H D - S E N S E I

A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze


sex, lies and videotape [Blu-ray]


(Steven Soderbergh, 1989)



also coming out by Criterion on Blu-ray on August 6th, 2018:


Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Outlaw Productions

Video: Sony Pictures / Criterion Collection - Spine #938



Region: FREE! / Region 'A' in North America / Region 'B' in the UK

Runtime: 1:39:59.994 / 1:40:09.044

Disc Size: 33,201,395,680 bytes / 48,969,001,799 bytes

Feature Size: 29,131,259,904 bytes / 29,720,801,280 bytes

Video Bitrate: 27.73 Mbps / 32.18 Mbps

Chapters: 16 / 17

Case: Standard Blu-ray case / Transparent Blu-ray case

Release date: November 17th, 2009 / July 17th (US), August 6th (UK)


Video (both):

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



Dolby TrueHD Audio English 5120 kbps 5.1 / 96 kHz / 5120 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
DUB: Dolby TrueHD Audio French 1288 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1288 kbps / 16-bit (AC3 Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 640 kbps)
Commentary: Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps / Dolby Surround


DTS-HD Master Audio English 5152 kbps 5.1 / 96 kHz / 5152 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 6.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)

Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps



English (SDH), English, French, none

English (SDH), none



• Commentary with Soderbergh and Neil LaBute


20 Years Reunion at the Sundance Film Festival (3:30 in HD!)

Deleted Scene (3:21 in SD 4:3 widescreen) with optional commentary by Soderbergh

Soderbergh on the trailers

Soderbergh on sex, lies and videotape (8:11 in SD)

Trailer (4:3 SD 1:36)

BD-LIVE enabled


• Audio commentary from 1998 featuring Soderbergh in conversation with filmmaker Neil LaBute
• New introduction by Soderbergh
Interviews with Soderbergh from 1990 and 1992 (06:15) Cavett (13:29) 1990 Washington D.C. (09:03)
• New documentary about the making of the film, featuring actors Peter Gallagher, Andie MacDowell, and Laura San Giacomo (28:55)
• Interview from 1989 with actor James Spader
• New conversation between sound editor/re-recording mixer Larry Blake and composer Cliff Martinez (19:38)
• Deleted scene with commentary by Soderbergh (3:20)
• Demonstration of sound restorations through the years (11:58)
• Trailers
• PLUS: An essay by critic Amy Taubin and (Blu-ray only) excerpts from Soderbergh’s 1990 book about the film


1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM




Description: With smoldering sensuality and biting humor, the surprising relationship between the three title subjects is revealed in sex, lies, and videotape, the most-talked about erotic comedy of the decade. James Spader (Stargate) ran away with the Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his brilliantly understated and seductive performance as Graham, a long-lost college friend who drifts back into town and into the lives of John, a self-involved philanderer, his angelic wife, Ann, and her saucy sister, Cynthia. One by one, each is drawn into the very personal project Graham is working on, leaving the relationships between them forever transformed. A monumental debut effort from first-time feature director Steven Soderbergh, this comic original includes riveting performances by Peter Gallagher (The Player), Andie MacDowell (Michael) and Laura San Giacomo (TV's "Just Shoot Me").



The Film:

As its lowercase title suggests, sex, lies, and videotape is an example of lowercase filmmaking: lean, economical, relatively unpretentious (or at least pretentiously unpretentious), and purposefully small-scale. Its having walked off with the Cannes film festival’s Palme d’Or–making first-time writer-director Steven Soderbergh at 26 the youngest filmmaker ever to win that prize–saddles it with more of a reputation than it can comfortably live up to. In a time of relative drought, it’s certainly a small oasis, but the attention it’s been getting befits something closer to a breakthrough geyser.

All the fuss may be a sign of panic over more than just movies. Sexual repression is reflected in various ways in current pictures, but this is the only one that deals with it forthrightly as its central subject–specifically, as the main preoccupation of its two leading characters–and broaches sexual problems such as impotence and frigidity in the bargain. I haven’t heard such giddy, unnatural-sounding laughter in a movie theater since The Decline of the American Empire hit the art-house circuit a few years ago–the same sort of forced, hyped-up hilarity at the mere mention of words like “fucking” and “penis” and “getting off.” This makes it only that much harder to discuss a movie like Soderbergh’s, which tries to be level-headed and truthful about such matters.

