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August 30 2014

The Buffy HD Remaster criticized. The Blu-ray.com forum has the first HD screenshots of the Buffy remaster (recently aired on Pivot). Cropping, overuse of Digital Noise Reduction, odd color balance... First reactions are not encouraging. The HD screenshots can be seen here, here and here. Learn more on this page. A video comparison is also on YouTube.

Pivot has revealed by e-mail that Fox Studios was completely remastering the show. You can voice your demands or concerns to Fox by using this page.

[ edited by Liam12 on 2014-09-03 08:28 ]

My main concern is how they'll handle moments when there's stuff just out of frame in the 4:3 version, that were completely ruined on previous 16:9 versions. Like these Restless shots:
Here, you can see off the set.
Here, you can see the Cheese Man waiting in the wings.
Will they crop these shots or digitally "paint over" the problems? I'd probably crop one and alter the other given no other choices, but really, the show was made for 4:3, and anything else is a compromise.

[ edited by GreatMuppetyOdin on 2014-08-30 17:38 ]
These conversions seem to be from broadcast tapes instead of the actual negatives, which makes a huge difference. I am not a fan of how this is looking so far - skin tones look unnatural, brightness is too high, no sign of film grain...not to mention the extreme cropping. Not a terrible job, just not the one this show deserves.
Here's a side-by-side of pilot as shot (left) and HD conversion by Fox Studios (right): https://twitter.com/NexusFandom/status/505766280163782656.

Three things:

- If you look at Sarah's hair, there's a lot of detail. In full 1920x1080 it actually looks great in terms of detail.
- The colour balancing is all over the place, sadly. Scenes which are supposed to look dark and scary, not so much.
- The cropping of the image to fit widescreen. I haven't done the maths yet, but I'd estimate 20% or so of frame is being lost by converting to widescreen. This has two impacts - the first 3 seasons are going to lose a lot of frame (how are Buffy and Angel going to appear in the same frame given their height difference? I think they're going to have to cut Sarah's jaw off in some shots). In seasons 4-7, which have widescreen copies but were not shot for widescreen, you're going to have details not intended on display.

I'd be amazed if Fox aren't paying the conversion to prep for the Blu-Ray release, as they've done this with other titles.. So this is going to be interesting. I doubt Joss intended for the show to be seen like this as a lasting legacy. When a shot was framed of the two lead actors he probably intended for people to be able to, uhm, see them.

[ edited by gossi on 2014-08-30 18:44 ]
Either do it like Star Trek Next Gen or don't bother. Go big or go home.

This would be a good time for Joss to chime in and let us know if he was consulted in any way on this, or if Fox and Pivot just went ahead and did this themselves. Either way, a missed opportunity. Now that Joss is richer than Jesus due to that fat Marvel money I wish he would just buy the rights to everything Buffy and be done with it.
From an objective point of view, I don't think the color balancing is so bad. I'm not sure if I agree with the unnatural skin tones thing, generally. Maybe in some shots. The problem is it infringes on the tone and atmosphere of the show. This post on the forum briefly explains sort of why some color change is it be expected but not to the extent that Buffy is apparently getting. And I happen to love grain. It's such a part of film. The caps reminds me of the days when Topaz was popular in edits on tumblr. Removing grain at the cost of making your people look Barbie-like. Dark days.
If Buffy was released on Blu-ray, I think that would finally convince me to switch over. But a cropped first season would be all kinds of sad. I'm also really concerned about the colour correction and brightening. Buffy is all about the shadows.
Buffy is shown on SyFy UK HD here. Is there a difference?
"This has two impacts - the first 3 seasons are going to lose a lot of frame"

I actually recently found out that Seasons 2 and 3 were shot in widescreen as well, so cropping shouldn't be necessary with them or 4-7.
Either do it like Star Trek Next Gen or don't bother. Go big or go home.

Hear, hear!

I've seen a number of very fine HD releases of 4:3 content in 4:3 in recent years (the Criterion Collection's Kind Hearts and Coronets comes to mind) and I'm sorry - there is never a good excuse for post-post-productively messing with aspect ratio. Tweaking color, audio, even video content is understandable, but literally tampering with something's 4th wall is simply amoral (artistically speaking, that is...)

