Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Scanliners

This is a joke, right?


From now on, I'm going to reserve the words "upscaled" for transfers that look like this. I'm still not convinced that transfers like King of New York, Versus and Battle Royale have anything approaching real-world resolution that a DVD isn't fully capable of, and that has made me quite suspicious... still, I'm willing to admit I could be wrong. A combination of old scanning equipment, excessive post-filtering and middling encoding can leave you with an image so processed and stripped of the resolution present in whatever film source was used that the detail is essentially lost, leaving you with an "HD" transfer totally devoid of any natural film grain or high-frequency detail, the two things that actually separate HD from SD to begin with.

Part of me wonders if a transfer so shoddy that it has no real-world resolution over DVD should be held in any higher regard than an SD upscale... but no, that's not entirely fair. Some films are just blurry as hell, or transferred from multi-generational sources. More importantly, even a shitty new HD master is bould to not have numerous problems a dated SD transfer is more or less expected to have. In effect, a bad HD transfer is bad, but a bad upscaled transfer is just acknowledging you don't give a shit and have nothing but contempt for your own product... if that's the case, I should probably apologize to the likes of Media Blasters and Arrow Video...

...but, then I remember that both Ichi the Killer and the Italian version of Bay of Blood are, in no uncertain terms, SD upscales. So, whatever. Lie to me once I'm going to assume you're doing it all the time.



Well, this looks pretty good for an SD Netflix stream...


Unfortunately, the new German Blu-ray release of David Cronenberg's iconic (if overrated)  Sci-Fi head-popper SCANNERS is as blatant an SD upscale as it gets. There's a ton of caps floating around on the Blu-ray.com forums if you'd like to see more for yourself. Say whatever you like, it's painfully clear that this is just an upsampled version of the SD master MGM made for DVD ten goddamn years ago! Same framing, same print damage, same color timing... and yeah, same level of detail. It's not awful for a ten year old Digibeta, but what the hell is it doing on a 1080p Blu-ray, claiming to be "Remastered", no less?!

In the words of the great and wise Cee-Lo Green, Fuck you, Koch Media. If this was mastered from anything but a Digibeta, then I'm going to nominate the Hong Kong release of Bullet in the Head as the absolute best transfer of the year:



Hoo-lee shit... I never, EVER thought I'd have to say "Well, at least Woo'sThe Killer looks amazing in comparison!"

UPDATE: There's been a lot of talk about a "superior" HDTV broadcast version that's been floating around the internet for some time. The Blu-ray.com forum has since uploaded several caps of the MGM HD version, and being the natural skeptic that I am, included both transfers here, side-by-side, so you can make up your own minds as to what you think happened (spoiler warning: I'll say what happened after the pics, too):


Blu-ray

HDTV


It's... kind of a wash, to be honest. The crisper details, IRE 0 blacks, lack of distorted edge-ringing, better framing and more natural colors all suggest that the HDTV rip is, indeed, a completely different source. It sure looks like a new HD transfer on close-ups, but the 720p version that's still on P2P sites is so badly filtered and compressed that the upscaled Blu-ray still, on occasion, has more detail despite having less source resolution: That sign with the corndog looks better on the HDTV version, but the texture on the empty stool looks better on the Blu-ray.

Y'know what? I'll say it again; Fuck you, Koch. It's not bad enough that you're passing off shitty SD upscales as "Remastered HD", but there actually is a remastered version and you assholes didn't even get your hands on it!

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