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Forum Topic: Should ‘old’ movies get HDR releases?

One forum member thinks the format is currently not worth the hype or bother

by Mark Hodgkinson Jul 5, 2017 at 8:07 AM

  • This argument has been kicking around since HDR was first suggested says long standing AVF member Pecker, who contends that old films were 'not shot for HDR'.
    I'm perhaps not knowledgeable about the precise terms to articulate the argument myself, says Pecker, so he'll quote Robert A Harris. To clarify the term old films, Pecker is talking about 35mm/70mm films, and quite a few digitally shot films.

    For those who are unaware, Harris has been responsible for a number of film restorations over the years, starting with the job of simply restoring film for archive film and presentation purposes, but then also for moving these works onto other media starting with LaserDisc, then moving on to DVD, and finally Blu-ray Disc. He's restored Hitchcock's Vertigo, Coppola's Godfather Trilogy, Lean's Lawrence of Arabia, and Kubrick's Spartacus. The master analogue (film) elements and digital masters were largely restored and created by him; whenever you watch a restored print of The Godfather, or view it on Blu-ray Disc, it's his restoration you're seeing, from film cell to digital pixel.

    Harris says:

    “There seems to be a misunderstanding, at least in online discussions, as to what HDR (High Dynamic Range) actually is... and might not be.

    It is NOT an inherent part of the 4K UHD package.

    It is in no way necessary toward the enjoyment of 4K, either in the home, or elsewhere.

    HDR is an option, much like ordering a different kind of leather of fabric for your new car's interior.

    It's nothing new -- been around for years.

    If generally NOT a part of the design of a film, with most HDR entering the picture, no pun intended, during post., e.g. "Wouldn't it look neat if those flames were really bright orange..."

    It's added the same way that 3D is added in post, to the majority of 3D productions.

    It has no relevance to production photography.

    It should not be included as a function for classic films, unless the filmmakers have a desire to re-visit, and create a new version, a re-imagining.

    It will not work well with most classic films, and can be problematic to those that have needed restoration based upon fade.

    Want to see 2001, or Lawrence, Ben-Hur, The Godfather, The Magnificent Seven, or Elvira Madigan in 4K?

    No problem.

    We're ready for it, and there's no reason why those films can't be released, except those which don't fit on the current sized discs.

    And NONE of them should be released with HDR.

    Every UHD release does NOT need HDR, nor should they have it.

    If we can clear the airwaves of mis and dis-information regarding HDR, things would be easier."

    A more damning criticism of applying HDR to older films, Pecker cannot imagine. A more knowledgeable or reputable source, it's difficult to find, he also says

    Pecker wanted to raise the topic as we also have a thread here about Blade Runner, and he doesn’t doubt there'll be more 'premium' titles given the HDR treatment in the near future. Now whether these will be given an HDR 'remix' is not yet clear. But it's a factor which he thinks we all need to be aware of, before automatically swooning over the possibility.

    Pecker goes on to day that, in most cases, the increased resolution of 4K compared to 1080p will be negligible on the best displays at anything like a normal seating distance, and invisible on many.

    While trying to kill the mood further, Pecker reckons that the increased colour space, whilst visible, will not be worth the substantial extra cost for most. Ask yourself this, when was the last time you came home from the cinema, turned on your TV, and noticed any difference in the colour gamut on offer?

    Despite his negativity, Pecker states that he’s not anti-UHD. To be absolutely clear, he says, if a film is shot in 4K with plenty of extra detail, using the full colour range on offer, and in HDR (and with an HDR presentation in mind), and you have a large display at a reasonably close seating distance, then a UHD viewing will be closer to what the film-makers wanted you to see.

    But, to bring the optimism levels down again, that's a tiny, almost imperceptibly small number of films in the great scheme of things.

    So, is Pecker right – is this whole UHD HDR thing mostly just a waste of time?

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