Entertainment Quantified

Jul 6, 2007 - Film

High Definition and Director's Intent

DJ and I just had a brief discussion about the visual quality of movies that have been transferred to HD-DVD. Specifically he was asking about movies that were filmed in 16mm that have a lot of film grain. He said he read some reviews that pointed out how poor these movies looked when re-mastered for HD-DVD.

My opinion on the matter is that many of the reviewers that I’ve read online do not take into account what was the director’s intent (or cinematographer’s intent, or director or photography, but I’m just going to jumble them all into the director category because it’s one word). Please do not get me wrong. online reviewers like the ones at High-Def Digest does a phenomenal job of reviewing all HD-DVD’s that are released. They even admit that they “make pains to not detract” based on film makers stylistic choices, but they are reviewing the quality of HD-DVD and that means that they don’t want to see film grain or over exposed film.

I think that the director’s intent is the most important thing in the movie. If you look at the movie Serenity on HD-DVD you can clearly see the film grain in the live action shots, but the space CG shots are clean and pristine. I believe that if I were to ask Joss Whedon (writer/director of Serenity) he would agree that this was a style choice to contrast between the (forgive the expression) spaghetti-western-ness of the live action portions and the hard-core Sci-Fi of the computer graphics section. Granted I don’t personally know Mr. Whedon, but this is the way I interpret what I see on the screen. It invoked a feeling and set a mood that I think enhanced the movie.

This “invoking of feelings” and “setting of moods” is something that I find hard to get across when I am reviewing a movie. However, because I think that film grain is a conscious choice that the director makes when building a story, I will never detract someone from the HD-DVD version of a movie because of it. I may comment on it, but that is because I find it fascinating that with a high definition medium we can now forgo the movie going experience and have that experience in our own living rooms.