Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

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mfunk9786
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Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#1 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:39 pm

Been wondering a lot about this on the heels of Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs being released soon and already having some international Amazon sites listing a UHD Blu-ray release (along with cover art) for it. When Criterion inevitably gets around to putting out a special edition a couple years from now, is it going to sit well with anyone involved to have a downgrade in image quality? Is Criterion going to let their 4K remasters sit around unused for home video release as 4K televisions become more ubiquitous? If they truly remain committed to physical discs, which might become more and more of a losing proposition as time goes on (but that remains to be seen), are we going to see Criterion move in the direction of 4K in the next year or two?

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#2 Post by Ribs » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:42 pm

While to say it'll happen this year might seem a bit soon, I think it's almost certain Criterion will be in the business of releasing UHD titles by 3-4 years from now when Isle of Dogs would come.

I actually wouldn't be surprised if they do their first UHD for Spine 1000, which should probably be early next year.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#3 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:46 pm

Just to continue to bloviate a little:

If they decided to just make Filmstruck more of a priority that would make a lot of sense considering the way all of this is going, but it seems really strange for that service to top out at 1080p (am I correct about this?) streaming, and then have them only releasing Blu-rays. It's 2018, and many of these films have higher-res remasters than that. It's always been their prerogative to provide the top home viewing experience possible, so why is this starting to feel like a line they may never cross?

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#4 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:47 pm

From what I’ve seen, the jump from Blu to UHD (especially for older films) isn’t nearly as substantial as the DVD to Blu jump, and wouldn’t be substantial enough to make me shell out 25-35% more for 95% of Criterion releases. That said, it’s probably going to have to happen at least on an occasional basis to keep pace with some newer releases.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#5 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:48 pm

It's exactly the same jump. DVD is 480p, Blu-ray is 1080p - so it's 2x the resolution. UHD is 2160p, which is 2x the resolution of Blu-ray.

35mm film is actually a higher resolution than UHD, so even many of these older films haven't been pushed as far as they can go with regard to their home viewing resolution. It's not as if we've maxed out the capacity to make these things look better and cleaner for home viewing - quite the contrary.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#6 Post by Ribs » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:56 pm

I mean, most of the far bigger streaming services have extremely limited 4k support only on very select devices. Whereas it's taken Turner a year and a half to stop guaranteeing that console support is coming. Obviously, as with disc production, costs will gradually decrease over time but I'd imagine the investment to get Filmstruck up to 4K is not really an urgent allocation of resources.

UHD disc sales have generally been better than was expected, so I don't really understand a "figure out streaming first" viewpoint. It's been a little over two year and the format is really excelling, as catalog titles are really starting to appear with some more frequency. I expect we'll see one of the studios dip further back in the catalog (I believe the oldest to this point is Bridge on the River Kwai) with a Gone With the Wind or Wizard of Oz to further test the market interest but the boutique labels will probably be the ones to really try black and white titles (something that's not really being done elsewhere). I do genrally believe that it's likely Criterion would try to get Citizen Kane for its first UHD, and I can also imagine Warner letting it happen.
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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#7 Post by DeprongMori » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:58 pm

This is an opportunity for Criterion to do Dual Format right for a change. If they roll out the UHD + Blu-ray at the same damned price as their current Blu-ray releases, they should be very successful.

If they screw it up by first creating a price differential between UHD and Blu like they did between Blu and DVD, it will die another ugly death.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#8 Post by Oedipax » Thu Mar 08, 2018 12:59 pm

I've only looked at one UHD title so far (Malick's Song to Song) and for that film at least, the jump in quality from the regular blu-ray was quite noticeable, albeit probably subtle for most.

Mostly what I took away from it was that the grain structure was beautifully preserved - it reminded me of the difference between watching a Prores file (a semi-lossless compression used in video production) versus a 1080p H.264 encode of the same material. There is always a slight dulling effect from this compression process, where things don't 'pop' quite as much, and the image feels a little less 'alive', if that makes sense. It's hard to spot when all you're seeing is the compressed version, but when you A/B it, or you're used to looking at the Prores during editing for weeks or months, you can feel the dropoff in the final encode, even with a generous bitrate. Grain structure is the biggest thing typically.

The UHD felt like a 1:1 translation of the source material, and I had a huge smile on my face because the experience was like watching the film on a DCP back when it was in theaters (which I did about 5 times). But I do sit quite close to my 55" LG OLED, and if you were watching on a smaller display from a bit more of a distance, it might be really tough to spot the difference. It's also possible that the regular blu-ray encode of Song to Song was subpar, I don't know.

