

Glenn Kenny

My understanding of HDCD it that it's backward-compatible with the conventional CD format. The format that needs decoding is SACD, or Super Audio CD, and this player does that. I have not noticed any discs overheating in the machine.

Michael

Glenn, thanks for the great post! Can you elaborate a bit on: "Blu-rays whose bitrate went beyond what the OPPO could actually handle." I'm not very technically-minded when it comes to this stuff, and I haven't ever considered that some older players would not be able to handle the higher bitrate content of some discs. Can you share the model of OPPO player that you owned? I have a region-free UDP-203 - is this something that I need to be concerned about at this point in time with this particular player? Also, I'm curious what happens if you attempt to play a disc that exceeds the maximum bitrate capacity of a particular player. Will the quality of the playback suffer, or will it simply not play it?

Re: HDCD

Thanks Glenn. FWIW, when a CD is encoded with HDCD, it's *playable* on any optical drive, but not to the mastering's full resolution. HDCD is basically a tricky way of packing 20-bit data into a 16-bit container - it more or less hides the extra musical data in the least significant bit of a 16-bit music file. When properly decoded, the full 20-bit signal is unpacked.

(This may be getting into too much detail, but another reason why HDCD decoding is still desirable is that a lot of CD's mastered with HDCD use a built-in peak limiting option - this is kind of a byproduct of the "loudness wars" when more and more compression, limiting, etc. was applied to every new record so they would immediately pop out as louder at the expense of dynamic range and less digital artifacts. When an HDCD encoded CD with peak limiting enabled is properly decoded, the full dynamic range is restored on playback.)

Kevin Sharp

Always both a treat to read these guides & also a danger of how much money they'll cost me afterwards. Since you enjoyed "Suspiria", another 4K you may want to investigate is "Don't Look Now."

Oh, and for accuracy's sake — it's "Spider-Man Into The SPIDER-Verse" rather than Multiverse.

Glenn Kenny

To "Re: HDCD:" FWIW, the player recognizes SACDs as such but the HDCD I put in it is recognized as a 16 bit, plain old CD.

Re: HDCD

Thanks Glenn, much appreciated

Titch

Great that you have made the step to 4K discs Glenn. Totally agree that the Second Sight Dawn Of The Dead box is the best release so far on the format.

The really noticeable difference between 4K and blu ray discs are in projection onto large screens. It really does replicate - and even betters - the theatrical experience. However, the huge drawback with quite a few 4K discs is the slathering of High Dynamic Range all over the picture. This is done by teenage boys at the mastering desk, because it's so "cool" to see the colours "pop". Looks terrible projected - projectors can't handle this. Flat panels manage this better, but I'd rather not see old classic movies with radically different colours and contrast schemes on 4K discs.

You will discover that not all mastering companies are equal. Very few publishers reveal who has done the mastering of their discs. Arrow are the exception - most of their 4K masters are done by Fidelity In Motion (who have the Robert Harris seal of approval).

https://www.fidelityinmotion.com/our-work.php

It does make for frustrating purchases - especially from StudioCanal. Some of their 4K discs, such as the 4K discs of The Ladykillers, The Elephant Man and Breathless, are sensational. Others, such as Le Cercle Rouge, not so much. Be careful of the German Koch Media 4K discs. Several I've purchased look shittier than the blu-rays (Showgirls and Dog Soldiers are particularly bad).

And everyone wonders why the hell Criterion can't be bothered to dip their toes in the water. They missed three opportunities last year: Parasite, Elephant Man and Crash were all afforded 4K disc releases by other publishers.

Glenn Kenny

Titch, I swear by Fidelity in Motion — hell, he's been to my house a few times. (Its founder and CEO, David MacKenzie, has recorded all of the audio commentaries I've done for the past six years. He's fantastic to work with.) Bummer to hear about "Cercle" as I ordered it last week. But I'll definitely look into "Breathless" at least. And avoid the German Koch stuff. Word around the "campfire" suggests that Criterion may dip their toes this year — but I haven't heard this from anyone AT Criterion, so who knows.

George

Mark VH: Agree with you that some directors rose above the studio system, often by becoming their own producers (Hitchcock, Hawks, Capra) or by forming alliances with producers who protected them (such as John Huston with Ray Stark or John Ford with Meriam C. Cooper).

Curtiz certainly had a visual style -- though some have argued that came more from Anton Grot's sets or the Warner cinematographers. I don't know how much input Curtiz had in the scripts he shot. Probably not much, judging from his pace in the '30s and early '40s.

George

And,yes, even Ryan Coogler had to deliver the CGI battle climax that is expected in superhero movies, just like Patty Jenkins did at Warner for WONDER WOMAN. (Haven't seen WW84.)There's no director's "stamp" on either sequence, as there was with a Peckinpah or Leone shoot-out.

Titch

Glenn - I found the blu-ray of StudioCanal Le Cercle Rouge has a rather better colour grading than the 4K disc.You get both in the package, so you can compare yourself. The opposite is the case with Breathless - the 4K disc is exquisite, while the blu-ray is worse than the Criterion released a decade ago. Impossible to predict in advance what one's going to get - unless you have David MacKenzie at the wheel. Impressed that you hobnob with the upper echelons of video mastering wizards.

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