Blu-ray is finally beginning to take off as a home movie platform after years of being look upon as being “too expensive” or “not worth it,” but it seems as though many of the bigger studios are using filters and techniques that are not only ruining the Director’s intended vision for the movie, but also wiping away much of the detail that Blu-ray is supposed to provide.
The majority of today’s Blu-ray movies are 1080p and provide an amount of detail that is comparable to the image you see in the movie theaters (which is what is called 2k resolution, 2048p). It’s a huge jump over DVDs which only provided a 480p image. All of that extra detail should make your movies look amazing, and often times they do. However, studios have begun to abuse a couple of filtering techniques that actually harm the image than improve it. These techniques are called Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) and edge enhancement. DNR is intended to rid digital images of the artifacts caused by digital compression, but Blu-ray movies top-out at around 48Mbps (DVD around 9Mbps). Because the bitrate of the video is so high, Blu-rays don’t necessarily need any sort of DNR. The artifacts are those of the film transfer itself. Studios use DNR and edge enhancements to “clean up” images, generally those of older films. It has been used on newer releases though.
Many movie and film enthusiasts, like myself, are speaking out against these techniques which often ruin the look of the film. Movies shot on film are intended to have grain and have a film-like look. The DNR often removes the grain and even some of the finer details such as clothing textures and even minute details, which Blu-ray was intended to provide. We’ve all seen the commercials and advertisements: “Perfect picture and sound,” but a lot of these movies feature quality that is far from perfect, by anyone’s definition. Take Predator‘s “Ultimate Hunters Edition” for example. For much DNR has been applied that the image now looks too smooth and almost plastic or wax-like.
It’s not just Predator though, there are hundreds of others:
- Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back
- Total Recall
- John Carpenter’s The Thing
- Gladiator (Original release, not Sapphire Series re-issue)
- American Psycho
- The Fifth Element
- Lord of the Rings (Theatrical Editions)
Edge enhancement is another thing that is abused. While not something that is as obvious as DNR, it’s still there and can cause a lot of the finer details, such as lines in the pictures, to appear jagged and not smooth. It can also cause what is known as “halos” which are white-ish outlines around an object that is caused by the contract shift between two colors.
If you happen to be a fan of these techniques, then by all means use the DNR and edge enhancement setting that are built in to your HDTV. Those of us who want to see the movie as intended by the director, this is a cry out to the studios who are using DNR and edge enhancement to “enhance” the quality of the presentation. I want to see a film in all of it’s grainy glory. If the master you’re using is bad, invest in a new one. Movies that are given proper treatment will sell. I always look up reviews on picture and audio quality before I make a Blu-ray purchase and I know many other who do as well. Check out the gallery below for some reference shots, including comparison shots of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – one without DNR and one with a decent amount. Patton also shows a great example of DNR being overused.