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George Ebersole

Raiders of the Lost Ark on Blu-ray

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Sorry for posting this here, but I wasn't sure where else to ask. I've finally joined the modern world, and got myself a blu-ray player with a couple of disks, and I was really shocked by the image I saw on my 1080p television.

 

When I got my DVD set years back of the same film, the DVD image looked like the image I saw in the theatres opening weekend all those years ago. There was a slightly muddy look to the film, maybe a a soft lens of somekind, marginally dark like it was shot a stop lower than usual, and not a great amount of detail.

 

But as of twenty minutes ago I was really blown away by what I saw on my TV screen. I saw details that I hadn't seen or don't recall when I paid money to see it back in the 70s, and the print looked brighter than the image I remember seeing in the theatre.

 

I saw and noticed textures of Ford's skin, the rocks, the gun, the whip, hairs, and all kinds of other things.

 

I guess my question is, was the film really meant to be exhibited like this? I thought the kind of "hazy" look that I remember from both theatre, VHS and DVDs were how the film was meant to be shown. I almost feel like I'm seeing too much.

 

Has this happened to anyone else? Have you had this experience?

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It was released in 1981.

The Raiders I recall is lit hard for the most part by the great Douglas Slocombe (still with us at 101 and the best lighting cameraman never to have won the OScar) and it's sharp as a tack. Not 'hazy' in the least.

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Heh, thanks. Hmm, I'm going to have to compare all the images then. I mean this looks super sharp. I don't remember this kind of definition in the theatre at all.

 

Did Slocombe travel to Hawaii for the opening sequence?

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Yes, they shot in Hawaii for that scene.

 

Spielberg at the time of release commented on how sharp the movie looked because of Slocombe's hard lighting and well-exposed negative -- he mentioned that from a technical standpoint, it allowed a very good blow-up to 70mm.

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By the time of Raiders he had been at the top of the tree for over 30 years. One thinks of the Ealing films I hesitate to call them comedies- Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Lavender Hill Mob, The Men in the White Suit.

It was a tragedy that he had to stop working because of failing eyesight. Of all the maladies to befall a lighting cameraman, that's the cruellest you can imagine, losing the very tools of your trade.

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This is really amazing to me, because I don't recall the film being all that sharp when I saw it in the theatre. But maybe my memory is fogged from all the times I saw it on VHS.

 

I was just blown away by the detail in this version. It was like a series of large format stills being strung together. I was noticing the texture of Ford's jacket, the texture of the wooden crate, the sides of the buildings in the Marekesh shoot, rocks, twigs, things in the background that just didn't register before.

 

When I worked on features years back I always heard about how DPs used to gripe about how what they shot didn't look nearly as sharp as what appeared on screen. Dailies for us back then were shown on a CRT multimedia monitor instead of a projection room. So I never understood the dissatisfaction. But now, it's like a whole different worl.

 

Sorry for sounding like a newbie schoolboy here, but I've just never seen this kind of imagery on home video. It's really stunning.

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I know crystal skulls used specific filtration that I hunted down because of the "story book artwork" look they achieved. I havent looked at raiders in a long time. Dont know if they did the same thing. Possibly this is the "haze" you are speaking of? I still shoot SD for DVD's so I am biased that you can do a lot and hide a lot with it. But I am not looking for hazy. Just don't want edgy. They may have tweaked the final for bluray some as well. Sometimes I think they do overcook the detail a bit on some blurays.

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There was no diffusion used in Raiders, just some smoke on some sets.

 

Last Crusade has a couple of scenes shot with net diffusion.

 

Kingdom of the Crystal Skull used Classic Softs and net diffusion.

 

Blu-rays, by being sharp, tend to make camera lens diffusion MORE obvious, not less. Besides, if they somehow removed the lens diffusion for the blu-ray of Raiders, why did they leave it in for the blu-ray of Kingdom?

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Sorry David, I didn't mean to cause a controversy here. When I used to watch the film on VHS it always seemed soft to me, and by the time I had gotten the VHS in the 80s, it had been several years since I had last seen it in the theatre. The Temple of Doom VHS did look more sharp than Raiders VHS. I always assumed it was because different lens and shooting style were used.

 

Seeing the blu-ray has really opened my eyes.

 

I've not yet watched Last Crusade and Crystal Skull as yet.

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Temple of Doom and then Last Crusade may be a tad sharper in some scenes but less in others -- partly because high speed Kodak film arrived in time for the sequels, and I think the later films also used some E-series anamorphics mixed with C-series, but the original would have only had the C-series... Anyway the faster film wasn't actually sharper, but it did allow Slocombe to stop down the lenses even more often than he could on Raiders, only having 100 ASA film on that one, though that didn't stop him from lighting some scenes to a deep stop. But if you look at Last Crusade, you see even more scenes shot and staged in fairly deep focus, like when Jones meets the rich industrialist in his uptown apartment. On the other hand, there was the strong net diffusion used for the knight scenes...

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I was reading up on the production just the other week, apparently Dougie Slocombe lit the whole damned thing to a T/8-T/11(!) - so I'd expect it to be pretty sharp!

