Grainy HD picture: Apparently this mean it’s fantastic.

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A while ago I read a comment in ‘What Hi-Fi Sound &Vision’ that commented on how there were two types of people in the Hi-Fi world: those that bought acoustically neutral speakers and did the best to preserve the original source recording so they could experience the sound as intended (with flaws intact), and those who bought speakers and equipment that influenced and produced a more entertaining sound.

I think this same philosophy applies to HD as well, specifically Blu-Ray and HD-DVD media. I’ve bought a few Blu-Rays that have noticeable grain or static in the image, and judging by Clare Newsome’s comments within the ‘BBC HD Observations’ thread on the Freesat forum that’s a bad thing. However I was laughed out another site for the very suggestion that the picture quality in the UK Blu-Ray release of Starship Troopers was bad. For anybody who hasn’t seen this film let me explain, because there is very noticeable grain throughout the entire film, and was told in very insulting terms that "Grain= good".

Now I can understand there are some people in the AV who would delight in the fact that they have an accurate master of a film that shows up flaws in the filming process or degradation of the film over time, however I can’t understand why anybody would think a bad picture is good simply because it’s accurate. Exactly what selling point would Blu-Ray have over DVD if this was also the consensus of the major film studios: “Buy Blu-Ray, some film look fantastic, others look rubbish with razor sharp accuracy”. Surly if this is how the major studios feel they wouldn’t bother re-mastering so many old films.

Anyway my point is that if a studio is releasing a Blu-Ray with a bad picture quality they should re-master/enhance the picture to get rid of any flaws. For this opinion I was told ‘HD isn't for you then’ and ‘Oh dear... I'm not even going to comment on the stupidity of that.’

I thought I’d post here for a more level headed response from members and staff of the magazine/forum.
 

Andrew Everard

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I see where you're coming from, but if the film was originally shot to look grainy, or has film grain on it for other reasons, such as push-processing of the original film-stock, there's not a lot that can be done short of reshooting it. That higher definition reveals more of this is either a good thing - if the grain was intentional - or unfortunate if it wasn't.

However, there's a world of difference between such effects being visible and a poor transfer, which is something apparent in some Blu-ray releases.
 

Andy Clough

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Thanks for joining our Forums, Kieran, and rest assured you won't be patronised or laughed at here, unlike elsewhere. You raise a perfectly valid point, and I can understand your frustration.

The problem here is that high-definition, whether broadcast on TV or on Blu-ray disc, isn't inherently perfect. It's the old adage of "rubbish in, rubbish out", which applies as much in the world of home cinema as it does in hi-fi.

If a film, or TV programme, has been badly mastered then it won't look good, whatever format it's in. We've seen some fantastically good Blu-ray discs, and some pretty bad ones, and the same applies to BBC or Sky HD. Some of the material broadcast on Sky HD barely merits the term high-definition.

I haven't seen the Blu-ray disc of Starship Troopers as such, but with most films it's worth the studios getting hold of the original master and cleaning it up as much as they can for transfer to Blu-ray. Yes, some older films have 'grain' because that's the effect the director originally intended, but that's no excuse for the production of poor-quality Blu-ray discs.
 
A

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I've got Troopers on Blu and I agree. It's not great. Pretty good, but far from reference quality, which is a shame.
There are two issues going on here.
Basically, as previously noted, it's the source material and how that material's encoded.
Both seriously affect the picture quality once you get it home. Edge enhancement (to which this disc is overly prone) and contrast/grain/gain issues are problems for every disc and different companies and their encoding houses deal with them in different ways.
It also depends on your screen and how it's set up. It took me a couple of months of trial and error to get contrast/brightness/colour temperature settings that worked in HD.
If you've got Revenge of the Sith on DVD or any Sony US Blu-Ray there's the THX set-up programme that'll help.
Secondly the source material itself can be a HUGE problem, especially if there's a lot of special effects in there. Like Starship Troopers. Computer generated Imagery can look great in HD, but it can also look overly fake or grainy. Effects shots can also add extra generations to the original film print which substantially add grain and other artifacts to the film, although less so now that most films are edited digitally, and increasingly shot digitally. Older films - particularly from the 70's and 80's used a very grainy film stock that nothing can cure.
But it's not just movies decades old. One of the reasons we don't have Lord Of The Rings on HD yet is that New Line are spending millions redoing the effects so that they work in HD.
Older films were not made with HD in mind and so they need either special care in the mastering, or a forgiving viewer. Unless they're really old and used fine grain prints initially. Check out Casablanca or The Adventures of Robin Hood (on HD-DVD only for the moment) or the recently remastered David Lean movies on BluRay. They're lovely. As, of course is 2001. Stunning. Total reference quality of sound and vision that totally justifies the HD label. But then, all the FX were models or 'traditional' effects. Not a CGI shot to be seen. And it was partly shot on 70mm.....
It's also worth remembering that HD is a new technology and there will (like DVD, did at the beginning of its life) be some titles that are rushed out with sub-standard masters. TV HD is also on a steep learning curve. Many directors, directors of photography and even make-up artists don't fully understand the technical requirements of the format. Yet.
Oh - and some things that are classed as HD are really only upscaled SD pictures, anyway!
 

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