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    Default Warner Goes Big, and Small for Blu-ray

    Warner Goes Big, and Small for Blu-ray
    26 Jul, 2012
    By: Chris Tribbey



    Warner Home Video has made Blu-ray Disc collector’s editions for famous films an art form.

    Beyond the physical extras — including books with rare photos and production art — the studio painstakingly restores and remasters the content for high-def, seeks out added content to include with the sets and creates new bonus features.

    “[Blu-ray] has given us a reason to go back and rediscover material that otherwise we would never be looking for or presenting to the consumer,” said Jeff Baker, EVP and GM of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video, speaking July 26 during a roundtable discussion with the Blu-ray Disc Association. “We want to put as much time and effort into creating a package that’s compelling, because we don’t know when the next opportunity will be.”

    But just because the studio puts so much effort into collector’s boxed sets, it doesn’t mean Warner isn’t keeping an eye on the budget Blu-ray business as well.

    In the past 12 months the studio has seen a “significant” uptake on consumer purchases of lower-priced Blu-rays, according to Jeff Baker.

    “In the under $10 retail segment of consumer purchases for Blu-ray in 2011, 15% of the business was under $10 purchases,” he said. “We’re estimating this year 35% of the business will be in the under $10 segment. So consumers are saying, if we can get the price down low enough, they do want to replace their DVD library with Blu-ray films.”

    Speaking with Andy Parsons, SVP of corporate communications for Pioneer Electronics and chair of the BDA promotion committee in the United States, and Ned Price, VP of mastering for Warner Bros. Technical Operations, Baker also gave a hint at what consumers can expect in 2013 when Warner turns 90.

    “We’re going to be converting a lot of films to Blu-ray next year, including five best picture winners that have never been on Blu-ray,” he said.

    Here’s a selection of the Q&A portion of the roundtable:

    Q: Could you please talk about new techniques that Warner has been experimenting with to extract images from older films such as Red Dust, Test Pilot and A Guy Named Joe that have damaged elements?

    Price: One of our largest challenges is creating algorithms to correct density fluctuations from photo chemical processing of the films. Density pulsation also occurs in color film as a result of dye fading. We loose density in the negative as well as color layer. The emulsion layers of a color negative deteriorate unevenly which creates color pulsation as well as density flicker.

    Q: Warner has been looking at 3D tests for The Wizard of Oz for years. Are you encouraged this will be going forward in the near future?

    Baker: We are testing many films while watching consumer interest and demand from theatrical exhibition to the home on 3D. Conversion costs from 2D to 3D are quite high ($4 million to $6 million). Until they come down further it will continue to be a deterrent in our converting library films to 3D.

    Q: It's been a long time since we've heard anything regarding Blu-ray and managed copy. Can you offer any update on the feature?

    Parsons: We are hearing that AACS, the entity that is responsible for implementing managed copy, should be launching the capability soon. In the meantime, a great aspect of Blu-ray is that many titles are being offered in combo packs that include a DVD and "digital extensions" such as digital copy and UltraViolet that allow us to extend our home theater experience to other locations such as an airplane seat or hotel room or anyplace we want to watch movies.

    Q: When looking at the enhanced content aspect of your releases, what do you generally look for? Do you use outside archival sources or is it primarily internal as in the case with Ben-Hur?

    Baker: We first look internally to mine assets. However, in the case of Ben-Hur and other films, we have gone to third parties to help us source and or develop assets.

    Q: Are there any plans to start releasing Warner Archive titles on Blu-ray? And is there ever a time when you released a film on Blu-ray that may not have had the monetary stats to back up its release because Warner felt it was important? Is financial feasibility more important to a release than the film's impact on film history?

    Baker: We are not yet ready to convert archive titles to BD. We are hopeful that more economically viable tools in the near future will make this possible. Yes, I have green-lit numerous conversions to Blu-ray that did not meet short-term financial thresholds, and we will continue to. We believe that the long-term growth in Blu-ray will provide adequate ROI in the future.

    Q: Can you tell me why some movies such as Blade Runner are given multiple releases while other classics fail to get one?

    Baker: Sometimes it's based on consumer inquiries and demand; other times it's based on finding new materials. In the case of The Exorcist, we released it on Blu-ray in 2010 (37 years old), we have plans although it has not been announced, to re-release The Exorcist in 2013 with new extra content. I cannot disclose what it is, but it's rich.

    Q: To what extent is your selection to preserve or restore library titles filmmaker-driven (for example, the recent efforts with End of the Road, which were spearheaded by Steven Soderbergh)?

    Price: We approach library preservation from two angles. Preservation work is primarily motivated and funded on behalf of the corporation. Title selection is based on physical condition of materials, rather than the current popularity of a title. The corporate preservation efforts are not motivated by sales. However, the results of our corporate preservation efforts are made available for sales division use. Sales-driven requests often initiate preservation as well as restoration, as was the case for End of the Road. We often have filmmakers championing films that have influenced their work, so that it's made available to the next generation of developing filmmakers.