In a perfect world, Criterion could do dual-format releases for a while (blu-ray and UHD in one package) but that's probably impractical economically as it's a niche within a niche. For the moment at least, UHD blu-ray really feels like archival quality to me and it would take a lot to convince me I need to upgrade again if/when 8K becomes the new standard.
Last edited by Oedipax on Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:03 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#9 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:00 pm

Ribs wrote:I mean, most of the far bigger streaming services have extremely limited 4k support only on very select devices. Whereas it's taken Turner a year and a half to stop guaranteeing that console support is coming. Obviously, as with disc production, costs will gradually decrease over time but I'd imagine the investment to get Filmstruck up to 4K is not really an urgent allocation of resources.

UHD disc sales have genrally been better than was expected, so I don't really understand a "figure out streaming first" viewpoint. It's been a little over a year and the format is really excelling, as catalog titles are really starting to appear with some more frequency. I expect we'll see one of the studios dip further back in the catalog (I believe the oldest to this point is Bridge on the River Kwai) with a Gone With the Wind or Wizard of Oz to further test the market interest but the boutique labels will probably be the ones to really try black and white titles (something that's not really being done elsewhere). I do genrally believe that it's likely Criterion would try to get Citizen Kane for its first UHD, and I can also imagine Warner letting it happen.
Ironically (re: consoles), much like the PS3 was the thing that gave Blu-ray the much needed kick it needed to stave off HD-DVD and become an altogether popular and viable format, the inexpensive Xbox One S including a UHD Blu-ray drive means that more and more people are equipped to play them and may not even realize it yet. The moment those people buy a new TV (which will be 4K because almost all of them on the market are now), they'll be ready to roll. Just seems odd, like you're saying, for Criterion not to get in on this early and attempt to get special editions out of some films that almost surely will become more appealing prospects for studios to hang onto and do themselves as the years go by.
DeprongMori wrote:This is an opportunity for Criterion to do Dual Format right for a change. If they roll out the UHD + Blu-ray at the same damned price as their current Blu-ray releases, they should be very successful.

If they screw it up by first creating a price differential between UHD and Blu like they did between Blu and DVD, it will die another ugly death.
I think you may be under the mistaken impression that Dual Format releases were priced higher than Blu-ray only releases - they were the same price as the Blu-rays are now, people just had an odd resentment about a DVD being included inside the packaging for some reason

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#10 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:01 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:It's exactly the same jump. DVD is 480p, Blu-ray is 1080p - so it's 2x the resolution. UHD is 2160p, which is 2x the resolution of Blu-ray.

35mm film is actually a higher resolution than UHD, so even many of these older films haven't been pushed as far as they can go with regard to their home viewing resolution. It's not as if we've maxed out the capacity to make these things look better and cleaner for home viewing - quite the contrary.
Oh, of course; I only mean the change that I'm currently able to perceive as a human being with reasonable eyesight and a 55" OLED 4K. If I ever upgrade to a 4K projector with a 120"+ screen, I'm sure my tune will change, but for the next 3-5 years, I probably wouldn't invest in UHD upgrades. Of course, I say that and then I'll see a perfect UHD version of something I already own like The Thin Red Line and take out a second mortgage to make the adjustment.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#11 Post by tenia » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:04 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:It's exactly the same jump. DVD is 480p, Blu-ray is 1080p - so it's 2x the resolution. UHD is 2160p, which is 2x the resolution of Blu-ray.
The perceived jump doesn't seem to be the same though, which would be why the industry has stopped pushing the marketing of the support through the uptick in resolution but through the WCG and the HDR/DV.
Though to be fair, it's understandable since the utmost of the movies being released on UHD aren't produced through a 100% 4K workflow and are all at least partial upscales (which seems totally silly to me but what do I know).

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#12 Post by DeprongMori » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:22 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:
DeprongMori wrote:This is an opportunity for Criterion to do Dual Format right for a change. If they roll out the UHD + Blu-ray at the same damned price as their current Blu-ray releases, they should be very successful.

If they screw it up by first creating a price differential between UHD and Blu like they did between Blu and DVD, it will die another ugly death.
I think you may be under the mistaken impression that Dual Format releases were priced higher than Blu-ray only releases - they were the same price as the Blu-rays are now, people just had an odd resentment about a DVD being included inside the packaging for some reason
Nope. Criterion created a list pricing differential of $10 (minimum) between Blu and DVD releases before launching Dual Format. Then when they tried to do Dual Format (Blu + DVD) at the list price of Blu releases, the DVD people screamed bloody murder that they had to “pay more” for new releases. If Criterion releases standard release Dual Format (UHD + Blu) at $39.95, it will be a huge success. If they release them at $49.95 it will fail miserably for the same reason the (Blu + DVD) failed at the higher price. If they want a $49.95 list for UHD releases, they need to keep it as a separate format, not Dual Format. I hope that clarifies.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#13 Post by Roger Ryan » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:54 pm

tenia wrote:
mfunk9786 wrote:It's exactly the same jump. DVD is 480p, Blu-ray is 1080p - so it's 2x the resolution. UHD is 2160p, which is 2x the resolution of Blu-ray.
The perceived jump doesn't seem to be the same though, which would be why the industry has stopped pushing the marketing of the support through the uptick in resolution but through the WCG and the HDR/DV.)...
Which is why black-and-white films are going to be a hard-sell on the format.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#14 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:11 pm

