H D - S E N S E I
A view on Hi-def discs by Gary W. Tooze
Introduction: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 7500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.
Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who
focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I
find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction. So be
it, but film will always be my first love and I list my
favorites on the old YMdb site now accessible
Sony BDP-S300 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player
Gary W. Tooze
The Shawshank Redemption [Blu-ray]
(Frank Darabont, 1994)
Review by Gary Tooze
Studio: Warner Brothers
Video: ITV DVD (UK) vs. Castle Rock Entertainment (US)
Feature Runtime: 2:22:32
Chapters: UK - 12, US - 40
Feature film disc size: 29.7 Gig (UK) vs. 23.5 Gig (US)
both dual-layered Blu-rays - US Disc Size: 31,874,132,776 bytes
Case: Standard Blu-ray case (UK) vs. Bookstyle (includes 32-page book) - US
Release date: September 29th, 2008 (UK) vs. December 2nd, 2008 (US)
Bitrates are almost duplicate:
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Video codec: VC-1
US: Dolby TrueHD Audio English 1423 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1423 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps), Dolby Digital Audio English 640 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps, Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / DUBs: Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital Audio French 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital Audio Japanese 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround, Dolby Digital Audio Spanish 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround
UK - Feature: English, none
US - English (SDH), English, Chinese, French, Japanese,
Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, none
Supplements for both:
Commentary by Frank
Exclusive to the UK edition:
• Cast Interviews - Tim Robbins (27:21), Morgan Freeman (20:54), Bob Gunton (37:45), William Saddler (32:24), Clancy Brown(15:41)
Exclusive to the US edition:
The Sharktank Redemption (24:45)
Shawshank Collectibles: the Art of Shawshank Redemption slideshow (1:22)
Product Description: City Banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is in Shawshank
State Prison after receiving a double life sentence for murder. There he meets
Red (Morgan Freeman) and also forms friendships with the warden and prison
guards. Andy soon finds that you either get on with living or you get on with
The story of Andy Dufresne, Inmate 37927 and his struggle to maintain hope.
In 1946 a young New England banker, Andy Dufresne (Robbins), is convicted of murdering his wife and her lover and sentenced to life at the Shawshank State Prison - twice over. Quiet and introspective, he gradually strikes up a friendship with the prison 'fixer', Red (Freeman), and over the next two decades wins the trust of the governor and guards, but in his heart, he still yearns for freedom. Darabont's adaptation of a Stephen King novella is a throwback to the kind of serious, literate drama Hollywood used to make (Birdman of Alcatraz, say) though the big spiritual resolution takes some swallowing - ditto the colour-blind relationships within the prison and the violent disavowal of any homosexual implications. Against this weighs the pleasure of discovering a first-time director with evident respect for the intelligence of his audience, brave enough to let character details accumulate without recourse to the fast-forward button. Darabont plays the long game and wins: this is an engrossing, superbly acted yarn, while the Shawshank itself is a truly formidable mausoleum.
Image : NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.
ON THE US: There do appear to be some differences. Although the US feature size is about 6 Gig smaller I honestly couldn't discern too much difference between the image quality. If I am forced to make an assumption it would be that the US may have slightly superior black levels and seems brighter in spots while the UK edition may be marginally flatter with less very slightly digital noise. This may represent some minor boosting on the US edition - I can't be positive. You can see for yourself with the last three images below that are comparatively matched and I don't think they exhibit enough of a difference to be sure about my statements. NOTE: I tried to be exact but it can be very hard with Blu-ray - the 'freedom' capture is exact though - I am sure.
Both look very good - if I was forced to choose I'd take the US - but it's a personal guess. Most likely these are exact - same encode - only my eyes are playing tricks on me.
OUR COMMENTS ON THE UK EDITION: Firstly, this feature on the disc, from ITV DVD in the UK, is REGION FREE and will play on Blu-ray players world-wide. Extras are, however, in PAL and will not play on anything but PAL-SD supporting Blu-ray players.
This Blu-ray film starts with the Warner logo. It is coming to North America on December 2nd of this year - HERE. I'll assume the transfer will be the same although subtitle and audio options will be different. It looks about what one might expect from a 15-year old film. It appears quite solid but doesn't exhibit a lot of the depth people have come to expect from more modern 1080P transfers. Still, it is best I have seen to date (see our comparison of 5 different SD-DVDs HERE). It may be a shade darker than the latest SE-SD and it is fairly flat not dignifying the film with grain but on the positive we don't see an excess of noise or any digital manipulation (DNR, or EE). Technically it is dual-layered with the feature taking up 29.7 Gig of space. There are no flaws I noted with this transfer and, like the film itself, it is hard to look away from the newfound clarity and improved resolution. If the upcoming North American Warner issue is equal to this visually - I won't be, at all, disappointed. It may even be exceeded.
CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION
Audio & Music:
ON THE US: This is one area where the US edition definitely improves. The TrueHD mix has some special moments and has greater range and depth than the standard 5.1 offered by the UK (and is an option on the US). Some may not find it dramatically different but it's the fine subtleties that made me appreciate the TrueHD more. Both also offer 2.0 but the US has some DUB options as well as many more subtitle choices making it more the 'international edition'. The Blu-ray files are held in a folder called SHAWSHANK_NA_JP - presumably meaning North America and Japan. We don't have conclusive proof but assume this is region FREE like all Warner Blu-ray releases to date.
ON THE UK:This Blu-ray offers only the same past, competent, Dolby Digital 5.1 track (and a 2.0 channel option) that we have heard on the Warner SE-SD. where one may have hoped for a TrueHD mix or the like - which we have been informed that the North American release will have. There is some separation depth but I expected a bit more involvement from the rear speakers. The stirring original score by Thomas Newman - Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL·E (2008) to his recent credits - is clean and crisp - sounding as good as I have ever heard it. There are optional subtitles offered only in English - no other language choices.
ON THE UK:Seen before on previous releases - the same Darabont commentary is accessible but all other supplements are in PAL and will only play on Blu-ray players supporting that SD standard. If you can access them - they are all duplicated (and only in 480 res) from previous editions with the Charlie Rose Show, interviews and two good featurettes. Nice to see Freeman, Robbins and Darabont together though. There are also some storyboard and galleries. I don't see anything new or anything that is unique to the powers of a Blu-ray format.
October 27th, 2008
UPDATED: November 25th, 2008