Raiders of the Lost Ark (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 9 Old 12-12-2013, 06:39 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109939&d=1210373637

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )

Studio and Year: Paramount - 1981
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 118 minutes
Genre: Action/Adventure

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French/Spanish/Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Harrison Ford , Karen Allen , Paul Freeman , Denholm Elliott , Anthony Higgins , Wolf Kahler , Ronald Lacey , Frank Marshall , Alfred Molina , Vic Tablian , Jonathan Meyers
Directed by: Steven Spielberg
Music by: John Williams
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: December 17, 2013

"The adventure begins…"

Film Synopsis:

Get ready for edge-of-your-seat thrills in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy (Harrison Ford) and his feisty ex-flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) dodge booby-traps, fight Nazis and stare down snakes in their incredible worldwide quest for the mystical Ark of the Covenant. Experience one exciting cliffhanger after another when you discover adventure with the one and only Indiana Jones.

My Take:

I reviewed Raiders of the lost Ark as part of the Indiana Jones: The complete adventures Blu-ray release back in 2012. For the first time, each of the first three films is being offered separately on Blu-ray. Otherwise these are the same releases that were included as part of the collection. Below I have included comments as well as audio/video ratings from my earlier review.

I remember my father took me to see Raiders of the lost Ark at the theater when it came out in 1981. My parents divorced when I was seven and Raiders was the first movie he and I saw together. It was a special event all around and I was immediately a fan. For him it reminded him of the serials he used to see at the movies when he was a boy and for me it represented something I really hadn’t experienced in a film to that point. I knew Harrison Ford from Star Wars but heroes for me either had laser pistols, superpowers or rode horses and carried six shooters. As I watched Raiders I couldn’t help but feel that Indiana Jones was larger than life and in many ways fit the aforementioned hero bill (less the laser pistols of course).

Raiders of the lost Ark was swashbuckling action/adventure, with superbly integrated moments of humor that left people laughing and cheering in the theater. Indiana Jones became and iconic figure that redefined the onscreen hero for a generation.

Here is the link to my review of Indiana Jones: The complete Collection:

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures Official AVS Review

Parental Guide:

The rating’s are for action adventure violence and scary images.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

Audio: 82

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373699

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Video: 84

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373692

Raiders of the lost Ark comes to Blu-ray Disc featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 30 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.1 Mbps.

The opening of this film on home video has always been odd looking and that holds true here as well with mildly crushed blacks and uneven contrast. As a whole the presentation boasts clean, well depicted colors and a pleasing palette of secondary hues that mate well with the period specific source material. Resolution is definable with varying degrees of fine rendering that appear scene dependent. Sharpness wavers, which results in some scenes offering discernable clarity while others are noticeably lacking well defined edges and delineated detail. This is probably my biggest complaint and the first thing that jumped out at me. I loaded up the 2003 DVD and while the high definition image is clearly superior the differences in many instances isn’t a dramatic as you would expect. I also noticed a handful of scenes where the image appeared somewhat compressed or processed looking. The first example came in the opening segment just after Belog obtains the idol from Indy and holds it up in the air (just after Indy scampers off and he gives the order to kill him). The image becomes dark, overtly grainy and flat. It can be seen again later, to a lesser degree, just as Marcus’ car pulls up in front of Indy’s house.

Blacks are rich and white levels are evenly balanced which gives a fair amount of pop to colors and brighter exterior sequences while darker/low lit segments exhibit excellent dynamic range with visible gradational detail in backgrounds. Grain is present with moderate texture that imparts a filmic quality. While it is evident that the film has been touched up I didn’t see any overt signs that its effects compromised the integrity of the film’s elements although quite frankly there isn’t a way to be certain unless comparing to the original master. I didn’t see any video related noise or distracting artifacts. I must admit that I had higher expectations for Raiders especially in light of the restoration taken from a 4k scan of the original negative. Perhaps this is exactly how it looks and the best we can hope for. There is no doubt that I have never seen it look better in the home environment but comparing it to Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade makes the difference quite obvious.

The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 channel soundtrack is presented in a robust surround mix that makes ample use of the entire platform. Dialogue is clearly rendered although there are instances where prioritization is questionable. I suspect that that is a limitation of the original recording and I would rather have it sound natural than artificially enhanced and hokey. The soundstage opens up when called for as the various sounds/effects emanate from the rear channels to create an enveloping listening experience that is led primarily by John Williams magnificent music score. The volume of the rear channels is mixed a little hot which affects the transition between the front/rear soundstages. Considering the age of this recording I was impressed with its dynamic range as low frequency effects have fair solidity and impact. Overall I enjoyed this new surround sound mix and thought that it preserved the essence of the original recording.

Bonus Features:

  • (HD) Teaser, Theatrical & Re-issue trailers

  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Indiana Jones needs little introduction and has thrilled fans the world over since his introduction in 1981. The creative collaboration of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas treated us to a swashbuckling action/adventure hero that entertained a new generation. In my humble opinion Raiders of the Lost Ark is the series crowing achievement, but no matter which is your favorite there is no question that we have all impatiently waited for the Indiana Jones films to come to Blu-ray.

I am a bit disappointed in the video quality of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Director Steven Spielberg oversaw its restoration so I guess we will have to assume that what we see is what he intended. I am not sure if that will be consolation to those hoping for reference quality video but truth be told this is the best it has looked since coming to home video. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix compliments the film with John Williams’ memorable music featured center stage. Unfortunately the barebones supplemental offering consists only of a trio of trailers but a digital copy is included. If bonus features are important to you then I would recommend picking the aforementioned Indiana Jones: The complete adventures.

