View Single Post
Old 01-28-2021, 08:24 PM   #11293
Geoff D Geoff D is offline
Blu-ray Emperor
 
Geoff D's Avatar
 
Feb 2009
Swanage, Engerland
734
2074
5
32
Default The Lord of the Rings

The Return of the King (2003) 4K Dolby Vision review, UK Warners theatrical UHD disc. HDR metadata: DCI-P3 colour primaries. Mastering display levels: 4000/0.005 max/min nits. Maximum Content Light Level: 705 nits. Maximum Frame Average Light Level: 120 nits.

The LOTR movies were all shot using the same equipment and film stocks as detailed here: https://forum.blu-ray.com/showthread...1#post18399451, with the addition of a full 2K DI finish for ROTK. Director of Photography Andrew Lesnie gave another interview to American Cinematographer for their January 2004 issue (https://theasc.com/magazine/jan04/sub/index.html) along with senior colourist Peter Doyle, and in it Doyle explained that they again used the sharpening tools as employed on Two Towers: ""Pelennor Fields is also a good example of the image-sharpening techniques we've been applying [...] The sharpening tools really get into all the metal and armor, providing amazing detail. We're also using them to give more definition to the frame by helping direct your eye to different areas." Adds Lesnie, "Because of the aggressively moving camera during the battle scenes, we've found that putting a selective power window just around the characters' eyes and sharpening them helps keep the audience's attention on the actors' performances. We're applying it only to the eyes, because sharpening tends to bring up the grain, which is more noticeable in the flatter areas, such as the cheeks. The performance is always in the eyes".

Reading between the lines, that's most likely why ROTK didn't get smacked with the DNR stick in the original DI as much as what Two Towers did, that because they were able to be much more selective with the sharpening then they didn't feel compelled to tone down the grain in the entire shot, using that bizarre algorithm that smears sideways camera movement in so many shots of Rohan in Two Towers (and I'm still talking about the DI itself here, not the UHDs yet). But a couple of scenes still have that weird lateral smearing if you look closely enough on the EE Blu-ray of ROTK, like right at the start when Gandalf, Aragorn and co. are heading through the forest to Isengard...which has of coursh been smoothed over further for the UHD and looks like a smeary mess.

That's about as bad as the additional DNR gets on ROTK's UHD, but while the 4K UHD transfer doesn't have nearly as many trouble spots as its predecessor it's still had the grain rolled off on a global level, boiling it down to a gentle layer of texture rather than a blanket of grain swarming all over. This effect is not displeasing in itself but by toning down the grain you're toning down the natural dithering and so the baked-in sharpening stands out more on the UHD, it looks more 'edgy' than I'd personally prefer and I thought it was more of a distraction than the uneveness of Two Towers' UHD. Yes, when Towers gets bad it gets REALLY bad, but in-between the Melting Theodens there's a good chunk of footage that is as decent as anything I've seen in these three UHDs (considering that they've all been subjected to a general filtering of the grain), whereas ROTK doesn't have nearly as many smeary-faced moments but has a constant over-sharpened 'look' instead. I thought that it got better in the last third of the movie, perhaps because it was applied more discriminately during the battle scenes, but maybe my eyes gave up by then.

Fine detail is improved upon much like the other two movies on UHD, the EE BD tends to lose track of the tricksiest little details in hair, faces and clothing. The UHD is still a 2K upscale but thanks to the advantages like 4x chroma resolution, better compression, a new capture from the DI etc you can still eke out more information than the BD equivalent. The wide shots in the battle scenes have more clarity and coherence in particular, the shot that pans across the Pelennor Fields when Theoden first arrives and surveys the scene is a wibbling, shimmering mess on the EE BD because it simply can't cope with all those itty bitty little orcses, but it's far cleaner on the UHD. Not perfick, but resolved much more keenly. One other thing I'll say about the grain is that wherever they've used the power windows to punch up a part of the scene it does indeed make the grain stand out wherever it's been highlighted on the EE BD, the grain takes on a distractingly 'sparkly' look and it happens more than you think (Frodo in Shelob's lair, the big battering ram just before they ram the gates, where the disc split occurs in the EE) whereas the 'roll off' of the grain on the UHD evens those sparkly bits out. Gollum still looks a little too 'slick' without the grain though. Oddly enough, one of the few shots that looks anything like 4K resolution comes right at the end of ROTK, when the four Hobbitses leave Hobbiton for the shores of the sea.