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2014-08-30 20:24 ]
@Simon the episodes shown on SyFy HD aren't really HD, they're just upscaled versions, the Pivot episodes have been properly remastered.
Thanks for the clarification.
Does anyone know how they're handling VFX shots?
While the show has definitely been cropped for season 1, there is more information in the remastered pictures. If anyone watches the epic previously flashback on the 100th episode, in the first season you see, you can tell the film they use is different in season 1 as there's a tiny border on those scenes and it's not fully 16:9. It's only in season 2, when they seem to use film that when reprinted in 16:9, does not have any borders.

Again, I'm a fan of the 16:9 aspect of Buffy but I don't agree it should be cropped, if technicality wise, they can't pull off 16:9, leave it at for 4:3 but I'm more than happy to watch season 2 onwards in 16:9. What's a bigger crime here is that the colouring of the show is off and even the 4:3 junkies can agree that a show where the colour balance is completely different is a lot worse than an aspect ratio, RE the bronze screenshots which sets a different atmosphere. Also I think they shouldn't have de-noised the film.
I'm not a fan of messing with the aspect ratio of anything (as a fan of classic movies, I am pretty used to enjoying a 4:3 aspect ratio without feeling like I'm missing something) so this is just completely disheartening to me.
This HD remaster is a huge disappointment, especially seeing how great the one for X-Files looks. I know S1-2 were shot in 16mm, but it's still film, it should look so much better than this, and it should have film grain.

This facebook page has some good picure comparisons as well :

https://www.facebook.com/BuffyHD

Just look at the one with Pride & Prejudice, also shot on 16mm, the loss of grain and definition with Buffy is huge.

I think flooding Fox with e-mails is a pretty good idea. If they are indeed remastering the whole show, they should do it properly (no cropping or insane DNR). Of course, nothing would be better than Joss telling us what he thinks. I guess he couldn't do much about a Blu-ray release before, but now that the remaster is in the works, I'd be surprised if Fox didn't take his call.
For season one, the color timing and levels may be debatable. We all know from watching season one on DVD that much of it was dark and murky. When the show got a bigger budget and changed to better film it wasn't as dark and murky anymore. So I tend to suspect that the improved levels are indeed as the show was meant to look, as it was filmed, as it was hoped to look but couldn't due to technical limitations.

The color timing, we cannot assume the remastering team is wrong. That shot of Buffy with some red light shining on her hair (looks like inside the Bronze) - in the original DVD the red light is mainly on her hair and there are some blobs in the darkness in the background, and bit of blue emphasis too. On the HD remaster, the red light is much more apparent and those blobs in the background are now visible as people, and they're catching some of that same red light, and the blue is gone. Were we not supposed to see the people in the background? Was the red light not supposed to be as strong? We just don't know.

It would be nice if Fox had the DP of each episode answering these questions, but, absent that we can't assume they're doing the color and levels wrong just because it looks different than our DVDs, especially in regards to season one.
Heads up to Nico-Angel who posted the Pride & Prejudice comparisons, those don't mean a thing. Just because two things were shot on the same kind of film does not mean that they will look the same in terms of grain and/or definition.

Not saying that you're wrong, I'm just saying that you very well could be. Many many MANY different things - from the storage of the show, to the mastering processes, to the cropping (or lack thereof), to broadcast signals, to many other avenues you can't even imagine - factor into the way a show or movie "looks" when its finished.
@will.bueche : Yes, it's hard to know what's right in term of colors. That's why I'd love to hear from Joss, or Michael Gershman (the DP). Some of the color changes might be approved by them, but the pinkish look of many scenes from the pilot (in HD) is definitely wrong.

@Chris Oz : yeah, I guess you're right. I just find the comparison relevant in the sense that it shows how film grain was completely erased by the restoring team on Buffy. I imagine that "Pride & Prejudice" looks better than Buffy S1 anyway, but I don't think the difference in quality should be as huge as it is. We know from the Buffy dvds that S1 has grain, and a certain level of detail, the definition can only be better in HD, but it almost feels worse because of the DNR.

