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"Zen" on PBS Masterpiece Mystery

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
An interesting summer series on PBS, with British actors playing Italians (in Italy). AIUI, the series was dropped overseas after several episodes. First episode last Sunday had some exciting moments, with the lead detective avoiding murky Italian justice system politics. Some wild moments in mountains with Zen trying to chase down a cave-dwelling girl. The opening episode is online for a while, with a preview of the upcoming episode also at this site. Imdb.com doesn't list the production camera/method. Some mountain scenes have modest PQ, although most others seem too strongly filtered. -- John
post #2 of 19
A nice change of pace. Of course I'll watch just about anything in the Masterpiece stable. Last weeks Marple was especially well done.
post #3 of 19
I watched it last night and loved it! Lots of style and a great story line. It's a shame they are only airing 3 episodes. Hopefully there will be more to come. I'm really looking forward to the next 2 episodes.

It's hard to go wrong with Masterpiece Mystery, but I thought Zen had a nice, different feel from the rest.
post #4 of 19
The BBC aren't commissioning a secon series. Think the new BBC One channel controller thinks he has too many shows based around a male detective (Wallander, Luther, Sherlock etc.)

I kind of enjoyed Zen, but there were things that really annoyed me. Most of the dialogue was in English, but some background dialogue was in Italian. Most of the actors used normal English accents, but some had Italian accents, and the lead actress was Italian (and somewhat limited in acting ability IMO)

All felt a bit of a mish mash. The BBC Wallander took a better, or at least more consistent, approach - everyone speaking English with British accents.

Zen was beautifully shot, had a very good English cast, and a great 'look' - but if I had to chose a series not to renew, it is the one I would have chosen.

Haven't heard any rumours of another broadcaster picking it up.
post #5 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mason View Post

Imdb.com doesn't list the production camera/method. Some mountain scenes have modest PQ, although most others seem too strongly filtered. -- John

Zen was shot with RED cameras, as were the BBC Wallanders (and the second series of the TV4 Wallanders AIUI), also made by the same company.

Zen and the BBC Wallanders were both produced or co-produced by the British production company 'Left Bank Pictures'.

Interestingly the BBC and TV4 Wallanders were also produced or co-produced with the Swedish 'Yellow Bird' production company, who decided to switch their TV4 Wallander series from Super 16 to RED after their experience using RED on the first series of BBC Wallanders (as the BBC wouldn't commission HD content shot on Super 16)

Zen was pretty agressively graded, to give it a very distinctive look, using a Quantel Pablo.
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomhunter8 View Post
i watched it last night and loved it! Lots of style and a great story line. It's a shame they are only airing 3 episodes. Hopefully there will be more to come. I'm really looking forward to the next 2 episodes.

It's hard to go wrong with masterpiece mystery, but i thought zen had a nice, different feel from the rest.
+1!
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sneals2000 View Post

Zen was shot with RED cameras, as were the BBC Wallanders (and the second series of the TV4 Wallanders AIUI), also made by the same company.

Zen and the BBC Wallanders were both produced or co-produced by the British production company 'Left Bank Pictures'.

Interestingly the BBC and TV4 Wallanders were also produced or co-produced with the Swedish 'Yellow Bird' production company, who decided to switch the TV4 Wallander series from Super 16 to RED after their experience with the first series of BBC Wallanders which used RED (as the BBC wouldn't commission HD content shot on Super 16)

Zen was pretty agressively graded, to give it a very distinctive look, using a Quantel Pablo.

Thanks. The reduced contrast made be think of early REDs, although despite all the hoopla at Red.Net about newer Red firmware/software for enhanced contrast , can't say I've noticed improvements in actual productions. At times with Zen's opening episode I wondered if it was a SD version delivered at 1080i by my local PBS station. Watched the RED-shot "The Social Network," about Facebook's entrepreneurs, on a premium channel last week; seemed mediocre PQ-wise, but nothing like Zen. If the goal for 'aggressive grading' on a Qualtel Pablo was the appearance of a poor-quality print telecine, they succeeded--maybe in combination with whatever filters were put on cameras. .

By contrast, just finished re-watching my Blu-ray of the 1995, 16mm-shot "Pride and Prejudice," (BBC/A&E) telecined from the original negatives. The remarkably good PQ is hinted at in a sublink here , comparing print versus negative telecines, within the AVS P&P thread.. The colorist shown in the link and a featurette on the Blu-ray also mentions that some of what appears like grain is actually the result of mechanical film stretching in telecines. And while the P&P '09 Blu-ray might be ~25 Mbps (AVC) versus, say, 15 Mbps (MPEG-2) or less for U.S. drama broadcasts, the negative copying appears to be the key factor for the vast PQ improvement, not just the encoder/bitrate differences. The P&P colorist seemed enthusiastic about potential Blu-rays using the same process, dusting off film negatives from earlier period dramas, but not sure that has taken place several years later. -- John
post #8 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by John Mason View Post

Thanks. The reduced contrast made be think of early REDs, although despite all the hoopla at Red.Net about newer Red firmware/software for enhanced contrast , can't say I've noticed improvements in actual productions. At times with Zen's opening episode I wondered if it was a SD version delivered at 1080i by my local PBS station. Watched the RED-shot "The Social Network," about Facebook's entrepreneurs, on a premium channel last week; seemed mediocre PQ-wise, but nothing like Zen. If the goal for 'aggressive grading' on a Qualtel Pablo was the appearance of a poor-quality print telecine, they succeeded--maybe in combination with whatever filters were put on cameras. .