As with the other two UHDs the colour balance takes on a far more natural hue, it's not suffused with yellow like the SDR transfer. Yes, I understand the arguments for and against but the more I look at the EE BDs the more they look like typical SDR transfers of that period, where nuance and shading of colour is replaced by a flat yellow wash throughout the movie. With that blanket tint removed then skin tones come alive and primaries flourish, greens are noticeably lusher and the fiery lava of Mount Doom is a beautiful deep red. Lesnie noted in the AC article that for Minas Tirith they wanted a classic "pewter" finish to the white city but were wary of making it too monochromatic because of how even a small variation in printing by the labs making the prints could skew it the wrong colour (remember: this was exhibited on 35mm, not digital), so in the DI they boosted the "earthy, warm colours and blues" of Minas Tirith to give them more room for error. In the EE BD the damned thing just looks a creamy beige, but in the UHD it's got that grey pewter look with hints of blue. Other scenes have just been graded very differently between versions, when Deagol is dragged underwater in the prologue the colour is very dull and muddy, in the UHD it's a LOT greener. And the Army of the Dead have this very pale green tinge in the EE BD that's almost lost to the overweening yellow tint to the image, but on the UHD the ghosties look properly green. We know about the Arwen 'vision' stuff, it's got this grey pallor to it now. The ring also has the same intensely golden effect as it does on the other two UHDs.

The trends just keep on coming, as the blacks have been raised on ROTK just like the other two. You get far more shadow detail now, not just in actual Darker Scenes but in the dimmer recesses of brighter scenes too, information lost on hair and clothing is now regained. I never liked how the Shelob scenes looked in SDR, not so much for the darkness itself but because of how obvious the power windows were, those floating orbs of brightness around Frodo looked so out of place in SDR and have that 'sparkly' grain I mentioned too. But with the raised blacks the windows are much less obvious and blend more smoothly into the scene around them, although you never feel like it's lacking for black level as the contrast is maintained. Some scenes have been graded to be darker though, like the wide shot of Gollum entering the Misty Mountains in the prologue. It's very bright in the EE BD but is gloomier on the UHD, not just "becuz HDR" but they've genuinely made it murkier and more foreboding, with the lone ray of light hitting Gollum given greater precedence.

HDR usage doesn't offer up any surprises either compared to the previous two, they're all of a piece. You get more shape and depth to light, Gandalf's white (or should I say yellow, lol) hair and robes are very clipped in the EE BD, SDR isn't kind to them at all but in the HDR you can see so much more highlight information. Minas Tirith gets more shading too, the white walls have plenty more detail which is just lost in SDR. Then there's the usual things like skies, clouds, fire, they all retain scads more info without looking too overpowering. Mightn't sound very impressive but when combined with the more expressive colour it imparts a true feeling of separation between the elements in a shot, the 'flat' look of the SDR merges it all together but the HDR gives it such tangible dimensionality, as it has done on many, many UHDs before these.

Compression is very good, no major blocking or banding going on, although as far as DNR anomalies are concerned there's that squinky shot with Gandalf's disappearing staff in Minas Tirith. It is visible in motion but you have to look for it, thankfully there don't appear to be too many more issues added by this DNR pass. And so, at last we come to the end of our UHD fellowship:



What do I think of the LOTR UHDs overall then? A mixed bag. I very much enjoyed these UHD presentations in spite of the promises/lies as to how they were mastered and in spite of all the processing that's been ladled on to deal with 2K DIs that are two decades old. The colour grading freshens them up considerably, making them look more contemporary and less stylised which may/may not be a good thing depending on your point of view, but part of me wonders how much of that previous stylisation was just old-fashioned SDR bleh-ness as this look has been in place for a full two decades on Two Towers and ROTK. The HDR also adds greatly to that fresher feel, making the images look more rounded and dimensional without becoming The Brightest Show on Middle-earth™.

