Gizmodo recently paid a visit to the headquarters of the Criterion Collection as they begin the process of releasing all their movies in HD on Blu-ray.
But with that huge uptick in resolution for the consumer, Criterion is faced with a lot of problems that they didn’t have when their masters were converted to standard definition for DVD. After all, they’re often dealing with old films, created before there was fancy low-grain filmstock and digital processing. And with the technology they have today, how much restoration and processing is too much?
Really, the mission of Criterion is “trying to replicate the original experience of seeing that movie when it was first released,” according to Phillips. While they certainly have the ability to process old films until they look like they were shot on a DV cam, that’s not the goal.
It’s difficult to know if Blu-ray will actually take off as a format, given the competition from other methods of obtaining HD media (iTunes store, HD cable, etc.). It might become a niche option like the Criterion Collection itself but a welcome one all the same. We watched The Darjeeling Limited the other night on the Starz HD channel on Time Warner Cable. It was 1080p but compressed enough that if you’re paying attention, you can see artifacts, especially with fast motion. But the worst part is that Starz didn’t bother to show the film in its original aspect ratio, which, with Wes Anderson movies, is more than half of the point! They chopped off the sides to fit a 2.39:1 film into 16:9. So for fans of films that deserve to be seen as the director intended, Criterion on Blu-ray might be the only option.