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Old 05-11-2019, 02:02 AM   #1145
Geoff D Geoff D is offline
Blu-ray Emperor
Geoff D's Avatar
Feb 2009
Swanage, Engerland

Okey dokey, time for the actual 'review' of the 4K. The thing that hits you right from the first scene is indeed how dense the blacks are, the gamma is VERY high on the 4K HDR edition and it soaks up shadow detail all over the place. I've made my distaste for "black crush" very clear in previous write-ups BUT with the caveat of how the darkened black levels are actually achieved; if they're thickened up via the actual grading and have a natural enough roll-off into the near-black tones then I can live with that, but if they just lazily clip the black level from going below a certain threshold then it often creates these harshly posterised delineations between light and dark, often with a bluey or rusty tint to them, and I cannot stand it when they do that.

Hannibal's HDR pass, to my eyes, falls into the former category: the shadow areas are dark as molasses, no question, but they don't come accompanied by the sorts of artefacts mentioned above. What it does do is provide a base to generate a strong sense of contrast and when combined with the punchy highlights the effect is striking, like the way that the shafts of light play across the feds in the market scene near the beginning. But they're not just brighter, they're resolving loads more highlight detail than either the old Blu or the remastered BD and it gives the UHD such a tangible feeling of depth compared to the other two. And don't be fooled by the 100-nit SDR-converted image on caps-a-holic of Clarice meeting Barney with them bright blown-out windows behind them, the UHD viewed in HDR resolves everything you can see in the remastered BD and then some, particularly in the window behind Barney on the right.

Colour is very nicely handled in HDR, there's a kind of 'pale' look to the remastered BD - and I'm not just talking about the Ginger Ninja, though more on her in a sec - while the UHD adds a fuller sense of saturation without overcooking anything. Skin tones benefit hugely, people can look a touch too sallow on the remastered BD but the UHD adds more nuance. I still find it kinda crazy how SDR does this kind of one-note 'wash' to skin tones while HDR provides so much more shading and variance across people's faces. Even something like Julianne Moore's freckles look more defined, her cheeks slightly rosier, lips a fuller colour, all without looking distractingly over-pumped. Verr naice.

The grain is absolutely yummy on this disc, there's a constant veneer of it in most scenes, using 500-speed stock as they did, apart from in some very bright shots in Florence which is commensurate with a nice thickly-exposed negative shot on much slower stock. Grain levels vary in the other direction as well of course, interiors can get a bit more lively and the dissolves (of which there are a few) naturally make it look a bit softer and chunkier, ditto for the detail, like the sequence of optical lap dissolves when a drugged Starling is stumbling along the hall when she wakes up in Krendler's house. Other than those isolated examples the detail is excellent, looking very well refined without coming across as aggressively sharp. While the UHD murders the old BD for detail it also has more texture and finer details than what the remastered BD can resolve.

Something to note between the UHD and the remastered BD is how much softer the grain can look in the latter, not 'smudgy' at all but just nowhere near as keenly accentuated as the UHD. And it's not just about the 4K resolution either, I've mentioned in recent threads how HDR can bring up grain compared to SDR and the opening market scene is a timely example, like in the shot when the van is first pulling up to the warehouse with the bright sky behind it. In the remastered BD there's zero grain in the sky, right, it's all been clipped out (though the old BD actually retains a trace of it, funnily enough), while the UHD is awash with grain in the heavens owing to the highlight information it's now resolving. That trend continues throughout the film, bright highlights 'buzz' intensely with grain in UHD while the remastered BD looks much less busy in those spots. It's almost to the detriment of the UHD in a couple of moments because the buzzy grain can distract but those are very, very minor blemishes. The shot of the sunset sky above the overpass at roughly 1h42M looks like hot shit, but then it does on the other versions too so I dunno what happened there.

Speaking of blemishes, it's true that the UHD does have a sprinkling of white hairs and marks (along with a few darker blips as well) but we're not talking about a deluge of the stuff here, just the occasional fleeting bit of dirt and I don't expect the indies to push for the extra 5% that the majors indulge in re: dirt clean up. That said, what's interesting is that the remastered BD has more of these and scratches peppered throughout, it appears as though the UHD master itself underwent another dirt removal pass separate from what was done to the remastered BD.

The encoding is superb. Admittedly I watched in Dobly and not plain HDR10, the former of which can hide several encoding-related sins, but from the looks of the base-layer caps there are no issues with artefacts there, just a very well handled layer of grain either way and no kinds of smearing or smudging in motion. I think I speak for several amongst us when we were a little trepidatious about how Kino's encoding house would handle all this, but they've provided something that's extremely competent in the compression department, never mind that it's their debut UHD title.

The usage of a 100GB disc is downright luxurious for a 131-minute movie with three audio tracks and no extras and it may have given them more leeway when it came to how refined the encode needed to be, yet make no mistake: encoding lossy video is about more than just how much room you've got. (BTW Kino typically master their regular 1080p discs with a lower gamma than most other distributors and I think that's the case with the remastered BD here, that it's contributing to how much lighter the blacks can look on the new BD although the UHD is darker still for sure.)

To sum up, I've got to give Kino credit where it is due. I feared, well, not the worst but not the best either, and yet the video presentation of this UHD isn't just good, it's legitimately great, and in most respects gives anything I've seen from the majors a run for its money. Could it have had that extra few percent of technical polish in a couple of respects? Sure, but this isn't a studio release so they're spending the money where it's needed most, and they've clearly spent it in the right places for this excellent 4K HDR transfer.

As for the "it's too dark!" complaints, I'll let the American Cinematographer article on Hannibal field that one, and the bolded part of the comment fits this UHD to a 'T':

Hannibal is essentially a character-driven film, and its intense psychological mood had to be created through lighting namely, the appropriate placement of highlight and shadow that the filmmakers would compare to the paintings of William Blake, which reveal the form of objects but not the detail. In addition to creating mood, shadows also helped to hide limitations either in dress or in light placement. "That’s what I like: bright things and black things," the cinematographer affirms. "Dino [De Laurentiis] didn’t always like what I was up to, but I suppose Ridley protected me".
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