BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Dec 04, 2015 12:34 am

Mr.Mycroft wrote:Its in a couple of shots. Corrected within a few seconds but I'm only guessing as to the technical motive.


I think they had to adapt a score written to a different edit of the film. I noticed that a lot of the bombs in the battle sequences lined up perfectly, but there appeared to be some that might have gone with other scenes that were cut out. The commentary says that Griffith continued editing the film for months after it was released. There wasn't a single fixed cut of the picture.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Dec 04, 2015 10:34 am

Would anyone lucky enough to have the disc be so kind as to upload a few screencaps? I'm very interested to see for myself how this looks.

The music should be edited to work with the picture, not the other way around.


Agreed. If an old recording of your favorite score doesn't fit, too bad. Give some talented musicians a job to do, or edit the score to fit the film. The presentation of a score shouldn't be favored over the presentation of the film. Film restoration shouldn't be about that life.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostFri Dec 04, 2015 1:18 pm

Wow! Has anyone else received this and watched it yet? I've been thinking about it all day. This is hands down one of the most revelatory silent film releases I've ever seen. The quality of the film element used is head and shoulders above anything I've ever seen before. I've always had to squint beyond the swarms of scratches and wild density shifts to see what is going on before. It looked even more than a century old. But BFI has found an original tinted print that is pretty much perfect.

The music is a reconstruction of the original orchestral score, and it's fantastic. The explosions in the battle scenes are perfectly timed to the music and the lifts from classical music are great, especially the Ride of the Valkyries in the finale. Sumptuous 5.1 sound and an interesting video in the supplements of the conductor at work performing along with the film.

The supplements fill a second BD-50 disk. I put on The Coward to just get a feel for the quality and ended up getting sucked into the film, watching it all the way through. It looks like it was shot yesterday. Fantastic job of tinting. I sampled a bit of the commentary videos, and I was happy to see that they didn't just cover the typical Civil War history and racism angles, but also the revolutionary cinematic techniques that ended up establishing the model for all films that follow.

In the past, I always was put off by the one-two punch of the racist story and the lousy presentation. I could tell that there was something remarkable going on visually, but I had to break it down and try to see past the snowstorm of film damage. This release totally changed that. Hearing the incredible orchestral score and seeing the film on a huge screen in near pristine shape was a totally different experience. This film packs an emotional wallop. Incredible battle scenes, breakneck chase scenes, fantastic melodramatic acting by Gish, precisely controlled staging of the actors and camera, beautiful compositions to the shots... the whole thing is huge. I can totally understand why audiences were overwhelmed by this film. It TOTALLY plays as a movie. It isn't just a curate's egg.

I'm very excited to spend a day on the weekend studying Birth of a Nation. There's some VERY sophisticated film making going on here... every bit as effective as Chaplin or Lang or any other great director. This made me totally re-evaluate this film. I think in the past, the racism has hobbled it. But it's not likely that this film would make someone racist who wasn't already that way, so I really don't see any reason to treat it like a bugaboo. It really is as important a film as we were told, and it's a powerful movie watching experience too.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 3:45 pm

bigshot wrote:Wow! Has anyone else received this and watched it yet? I've been thinking about it all day. This is hands down one of the most revelatory silent film releases I've ever seen. The quality of the film element used is head and shoulders above anything I've ever seen before. I've always had to squint beyond the swarms of scratches and wild density shifts to see what is going on before. It looked even more than a century old. But BFI has found an original tinted print that is pretty much perfect.

.


Its a pretty remarkable presentation all around. Its power to dramatically seduce one into momentarily forgetting its dreadful political POV is as enhanced as its more-evident-than-ever technical merits. Bit scary in how loaded the film remains after 100 years.

I just hope the BFI do a few more releases with Photoplay. It would be wonderful to see a 'Broken Blossoms' among many others get this sort of renovation.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 4:58 pm

If you read the restoration notes that came with the disc,
Photoplay didn't just come by a tinted print in excellent shape ...

They accessed the OCN at the Library of Congress.

It is a thing of beauty to behold indeed.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 5:51 pm

Mr.Mycroft wrote:...It would be wonderful to see a 'Broken Blossoms' among many others get this sort of renovation.


Well, the print last shown on TCM looks pretty good to me. The seemingly insatiable clamor for more renovations of pictures already available in excellent editions strikes me as incomprehensible.