    Q: What would you say to the argument that Blu-ray is simply another phase in the format world and soon we won’t have the need for physical items as everything will be avail via cloud technology?

    Parsons: We think that Blu-ray and online distribution serve different needs, with Blu-ray offering the best possible HD picture and sound due to its very high capacity and bandwidth — it has roughly 10 times the data transfer rate as the average U.S. broadband connection. This makes it ideal for big-screen home theater viewing. Streaming, on the other hand, is great for casual viewing of content on smaller screens or handheld devices such as tablets or smartphones. Also, since content tends to come and go from streaming services, your copy of a Blu-ray title will always be available to you. We believe Blu-ray sits, and will continue to sit, at the center of home entertainment for quite some time. Digital extensions such as digital copy or Ultraviolet enable Blu-ray collectors to extend their content library to their mobile devices. And, a connected Blu-ray player not only plays CDs, DVDs, BDs, 3D Blu-ray and BD Recordable, but also serves as a gateway to streamed content. It's not really a zero sum game — physical media and online distribution can and will coexist for many years to come.

    Q: I know the Blu-ray format keeps adding new features. Can you tell us what we can expect in the future?

    Parsons: We are always keeping an eye on new developments in theatrical and home entertainment, but for the moment, we are focusing on continuing to encourage adoption of the Blu-ray format we know and love to the widest possible audience around the world. Adding new capabilities is not something we do lightly, as we need to keep the millions of existing Blu-ray players in mind. It's important to maintain backward compatibility as much as we possibly can.

    Q: Which movie presented the most difficulty to restore for you and your team?

    Price: The two most challenging — but ultimately most satisfying restorations — were North by Northwest and Ben-Hur, due to characteristics of the original camera negative stock and physical condition. Color fading was the most difficult hurdle. Both features were shot on an early single strip camera negative, which was poor at capturing color and had poor dye retention, meaning that color faded very quickly. The negatives also sustained physical damage due to the popularity of the titles and multiple theatrical re-issues.

    Q: It is my understanding that the original negatives for Singin’ in the Rain were lost in a fire. How did you go about putting this film together again and with such high quality for Blu-ray?

    Price: The studios maintain master positive protection elements on all titles. We scanned 35mm three-strip nitrate master positives for Singin' in the Rain, which were manufactured by MGM at Technicolor in 1952. To their credit, Technicolor materials were extremely well made, and the transition from protection masters to original camera negative (the original negative for the last reel, which includes the "Broadway Melody" sequence) still survives. We did use a small amount of grain reduction on the optical sections from positive masters due to the heavy grain content due to generation loss.

    Q: Is there such thing as “too sharp” within the era of Blu-ray and restoration? How do you maintain the classic look within a technologically advanced format?

    Price: There is no such thing as "too sharp," unless you are artificially enhancing the image. We never "dumb down" an image in order to make it look more like a theatrical release print, as our goal is to mine all the image inherent in the original photography. I've never encountered a film that did not hold up to scrutiny of high resolution. The craftspeople always exceeded the limitation of the capture medium. We do encounter the occasional wig line, but we find that the "fix" (hand painting) is typically worse than the problem.

    Q: Would you discuss any special challenges involved in restoring or remastering a 3D title such as Dial M for Murder?

    Price: The 3D titles produced in the 1950s have unique problems. The single strip titles are faded differentially, meaning that the left eye negative has faded differently than the right eye negative, so making them match seamlessly is quite challenging. On the positive side, the 3D camera work from the ‘50s is impeccable, so there was no need to manipulate the 3D design for the home market.

    Q: In a time when 35mm is slowly disappearing from exhibition, yet needs to be utilized to create these beautiful Blu-ray editions, is there any thought on future restoration work down the line when we have no primary sources to go by?

    Price: The current preservation medium for the studio is still 35mm film. We do archive the original digital production files, but until there is a long-term, industry-accepted digital archive solution, we will continue with creation of film materials.
    http://www.homemediamagazine.com/war...-blu-ray-27928
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    I have to admit that I have been pleasantly surprised that blu-ray continues to get support in light of it's uptake.

    It just shows that there are definitely profits to be had in light of what people say about the sales.

    Blu-ray => successful format.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sbert View Post
    I have to admit that I have been pleasantly surprised that blu-ray continues to get support in light of it's uptake.

    It just shows that there are definitely profits to be had in light of what people say about the sales.

    Blu-ray => successful format.
    and by reading sections of the above article quote by Jeff Baker, EVP and GM of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video, one of the largest holders of catalogue, it looks a though they realize that there is the "under $10" segment of the market which they acknowledge and cater:

    In the past 12 months the studio has seen a “significant” uptake on consumer purchases of lower-priced Blu-rays, according to Jeff Baker.

