Suspiria BD (final) impressions
This is a little later in coming than I would have liked, but I’ve been fighting off the effects of a less than pleasant cold over the last couple of days and have only just got round to catching up on the various matters needing my attention. (A post on the new Four Flies on Grey Velvet DVD from Mya is also in the pipeline.) We watched the BD release of Suspiria on the big screen on Tuesday night, and it proved to be a rather frustrating experience, on two fronts. First of all, because our attempts to synchronise the BD video with the English audio from the Image Entertainment LaserDisc weren’t entirely successful. Secondly, because of the aforementioned video unpleasantness.
Looking through the disc again today, I noticed several other problems with the master, seemingly stemming from the digital noise reduction (DNR) that was applied during the extensive restoration. Well, perhaps “extensive” is the wrong word to use, since, while the budget clearly allowed for scanning the negative, performing an automated dirt and scratch removal pass, and goosing the brightness, contrast and colour values something rotten, it evidently didn’t stretch to decent quality control. I noticed several instances of the DNR machine screwing up during the thunderstorm at the start of the film, this image showing one of the worst affected frames. Gaffes like these serve to highlight how essential it is that, if making use of automated NR tools, you carefully check the output before signing off on it.
I also came across a strange effect whereby, at the start of each new shot, the first frame is perfectly crisp, retaining all of its inherent grain. Thereafter, the second frame has had more or less all of its grain completely eroded and as a result looks like wax. By the third frame, the grain has returned again. See, for example, this instance: (Frame 1), (Frame 2), (Frame 3). Something similar generally happens at the end of each shot too, with the last two frames seeming unnaturally blurry. This process is repeated without fail throughout the entire film, and I suspect it points to yet further careless misuse of the video restoration system.
Finally, we also have that age-old favourite, the DNR machine attempting to repair a damaged frame by taking material from another frame and making matters worse in the process, usually by selecting the wrong piece of visual information. This shot shows a particularly horrific example, where information from the same or a previous frame somehow ends up on the letterboxing at the bottom of the frame. Was anyone actually checking this stuff at all or did someone just his the “Go” button and head off for a leak?
All this has only soured my attitude towards this restoration of Suspiria even more. It has its strengths, don’t get me wrong. Detail is very good indeed, at least until the swimming pool sequence, at which point the film suddenly and inexplicably drops to a lower resolution for the remainder of its duration. Furthermore, barring the almost imperceptible gaffes at the beginning and end of each shot, the grain is well maintained. However, the film has not only been screwed up something rotten by having its values knocked out of whack, it has also clearly been subjected to a botched DNR process. This is, by any stretch of the imagination, a landmark film, but the way it has been treated is utterly indefensible and beggars belief. In my opinion nothing short of a brand new scan of the negative (or access to the initial scan prior to any digital manipulation being performed) and an intensive restoration process supervised by someone who actually knows what they’re doing will suffice. 4/10
studio: CDE; country: Italy; region code: B; codec: VC-1;
file size: 27 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 18.8 Mbit/sec
Posted: Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 3:06 PM
| Comments: 7
| Dario Argento
Amusingly enough, frames 14 & 15 look like William Friedkin's controversal "remix" of The French Connection!
Posted by: Bleddyn Williams, March 26, 2009 3:47 PM
It probably isn't possible to sync the PCM Stereo Laserdisc soundtrack (the one I edited to conform to the Anchor Bay video track, anyway, on the DVD+R DL I sent you, which apparently has been passed around quite a bit - I shoulda put my name on it somewhere so people would know I did the work, but whatever...) because of the extensive editing I had to do to keep it in sync with the AB video and sound. It took over 80 small (1-4 frames each in length on average) edits or extensions to keep the Laserdisc audio in sync with the AB soundtrack, which itself was fuddled with from what I've heard to try to put the dialog in better sync with the image. Add to that how elements were missing or possibly not in precisely the exact position on the remix made things doubly challenging for me. Perhaps the BD version didn't have the same kind of sound remixing as the AB release did. I know there were times when every single shot in some scenes required me to adjust the sound forward or backward a frame or two to keep things in sync, and covering all of that to make it sound seamless was difficult. It was as if the AB version was missing a frame or two at the beginning of many shots or had a few extra frames at them compared to the LD. It's normal for this to happen at reel changes (my PCM soundtrack "restoration" to THE LITTLE MERMAID only required 8 edits to stay in sync, all at reel changes), but I have never had a sound project as difficult as what I did with SUSPIRIA just to keep the PCM track in sync with the AB (fuddled) one.
Posted by: Chuck Pennington
, March 26, 2009 6:02 PM
Michael, those brown blobs are actually part of the Blu-ray? It's not just some hideous decoding error or, something?
I doubt an HD remaster from the last 5 years could get much worse than Evil Dead II or Salo. I don't think Surpisia is quite that awful, but it's sure too close for comfort.
Posted by: Kentai, March 27, 2009 12:20 AM
That’s very true. Would it surprise you to hear that, despite the existence of this BD release, your DVD with the AB video and LaserDisc audio is still my preferred viewing experience for this title.
That was my first thought too, which is why I went through it frame by frame on my PS3 as well. It’s definitely on the disc, and that capture I provided is by no means an isolated incident. It’s a classic example of what DNR can do if you don’t supervise it properly.
Posted by: Michael Mackenzie
, March 27, 2009 9:33 AM
Could you post some screencaps from the scene with Daniel and his dog in the square in Munich? The old, pan-and-scan Japanese LaserDisc of this scene had a distinct, very warm "yellow" push to the image, and I've never seen the scene look quite the same in any other version. Thanks!
P.S.- I'm FINALLY sending your package out early next week. I've given up on PHENOMENA for now.
Posted by: Vincent Pereira, March 27, 2009 11:04 PM
I made my own Anchor Bay video/Image LaserDisc audio composite of SUSPIRIA, and I had to break the movie up into 8 or 9 sections and sync them individually then edit them all back together myself.
Posted by: Vincent Pereira, March 27, 2009 11:07 PM
Posted by: Michael Mackenzie
, March 28, 2009 9:59 AM
Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog: