Showing posts with label article. Show all posts
Showing posts with label article. Show all posts

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A layman's lesson in anamorphic transfers: Red Cliff DVDs

Just wanted to share my experience renting the DVDs to John Woo's excellent Red Cliff bilogy. It is also a good opportunity to make known the importance of anamorphic DVDs.

Back to Red Cliff: The movies are not really sequels, but two parts of an entire storyline. The movies were shown separately in the cinemas, and were also released in two separate DVDs.

Red Cliff was a big hit in Asia, so it was a surprised to discover how poorly conceived one of the DVDs were.

The subject in scrutiny is DVD Part I, which was not an anamorphic transfer, meaning that the the video was recorded as a 4:3 fullscreen video (a near perfect square, like what you see on free TV). This isn't an issue if the video was cropped to fit a fullscreen TV, but they used the widescreen format (a rectangle, like in the cinemas) and "squeezed" it into fullscreen. This means that on a classic, square TV, you will see the two black bars on the top and bottom of the screen instead of a video that fills the entire screen. Not much problem there. But on a widescreen TV, the picture looks overstretched width-wise. Worse, the black bars eats up screen and data space, reducing the picture quality of the actual video presentation. If you are not familiar with anamorphic transfers, there's a bit of a technical explanation to it, but essentially it's a recording technique that efficiently retains video quality of movies shot in widescreen format on DVDs. Most good original DVDs would indicate whether it's an anamorphic transfer at the back of their covers. Red Cliff Part I DVD is not anamorphic, thus the video quality is glaringly low on a hi-definition LCD.

Red Cliff Part 2 DVD is anamorphic, though, and the picture fits my LCD correctly. Picture quality is a lot better than Part I DVD, but then I noticed that the video seemed to have fine, horizontal "black stripes". I was about to blame the DVD again, until I read this article about video interlacing and progressive scan. Nevertheless, the video quality is still not to my satisfaction when compared to other original DVDs I owned.

Bottom line: Don't buy Red Cliff Part I DVD (unless they release an anamorphic version), but Part II is ok, though you may see some interlacing issues if your player or TV isn't "progressive". Chim... The Red Cliff Blu-Rays are a better bet, but no comments on those until I finally get them.

All the Red Cliff discs in Singapore are currently distributed by Scorpio East.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The price you pay for original?

Caveat emptor... let the buyer beware! According to the Sunday Straits, video stores have been unwittingly peddling pirated wares forged by the Jack Sparrows of the movie industry, whose scanning and Photoshop skills have shown marked improvements.

However, this is not the first time poop like this has happened. Many ages ago, a video store with a name that rhymes with "taser" brought in purportedly original VCDs of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King from Thailand, mere weeks after the theatrical release. Took a while before anyone noticed the aquatic stench, including yours truly, who was at the time just too elated to have the opportunity to revisit Middle Earth at such short notice. The company was slapped with a million-dollar fine for its efforts; unfortunately I can't seem to track down the original news article about this fiasco. Hopefully, the evidences of my gullibility, as pictured on the left, would suffice.

Anyway, the article suggests that we should all become digital artwork analysts and look out for slightly "pixellated" graphics, in order to guard ourselves from these fakes. We know how busy the officials are, catching those pesky teen downloaders and fining holiday-ers who bought the same fake DVDs abroad; we must do our part to protect the billion-dollar movie industry from losing millions. Actually, there is an easier and quicker way to spot a dodgy DVD - if an English movie has big Chinese titles on its cover, avoid buying it. This will reduce your chances of making a bogus buy by about maybe 99, 100%?

Left picture: The Maltese Falcon DVD, a made in Taiwan variant (with an all-English cover art) sold at Suntec Carrefour for a measly S$6.99...

Err... Then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

High-definition... WTF?!

To me, there's no topic drier than a technical one (although the Tech Freak might disagree), but if you're planning to set up a home theatre system, there is really no escape from it. You might have heard about this whole high-definition (HD for short) craze that's going on, with people hoarding bargain-priced HD televisions (HDTV for short) at tech fairs as much as they do with rice (well, maybe just in Singapore). Then, there was this format "war" going on between the two HD formats, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. HD who, you say? To many people, they probably thought that Blu-Ray just burst into the scene recently and were oblivious to whatever "war" that was going on. Probably nobody cared too, because some of us are still transitioning from VCDs to DVDs! (Note: DVDs only came into prominence here in the first half of this decade.)

