Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

High Definition

My television set is from the generation immediately preceding the current state of the art. When it was manufactured, HD signals were only available through cable or satellite, and so that was the standard. This means that while it is HD, it isn't full-on 1080p HD. I can view films in 1080i or 720p, with the latter often giving better results because the progressive fields make up for any additional lines of resolution. Which means that I'm going to have to replace this set sometime in the not to distant future if I want to enjoy the full 1080p HD effect; just comparing the difference between 720i and 720p shows what manner of visual improvement 1080p would offer.

That said, my first batch of HD titles were Casino Royale, Superman: The Movie and The Road Warrior on Blu-Ray and Dune and Spartacus on HD-DVD. I must say I was extremely disappointed in the quality of the transfer on the latter; Spartacus was photographed in Super Panavision 70, and the 65 millimeter source material should have offered an immaculate image, but it is instead plagued by grain. The rest of the titles all look as good as I've ever seen them on video. Superman is a bit grainy and hazy, but that is an (intentional) aspect of the original cinematography, the effects shots in Dune look a little more rickety than they did in previous transfers because the higher resolution isn't kind, Casino Royale looks phenomenal, and also features and uncompressed PCM 5.1 surround track, which I found quite delicious.

The real take-your-breath-away picture is, surprisingly enough, The Road Warrior. Even at 1080i or 720p, it makes the television set look like a window! The image is completely stable no matter how dark things get, with shadow detail I've never seen before. It is also taken from the Australian version, and so the on-screen title is Mad Max 2 and for the first time in letterboxed video history, the image for this title is properly centered.

Many associate this film with a grainy and washed-out image due to earlier video transfers and television broadcasts, but when the image is immaculate, the film takes on a visceral quality that is impossible otherwise. And trust me, the film is no less grimy for all of that; if anything, the textures now visible only serve to further the sense of loss and decay that is what makes this film so much more resonant than any number of other post-apocalyptic adventures.

That opening sequence is actually a fantastic way to demo the system, with the grainy, Academy ratio black and white image with monaural sound opening out to the full Panavision width and the thunderous Dolby Stereo sound mix. Interestingly, while the audio is full and dimensional, Brian May's* score still sounds as pinched and tinny as it ever did, most likely an aspect of the original recording. As the masters are lost anyway, this would be a prime candidate for a re-recording, as it is one of the most high-octane (literally) action scores ever written and it is not very well represented on its album.

* Not the same Brian May from Queen, despite what some issues of Mad Max on video box copy have stated.
Tags: alex north, cinema, david arnold, david lynch, film music, high def, james bond, science fiction, stanley kubrick, superman

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