Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Night of Chroma Noise

Ian over at Rock! Shock! Pop! has posted his review for Andrea Bianchi's brazenly sexualized and papier-mâché fueled 1980 Night of the Living Dead knock-off BURIAL GROUND/LE NOTTI DEL TERRORE.

John Sirabella, CEO and public voice for the Media Blasters company/Shriek Show label, has promised that the transfer would be gorgeous since they were going from the original camera negative. After a heavily flawed but overall decent master for Beyond the Darkness and an utterly pitiful "HD" release of Zombie Holocaust that's rivaled by some above-average DVDs, I was very curious to see which end of the quality spectrum this favorite of mine would fall under...





Huh?! What the hell is that... is that frickin' chroma noise?! What is this sourced from, some aborted format of High Definition VHS tape from 1995? In fact, let me grab the Shriek Show DVD, just to be sure this funky "rainbow-sprinkles" look is something new to this HD master...



Huh! No brightly colored video noise here...
(Please note: NOT exact frame matches!)

For those unsure of what I'm babbling about, "chroma" is the part of the video signal that contains only color, and "luma" is the part that contains only black and white information. To save on bandwidth, most video formats compress chroma more than luma (since the human eye sees less color than black-and-white information anyway), and as such you can do things like DVNR the crap out of the color info without touching the black-and-white and still create an image that, at a glance at least, looks relatively sharp and stable. Even Blu-ray encoding uses the YUV 4:2:0 colorspace, which means that there's only about one-half the color information as there is black and white information.

Chroma noise is when you have random spots of color where it simply shouldn't be, which in this case is showing up as random little pixels of red, green and blue on top of whatever the original image's color is "supposed" to be. One look at the shot of the crucified hand should make it pretty clear; those shadows should be black, yet they appear to have been lit with miniscule Christmas tree lights.

Since I don't know Ian's method for taking screenshots, I'll direct you to his reviews of Beyond the Darkness and Zombie Holocaust for comparison. For better or worse, Beyond the Darkness is one of the precious few Euro Horror transfers to not be drowning in video noise, and I'm willing to give LVR the benefit of the doubt that all of the grain on display is simply the result of the 16mm photography. I have no doubt the film could look better still, but the efforts are more than passable. Zombie Holocaust, however, is a rather gnarly looking transfer with a blurry image, video noise and DVNR/DSR artifacts on top, and managed to edge out The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue as the single worst Euro Horror BD I've had the displeasure of watching. For all its faults, however, the only noise it had was in the luma channel, and there's not a scene in that transfer I can remember that looked as if the undead were shambling through a haze of exploding rainbows.

If this is the latest in a long line of new transfers from LVR, I'm betting that poor Cintel DSX of theirs is on its' last leg, and all of those splattered chroma artifacts might as well be the machine's way of saying "kill me"...

I'm actually not 100% certain if this was shot on 16mm or 35mm - and no, IMDb doesn't count as "proof" of anything. With the level of heavy grain on all prior DVD releases coupled with the 1.66:1 aspect ratio on the Blu-ray, I wouldn't be totally shocked if Burial Grounds were shot on 16mm to save a few bucks on an already dirt cheap production - but even if that's true, these caps are swimming in chroma noise that clearly has nothing to do with the negative. We also know for a fact that Beyond the Darkness was shot on 16mm, and color timing oddities/aspect ratio aside, the actual film print and HD telecine work are still rotten head and shoulders above any of the unfortunate images Ian's taken the time to share with us all.

I may discuss this again once I've had a chance to look the disc over myself, but after that, I think I'm about done with Media Blasters Blu-rays that aren't sourced from all-digital programs (like their nigh-perfect release of Queen's Blade was). It pains me to say this, but Beyond the Darkness might be their most "HD Ready" release on the Shriek Show label so far, and that release has a list of flaws so obvious that never should have slipped past the QC stage I'm still flabbergasted. If Zombie Holocaust and Burial Ground is the future of HD masters from MB... shit, count me out. I can forgive the occasional blunder if there's a good reason for it, and I'm willing to accept an old master assuming it's not complete garbage, but to regularly produce all-new low quality product is the sign of either gross incompetence or total apathy, and neither is worth the $19.99 MSRP the folks at MB are asking for this crap.

Any enthusiasm I may have had for the announcement of Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals will remain buried alive until it's announced that MB has officially switched film labs, or LVR has invested in a new idiot-proof telecine device. Whichever comes first.

8 comments:

LoBo said...

Yes, it`s unfortunate th at it has a good deal of that noise.The reviewer said in the comments section that It's not as noticeable when the image is in motion.

I will still buy it since it`s the best the film has looked on home video. It`s one of my favourite zombie movies.

Here is a DVD vs BD comparison: http://screenshotcomparison.com/comparison/71456/picture:0

Kentai 拳態 said...

Uploaded two more DVD frames for comparison's sake. Those DVD caps are fuk'd for one reason or another - the R1 DVD doesn't artifact quite THAT badly, and only a few of those images have the 1.85:1 matte bars that are present on the actual SS DVD. Not sure how those caps were taken, but they're really all over the place.

I think it's safe to say that this Blu-ray is an EXTREMELY minor upgrade. The fact that it's progressive and has blacks that aren't a consistently milky gray is certainly a step in the right direction, but beyond that... eh...

Kevin P. said...

I'm still interested to see how it looks in motion (wondering if it has the same dupey look as ZOMBI HOLOCAUST) but man, this does not look promising. I have a feeling my as yet hypothetical copy may be fated for the eBay auction block, just like ZH...

As for the aspect ratio, the framing looks tighter to the left and right in some examples (a la BEYOND THE DARKNESS - check out the flowers around Peter Bark's unsettling face in the second shot you posted) in comparison to the DVD. I'm not sure what would be better in this case - cropped 1.85:1 or differently cropped 1.66:1.

Kevin P. said...

...and by "in the second shot" I of course mean "in the first..." Ugh...

Kentai 拳態 said...

Kevin: Don't worry about it, I numbered the images like a weirdo this time!

You're absolutely right, we have more of the top of the frame and less of the side. This shot of Peter Bark is the tail end of a zoom shot, but the shot of the bearded scientist and the bloody hand are both still shots, camera wise, so they're probably valid for framing comparisons.

The DVD never had quite enough head room to start with, so I'll give MB/LVR the benefit of the doubt and assume that this 1.66:1 transfer is at least CLOSER to the intended ratio. Perhaps the sides were clipped to account for some image stabilization?

Greg M said...

"If this is the latest in a long line of new transfers from LVR, I'm betting that poor Cintel DSX of theirs is on its' last leg, and all of those splattered chroma artifacts might as well be the machine's way of saying "kill me"..."

I nearly choked laughing :)

Kevin P. said...

Kentai: I'll do some frame matching when my copy arrives - whenever that may be - and make what I can of the aspect ratio then. I do agree that the DVD is obviously cropped too tightly, and 1.66:1 seems to be a favorite aspect ratio of low rent Euro-horror of the day. But given the inconsiderable talent that seems to be manning LVR Post's telecine process these days I'm no longer willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on much of anything...

Tommy said...

It's tough to support media blasters when they constantly release such low quality material...but the I still say this is a significant upgrade over the washed out DVD. It's a tighter image, with much more solid colors (minus the blacks). So as a huuuge fan of the film, it's hard not to justify picking this up. I mean...what are the chances that somebody else is gonna go out of their way to remaster and re-release Burial Ground on blu ray?