Really not trying to play devil's advocate too much, but HDR would totally benefit a B&W film - it's the management of very dark and very light colors, particularly blacks and whites

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#15 Post by solaris72 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:14 pm

Gotta admit, while I'm not UHD capable yet, and have a general skepticism about the format, as most movies these days use a 2k DI, and HDR (which I'll admit I don't fully understand) sounds like it might have some revisionist aspects to it, I do wish that Criterion's hinted release of The Tree of Life was coming in that format.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#16 Post by Ribs » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:16 pm

Yes, we all know that, but for Joe Public that still doesn’t believe any older movies can be in HD which remains a relatively common viewpoint it’s a bit of a nuanced argument to make.

An ignored factor of all this is that I personally believe a large portion (like, upwards of 20%) of UHD sales are future-proofing due to the dual format, and those people still don’t have players.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#17 Post by StevenJ0001 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 2:17 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:It's exactly the same jump. DVD is 480p, Blu-ray is 1080p - so it's 2x the resolution. UHD is 2160p, which is 2x the resolution of Blu-ray.
Just to be pedantic, I believe it's technically 4x the resolution of Blu-ray (four times the number of pixels).

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#18 Post by Shrew » Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:04 pm

I can't imagine Criterion trying to manage the manufacturing and storage of three separate formats. I'm sure DVD is a minority of sales these days, but it still has by far the largest market penetration. Hell, there are still films that get DVD only releases. And UHD discs must be more expensive to produce than Blurays, just as Blurays are more expensive than DVDs, right? That would make $40 Dual-Format packages cut significantly into Criterion's budget. I also imagine they also wouldn't want to commit to releasing every film in UHD, as that would mean forgoing films available in Blu-ray acceptable 2K or HD masters.

If it had to be done, it'd make the most sense as a separate premium UHD line with its own spine numbers (priced at $50 or 60), releasing 1 or 2 high-profile films a month alongside the regular 4-5 releases in the mainline. Essentially it would be recreating the laserdisc strategy. If spine 1000 really does turn out to be Citizen Kane, it would also be an appropriate UHD spine 1 with some perennial like Seven Samurai as spine 2.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#19 Post by tenia » Thu Mar 08, 2018 3:46 pm

mfunk9786 wrote:Really not trying to play devil's advocate too much, but HDR would totally benefit a B&W film - it's the management of very dark and very light colors, particularly blacks and whites
Exactly. I thought too originally that older movies, as a whole, would not benefit from HDR, but actually no.
Image
Ribs wrote:An ignored factor of all this is that I personally believe a large portion (like, upwards of 20%) of UHD sales are future-proofing due to the dual format, and those people still don’t have players.
That's my guess too.
And remember that even with that, all the sales figures are lower than what was expected by the industry (and are lower than what the BD was doing), no matter how many times they repeat UHD is such a success.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#20 Post by movielocke » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:25 pm

I think that retailers don't want to carry extra SKUs, but that may not be a concern for criterion, since BN and amazon are their primary retailers, and BN probably won't carry UHD titles anyway.

Warehousing another supply of SKUs is going to be expensive, unless they do very limited runs that they handle by shipping in house, which seems unlikely. and gets cumbersome as soon as you have more than one release in print at a time.

Limited runs may make the most sense. By creating a limited edition, you increase demand for the edition, you also reduce your storage overhead costs. on the other hand, you may incur additional costs (such a steelbook or numbering schemes (1325 of 2000, for example, printed on the case or on a certificate of authenticity)), and those costs either have to be offset with a higher price (that reduces demand) or come straight out of your pocket.

And, Criterion is probably retaining in house mostly only 1080p masters, even if sourced or performed in 4k, rather than retaining both a 1080p HDCAMSR and a 4K master, so there are costs to reacquiring higher resolution elements from rights holders in order to generate a UHD master. not excessive, but you still have to have someone contact the rights holder, get the tape/drive shipped to you, make your dub of the tape /drive, and then send it back. (or unarchive their own data from LTO, which would probably take a week per film for a 4k scan, which can get expensive quick).

