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September 03 2014

New video comparison for the Buffy HD Remaster. Some improvements in the last episodes aired on Pivot. But the HD still suffers from serious brightness/contrast issues. And the Diginal Noise Reduction is as bad as last week.

They have ruined the cinematography of season 1. Where are the shadows? That Buffy/Angel scene looked WAY too bright, it looked like day time. And the Xander/Clown scene in Nightmares lost that 'dream' quality to it. I'd hate to see this hackjob done to Lie To me, a brilliantly directed episode with alot of blues and shadows.
The atmosphere of the entire scene is destroyed with these changes in the lighting. It's far too bright and loses the impact of the original.
I really wanted to like this, but there are a whole slew of examples where this HD transfer is really not right. The scene with angel probably was shot in daytime but it didn't show up as such in the original version. The coloring on Xander's nightmare is also completely wrong.

Does anyone know how much of this could be saved with appropriate use of filters?
Totally disagree with the negative comments. I always though the DVD transfers (and the aired episodes) of season one were far too dark and shadowy, with black levels crushed beyond what was probably needed or intended for the scene, to the point where it was hard to tell what was going on in many night scenes. Just because that's how the DVDs look, doesn't mean that was the original intent and shouldn't be improved in the HD remaster. There's a difference between moody and not being able to see what's happening. It's nice to see so much more detail and nuance in the lighting than you could ever see in the overly dark Season 1 DVDs. Sure, it's a moody show with low-key noir-ish lighting, and that hasn't changed; the new transfers are just preserving more information from the negative.

I actually like these posted clips for the most part (though some of the color grading is a hint too neutral). Don't care for tighter cropping -- I like seeing things in the original intended aspect ratio, but it looks like in most of these scenes, they're not losing any top and bottom, just gaining more on the sides, which is preferable to losing the top and bottom of the original frame.
Giles looks like a ghost! A pasty British ghost!
I would buy the series on blu-ray Day 1 if it was 4:3.
This just isn't for me.
I don't have the negative response to the HD and perhaps this is naive but I don't see the problems with DNR (but then I'm looking at these on my laptop and not my TV). The changes in color balance seem oddly chosen at times (Xander's dream sequence, for example) but I like seeing the greater detail in the shadows most of the time. It might be a bit overdone in some cases such as the aforementioned Buffy/Angel sequence. If nothing else, the greater clarity allows for greater appreciation of the acting. Does anyone know whether Joss is involved with this project at all? Because ultimately it's his vision and not how I think it oughta be...
I don't think Joss is even aware of this "project".
You know, the shadowy "poor quality" of season 1 adds a sense of reality that the later seasons didn't have. Then it was bright, everything looked skiny and new, everyone had model make up. But, they should mess with the scenes that were meanty to have "mystery". Angel's face is suppose to be in shadow, and writers from the show who gets what each scene was suppose to convery should decide how bright a scene should be.

But, I did enjoy seeing the characters facial expressions better and I will buy it if it turns out to be affordable. It could be a nice change.
The later, widened episodes look better than the cropped ones on account of not missing stuff, but it's still completely unnecessary, and I worry about what'll happen when things start popping up at the edge of the frame that were never meant to be there. Why not just let the show be 4:3 like it was meant to be?
The colors are still all wrong, though, but at least it's hypothetically possible for handy fans to fix those at home if the pros can't do their jobs properly.

[ edited by GreatMuppetyOdin on 2014-09-04 09:51 ]
Interestingly instead of cropping the later batch of 16:9 have more info in the top and bottom as well as the sides.
I think in most scenes the HD version looks better. The DVD releases of Buffy and Angel are so dark that some of the fight scenes become unwatchable blurs.
It's already been brought up, but I wonder how much they're looking at season four versus season one to colour correct it. I understand the idea behind wanting Buffy to all look cohesive, and notably, like a comic book, but it's still so damn... weird. It's all a bit TOO much. Too much noise reduction, too much cropping (oh god, the cropping!) but it's still a nice-ish attempt.

The outright changes from yellow to white is just... it feels unnecessary. Too much like an editors personal preference.

Just don't want it to be released like this on blu-ray. Nope.

[ edited by Jaymii on 2014-09-04 11:30 ]
I love seeing more detail in some of those scenes, and I think a lot of it looks great. But it looks like they've gone through it sharpening and brightening up the visuals without thinking about what's actually going on in the scenes.

With that scene from 'Angel', you only have to watch the episode once (or even just that scene) to know that it's meant to be nighttime. But now it looks like Angel's looking out of a sunny window to see if the Three are still there.
I originally subscribed to the notion that all attempts to convert the show to widescreen were wrongheaded. The more I see the more I realize there is enough source to create a good looking version of the series that makes it fit in a bit more seamlessly with the modern TV it spawned.

If it helps the show find new audience then I'm all for it, though I hope the criticisms help them fine tune some scenes.

(The 4:3 version should still be available though, and maybe in the same packages.
A good idea gone too far...
In general the DVDs were both a little too dark and the daytime white balance was too warm/yellow for me.

So I like the idea of adjusting the white balance a little more neutral, but still keeping it warm. True neutral is too far, it's SUNNYdale, it's supposed to be warm.

Bringing in a little more detail in shadows is a good idea. Making a night scene look like a day scene is too far.