[ edited by Nico-Angel on 2014-08-31 04:48 ]
Of course, nothing would be better than Joss telling us what he thinks. I guess he couldn't do much about a Blu-ray release before, but now that the remaster is in the works, I'd be surprised if Fox didn't take his call.


As per the last time (to my memory) such matters came up in these parts - courtesy of IGN:

Did it surprise you the reaction that the lack of widescreen for Buffy season four on DVD got here in the U.S.?
People were upset, right? I haven't seen the season four package ... it contains a disclaimer from me as to why it's not in widescreen, that I wrote. It's on it, it comes with it. It's not a widescreen show. We shot it in a TV ratio, and I am very, very specific with the way I frame things. To arbitrarily throw – and I love widescreen, but Buffy was never a widescreen show. It was an intimate, TV-shaped show. To arbitrarily throw wider borders on it, to make it more cinematic when I very specifically framed it. Think of "The Body" – the episode "The Body"...

Right, which I've seen in widescreen and full frame...
How could you have seen it in widescreen?

The U.K. sets are in widescreen.
Good. See, that is not the way I framed it. That's not the way it was meant to be seen, and therefore that's not the way I shot it. I'm preserving what I shot. The DVD is there to preserve what we made, for eternity. What we made, very specifically, was a certain shape. So I'm sure there'll be widescreen copies and there'll be arguments about what's better, but I'm not interested in – and I mean, I love widescreen. I'm a widescreen fanatic, when something's wide. When it's not, then I want to see it the way it was meant to be seen.

Were you not consulted for the U.K. sets?
No, I was not. Buffy was never widescreen. Angel is, Firefly was – and was not aired that way. That'll be nice, that it can be shown the way it was meant to be seen. For me, Buffy is a different animal.


Also:
What's a bigger crime here is that the colouring of the show is off and even the 4:3 junkies can agree that a show where the colour balance is completely different is a lot worse than an aspect ratio[...]

Color balance changes the way you perceive the contents of an image. Cropping for different aspect ratios changes an image's actual contents. Artistically speaking the first is debatable, the second inexcusable.
In regards to the color balance, I saw comments on the forum saying that color balance changes are expected due to the way color was processed from film and the improvements made since then. I'd say color balancing is fine until it infringes on the intended tone and atmosphere of the work.
Look at this comparison for the terrible pink look of the HD. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intent of Joss and the DP.

And here is another example of severe cropping.
What really worries me is that they redid the credits to adapt to the cropping, as if the cropped version was definitive (and not just made by Pivot).

[ edited by Nico-Angel on 2014-08-31 07:06 ]
I've reached a point of being cynical enough that I wonder whether they're actually doing it badly on purpose this time, so that in five years they can sell us an all-new re-remastered set: 'For the first time! As Joss Whedon intended!' and so on...
@Duncan : Yeah that crossed my mind as well. Which is why I wished Joss could speak up now. Buffy is his baby, he deserves to be part of the remastering process. Directors like Spielberg are very involved in the movies restorations, why not Joss ? because it's a tv show ?

[ edited by Liam12 on 2014-08-31 12:02 ]
I do think that what Joss has said (Buffy = 4:3 except the musical episode) should be respected. And on top of that, what I find most stupid and appalling is that the proposed 16:9 versions are apparently not "the original plus more on the sides" but rather, at least in some instances, "the original with the top and bottom cut off".

Or do I have that wrong? (edited later to add: No, now that I've seen the comparisons from episode 1, apparently I'm not wrong; wish I were.)

And if they don't restore the "Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer ..." at least for episode #100, where it was (a) epic and (b) dramatically integral to the opening, I will cry.

[ edited by mozzarellademon on 2014-08-31 13:19 ]
Looking at the comparison video makes the colors look even more ick...magenta overload. That is not balanced. I wish we knew if the original negatives still exist and what condition they are in, seeing as these probably are not scans of those.
It doesn't bode well for The X-Files Blu-rays.
Deleted (I'm talking way too much about this -- then again, it IS the most important thing to happen to Buffy in years!).