Excerpt from Jonathan Rosenbaum's review at the JonathanRosenbaum.com located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The image of sex, lies and videotape in 1080P can look very noisy. Grain is there but can be quite thick and clumpy and it also appears more like noise with some artifacts. I'm sure this is an authentic appearance and this is similar to the DVD renditions in keeping with the film's production authenticity.  This is Soderbergh's first feature film and belies, from a production stance, a very stark, flat look. I'd much prefer this than to have had it pushed through the DNR ringer to remove the textures. There is no gloss and the appearance is consistent to the film's intent. sex, lies and videotape looks more like this Blu-ray transfer than any other digital edition - going all the way back to the Criterion laserdisc - but individuals expecting a pristine, smooth image - will undoubtedly be surprised. I'm very happy that Sony haven't tried to homogenize the visuals to 'appear' like a modern Hollywood film. This is definitely not that animal... in many ways.  We have a dual-layered rendering with as strong bitrate. Colors have a tendency to be dullish and the indoor sequences can be dark at times with the shadows being crushed and fragmented representing more of the film's thick, honest, textures.


Criterion have given us a new, restored 4K digital transfer and it is impressive. The 1080p video is presented in the film's 1.85:1 aspect ratio on this dual-layered Blu-ray disc. The video bitrate is very high. There seems to be somewhat more information in the frame over the previous BD release. Colors look much warmer, with skintones looking better in this new 4k transfer. Grain is still evident but by no means overbearing, and it is appropriate to the filmic texture. Detail is also heightened with this transfer. Some scenes can seem a shade darker, but this only highlights a better contrast evident with a 4k scan.




Subtitle Sample - Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



1) Sony  - Region FREE - Blu-ray - TOP

2) Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray - BOTTOM



Audio :

The only English option - a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track at a whopping 5120 kbps can easily handle anything this dialogue-driven film dishes out. The opening music is the biggest beneficiary of the separation with it filtered very crisply and loudly to the rear speakers. It sounds just great. Otherwise there are minimal effect noises for the mix to contend with and there is not a lot going on besides the fronts. There are English or French subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region FREE disc playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.


Criterion have given us a brand new 5.1 24-bit DTS surround mix from the original sound elements, supervised by director Steven Soderbergh. The new mix sounds great. The score by Cliff Martinez (The Neon Demon, King of the Hill, Contagion, Traffic) really shines here. Dialogue is clean and comes through strong, which is important given the film's almost constant focus on narration and dialogue. There are optional SDH English subtitles on this Region-A locked disc.


Extras :

We get the same very frank commentary with Soderbergh and Neil LaBute - it was a pleasure to re-listen to that after such a long time. I really enjoyed the discussion of the actors, camera angles, bad script writing etc. Before you 'Play' you get the option of the movieIQ feature - powered by 'Gracenote' it offers viewers access to a real-time movie database. With a movieIQ-enabled Blu-ray and an internet-connected Blu-ray player, fans can immediately access continuously-updated information on cast and crew and explore relevant trivia such as production facts, music and soundtrack information all tied to scenes within the movie. There are other supplements that I believe are new - but they are sparse. 20 Years Reunion at the Sundance Film Festival runs about 3.5 minutes, from this year, and has brief sound-byte input from Soderbergh, Peter Gallagher, Laura San Giacomo and others. There is a 3.5 minute deleted scene (SD 4:3 widescreen) with optional commentary by Soderbergh. It has Andie MacDowell's character, Ann, being manipulated by Ron Vawter playing her therapist. There are brief vintage excerpts of Soderbergh on the trailers and 8-minutes of a youngish Soderbergh on sex, lies and videotape sitting on a park bench. We get two trailers and the disc is BD-LIVE enabled.