What truly would be wonderful to see, on the other hand, are FIRST home-video editions of some of the scores of major pictures that have never seen ANY quality release--You Tube is bursting at the seams with them, almost unwatchable copies of such important films as Romola, Rosita, etc.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 6:06 pm

entredeuxguerres wrote:
Mr.Mycroft wrote:...It would be wonderful to see a 'Broken Blossoms' among many others get this sort of renovation.


Well, the print last shown on TCM looks pretty good to me. The seemingly insatiable clamor for more renovations of pictures already available in excellent editions strikes me as incomprehensible.

What truly would be wonderful to see, on the other hand, are FIRST home-video editions of some of the scores of major pictures that have never seen ANY quality release--You Tube is bursting at the seams with them, almost unwatchable copies of such important films as Romola, Rosita, etc.


Why would it be incomprehensible to wish for 4k restorations of familiar as well as unfamiliar work? I certainly would love to see those films along with dozens and dozens of others.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 6:10 pm

Scoundrel wrote:If you read the restoration notes that came with the disc,
Photoplay didn't just come by a tinted print in excellent shape ...

They accessed the OCN at the Library of Congress.



Never suggested that they did, tho their level of curating silents has generally been a standard setter with every generation of home video technology since the 80s. Their presentations as a whole, particularly their scores, have always been a pleasure to view.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 6:31 pm

Mr.Mycroft wrote:
entredeuxguerres wrote:
Mr.Mycroft wrote:...It would be wonderful to see a 'Broken Blossoms' among many others get this sort of renovation.


Well, the print last shown on TCM looks pretty good to me. The seemingly insatiable clamor for more renovations of pictures already available in excellent editions strikes me as incomprehensible.

What truly would be wonderful to see, on the other hand, are FIRST home-video editions of some of the scores of major pictures that have never seen ANY quality release--You Tube is bursting at the seams with them, almost unwatchable copies of such important films as Romola, Rosita, etc.


Why would it be incomprehensible to wish for 4k restorations of familiar as well as unfamiliar work? I certainly would love to see those films along with dozens and dozens of others.


Surely it is better to have a bigger variety of titles on DVD or Blu-ray rather than three, four or five editions of the same film? How many Nosferatus, Phantom of the Operas and Birth of a Nations do the relatively small silent film fandom actually need? Surely it would be far better to concentrate on classic films that have not had a home video release at all, or none since the days of VHS? With regards to the latter, films such as Greed, The Crowd, Isn't Life Wonderful, Brown of Harvard, Old Ironsides, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg and others have never made the transition from VHS to DVD, let alone Blu-ray.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 6:42 pm

Mr.Mycroft wrote:Why would it be incomprehensible to wish for 4k restorations of familiar as well as unfamiliar work?...


Simply because the funds available for restoration & DVD production are not unlimited.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 6:56 pm

silentmovies742 wrote:
Surely it is better to have a bigger variety of titles on DVD or Blu-ray rather than three, four or five editions of the same film? How many Nosferatus, Phantom of the Operas and Birth of a Nations do the relatively small silent film fandom actually need? Surely it would be far better to concentrate on classic films that have not had a home video release at all, or none since the days of VHS? With regards to the latter, films such as Greed, The Crowd, Isn't Life Wonderful, Brown of Harvard, Old Ironsides, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg and others have never made the transition from VHS to DVD, let alone Blu-ray.
[/quote]

I certainly agree about the films that havent seen their releases on dvd or blu ray, but I think you're missing my point. Films like 'Old Heidelberg' and the others would be equally as profound a revelation in 4k scans, a bit of clean up, etc. What they've done with 'Birth' is an enormous technological and qualitative upgrade from every prior release, taking full advantage of what is technically and archivally available. The old 1" master of 'Heidelberg" that resides at Warners is a PAL to NTSC conversion of a mid 80's transfer, why not do it correctly and as definitively as possible?

If you want to start a thread of 'films I want to see released before a 7th blu ray edition of Nosferatu' I could add quite a few titles to it. And the BFI holds a number of films I'd give my eye teeth to see released (starting with ANY of the Stoll Sherlock Holmes films.) But they didn't ask me what to prioritize in their release schedule, I'm simply admiring the technical effort of what they pulled off on this particular release.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 6:57 pm

silentmovies742 wrote:...With regards to the latter, films such as Greed, The Crowd, Isn't Life Wonderful, Brown of Harvard, Old Ironsides, The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg and others have never made the transition from VHS to DVD, let alone Blu-ray.