I think that the team behind 'Zen' wanted to achieve a retro kind of look, with a softness and a colour balance that hinted back to the 60s. I think they kind of achieved it. The look they achieved was one of the things I liked most about Zen (along with the music). (Unlike some of the acting...)

It always looked HD here in the UK. It may have had a softness, but it was an HD softness, not an SD softness. (HD capture of filters looks nicer than the same content captured SD IMHO)

Quote:


By contrast, just finished re-watching my Blu-ray of the 1995, 16mm-shot "Pride and Prejudice," (BBC/A&E) telecined from the original negatives. The remarkably good PQ is hinted at in a sublink here , comparing print versus negative telecines, within the AVS P&P thread.. The colorist shown in the link and a featurette on the Blu-ray also mentions that some of what appears like grain is actually the result of mechanical film stretching in telecines. And while the P&P '09 Blu-ray might be ~25 Mbps (AVC) versus, say, 15 Mbps (MPEG-2) or less for U.S. drama broadcasts, the negative copying appears to be the key factor for the vast PQ improvement, not just the encoder/bitrate differences. The P&P colorist seemed enthusiastic about potential Blu-rays using the same process, dusting off film negatives from earlier period dramas, but not sure that has taken place several years later. -- John

I have the BBC Blu-ray of P&P. It's nice - but I wasn't blown away. P&P has quite a flat 90s BBC film drama look, and they've done a great job with the source material they have, and it certainly gives hope to further HD Super 16 originated drama releases (though if they were TKed SD and edited SD then the costs of re-mastering AND re-editing in the HD domain will probably only lend themselves to big selling releases that justify the remastering costs)

Watching it side-by-side with a RED-shot Wallander Blu-ray does show up the short comings of the Super 16 source material.
post #9 of 19
I enjoyed this as well but agree with others that almost anything on Masterpiece is enjoyable. I am looking forward to the next two episodes, but I'm very glad to see that there are more Inspector Lewis episodes coming up.

SMK
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
Quote:


Johnny Worricker (Nighy) is a long-serving M15 officer. His boss and best friend, Benedict Baron (Gambon), dies suddenly, leaving behind him an inexplicable file which threatens the stability of the organization.

Meanwhile, a seemingly chance encounter with Johnny's striking next-door neighbor and political activist, Nancy Pierpan (Weisz), seems too good to be true. Johnny is forced to walk out of his job and then out of his identity to find out the truth.

This spy drama, shot for the BBC, is slated for 11/6 on PBS Masterpiece Theater. (Appended here rather than a separate thread.) An article in hdusermagazine , starting p20, details why the cinematographer preferred shooting with Arri's Alexa digital cameras and his efforts getting approval for anamorphic production (optically compressing camera shots). -- John
post #11 of 19
Thread Starter 
Zen: Cabal, second in the series, is now online along with the intro. Wish PBS had an on-demand cable channel like other networks and premiums. The PQ seemed better in Cabal, although really need to watch the intro again for a better comparison. Within Cabal, bright daylight scenes in Rome sometimes over-drove parts of RED-shot images, fuzzing them, although that happens with other single-chip digital cameras like Arri's Alexa--or multichip hardware during sports broadcasts.

PBS's site has several <2-min shorts outlining the characters and novel adaptations. The mysterious cabal, said to be murdering folks, is once dismissed as non-existent, then seemingly resurrected by a chauffeured church official in his car. Zen, touted for his honesty, again gains a benefit from his work solving an apparent suicide, just as he claimed a 'payment' by preventing budget cuts in the first episode. -- John
post #12 of 19
I accidentally bumped into this one when I saw the title "Zen" which is actually the name of a Venetian detective, and nothing to do w/ Budhism. I love the Italian background shots and the leading lady (from 007 Casino Royale, sexy and sultry). Of the 3, I like Ratking the best, w/ its twist and turn, and how Zen survived the impossible. Hope there will be more.
post #13 of 19
This is a FANTASTIC series. Unfortunately they only made 3 episodes and then dropped it.
post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by tomhunter8 View Post

This is a FANTASTIC series. Unfortunately they only made 3 episodes and then dropped it.

Agreed +1
post #15 of 19
The show improved with each episode I thought. Hopefully there will be more. Got 8 novels to go!
post #16 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by lonwolf615 View Post

The show improved with each episode I thought. Hopefully there will be more. Got 8 novels to go!

I read reports that Masterpiece bowed out after the initial three episodes, so "more" seems out of the question.
post #17 of 19
Liked the fact it was in Italy. At best it was OK. Did not care for the lead actor. Italian?
post #18 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by philw1776 View Post

Liked the fact it was in Italy. At best it was OK. Did not care for the lead actor. Italian?

Rufus Sewell is English. He's done a lot of good work. A favorite of mine is his 1998 film Dark City. A film so loved by critic Roger Ebert he agreed to record the full length commentary on the DVD.
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Garrett Adams View Post

Rufus Sewell is English. He's done a lot of good work. A favorite of mine is his 1998 film Dark City. A film so loved by critic Roger Ebert he agreed to record the full length commentary on the DVD.

Ah! I knew I knew him from somewheres but couldn't place it.
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