There's a very interesting discussion going on over on Hollywood Elsewhere today about whether studios re-releasing older movies on Blu-ray are going too far in tweaking the originals to make them look "better." At the center of the discussion is the Dirty Harry Blu-ray DVD. Glenn Erickson, writing for film.com, points out that the Patton Blu-ray DVD was "enhanced to minimize the natural grain," but that in that case, the altering makes it look more like the theatrical 70mm presentation, so he doesn't take issue with that one. The Dirty Harry Blu-ray, however, Erickson considers "more complicated." He notes:
"The Blu-ray disc shows heavy tweaking to minimize grain, sharpen contrast and brighten colors. Sunny exteriors haven't changed much but heavy processing has given most night shots an almost unnatural look -- detail and bright color in what were once dimly lit areas, with everything else falling into inky blackness. "
Jeff Wells doesn't have a problem with this -- if it makes Dirty Harry look better, who cares? But in the discussion thread on the post, folks are getting down into the nitty-gritty of the issue: studios doing digital remastering for Blu-ray transfers, sometimes without consulting the cinematographer as to why scenes where shot as they were. HE commenter TheVicuna links to an excellent interview at cameraguild.com, the website for the International Cinematographer's Guild, with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond; in part of the interview, he talks about the DVD transfer of Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, for which he was not called in to supervise the transfer; the resulting transfer, Zsigmond says in the interview, was "terrible."
Zsigmond also notes during the interview that, "They didn't know that The Long Goodbye was flashed, so they took all the flashing out of the movie, and made it very contrasty and dark like some movies are today. I volunteered to supervise a new transfer. I must say the people involved did everything necessary to produce the best possible transfer. This is a very important issue for all of us."
This is an important issue as more older movies are transferred to DVD and, especially, Blu-ray. I've not yet invested in a Blu-ray player -- we don't have a spiffy, expensive home entertainment center yet, and it's seemed up to now to be an extravagance we don't need at the moment -- but I may get into it in the future. I'm not sure, though, how I feel about my favorite older movies being messed with; I want to see the vision of the director and cinematographer, not what a guy doing digital enhancing on his computer thinks a film should look like. No doubt, though, many of you folks have already gotten into Blu-ray, so I'd like to hear what you think about the issue.
If you've seen the Dirty Harry Blu-ray, what are your thoughts on how it's been enhanced? Do you like the original, grainy, sometimes-out-of-focus Harry, or the spiffy, shiny, digitally enhanced Harry? And just how much tweaking do you want studios to do for Blu-ray transfers, in the name of enhancing the movies you already know and love?