Of course, to fully utilise the prowess of your HDTV, you need to watch something in HD, and that thing could be either a HD channel from free TV or cable, or from a Blu-Ray disc. I don't doubt the awesomeness of watching movies in glorious HD (e.g. the Blu-Ray's resolution is six times better than a DVD's!), but it's still too early to jump on the bandwagon. For one thing, the Blu-Ray library is currently very limited, so a lot of your favourite movies might not be available in this format for years to come. Furthermore, Blu-Ray disc prices are around the range of S$50, compared to Region 3 DVDs, often priced between S$20-S$30. A Blu-Ray player costs around S$600.

Unless you have deep pockets, it's better to adopt a wait-and-see approach. Prices would naturally drop once the Blu-Ray market widens in the next few months, and it's not like the DVD is immensely inferior to Blu-Ray. If you didn't know, there are Blu-Ray and HD-DVD players that can "upscale" your DVDs, or artificially process the video from your DVDs into near-HD video quality, so, don't sell away your precious DVD collection just yet. The best time to start is either in 2009 or 2010. By then, legal movie downloads might have already become the norm, who knows?

Personally, I think the jump to HD is largely unnecessary. Unless you want to examine every pock mark on your favourite celebrity's cheek, the video quality on DVDs are already sufficient. The only time your eyes need the relief of HD video is when you're gaming. Us gamers are all too familiar with the eye-watering blurry graphics of past-gen systems, but the recent crop of HD-supported consoles have significantly lessen the visual strain, and probably improved gamers' endurance for marathon gaming sessions (to the chagrin of some parents, no doubt.)

Note: I never mentioned about Blu-Ray's audio quality because I'm the kind of person who can't tell the difference between 5.1 and DTS except that one is louder than the other. Thus, the prospect of having 7.1 surround sound in my movies isn't exactly something earth-shattering to me. You might want to ask or check out an audiophile's website for more info on this.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The BMF must write more

The great thing about blogs like Alvin Lim's, the authors don't post pictures and videos as much as I do. With Alvin, he writes and draws about office life quite regularly, and generated a lot of feedback and comments from them. So far, the most I've done was to bitch about money and suggest some ways to save them. It's not that I hardly write anything, just that I tend to write reviews more, and they're all located on the main site. The blog is a tool more suited for occasional, random thoughts or important news that needs to be posted up quickly, and recently I didn't have much to share aside from my opinions about the movies I saw. Furthermore, the original plan was to have the Freaks regularly contributing their literary geniuses here, but they have opted to plant their roots on a more liberating and irreverent blogsite. Still, it's not like the BMF Blog is experiencing a dearth of material. I'm still making sure that there's at least one blog update daily, but I'll try to write more and will promise to post less LOLcats pictures.

For your reading pleasure, here are some recommendations for the weekend:


(cribbed from's Hit List)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Making sense of The Mad Detective

A dissection of The Mad Detective's filmmaking process.

Great article by David Bordwell here.

My review of the movie here.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The annual LOTR cash-in continues...

Last year I wrote an article about movie studios' attempts to ride on the fantasy revival fad brought about by the Lord of the Rings movies. The Chronicles of Narnia was one successful endeavour, but last year's Eragon wasn't, though I was optimistic about it.

Of course, the company who started it all couldn't just sit still and let everyone else ride on its success. Planning to start another lucrative franchise (in case things don't work out with LOTR prequel The Hobbit), New Line is releasing fantasy epic The Golden Compass this week. Based on the first book of Philip Pullman's award-winning His Dark Materials trilogy, the story revolves around two kids who find adventures travelling between parallel universes. A break from the usual medieval Nordic settings in many fantasy movies, The Golden Compass offers steampunk-influenced technology, locales and fashion senses. Think Full Metal Alchemist, or... er... Wild Wild West. Some of the main characters apparently possess creatures which they could summon, something like a Pokemon, called "daemons". Pok-emon, da-emon, get the connection? Um, no, I haven't read this book either.