Actually, all those except Old Ironsides & Isn't Life Wonderful are available on DVD in excellent prints with excellent scores (in this country, that is!) thanks to TCM, which has broadcast all of them, and of course many more. Everything aired by TCM is copied by the numerous agents of the free-enterprise system known as grey-market dealers. No, they aren't sold in fancy plastic cases with colorful artwork & frivolous "extras" (for which I don't give a damn), but the films themselves are available on DVD to those who take the trouble to look for them at anywhere from $6-$8.

But the ones on YT I mentioned can't be found in better, or even "watchable," editions.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 7:13 pm

If a first release is botched or made from distinctly inferior elements, it's worth going back and doing it right. That was certainly the case with Kino's completely unacceptable Nosferatu, and the vast improvement in the BFI BoaN is definitely a big enough difference to justify it. There are LOTS more good home video versions of silent films on blu-ray than in previous formats. I think it's a good time to be a silent movie fan.

No one is going back and doing films that have already been done before just for the fun of it. There are two very important reasons... 1) the films are mostly PD, so establishing a 4K master today may end up being the definitive copy down the line when the film elements are in even worse shape. 2) the warhorse silent films sell better than obscure titles. Phantom of the Opera will still be selling copies ten years from now, probably even 100 years from now.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 7:55 pm

bigshot wrote:...2) the warhorse silent films sell better than obscure titles.


True, of course; but many of those "obscure titles" are obscure ONLY because they've never had the good fortune of a proper, quality, DVD release...because, to some extent, most of the available dough is sucked up by the warhorses.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 9:24 pm

You are assuming that people normally buy blu-rays of movies they've never seen. I don't think blind buying movies is very common. People buy what they already know. I guess it would help sales of disks of unknown silent films if silents were more common on streaming and cable though.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 9:50 pm

bigshot wrote:You are assuming that people normally buy blu-rays of movies they've never seen. I don't think blind buying movies is very common. People buy what they already know. I guess it would help sales of disks of unknown silent films if silents were more common on streaming and cable though.


Its also worth pointing out that many of the films mentioned were themselves consigned to relative obscurity until someone (Photoplay, David Shepard, et al) produced presentations that were to the best of their qualitative abilities at a given time. But a broadcast master made in the 1980's neither renders a film inherently preserved nor 'good enough' in a modern HD broadcast standard.

I don't know why a TCM hasn't gotten to 'Romola' for example, I really wish they would. Its certainly available to them through UCLA and is an MGM film, but buying gray market dvds of their broadcast restorations rather than one of their own MOD's or a sanctioned digital download does nothing to further support their efforts. Quite the opposite in fact.

As for 'Rosita,' its obscurity probably has something more to do with Mary Pickford loathing it. She seemed to proactively try to bury the film, if not destroy it outright in later years.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostSat Dec 05, 2015 11:28 pm

Mr.Mycroft wrote:...I don't know why a TCM hasn't gotten to 'Romola' for example, I really wish they would. Its certainly available to them through UCLA and is an MGM film, but buying gray market dvds of their broadcast restorations rather than one of their own MOD's or a sanctioned digital download does nothing to further support their efforts. Quite the opposite in fact.

As for 'Rosita,' its obscurity probably has something more to do with Mary Pickford loathing it. She seemed to proactively try to bury the film, if not destroy it outright in later years.


Add to those two one I just watched under the most adverse of circumstances--in dead silence!--thanks to the generosity of a friend on this board: Woman Disputed (1928). So marvelous, I'm still reeling.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 10:50 am

The BFI Blu-ray is indeed much better-looking as the screenshots below show, due to better source material that looks cleaner, sharper, and more detailed than Kino's 2011 Blu-ray. My only quibble is that BFI could've used higher contrast and/or lower brightness for the transfer. "The Coward" and "The Drummer of the 8th" both have nice 35mm HD transfers as well, while "The Rose of Kentucky" and "Stolen Glory" have average-looking 16mm HD transfers.