Having the option to pick up the Indiana Jones films separately is perfect for fans that may not care to own all of them. The content contained here is identical to that in the previous release so if you have the set you’re good to go.


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS55 3D Ready 1080p High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6 Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8801 11.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies - 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player (With Darbee video processing)
Panasonic DMP-BDT310 3D capable Blu-ray Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player (HDMI Audio/Video)
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" Series speakers
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SV Sound PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
APC AV S15BLK Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
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post #2 of 9 Old 12-13-2013, 07:12 AM
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One of my favorite movies ever.

Thanks for the review Ralph.

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post #3 of 9 Old 12-14-2013, 07:22 PM
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Thanks for your excellent review (as usual) on this, Ralph. I haven't been too impressed by the HD transfers I've seen of some of Spielberg's older films so far, and have been holding out for a standalone version of this film. So I'll be curious to see how it looks... warts and all.

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post #4 of 9 Old 12-23-2013, 02:16 PM
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I own the first three indy movies on DVD as part of the 2003 looks and sounds ok. Raiders looks decent and judging from watching HD footage of raiders it looks like a modern day transfer. The trailers for Raiders are the same ones on the 2003 extras, but in HD. For the 2003 reissue, Lowry added new digital enhancements while keeping the film intact.
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post #5 of 9 Old 01-02-2014, 06:39 PM
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The sound on this is quiet a bit better then the DVD was, especially the score ,which sounded screechy compared to this release. Bass also improved, as it's sounds more balanced compared to the DVD's boom'y presentation.

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post #6 of 9 Old 01-21-2014, 01:00 AM
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I worked at a large single screen premier cinema (an old single auditorium) that played "Raiders..." in 70MM for six loooong months, 5 shows a day from June to early September and then 4 shows a day, so I now this film very, very well. It's burned into my brain, permanently!
I just picked up the blu ray (don't ask why! - nostalgia I guess) and have a few observations. First, I haven't seen the DVD, the last time I looked at the film was on VHS probably 20 years ago. Compared to the 70MM blowup on a very large and well calibrated screen using carbon arcs (no xenon bulbs at that time there) I see that a fine layer of almost sepia has been laid down over much of the film - that was never there in it's theatrical release, presumably to give the film an "aged" look of the time it takes place. I noticed it mostly on indoor/darker shots, most of the bright day scenes pretty much seem as I remember. The colour has also been pushed in many scenes, such as the opening scene in the cave. Previously the green moss on the cave walls was never prominent in the picture, but it is on the blu ray. Other scenes are as they were originally seen but with more detail thanks to the medium. None of this is bad, but it's not as it originally was, visually. The six channel mix was extremely dynamic for it's time and still holds up well today. Some sound effects have been enhanced, others are just as they should be and even the score has been boosted in some action scenes to a level I thought was really unnecessary. The surround track wasn't all that active, it was mostly used to enhance music and used sparingly for discrete sounds, such as in the jungle at the beginning, thunder and lightening bursts and such. Mostly the sound design is very similar to the 70MM 6-track version with noted exceptions and a few others but it's a fine mix on the blu ray. I picked up some shifts for extra money in the fall at other cinemas and saw it elsewhere in both 35MM & 70MM and the observations remain the same for 70MM, 35MM was far inferior even on a smaller screen, in fact it practically seemed unwatchable to me (spoiled by the 70MM presentations I'd seen so many, many times) and it was in mono.
So I'm not complaining about the transfer, but changes were made to both the picture and the audio. I have mixed feelings on changing the look of the picture, I'm good with pretty much the same sound design that was somewhat enhanced for the blu ray.
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post #7 of 9 Old 01-27-2014, 04:26 PM
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Very nice post, laserboy29.


I finally had a chance to give this a look on a new 50" Panasonic plasma I'm checking out. And by and large, I agree with both your and Ralph's assessments of the picture and audio quality. I thought the soundtrack was quite good, and appropriately over-the-top for this film.


IMO, the biggest problem with this video transfer is the elevated, and somewhat inconsistent blacks.


Ralph mentioned a couple scenes in his review where he felt the blacks looked crushed and "dark, overtly grainy and flat". There's a fairly glaring example of this at ~2:53. Some or all of that "flatness" may be by design. This is a rather noir-ish film after all. So you'd expect it to have pretty bold shadows, and plenty of chiaroscuro. However, that noir-ish effect is being badly undermined by the generally elevated levels of the blacks in the transfer.


Fortunately there's a fairly easy fix for that problem. All you have to do is reduce the black levels on the TV (usually labeled "Brightness" in the picture controls) until the scenes with crushed/elevated blacks match the darkness of the black bars above and below the picture. After making that adjustment, the color and contrast on the film looked much better to me, and the fleshtones also had a far less "muddy" appearance.


I had forgotten what a fantastic film this was, with so many great set pieces. Such an enjoyable film to watch again (after a little picture adjustment). Lucas and Spielberg really were at the top of their game when they made this.


EDIT: I would test the black level settings with several different scenes btw, because the levels on this are not consistent throughout the entire film.

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post #8 of 9 Old 04-06-2015, 05:31 AM
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To my eyes, Raiders of the Lost Ark looks like crap.
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post #9 of 9 Old 04-06-2015, 06:19 AM
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Originally Posted by JoeyW View Post
To my eyes, Raiders of the Lost Ark looks like crap.
Thanks for resurrecting this thread with your nuanced insights.
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Indiana Jones Raiders Of The Lost Ark Blu Ray

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