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Removing Grain From Classics For Blu-ray

Posted by: , 17:47 AEST, Fri May 23, 2008
Tags: HD, Movies

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Hollywood studios are using noise reduction techniques to remove grain from old movies, but will the process ruin these classics?

Following feedback from focus groups, Hollywood studios are planning to use noise reduction techniques to remove grain from classic movies. Focus groups have shown that movie viewer, at least in the United States, do not appreciate the color definition and noise found on classic movies that have been released on Blu-ray, and studios have laid the blame on film grain.

Film grain is an unescapable side effect of using film, once considered a problem, but now accepted and even manipulated as part of the filming process. and while digital shooting techniques can eliminate grain completely, many directors still choose to artificially add grain to give their movies a film like appearance. A recent film that uses intentional grain, and has been released on both Blu-ray and HD DVD without noise reduction, is the movie "300". Another movie, "Pan's Labyrinth", has had noise reduction being applied on the US version to appease viewers there (see screenshot below), to much controversy.

Digital Noise Reduction Comparison
Click on the image to see a larger version

But with the focus group results, studios may take drastic action such as using excessive noise reduction techniques to remove grain from movies, or even skipping older titles with excessive grain for release on Blu-ray. This means that classics such as "The Sound of Music" or "Ben Hur" could end up looking like they were shot yesterday on digital cameras, but question remains as to whether this improves or ruins these classics.

Certainly there are enough people that support either side of the argument, and grain removal, just like the benefits of colorizing classics such as "Casablanca", could be a debate that will rage on for quite a while yet.


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