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I'll say this, I'll never be able to watch movies the same way again. I have a large widescreen monitor for my computer, and I thought you couldn't get any sharper image than that. But these new prints really blow me away. I've seen these films many times, and I've never noted the details I have in the last 48 hours.

 

I'm really awestruck.

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Yea, the BluRay's of the Indy films are amazing. As a kid, I remember reading the ASC articles from my home-town library of producing the original films from Raiders through Crusade. The sets were so well lit, there was so much light in every nook and cranny, even the dark scenes were perfectly exposed throughout the entire shot. It's that even lighting and as pointed out above, the stopped-down nature of the shooting which makes the films so amazing looking. It's awesome to have these films restored to eye-popping quality.

 

As a side note, been going through the Ultra Panavision and Super Panavision films from the 50's and 60's like Ben-Hur, Mutiny on the Bounty, West Side Story and Lawrence of Arabia and they look absolutely amazing on BluRay. I was always depressed with 80 Days Around the World because they seemed to have a lot of production issues, even the restored version has lots of color shifting and dirt in the negative. Still, most of the other films are absolutely worth watching on HD at home.

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It's a good thing that larger negatives were popular for big movies of the 1950's because color negative film was not that sharp back then and a bit grainy. Hitchcock's 1950's VistaVision films look better than his later 35mm color movies.

 

It's also a good thing that the first 15 years of full-color movies used b&w film stock in Technicolor cameras, because 1950's color negative was not that archival either.

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I'm a big fan of Kaminski and, contrary to some people on this sit, I'm a fan of the photography of "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". It's not a copy of Slocombe, it's sort of a hybrid of Slocombe and Kaminski, and to some extent, that is justified by the fact that this story takes place in the 1950's instead of the late 1930's.

 

Many of the action scenes are shot unfiltered, but many other scenes either use Schneider Classic Soft filters or a Dior net on a frame in front of the lens. Some scenes mix the two types of filters, which are not that dissimilar, and there are advantages at times to switching to the glass filters from the nets. As I said before, there were a few limited scenes in "Last Crusade" shot through nets as well.

 

Classic Softs produce sort of a bubble halation (sometimes a ring is formed) around a point of light, and a sort of blurred fringe around a hot edge.

 

Nets have sort of a star filter effect.

 

Unfiltered:

ijatkotcs1.jpg

 

Classic Soft (note the hot edge on his shoulder with the blurred fringe):

ijatkotcs2.jpg

 

This action scene in the warehouse mixes unfiltered shots with some diffused with Classic Softs, for example (look at the flashlights):

 

Classic Soft:

ijatkotcs3.jpg

 

Unfiltered:

ijatkotcs4.jpg

 

Dior net (note the star filter effect around the glints of sunlight):

ijatkotcs5.jpg

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This long sequence in the jungle tent starts out with a Dior net filter (look at the lamp):

ijatkotcs6.jpg

 

But switches to a Classic Soft (note the blurred fringe edge around the lamp):

ijatkotcs7.jpg

 

But then switches back to the net (subtle star filter effect -- they may have frosted the lamp's glass housing more to reduce the star filter effect compared to the first shot in the scene):

ijatkotcs8.jpg

 

When you go into a tight close-up, you can often get away with heavier diffusion because there is a limit sometimes to how much detail your eye needs to see in the skin. This shot of Cate Blanchet uses a net filter but you still can see the pores in her lovely skin:

ijatkotcs9.jpg

 

I think it's plenty sharp enough, and I like her close-ups in the movie in general, they almost have a magazine cover quality to them.

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Yeah, the malt shop scene, specifically table sequence, looked like there may have been a filter used there. I noticed that the detail level went up a notch or two during the motorcycle chase sequence around campus. When I saw the film I saw it at the Redwood City Cinemark, the film didn't look sharp at all. In fact some of the live stunts almost looked like digital inserts, the projection was that bad. One of the AC's on the shoot came down on me on this very forum because I made that accusation. Many public apologies there to him and to everyone.

 

Watching the film tonight has opened my eyes even more. I still don't like the jungle chase / fight sequence, and I think there're story issues with the whole UFO thing and going down to South America, but I can appreciate the care that Kaminski put into this.

 

Wow. Incredible viewing watching those films again.

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Hey David,

 

Just wondering what you thought about the beginning of Chrystal Skull in the desert scenes? I like Janusz personally and professionally, but I thought he lost his mind in the beginning, photographically speaking. It looked like 18k's were just feet away from the actors. I wouldn't say he was trying to emulate Slocombe. He was trying to go for something else, but I don't know what.

 

Best

 

Tim

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Tim, when you watch that scene closely, I think they ran out of daylight during shooting. Maybe they didn't have a lot of time allotted for that location. The quick fix was to bring in the HMI's and flood the place, which for the opening of the movie, didn't bode well. :(

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Tim, when you watch that scene closely, I think they ran out of daylight during shooting. Maybe they didn't have a lot of time allotted for that location.

I don't think Steven Spielberg runs out of time. I think he makes a decision that what he has looks good enough, or he comes back the next day

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