    “In the under $10 retail segment of consumer purchases for Blu-ray in 2011, 15% of the business was under $10 purchases,” he said. “We’re estimating this year 35% of the business will be in the under $10 segment. So consumers are saying, if we can get the price down low enough, they do want to replace their DVD library with Blu-ray films.”
    Being a female is a matter of birth. Being a woman is a matter of age. But being a lady… Now that's a matter of choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by towergrove View Post
    and by reading sections of the above article quote by Jeff Baker, EVP and GM of theatrical catalog for Warner Home Video, one of the largest holders of catalogue, it looks a though they realize that there is the "under $10" segment of the market which they acknowledge and cater:
    Replication costs and authoring costs are probably so much lower than it was when blu-ray started. They have faster computers, better algorithms, more efficiency.

    It only behooves the studios to release movies on blu-ray to grab another dip from the consumer.

    As most of us have said in the past, catalogs are going to be indicative of Blu-ray's success - more on the backend then on the frontend.

    Catalogs were never the driving force of this format and that's what people have failed to realize in the past. We know that the new released has been the engine driving blu-ray forward. With those new releases and gradual consumer turnover to blu-ray, it only makes sense that catalogs at low prices will be another sell for the studios.

    Granted the profits and uptake could always have been better. In light of the obstacles blu-ray has had to compete against, it really is the only consistent way to get quality 1080p video (provided that it is authored decently).

    1080p streaming doesn't really exist to a capacity where it can even compete with physical media yet. I still think this is still 5-10 years away, and more like 10 years. With limits on bandwidth, throttling, and changes to law, the clamp down on the internet will make it difficult to develop all around solutions to digital media delivery.

    I mentioned this before, we are in the wild west of digital delivery. Many different ways to get and consume, no one with the all-in-one-solution.
    Cheers to the ever positive Kosty, may you find peace and happiness in the heavens above.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sbert View Post
    Granted the profits and uptake could always have been better. In light of the obstacles blu-ray has had to compete against, it really is the only consistent way to get quality 1080p video (provided that it is authored decently).
    It's consistent . . . with caveats . . . which means . . . it is inconsistent.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Stewart View Post
    It's consistent . . . with caveats . . . which means . . . it is inconsistent.
    Well, it is the most consistent way. However, if that's the only thing you that you picked out of what I said to bring up, I think we're in a state of convergence. Imagine that. LOL.
    Cheers to the ever positive Kosty, may you find peace and happiness in the heavens above.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sbert View Post
    Well, it is the most consistent way. However, if that's the only thing you that you picked out of what I said to bring up, I think we're in a state of convergence. Imagine that. LOL.
    I agree with most of what you said. It was the one "glaring item" I got a chuckle over.

    Ok - this one is open for discussion:

    1080p streaming doesn't really exist to a capacity where it can even compete with physical media yet. I still think this is still 5-10 years away, and more like 10 years. With limits on bandwidth, throttling, and changes to law, the clamp down on the internet will make it difficult to develop all around solutions to digital media delivery.
    Very soon, they will introduce H.265 - High Efficency Video Coding. That will bring a major change. The same way MPEG2 did.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lee Stewart View Post
    I agree with most of what you said. It was the one "glaring item" I got a chuckle over.

    Ok - this one is open for discussion:



    Very soon, they will introduce H.265 - High Efficency Video Coding. That will bring a major change. The same way MPEG2 did.
    Would be nice to see how much more they can compress. If they can take a standard Blu-ray encode and take it down to less than 5gb with good quality, that would be nice.

    As it stands, in my household, we use roku boxes and use a lot of netflix/amazon/channel streaming. Our family room is the only one with a cable box. Most of the consumption we have is internet/intranet based at this point except for blu-rays and dvd's.

    I did try to digitalize some of my blu-rays and dvd's, but after doing a couple and realizing that I could only fit anywhere between 50 to 80 blu-ray iso's on a 2 tb drive, I didn't want to invest in a massive NAS system.
    Cheers to the ever positive Kosty, may you find peace and happiness in the heavens above.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sbert View Post
    Would be nice to see how much more they can compress. If they can take a standard Blu-ray encode and take it down to less than 5gb with good quality, that would be nice.
    If they can't make the internet faster quickly, which they can't, then they can make the file sizes smaller.

    BTW - They will be able to fit a 2 hour movie in 3840x2160 resolution (sometimes referred to as "4K") on a 50GB dual layer BD - along with lossless HD audio using H.265

    As it stands, in my household, we use roku boxes and use a lot of netflix/amazon/channel streaming. Our family room is the only one with a cable box. Most of the consumption we have is internet/intranet based at this point except for blu-rays and dvd's.

    I did try to digitalize some of my blu-rays and dvd's, but after doing a couple and realizing that I could only fit anywhere between 50 to 80 blu-ray iso's on a 2 tb drive, I didn't want to invest in a massive NAS system.
    So which cable provider do you have?

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