TOP: 2015 BFI Blu-ray
BOTTOM: 2011 Kino Blu-ray
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TOP: 2015 BFI Blu-ray
BOTTOM: 2011 Kino Blu-ray
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TOP: 2015 BFI Blu-ray
BOTTOM: 2011 Kino Blu-ray
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TOP: 2015 BFI Blu-ray
BOTTOM: 2011 Kino Blu-ray
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TOP: 2015 BFI Blu-ray
BOTTOM: 2011 Kino Blu-ray
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"The Coward" on 2015 BFI Blu-ray
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"The Drummer of the 8th":

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"The Rose of Kentucky":

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"Stolen Glory":

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"Birth of a Nation at 100" discussion filmed at the BFI Southbank in 2015:

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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 11:23 am

Thanks for the screenshots. Is the entire movie tinted moss green? It looks pretty bad---another instance of heavy handed tinting by BFI to the point you can't see anything? I'll stick with the Kino version on this one.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 11:45 am

Is this overly-low contrast a new vogue?

The otherwise best-ever new Blu of VOODOO MAN suffers from the same problem.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 2:31 pm

Mark Zimmer wrote:Thanks for the screenshots. Is the entire movie tinted moss green? It looks pretty bad---another instance of heavy handed tinting by BFI to the point you can't see anything? I'll stick with the Kino version on this one.


No, it has a range of tints. And a superb score. But to each their own.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 2:35 pm

Weird. Those screen shots don't really represent what I'm getting on my calibrated projection system. On mine, the Kino is totally blown out to high contrast B&W and the BFI is a natural contrast with much more subtle tinting than you are showing in your caps. The Kino also has the typical dupey silent film "Swarm of bees" grain in motion, while the BFI is much more solid looking. I can try to shoot an image off the screen tonight for comparison if anyone is interested.

Perhaps to make up for thin prints, video companies sometimes up the contrast, which looks OK if you compensate by turning the contrast down overall on your monitor. But if you look at a modern movie with your monitor in that setting, the contrast levels would look really flat and dull. I've noticed that some Kino releases (especially Steamboat Bill Jr) are very blown out when it comes to contrast.

Last night a friend of mine who is quite a cinephile came by for a visit to see the Lumiere blu-ray. Afterwards I mentioned BoaN to him and he said, "Well that really isn't a very entertaining and engaging movie, is it?" I played the finales to the two halves for him and he was blown away like I was. It's like a totally different movie. He kept talking about what a revelation it was to see the film presented like that.

By the way, the panel discussion cap looks very flat contrast too. It is fully lit and snappy looking on my system
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 4:05 pm

Regarding Rosita (1923) - about a year ago MOMA announced they were performing a full restoration in partnership with the Mary Pickford Foundation, but I have not heard anything else about it.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 4:13 pm

Brooksie wrote:Regarding Rosita (1923) - about a year ago MOMA announced they were performing a full restoration in partnership with the Mary Pickford Foundation, but I have not heard anything else about it.


Yes, that was announced here (in the preservation forum) as well as elsewhere. I was not told to get my hopes too high -- the sole surviving source for most of the film is a Russian print that was pretty beat-up, so it's never going to do justice to what clearly was excellent art direction and cinematography -- but Pickford did preserve one reel that, from what I've seen (a 16mm reduction at the Keaton Celebration) is very nice. I like the movie, and I'm hoping it makes the rounds of the festivals, even if it may not be as beautiful as it was back in 1923.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 4:39 pm

bigshot wrote:Weird. Those screen shots don't really represent what I'm getting on my calibrated projection system. On mine, the Kino is totally blown out to high contrast B&W and the BFI is a natural contrast with much more subtle tinting than you are showing in your caps. The Kino also has the typical dupey silent film "Swarm of bees" grain in motion, while the BFI is much more solid looking. I can try to shoot an image off the screen tonight for comparison if anyone is interested.

Perhaps to make up for thin prints, video companies sometimes up the contrast, which looks OK if you compensate by turning the contrast down overall on your monitor. But if you look at a modern movie with your monitor in that setting, the contrast levels would look really flat and dull. I've noticed that some Kino releases (especially Steamboat Bill Jr) are very blown out when it comes to contrast.

Last night a friend of mine who is quite a cinephile came by for a visit to see the Lumiere blu-ray. Afterwards I mentioned BoaN to him and he said, "Well that really isn't a very entertaining and engaging movie, is it?" I played the finales to the two halves for him and he was blown away like I was. It's like a totally different movie. He kept talking about what a revelation it was to see the film presented like that.

