Monday 8 May 2023

On Blu-ray and UHD - David Hare is less than impressed with a new edition of PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (Peter Weir, Australia, 1975)

The stills are r
andom frames from the new Blu-ray 1080p disc from Second Sight's new 4K restoration boxset of Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock.

As the most cursory glance here reveals everything in this newly derived image looks spectacularly and horribly devoid of grain. It's as though the ghost of Hanging Rock itself had sprayed a mantle of clingfilm over everything within shot, even after Russell Boyd had so carefully managed exposure, lens filtering and host of simple camera tricks for the ethereality of the film.
There's been a not unexpected flurry of comment about this new "restoration" on the usual places, most of it negative. The scanning was done in Oz with prime Arriflex (the best) scanner in 4K and the restoration and grading work was split between Australia and a post house in Europe for Second Sight. Weir himself and DP Russell Boyd agreed upon using HDR with the 4K grade which I for one would have been happy to see if only without the subsequent intervention of very VERY total grain scrubbing to a degree I haven't seen since the disastrous Paramount 4K of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

This is a really wasted opportunity. Repair, restoration , remasking to 1.66 with a "fuller" image from the neg and color grading particularly are a huge improvement on the most recent work as represented by the older Madman and Criterion discs in Weir's then preferred Aspect Ratio of 1.78 and with much cooler color grade there. But the grain removal here just blows it all to pieces.
The degraining was specifically done at Weir's request after he and Boyd viewed the final grade with HDR. I wonder if Weir found the HDR itself was launching too much "pinging" into the highlights, especially whites, hence the notion of maybe dialling the image down, as it were.
But in the end, sadly this is just another case of a directorial re-invention. Of course nobody but a handful of people will really care. But it's always sad to see so much money, time, effort, and care basically wasted.

The screens are from the Blu-ray disc because I can’t rip or get captures from the UHD disc. But the UHD amplifies a second problem. After the degraining process it looks like Weir decided they’d gone too far and they’ve pushed a light dose of artificial grain/digital “noise” into the overall image, as if to compensate. Fortunately the 1080p image doesn’t really carry this faux grain much but it’s very noticeable on the UHD disc, appearing as randomly introduced digital interaction. It’s vile. 

This is what you get when people who might have intervened for the better didn’t. On all other counts - color, depth, detail, dynamic range, texture - the image is superb. But it has not a trace of film grain. Throw your hands in the air!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.