I think they're gunshy from Dual Format, will want to price UHD higher, and therefore will be okay with the tradeoffs customers will have to make from criterion not providing dual format (oh no! grumpy people on the internet who want to future proof for no additional cost! what will we do?!). So I think if they do it, it will be a separate UHD release.

But the risk here is that once you release even ONE title in UHD you might kill the golden goose of bluray releases. Criterion has plenty of data about sales of their back catalog over the years, and I wouldn't be surprised if annual sales of DVD only back catalog titles dropped at least ten percent the first year they started issuing blurays (and declined from there), as people decided they'd rather wait then purchase something not yet upgraded. The risk of going UHD is now you are incentivizing customers to avoid purchase of bluray back catalog as well as DVD back catalog. Thus by opening the UHD pandora's box, you might wind up hurting your bottom line far more than a handful of increased sales from UHD releases can offset.

All that said, I could see them testing the waters with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, probably as a limited print run of 2000, available only direct from criterion.com for $49.95

When they launched blu-ray, they launched a slate, and announced a future slate. I don't think UHD will get such an approach, because it is so much more niche. I would expect if they do offer UHD, each release is going to be a special event, only a few per year.

They'd be smart to try to sign up a subscription program for UHD, for instance, commit to buying every UHD release and you get the same numbered release every time, so each subscriber always gets their respective release number from the limited edition, 1325 of 2000 (for example). That would really lock in all of the most anal of collectors, who would want such complete and matching sets.

(some limited runs of specialty book sellers have done this sort of assigned numbers before, it locks in customers quite well).

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#21 Post by mfunk9786 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 4:38 pm

Starting to think that some of those early Criterion Blu-rays were, in essence, meant all along to be "limited editions" with Criterion surely well aware by their release dates that licensing with Studio Canal wasn't going to be extended

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#22 Post by Ribs » Thu Mar 08, 2018 8:48 pm

Do we actually know that BN are a primary retailer for Criterion? Like, they carry them in store no matter what which most others don't, but I'd absolutely not be surprised at all if Amazon, Walmart, Target, and other similar outlets still sell way more units. Most customers don't wait for special offers like clockwork.

I also think the idea that UHD is a particularly niche format is a little wrong-headed; all things being equal, if most people have a 4K TV and a 4K player and have the option, they'd still prefer to have the 4K disc over the regular disc. It may be a declining share, but it's nowhere near a minority of the market (and Blu-ray sales are extremely healthy, depsite what Twilight Time will have you think!)

I know it's just as arbitrary as me saying Citizen Kane but I don't really see why Fear and Loathing would be a pilot release - it's probably be a Wes Anderson or a Kubrick if they were going entirely the commercial route. But it'd probably be several releases at once - some new to the Collection altogether, some new to the Collection in the DVD era, some already released on BD. Probably a mix something like Citizen Kane/In the Mood for Love/A Matter of Life and Death/The Great Beauty. Not all necessarily gigantic sellers but a good cross-section of the Collection that should do pretty well and set a template that would allow them to do some really off-kilter releases within a few months like put out a 4K upgrade of Science is Fiction without it seeming that weird.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#23 Post by Luke M » Thu Mar 08, 2018 10:00 pm

Just want to jump in here, it’s really not enough to just have a 4K TV, you really need one with HDR to notice a difference between 4K and regular blu-rays.

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Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#24 Post by movielocke » Thu Mar 08, 2018 11:52 pm

Fear and loathing would be a pilot release because it’s either their biggest seller all time or nearly their biggest seller all time. It also hits the bullseye of dudes that got the new tv and want to see the pretty colors, man , which I think covers most of the early adopters.

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Re: Criterion and UHD Blu-ray

#25 Post by tenia » Fri Mar 09, 2018 5:33 am

movielocke wrote:It also hits the bullseye of dudes that got the new tv and want to see the pretty colors, man , which I think covers most of the early adopters.
I strongly doubt that. I'd also suppose it would need a completely new restoration.
I suppose actually a huge title like Silence of the Lambs would be a much more suited pilot for UHD. If this sells well, there's hope. Otherwise...
Luke M wrote:Just want to jump in here, it’s really not enough to just have a 4K TV, you really need one with HDR to notice a difference between 4K and regular blu-rays.
And that's where the industry is shooting itself in the foot with a bazooka : you don't need a TV with HDR, you need one with HDR+ and DV, and one with HDR+ and DV that can show the higher peak brightness. Currently, some UHD are covering 0.005 to 10 000 nits, but TVs are often capped at 1000 nits or below.

So now, not only the movies aren't following a full 4K workflow and are partial upscales, but the TVs can't show the full HDR range that's on the disc.
So every single component is disjointed from the other. All this with roughly 5 different norms : Ultra HD, Ultra HD Premium, HDR, HDR+ and DV.
Yay.

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