As far as cropping, I get the idea of trying to make fit current TV standards and I'm ok with going in tighter on people. But bad vertical pan and scan is just as annoying as bad horizontal pan and scan. After watching a few episodes of the early seasons of the Simpsons on the recent FXX marathon, 90% of the time it worked, but the 10% that didn't, bugged me to the point where I wish that they would have left it 4x3.
To me, the look of the HD seems to improve as the episodes move along. It's as if they're getting better as they work. Instead of figuring out how they want it to look and what techniques to use before hand. Kind of a lazy way to do it.
I never thought the DVDs were too dark to see anything, but others have said that since the first season originally came out. I remember a reviewer saying he liked his VHS copies more.
I think it's on the DVDs somewhere where people compared the first seasons of the show to grunge music. It's a grungy looking show, at least it was the first couple of seasons.

I would have loved the series in HD, it would make it play on larger screens much better, but the cropping and resizing I just don't understand. It's disregarding someone else's work, many people's, who framed the show in that way when it was shot.

Let's just trim the sides off the Mona Lisa so it fits better under that archway. Madness to me.
I just sent an e-mail to Fox. I'm thanking them for remastering the show and for stopping the cropping. But I'm letting them know about all the negative response, and the major brightness/color issues.

I recommend you do the same, that might be the most useful thing we can do. And maybe they'll finally ask Joss to be involved.

Use this page to contact Fox Studios :
Thanking them for stopping the cropping?
What do you mean?
Only episodes 1x01 to 1x07 were cropped, it's all opened-up widescreen starting episode 1x08. Either the first episodes don't exist in widescreen, or they were doing something wrong. 16:9 is still wrong for the show, but it's still a lot better than losing 25% of the picture.
Still not acceptable to me, unfortunately. I know some people will prefer it, but it's 4:3 for me as intended.
Will have to stick with my DVDs.
Well, cropping is unacceptable, I would never buy season 1 with half of the episodes cropped. As for opened-up 16:9, it feels wrong most of the times, but a lot of people like it. Which is why we keep asking for the option of both aspect ratios on Blu-Ray. 4:3 is clearly the correct format, but 16:9 could make a good special feature. I would obviously pick 4:3 if there can only be one.

And thanking Fox for the few improvements in the last episodes aired might be more productive than sending them hateful e-mails. And seeing how the awful pinkish look was gone from the last episodes, they might be listening to us.
I would never send hateful emails, or even hateful posts in a forum. All I can say is that it's not for me.
I would absolutely buy 4:3 blu-rays on the first day, but I will not buy these expanded 16:9 versions.

For a blu-ray release I would hope they would put in real effort to make it a definitive version of the series, and to me that is what the creators intended, not what random people, select fans or whoever works on restoring the show, think is better.
Oh, and The Master looks terrible without the correct lighting.
Here is my letter to Fox:

"To whom it may concern,

Recently it has come to my attention of an HD remaster of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starting with Season 1, which has started to air on Pivot. Hearing the news of an HD remaster of my favorite show of 17 years was exciting to say the least and is something that remains a very exciting idea.

The reason for this message is to offer suggestions as to maximize this great opportunity to create a definitive edition of this wildly popular show. It seems very important that the remasters retain the overall artistic vision first conveyed when the episodes aired as well as in their careful DVD release. To me, this means enhancing the image through HQ scans of the original negatives while retaining evidence of the film format by leaving visible grain. This aspect is surprisingly important to myself and many other diehard fans who would purchase a well-done Blu-Ray release of the series in a heartbeat.

Another aspect of the picture integrity has everything to do with the colors conveyed in these HD versions. While the image has been brightened up quite a bit, bringing out many great details in the actors' faces that had previously been unseen, the colors seem too shifted to a neutral tone. I believe that while they may look more natural, it is distracting to the point of these new colors actually changing the original intended mood and tone of the show. This affects the overall viewing experience, for myself anyway.

Last, there is the issue of cropping. I firmly believe that the episodes should retain their original 4:3 ratio as intended by Joss Whedon himself. It is so important that the artistic vision is retained in these remastered versions. Any input by the original creators of the show would no doubt make this conversion to HD and possibly to Blu-Ray as successful as possible for fans and Fox.

Thank you for your time and feel free to contact me in the future.

@without_passion : Great letter ! it'd be awesome if everyone could do the same.
I can now confirm that the vampire dusting effects are being re-rendered in HD (as well as some other special effects). The problem is that the vampires now seem to turn to smoke, not dust, with nothing left behind. See for yourself with Darla's dusting.

Although I'm glad they're spending the time to remake those effects for HD, I really wished they would do it right. The people remastering The X-Files and Star Trek TNG are doing a great job, why can't Buffy be given the same treatment ?

[ edited by Nico-Angel on 2014-09-06 07:26 ]
I don't have a problem with them making some visual effects look a little different in theory, since the originals were so limited in budget and technology. But I'd rather they match the effects to the ones later in the series. That would make sense... I'm not so worried about the lack of dust on the ground, since that wasn't ever as noticeable after Season 1.
I just had a thought. I remember reading an old Joss interview from years ago where he talks about directing. He says something along the lines of, directors can make a pretty picture, but if it's not in service of the story it's pointless. The most important thing in directing is to tell the story.

I wish I could find that quote. It would be a good one to send to Fox to show how important it is to pay attention to the effects and intent of colours and darkness.

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