The downsides are the rampant DNR - both the ever-present 'something off the top' filtering and the more aggressive targeting of existing DI scenes with poor processing - and the visible sharpening, especially in ROTK. But you do still get more fine detail than the BDs in many scenes, or if not outright detail then greater coherence, it's just not actual 4K detail. If we had an actual 4K transfer of the camera negative to go with all the other good stuff then this would've been a God-tier release, but as it is it goes into the 'flawed but highly enjoyable' category. It's all on the viewer as to whether the flaws outweigh their enjoyment, that's if they even spot the flaws at all...

THESE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE NOT INTENDED TO CONVEY THE ENTIRETY OF EITHER SDR OR HDR WITH 100% ACCURACY BUT ONLY SPECIFIC ASPECTS. THEY CAN ALSO BE MUCH DARKER THAN THE CONTENT ACTUALLY APPEARS OWING TO THE EXPOSURE NECESSARY TO CAPTURE THE DYNAMIC RANGE.

Just like my Two Towers review I'm gonna throw in a few images of the R1 EE BD just for orientation, the grading is literally identical between the EE DVD and EE BD. But you can see straightaway how that pale, sallow look of the previous skin tones make way for something a bit livelier on the UHD. Better shadow detail too. Forgive any schmutz you see in the black bars in these or any other photos here, I've resized them to crop out the little starships that sit under my TV and repeated saves don't do the compression any good.

EE DVD

[Show spoiler]


EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



One more DVD shot. May not seem all that different but the green is more intense on the UHD, it's less yellowy and autumnal, and the water is bluer. Better range on Deagol and Smeagol in the boat too.

EE DVD

[Show spoiler]


EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Deagol going for a swim. Drastically changed palette here, the murky dull river giving way to a far more punchy green look.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Deagol on the river bank. Yellowy skin tone has gone, that lurid neon green is back in the grass and trees, there's more range in the mist on the other side of the river and plenty more shadow detail on his clothing. BTW these photos are generally darker in the shadows than the content appears, but for comparative purposes the camera is exposing them roughly the same way.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Squabbling for the ring. Greeny grass again and boy does that golden look of the ring really zing in the UHD.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Gollum retreating into the Misty Mountains, this is that shot I mentioned in all that word salad up there ^, where it's bleaker than the EE BD but makes that lone ray of light stand out more.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



"Hobbits". This is when Gandalf sees Merry and Pippin enjoying a few "well earned comforts" at Isengard. The BD is just...ewwww. The colour, the range, it's so much betterer on the UHD yet it still retains a slightly warmer tinge to Gandalf's robes, it's not totally neutral.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Theoden toasting the fallen. Sure, the Golden Hall doesn't look so golden any more on UHD but it's more down to dumb luck that the BD looks as buttery as it does. Although the colour and detail on his tunic stands out more on the UHD.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Gollum having another debate with himself. UHD has a bluer cast, but without the grain he looks 'greasier', for want of a better word. Better shadow detail on the UHD.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Arwen's vision of her son, the sepia-esque tone is more of a grey now. Loads more range on the UHD.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



