Lawrence of Arabia (2012 - 50th Anniversary Edition)
Directed by David Lean
This is a pretty extraordinary transfer... esp. when you consider what the film went through before finally making it onto your TV screen.
This film was originally shot in Super Panavision 70, which is a high resolution non-anamorphic* (ie spherical lens) widescreen 65mm film format, with an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. The cameras used to shoot the film were exceedingly heavy, and had to be lugged around often in blistering heat to remote mountain and desert locations all over the world, with a cast and crew (and horses, and camels) sometimes numbering in the thousands. The making of the film was a Herculean endeavor in itself. And according to a Sony rep: "the original negative was seriously damaged in a number of ways, some problems dating from the original release and some accumulated over the years”... which is why it's all the more remarkable that it can be enjoyed in such a high quality presentation as this today.
The film was initally scanned at 8k, then remastered at 4k, and finally scaled to 2k (1080p) for the BD release. The end result is one of the most highly detailed transfers I've seen so far on Blu-ray, probably only equalled or superseded by some of the more detailed scenes in Ben Hur. There are a few minor "imperfections" worth noting though...
Several AVSers have already commented on the subtle vertical lines or stripes of wear that can occasionally be seen in the middle of the frame in some of the desert scenes. This is touched on briefly in the BD extras. The film apparently warped in the desert heat during shooting, and rubbed against the sprockets or film gate, causing the lines. However, it sounds as though Sony made a concerted effort to minimize the appearance of that damage as much as possible during the restoration.
There is also some subtle haloing/ringing which is occasionally visible. One example is the nighttime imagery at the beginning of Chapter 8, where haloing can be seen around the edges of darkly silhouetted figures. The detail looks pretty clean though in most of the film. I was particularly impressed by how well the detail holds up during dissolves and other opticals (esp. after watching Bridge on the River Kwai, which has problems in that area).
The color and contrast also appear somewhat manipulated to me. Although the transfer often exhibits nice differentiation in hues, there are certain color tones, namely olive or beige-olive and cherry red (which are admittedly a dominant part of the film's palette due to the military uniforms) that often appear somewhat unnaturally stressed. This seems particularly apparent in the scenes in Prince Feisal's tent in Chapter 7.
Although I don't think the "tweaked" color palette always looks totally natural, imo it works pretty well aesthetically with the subject matter. And there are also very nice golds, whites, blues, oranges, greens and other hues in the picture. So the color is by no means homogeneous in appearance. The palette is somewhat limited by the subject matter as well. And the condition of the color was undoubtedly also badly degraded in the source material... so it's rather remarkable to me that the color looks as good as it does.
I think most viewers, esp. those with larger screens, will be pretty amazed by how good this film looks. And I'm very glad to have been able to add such a high-quality presentation of this film to my own movie collection. (I own the lower-cost 2-disc edition btw.)
* The Blu-ray case incorrectly lists the feature as "2.20:1 anamorphic widescreen" which is not correct, because all high-definition Blu-ray content is encoded with a 1:1 (ie square/non-anamorphic) pixel aspect, and the Super Panavision process used for the film's photography employs spherical (1:1) lenses.
Edited by ADU - 4/30/13 at 6:29pm