By the way, the panel discussion cap looks very flat contrast too. It is fully lit and snappy looking on my system


What kind of monitor did you see my screenshots on? Seeing the screenshots on a cheap PC monitor would naturally not yield the same appearance as it would on an more expensive and advanced HDTV or projection screen. Screenshots only give you a general idea of what you see, not exactly what you will see on other systems. Also, my screenshots serve mainly as *comparison* to the Kino disc. One can clearly see the higher detail and quality of the BFI disc in the comparison. Note that my screenshots do show Kino's blown-out high contrast that you talked about: on the first screenshot, the man to the right of the two slaves is wearing a light shirt that shows less detail on the Kino disc due to high contrast.

As to the low contrast of BFI's BotN, whether you agree or not, it is a *mathematical certainty* (short of comparing RGB color values) that its picture seems darker than it should be. It is darker than even the OTHER films on the BFI disc. Watch the other films on your screen and you will surely see a brighter picture than BotN, just like my screenshots show. Whether you think the contrast is low or not seems like an issue of personal preference. And as I said, this is a minor quibble to me, meaning that for my personal preference, this is not a big deal. But would I have liked a tad brighter picture? Yes.
Last edited by SilentsPlease on Mon Dec 07, 2015 6:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 5:20 pm

Looks amazing, for an original negative that was thought to be heavily worn. Gives me hope for other silent and early sound film negatives that have yet to resurface. Thanks for the screenshots, SilentsPlease!

What is the basis for BFI/Photoplay's tinting scheme? Did they follow contemporary specifications? I would hope they didn't choose these colors randomly or out of personal preference.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 6:03 pm

What kind of monitor did you see my screenshots on?


27inch iMac

As to the low contrast of BFI's BotN, whether you agree or not, it is a *mathematical certainty* (short of comparing RGB color values) that its picture seems darker than it should be.


That was actually why I asked, because I watched BoaN and The Coward, and both looked great on my projection system, but your caps make BoaN look dark and The Coward look light. I think it has something to do with the color of the tinting. Your caps appear to be much more brightly saturated than the blu-ray looks on my screen. Color and computers can be wonky.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 6:05 pm

Allen Perkins wrote:What is the basis for BFI/Photoplay's tinting scheme? Did they follow contemporary specifications? I would hope they didn't choose these colors randomly or out of personal preference.


The opening titles say that the film derived from an original tinted print. Perhaps that is incorrect and they took just the tinting from the original print.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 6:36 pm

Allen Perkins wrote:Looks amazing, for an original negative that was thought to be heavily worn. Gives me hope for other silent and early sound film negatives that have yet to resurface. Thanks for the screenshots, SilentsPlease!

What is the basis for BFI/Photoplay's tinting scheme? Did they follow contemporary specifications? I would hope they didn't choose these colors randomly or out of personal preference.


You're welcome. I couldn't find any screenshots so I did my own, as the differences are quite noteworthy. "Original negative" is probably misleading. A poster earlier said it was from the OCN, but it decidedly was not. The included booklet says the source is a 35mm safety color negative copied from the 1921 reissue's *positive*. So the source is a positive, not a negative. The booklet doesn't mention that the tinting was altered, so we may infer that the tinting that we see adheres to the source. For the bonus films, the booklet does mention some of the sources are black-and-white, so we can infer that tinting was added for them. One more minor quibble is that the BFI Blu-ray has no chapter menu, but it does have chapter stops. So you have to blindly use your remote to change chapter.
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Re: BFI to release BIRTH OF A NATION in September

PostMon Dec 07, 2015 6:45 pm

bigshot wrote:
What kind of monitor did you see my screenshots on?


27inch iMac

As to the low contrast of BFI's BotN, whether you agree or not, it is a *mathematical certainty* (short of comparing RGB color values) that its picture seems darker than it should be.


That was actually why I asked, because I watched BoaN and The Coward, and both looked great on my projection system, but your caps make BoaN look dark and The Coward look light. I think it has something to do with the color of the tinting. Your caps appear to be much more brightly saturated than the blu-ray looks on my screen. Color and computers can be wonky.


My point was that my screenshots serve to compare the BFI and Kino discs only, and not to compare what you see on your iMac and what you see on your HDTV. If you play any other movie, you will certainly see differences on your iMac and your TV or any other systems. This is true for any other screen captures on DVDBeaver or elsewhere. Use them to get a general idea, but not to expect what it will look exactly on your system.
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