The walls of the White City lose range and texture and detail in SDR, while the HDR brings it back and ditches the creamy tone for more of a pewter/blue hue.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Mustering the Rohirrim. More breadth to the colour, less yellow tint, and more definition on the thatched roofs.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Aragorn about to ride off. The backlighting here on his hair looks gorgeous in HDR, it's such a nice shot that the SDR doesn't ruin it but I know which one I prefer.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Reverse shot on Eowyn in the same scene, same applies: the HDR adds depth where the SDR just kinda flattens it.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Pippin looking on in disbelief at some mad Gondorian fool. There's more colour to the wee man's cheeks. Look at his eyeses on the BD, you can see exactly what Doyle and Lesnie were talking about with the selective sharpening, the grain takes on a distinctly buzzy look around his peepers. The DNR on the UHD has smoothed it all out so it's not as obvious, but a curious remnant is left behind as the sharpening is still brightening their eyes, so it sometimes makes them look like they've been wearing sunglasses on a sunny day and picked up a tan everywhere but their eyes. Maybe not so much in this example but it pops up here and there.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Barbecue, Gondor-style. The flames just white out on the BD but do the usual in HDR.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Eowyn and Merry about to ride into battle. Had to grab this as it was one of the earlier comparisons that first appeared, here's what it looks like at my end. BD is pastier.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Theoden surveying the Pelennor Fields. Just bland AF on the BD.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Merry bricking it. More vibrant colour, more range, better shadow detail, is naice.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Gandalf imparting some more wisdom to Pippin as the Orcses pile into Minas Tirith. Much less of that yellow hue but again Gandalf doesn't lack for a warmer tone and has way more range on his hair, while the bluey aspect of the stone is played up. Even his sword has a blue tinge in the UHD.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Aragorn releasing the Dead Army from their vows. More range in the background, more powerful colour in the front.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



The Dead King. His spectral green is so much more pronounced now, I like it.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



At the Black Gates. Good looking shot either way, here the UHD seems to have less shadow detail (look at Aragorn's tunic) but it gives it more contrast, and again the HDR makes that backlighting really zing. Lol @ Orly Bloom trying to keep his face in the shot.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Gollum taking a refreshing dip in the lava of Mount Doom. Never really looked 'bad' on the BD but dayum, the UHD roasts it. Far more intense reds and oranges and yellows, and for the first time I really sensed it as Gollum burns, his skin never seemed to react too much before but it was just the pale colour. Now the red-raw patches stand out more.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Frodo having a well-earned snooze at Rivendell. More range, more detail, less yellow.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Sam about to go get some. Jesus, they didn't call it the Green Dragon for nothing. (Forgive the strange lines on this and several other photos, it's the multi-exposure mode of the camera doing weird things with the line/pixel structure of the TV)

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Rosie and Sam get married. UHD murderises the BD, I don't mind saying.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]



Last one, of the Fellowship departing from Hobbiton one last time. This is the shot that looked plenty detailed to me on the UHD, I don't usually recommend embiggening the photos too much but the BD is way softer, and it looks that way in actuality, not just the photo.

EE BD

[Show spoiler]


Theatrical UHD

[Show spoiler]

Last edited by Geoff D; 01-30-2021 at 01:37 PM.
  Reply With Quote
Thanks given by:
Alister_M (01-28-2021), bbeck (01-28-2021), Bostonyte (01-29-2021), bubbafett73 (01-29-2021), Caprica_U-87 (02-01-2021), carpanafilms (01-29-2021), cdth (01-30-2021), danman227460 (01-28-2021), DAT_JB (01-29-2021), david_blu (01-29-2021), Da_Bears (01-28-2021), Ectropy (01-29-2021), edmoney (02-02-2021), emailking (01-28-2021), Farerb (01-28-2021), Fat Phil (01-28-2021), Fendergopher (01-28-2021), flyry (01-29-2021), gnicks (01-29-2021), Graeme67 (02-02-2021), HD Goofnut (01-28-2021), Hindustani (02-01-2021), hollisesco (01-29-2021), imsounoriginal (01-28-2021), Istria (01-28-2021), Jafar (01-29-2021), Jayderek (02-03-2021), JimDiGriz (01-29-2021), jvonl (01-28-2021), KdenN83 (01-30-2021), Kool-aid23 (01-30-2021), Mierzwiak (01-28-2021), neo5468 (01-30-2021), orac1971 (01-30-2021), ORDER66 (01-29-2021), OutOfBoose (01-30-2021), Panama Jack (01-28-2021), philthehip (01-29-2021), Pieter V (01-29-2021), Platitude (01-29-2021), PUsokrJosh305 (01-28-2021), Schrute Farms (02-01-2021), shy86 (01-30-2021), Staying Salty (02-22-2021), StrayButler91 (01-29-2021), strumdogg (01-28-2021), T.H.E. Cat (02-01-2021), thatguy1985 (01-28-2021), TheDarkBlueNight (01-30-2021), Zombie Dude (01-28-2021)