I reviewed the Canadian BD for the PQ Tiers. Here were my thoughts on it from last year (http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...5#post16436575
recommendation: Tier 2.0
I have been eagerly anticipating this title on Blu-ray. An Italian Blu-ray does exist already of this movie, but I had refrained from purchasing it since it had no lossless audio soundtrack. This Canadian version was just released on May 5, 2009 by Alliance Films with a DTS-HD MA soundtrack. The 108-minute film is encoded in AVC on a BD-25 with absolutely no extras of any kind. I will estimate the average video bitrate to be 21.9 Mbps. The authoring and compression encode was performed by Juice Productions, which can be found on the web at http://www.juiceproductionsinc.com/
Most of the feature shows no major compression-related problems. But in a few moments the encode does falter. While the video encode reaches momentary peaks over 40 Mbps, most of the time it remains in the twenties. A couple of the darker scenes with point-sources of light exhibit some obvious banding and false contouring. The darkest moments also show a minor amount of macroblocking and even chroma noise. Thankfully the encode handles the grain structure of the film with ease, reproducing it without any artifacting. I will proffer a guess that using a BD-50 would have eliminated the infrequent but obvious banding on this disc. These are relatively small problems that I still felt needed to be pointed out.
The transfer of the master looks wonderful and very faithful to the original cinematic presentation of the movie. Grain looks very pleasing and natural, with absolutely zero signs that digital noise reduction or other digital tools have been used to process the master. There are no halos and the image is completely free of ringing. Even though the film is from 2006, the master appears flawless with no print damage or apparent degradation. It looks like it could have come from a new theatrical release, considering the stark cleanliness of the image. All together this is a very film-like and accurate transfer that looks even better than what I originally saw in the theater.
In my consideration the only thing keeping this Blu-ray out of tier one is the original photography and look that the director used. Certain scenes go for a stylized aesthetic that recall a period movie. Flesh tones are frequently bathed in a golden hue that reflect the lamp and candle lights of the particular setting. Flashback scenes employ a somewhat diffuse photography, with the edges of the frame appearing very soft.
Contrast is reasonably strong and the well-lit scenes are sharp. There is a remarkable sense of depth that conveys a solid sense of space, which my domestic dvd completely misses. Objects in the foreground have excellent pop and dimensionality. Watch Eisenheim as he performs his illusions to get an idea of this phenomenon. Black levels are just a bit too strong, obscuring just a small amount of the finest shadow detail and resolution. Resolution is great and excellent high-frequency information is on regular display in the various close-ups.
My placement for this title is in tier two. Some moments probably are closer in caliber and merit to tier one, but the intended look of a few scenes should drop its ranking. But this is good picture quality considering a domestic U.S. release does not appear to be coming anytime soon. Fans of the movie should be pleased with it.
Watching on a 60 Pioneer Kuro plasma at 1080p/24 fed by a PS3 (firmware 2.70) at a viewing distance of six feet.
In retrospect I was probably too easy on the compression encode, which does manifest some problems in the darker scenes. I imagine my grade now would be closer to the lower half of tier two, though that is going off memory as I sold the BD as soon as the Fox version was announced. Little did I know they would use an exact duplicate of Alliance's disc.
Here were some followup comments I made that are funny now, looking back.A higher video bitrate, or re-encoding the problematic sections, probably would have eliminated the banding problems I noted. The authoring company for The Illusionist is the same company that handled the Canadian Sin City release. I suspect the same level of improvement we saw when Disney authored their own version of Sin City over the Canadian release would be similar to the improvement one will see when Fox finally decides to release this movie in the U.S. on Blu-ray.
I do not want anyone confused though, I am completely recommending this Canadian version to fans and interested consumers right now. As long as special features are not a criterion, this is an excellent purchase. The transfer looks well-done with none of the digital manipulation that has become very common on catalog titles.