As much as Narnia was lauded by religious groups for its positive Christian references, Pullman's works were derided for its atheistic messages. Naturally, the movie adaptation is also getting a lot of unwarranted attention and comments, despite the fact that it's not even released yet. Who knows how much of the purported anti-Catholic stuff from the book got translated on to the big screen? But it's an easier target for overzealous people (who are even planning to boycott the premiere), because it hasn't made as much money or name as J. K. Rowling and her pro-witchcraft Harry Potter mega-franchise. It's likely that the controversy would only spark the public's curiosity to New Line's box-office advantage. But, like what I once felt about Eragon, I hope that there is a good movie somewhere amidst the PR frenzy, and that director Chris Weitz (he of American Pie fame) has more up his sleeves than just dick and fart jokes.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tuya's Marriage and Blind Mountain are kicked off the Golden Horse! (Part 2)

Stupid me for not doing a more thorough research before putting up the recent Golden Horse post. Apparently, the two scrapped contenders depict rural China in less than flattering ways. I'm sure that has got absolutely nothing to do with their removals from the Golden Horse nom list.

More info on Tuya's here, and Blind here.

Tuya's Marriage and Blind Mountain are kicked off the Golden Horse!

Some belated news: Golden Horse contenders, Tuya's Marriage and Blind Mountain, both PRC productions, have been withdrawn from this year's Golden Horse competition. The reasons for this are vague, something about being "pressured" by China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT). You can read the Variety article here to derive your own conclusions. The Golden Horse committee's statement on this wasn't really enlightening either, promising to "have a discussion after this year’s award ceremony to come up with a solution for new rules of submission". Whatever happened to selecting movies for competition because they happened to be just plain good? If you're able to decipher the BS, please feel free to share it here.
Big winners for these omissions include drug-themed thriller Protege, now getting nods for Best Director and Original Screenplay, while The Sun Also Rises director Kiang Wen and Kidnap star Rene Liu were added into the Best Director and Actress categories respectively.

Microsoft, Bungie sued for crashing gamer's Xbox360!

Apparently, some guy is trying his luck to squeeze US$5 mil out of Microsoft's cash cow by suing Bill and co. and even the guys who put Master Chief together for making his console "crash, freeze or lock up".

Digital Journal article is here.

Singapore's Today Online article over here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Techno-babble: Here Zunney Zunney Zunney... Sit, Good Dog!

Zune 2!!! Looks cool! :) Wat else can I say? Well at least it is not some "iPervert" that requires some "Touching" here and there to get it "turned on".
Anyway, it is funny how companies think that they can get us to keep buying portable players even if we already own like three unused portables at home. Check this YouTube Zune 2 Demo. Link here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Star Wars CG television series

"So it's kind of a PG-13 animated TV series, which is something that has never been done before and obviously doesn't fit in any of the conventional slots that these things fall into. In that, it's very different, and I think it's very exciting."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Johnnie To + Chow Yun Fat = BADASS!!!

Is this a dream? Am I hearing it right? Johnnie To, he of Election and The Mission and Expect the Unexpected, and the greatest Chinese badass actor, Chow Yun Fat, together in the same movie? Don't take it just from me, read this article!
(Thanks to The Golden Rock for the news.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Pleasure of Pirates and What It Tells Us About World Building in Branded Entertainment

Very interesting article by Henry Jenkins that discusses why many critics are so negative when it comes to reviewing blockbuster movies while the rest of the world are enjoying the same movies. Click here for the article.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Still a Heroes virgin...

Yeah, being the geek that I am, I still haven't seen a single Heroes episode, believe it or not. I meant to catch it when it aired on free TV in April, but I knew I was too busy to catch every episode, and opted to wait for the DVD. Now that it's finally out on DVD, I'm still not sure if I have time for it, with a new 3D project, a huge backlog of unwatched DVDs and unwritten reviews all begging for attention.
Anyway, for those who care, click here for's review.