Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky. (slithytove) wrote,
Be wise. Be brave. Be tricky.

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Presentation of film

I said a while ago that I was going to finish up my post on the Lord of the Rings movie with a review of the presentation. This is it.

Net: better than the Harry Potter presentation, not as good as Amelie. I mentioned a while ago, in a reply to verthandi's post about it, that although I enjoyed the move, I was very disappointed in the visual presentation of the Harry Potter. Dim, low contrast, poor black level, and a shiny spot in the middle of the screen where someone had apparently thrown a soft drink. LotR was better, but still suffered from low contrast and poor blacks. Amelie was the best, but still had 'blacks' that were just very dark gray.

Both Harry Potter and LotR were seen in typical multiplexes. Amelie was playing at the Ritz, which shows chiefly foreign and independent films, and probably has a more sophisticated and critical audience.

When it comes to the visual presentation of film, I'm spoiled. As I've mentioned on and off, I've developed an interest in home theater over the past few years. It started with anime. I discovered that anime fans were buying laserdiscs, which I hadn't even realized still existed. That laserdiscs were higher resolution than VHS tape. That 'home theater' wasn't just an advertising buzzword for a dim, badly-focused big-screen TV and tinny Bose speakers, that it could actually look and sound better than 'real' theater, that video projectors could look about a thousand times better than the poorly-calibrated, non-converged, washed out junk you see in sports bars. And finally, with the advent of DVD, that a non-wealthy individual could have a home theater that exceeds the performance of the average movie theater for a price I could afford.

There are two projection technologies than can be reasonably used in a home theater: CRT, and digital. Digital projectors are based on LCD technology, and have been around for about a decade. They were originally developed for computer presentations. They typically have high light output, poor blacks, and questionable color rendition. They are light (relatively) and portable. CRT projectors are an older technology, and have been around since the 1970's. If you've seen Cardcaptor Sakura or Perfect Blue, you've seen CRT projectors: Tomoyo owns one to display her videos of Sakura, and the murder of the director in Perfect Blue takes place in his screening room, in front of his CRT projector. CRT technology is about as mature as it's going to be. In fact, the technology is obsolescent for its main purpose, presentations and training films in businesses and schools. CRT projectors in these venues are rapidly being replaced by digital projectors. But for videophiles and home theater, there's no substitute for CRT. In particular, CRT's rendition of blacks and low light detail, and the accuracy of CRT color, cannot be equaled or even approximated by digital projectors.

In fact, CRT's rendition of blacks and low light detail cannot even be equaled by a movie theater projecting film with a projector, under most circumstances. I never realized this until I had been exposed to DVD's on a CRT for a while. To my astonishment, movies no longer look as good. I can see flaws I never saw before. I've been spoiled.

Movies could be better than they are. The problem, apparently, is that many movie theater owners try to fill too large a screen with too dim an image. The screen is too large because the theater is too large, probably because the owner is trying to maximize ticket sales per showing. That was the problem with the Harry Potter showing I went to, but it doesn't have to be that way. The Ritz clearly cares more about video quality, and it shows. But even at the Ritz, the contrast and black level weren't as good as what you can get with a CRT projector. (Why don't theaters use CRT's? Because they don't generate enough light to fill a commercial theater-size screen, even a small one, and they need frequent tweaking.)

Now, DVD is not as good as film in one crucial respect: its resolution is less. Film in a typical theater is projected at about a resolution of 750 to 1500 lines, and DVD resolution is 480 vertical pixels. But even now, a home theater with even a modest CRT projector can give you an image the contrast, brightness, color richness and saturation of which easily exceed film. And you won't notice the lower resolution.

So, I'm spoiled. I can still enjoy a good movie theater presentation, (although I do see flaws in it which I didn't see before) but a mediocre presentation is painful, because I've seen so much better.

BTW, Amelie is a vastly entertaining and charming film. It's a 'feel-good' movie you don't have to be embarrassed to like. If you haven't seen it by now, by all means do so before it leaves town. Chances are you'll like it. Almost everyone likes it.


meaning: building
ryokan == Japanese-style inn
eigakan == cinema
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