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Perhaps I am too late offering my opinions about Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: a space odyssey, but it took me a long time to check the recent Warner's DVD release in several systems. I've seen 2001 upteen times on video from the several several versions that are available, including the costly Criterion LD boxed set and MGM's DVD, and all exhibit many ugly visual flaws, flaws that I hoped Warner's new release would cure. I believe they did it to a great degree! Anyway, for whatever is worth...here it is...
I tackled the "reviewing" of 2001 in purely technical terms. Thus I let the more knowledgeable movie "critics" give their point of view about just what was that Kubrick had in mind when he created his epic sci-fi masterpiece.
Yet one thing is certain: the special effects used in this sci-fi epic indeed set a benchmark of superb technical achievement, one that have been hardly matched, let alone surpassed. Indeed film directors like Lucas wound up borrowing heavily from 2001 to produce their own brand of sci-fi movies.
In the final anlysis, 2001: a space odyssey posses a character that doesn't seem to diminish as time goes by; it remains ageless...
Finally, Kubrick's masterpiece has received full justice! Coloration exhibited by the new DVD has tremendous depth and density. No matter what system I used to watch it, all showed a colimetry that is highly reminiscent of the 70mm presentation when I first saw 2001 early in 1969 at a very large cinema theater in San Diego.
Coloration runs the gamut, and colors are incredibly solid with nary a smear; no bleeding here! This help increasing a sense of 3-D perception. Indeed, the reds of the chairs in the lunch room at the space station (chapter 5, minute 27) have finally stopped bleeding! Every preceding video transfer I own exhibits this most visibly horrible problem. Not on the new DVD! Simply dazzling.
Black Level and Contrast...
The ratio between black level and contrast dynamics is superb; much detail can be seen even on very darkly lit scenes (star fields, the monolith's resting place, etc.). Blacks don't become crushed and absorb detail, while constrast has a very wide dynamic range. This help increase film-like, 3-D conditions.
But be forewarned that in order to benefit from these parameters display devices MUST be properly, globally calibrated. Even better, have your sets professionally calibrated to exact NTSC standards (as much a set will allow it anyway).
The video image is very sharp looking and solid as a rock. Detail is high and extremely film-like. Only a higher resolution format would be able to surpass the quality offered by this NTSC transfer (which causes me to wonder just how much better would a PAL version be. Exploring that one will come next!).
The image doesn't seem to suffer much by being projected on a large screen (a 10 foot wide image on my 12 foot wide scope screen) as it remains pretty much like those images shown by smaller systems, which is great news as larger screen sizes does indeed increases personal involvement.
The letterboxed (downconversion) aspect ratio is around 2:21:1, which is about right since the source proceeds from 70mm (65mm) film elements (the movie was photographed in Super-Panavision 70mm).
The anomorphic image appear to be a bit less wide but I won't sweat it at all; it still lies within reasonable limits of spherical 70mm film photography.
There are no digital artifacts that I could detect. Other than very -and I mean very- slight shimmering momentarily occurring in certain areas of the movie primarily when viewed downconverted letterbox via an Mpact2 "DIVA" equipped PC, the anomorphic enhanced image is totally free of any digital artifacts. This was true even when the image was amplified to match the height of the 12' scope screen; none became evident. That goes for the MPact2 processor when set to run anomorphic widescreen rather than downconverted letterbox as well.
Can I now claim this to be another reference DVD? Nope...not quite, and this is why: EDGE ENHANCEMENT. Yup, that obnoxious, pesky problem rear its ugly head once again to mess things up! Although EE was lightly applied, it can begin to be detected on 36" TV sets (I certainly could see it on my WEGA 36" set from a distance of 10 feet. Not enough to mess viewing pleasure too much, but was there nonetheless). It worsens somewhat as screen size increases.
Even a 15" PC monitor shows it when viewed about a foot from the screen. Yet further out and it becomes inconsequential. But who watch movies on 15" sets anyway?
I wish I could say the same for the image shown on the scope screen; on brightly lit scenes the EE can most definitely be seen. Darker lit scenes fare much better as EE becomes nearly invisible. The amount of EE isn't present to the same degree Lawrence Of Arabia and other recent releases suffer from, but it is there. Damn! I wish it wasn't.
This is the one single factor that stops me from declaring the new Kubrick Collection's 2001: a space odyssey from being a true video reference.
The soundtrack was also reworked, and on chapter 29 (the "psyche-a-delic" scene) bass has a very low end reach and high amplitude character. It sure caused my SVS 46/16 subwoofer octet to work far more than it has recently!
Just don't expect the sort of dazzling sonic displays heard from modern soundtracks, though.
Surround sound activity is sparsely present but it is well balanced when pressed into action. Not bad for a late 60's film!
There is no doubt that Warner's 2001 is the best I've ever seen this film look on video. Although this NTSC transfer may lack the higher resolution other formats provide, this is as good as it gets for the here and now. And if it wasn't because of the amount of visible edge enhancement I most surely would proclaim it to be a new reference DVD.
Even so -and with the caveats mentioned above- it is the version to own and add to one's movie collection.
Try it...you'll like it!!!
[This message has been edited by Frank J Manrique (edited 07-10-2001).]