[ edited by will.bueche on 2014-08-31 19:39 ]
mozzarellademon - no you're not wrong, but that is only the case for season 1 and possibly season 2. The other seasons can be opened up, as we've seen in the (non-remastered) iTunes widescreen versions. Though Fox will need to take more care to crop out the occasional crewmember. Thankfully, Buffy fans have pretty much identified every shot that has a crewmember or lightstand, so Fox's work will be easy.
Somebody just tweeted the following to us:

Watching Pivot, invisible Buffy episode. You can now see a hand moving the coffee mug when Buffy messes w/ the social worker!

Are these actually being considered for a BluRay release? I thought it was just that one network being spiffy.
@Simon: Haven't they only aired the first episode of Season 1 so far?
@Simon I've consulted the region 2 dvd 16:9 and there is no hand visible. You can see the cup for a second being placed in the new location but it can be argued that Buffy moved it as there's no skin shown. This could upset people though so they could do a friends on it and I'd say, a 3% zoom would fix the issue.
Or they could, you know, broadcast it in its intended format instead of butchering it.
Aside from the cropping I don't really have that much issue with it. The sort of excessively pink HD version is somehow less galling than the fuzzy yellow tint of the DVD releases, granted that might be more of a personal issue with vaguely racist DMV cameras/printers.
UPDATE! It seems that episode 1 must have been done (badly) early on as a proof-of-concept, because suddenly, without explanation, episode 2 was aeons ahead in terms of quality. The sides were opened up (instead of cropping the top and bottom), the colors were spot on… the whole thing is different, like there was a different team hired to do the rest of the series (from episode 2 onwards). If only they'd gone back and fixed episode 1, they could have spared us all this angst! Screen caps from episode 2 showing off the new results: http://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php?p=9667733&postcount=813
I had no idea they were doing this and last I heard it was cost prohibitive so I never thought they would. But I do remember many people (here specifically) requesting it many many times over the last few years.

Be careful what you wish for?
I would say the proper results are from episode 8 on, where the sides are opened up instead of the tops and bottoms cropped off.

1-7 suffer from severe cropping, though the tints improve dramatically starting with The Pack (much more natural). It's clearly not just an issue of interferences getting in the way, because the Bronze zoom-in shot from The Harvest has the sides opened up in the credits (!), but absurdly not in the episode itself. Similarly, they opened up the shot from Welcome to the Hellmouth where Xander is skateboarding (another one also with Joyce), but cut off his head while adding more sidewalk below his feet (strangest edit yet).

I hope they redo 1-7 to see if they can start adding every tiniest smidgen of width that they can like they've done wonderfully with 8-10. The Harvest also needs the lights turned down in the tunnel scene so there's a point to Xander using a flashlight in what has become a very lit set.

Some of the blacks could be strengthened a tiny bit, too (Angel's vamp face after the kiss could stand to have a bit of its dramatic shadow brought back), but not to the point of the old crushed blacks and yellow darkness that make the DVDs look so awful. Some of the desaturation of colors that were used as dramatic highlights that weren't just the results of a bad, early DVD transfer could stand to be brought back just slightly, too.

The pink colorization, some of the other more extreme tint/lightening changes and extreme DNR was quite bad in several episodes and not just in Welcome to the Hellmouth. Some of the worst DNR was on the prosthetic makeup in several early episodes (it made a number of things shiny in a weird way).
Yeah the big change happens with episode 8, which doesn't seem to be cropped at all. The color balance was much much better this week. But I agree with NileQT87, they still need to turn down the contrast a notch. But I watched episodes 8-9-10 (in SD) and they looked really good. The one thing bothering me is still the overuse of DNR and absence of grain (although I would need to see it in real HD). But they fixed the color balance, maybe they will adjust the DNR.

[ edited by Nico-Angel on 2014-09-03 03:22 ]
I think the episodes look fantastic thus far. My season 1 and 2 DVDs are almost unwatchable (grainy and dark) so I enthusiastically await new episodes in the HD format... and so far, the new aspect ratio has not altered the impact of any scenes I have seen...

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