Saturday, May 9, 2009

35mm is not SD

People scoff at older material released on Blu-ray. Why?

They think that for something to be HD, it needs to have been created in the last decade or so wherein HD has begun its viability. But they ignore film. All movies and many older TV shows were recorded on film.

Film is an analog source. Common sizes for movies and TV are 16mm and 35mm. Some films also appear in larger sizes such as 70mm or IMAX's proprietary 70mm format.

Now, SD TV material is 640x480. HD is 1280x720 or 1920x1080. Care to guess what the digital resolution inherent to film is?

35mm is usually scanned at what is called 4K, which is 4096x3112. In the past, 2K was common, but even 2K is a higher resolution than modern TVs can display (and many people don't even have 1080p sets and are instead content with 720p sets).

The thing that set me off was people questioning why Star Trek The Original Series was being released on Blu-ray and stating flatly that there wasn't a reason for it. Ignoring the obvious things like framerate, progressive display, more accurate color, and more disc capacity, they think that the 35mm masters of the show didn't show enough resolution to be worth displaying at 1080p. Things like this are ridiculous and just make me so mad. It's one thing to say "I don't think it would look that much better and it wouldn't be worth it for me considering the price," but to flatly say that the film isn't resolved enough is just annoying and completely wrong. And it's not even that... people even think old MOVIES don't have enough resolution inherent in the master negatives/interpositives, when in fact, even theatrical prints would look good (i.e., resolved enough) if transferred and encoded on Blu-ray.

I'm not even a fan of Star Trek, but I love what they did here. Full restoration of film masters for TV shows should be more common. Not many shows have gotten it, and Star Trek is the first one to start putting them out in HD for consumers. Kinda surprised, since Seinfeld rescanned their film masters a while back too and they still haven't gotten around to putting them out. Dragon Ball Z has done it too, but again, not released on Blu-ray for consumers yet.

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