First off, there is a commentary recorded in 1998 with writer-director Steven Soderbergh talking with filmmaker and playwright Neil LaBute about all aspects of "sex, lies, and videotape", including the screenwriting process; his approach to the film's style; and the dramatic trajectory of the film's success after it won the Palme d'Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. Next, there are three interviews with director Steven Soderbergh. The first is a new introduction to sex, lies, and videotape. The second is a 1992 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show, where Soderbergh talks about his love for movies, especially Jaws, and the
difficulties associated with immediate success. The third interview finds him in Washington, D.C. and was filmed in 1990. The next featurette is a half-hour piece called "Something in the Air". This is a new 2018 documentary from Criterion. The doc features actors Peter Gallagher, Andie McDowell, and Laura San Giacomo discussing their work with director Steven Soderbergh on his first feature, and the ways that this film transformed their careers. Next up is "James Spader" which is a 5-minute excerpt from NBC's Today with actor James Spader and interviewer, Gene Shalit. Next up is "Larry Blake and Cliff Martinez", which is a new 20-minute conversation between the two, filmed in April, 2018. The sound editor/re-recording mixer (Blake) and composer (Martinez) discuss the challenges of the director's debut film and the execution of his work since then. Next up is a 3.5-minute deleted scene. Soderbergh initially retained this scene between Ann and her therapist, played by Ron Vawter, because of the strength of Vawter's performance. The scene was ultimately cut because Soderbergh felt it made Ann appear too pliable. This deleted scene has an optional commentary track with Soderbergh. Next up is "generators, noise reduction, and multitrack audiotape: post production sound on sex lies and videotape by Larry Blake" which is a 12-minute visual essay narrated by Blake, discussing his work. The next extra, "Trailers" features the option of either the Soderbergh cut trailer, which the director cut himself (and Miramax deemed too esoteric), or the Miramax trailer. Miramax agreed to honor Soderbergh's wishes for their cut to only contain subjective imagery. The next extra is entitled "A Note on the Picture and Sound Restorations" which is copied here;



Dear Viewer:
There are so many paths to take from original picture and sound elements to Blu-rays and
DVDs, and so much misinformation in the blogosphere regarding these policies, we thought
you might like an explanation of the remastering steps we undertook this year, and indeed
in previous iterations, in spiffing up sex, lies, and videotape for home-video viewing.

Although the film was released in August 1989, it was not transferred to videotape until
that fall. These were the days when the “theatrical window”—the time between theatrical
and home-video releases—was as long as nine months, where now it’s usually three months
and home-video mastering is finished concurrent with the film proper.

Steven Soderbergh worked with Rich Garibaldi of Telecine Tech in Los Angeles for a few
days, transferring from the 35mm interpositive (IP) that was made from the cut original
camera negative, and had scene-to-scene color correction built in. The master was
recorded to standard-definition D-2 composite digital videotape.

Rich was using a heavily customized Rank Cintel Mklllc telecine, and as was the standard
practice those days, a reel would be tweaked shot-to-shot, optimizing the image for
standard-definition televisions, and then recorded in real time. While all efforts were made
to keep the film as clean as possible, there was not a later step in which small
imperfections were removed.

This tape was the source of all video masters (including for the 1990 Criterion laserdisc)
until 1998.

For the 1998 DVD reissue, Sony made a new IP, and this was used to make the first
high-definition transfer, to the Sony reel-to-reel HDD-1000 format.

That same IP was taken out of the vault in 2009, and was scanned to 4K DPX files, which

were then to be “down-rezzed” to 2K files that would be the source of the master created
for the first Blu-ray release later that year. In addition, for the first time the film benefited from dirt cleanup and splice bump corrections.


For this year’s restoration, we not only transferred from the original camera negative but
also maintained 4K resolution throughout the whole process. The transfer was done at
Deluxe in Culver City, California, and the final timing was done by Joe Gawler at Harbor
Picture Company in New York, New York. The work on the dirt cleanup, etc., was redone
again, this time at 4K.

The transfer that Steven and Rich made in 1989 is notable, in the annals of seX, lies, for one
thing: it’s the only time that Steven was there for every frame. In 1998, the marching orders
were to match the 1989 transfer, and in 2009 to match the 1998, and in 2018 the 2009.
Steven has then viewed and approved all new versions, of course.

In this latest version, two small “errors” were digitally corrected: can you tell us what they
are? In addition, one large omission in the end titles was fixed: Diana Strebel was finally
given credit as the unit still photographer.

At the original mix in 1989, the final mix stems were recorded on a 1/2" Sony 3324 DASH
digital multitrack tape. In 1998, the stems were transferred to files, and a 4.0 “discrete”

printmaster was created for the initial DVD release, since the film was originally mixed only
for two-track matrixed Dolby Stereo.

When it came time for the 2009 remastering, everyone felt that it was important to
step back further to the original 1989 premixes in order to create an updated version
of the track.

The original 2" Dolby SR-encoded 24-track analog premixes and the digital multitrack
stems were transferred to Broadcast Wave files at the 24-bit/96 kHz standard. In the mix
for this reissue, the premixes were the primary source for the new stems that were created.
Extensive dialog editing was undertaken in Pro Tools to smooth out tone variations among
camera angles, and to remove multitudes of snap and pops that we were unable to deal
with given our 1989 dialog editing workflow.

The music was “upmixed” to full 5.1 from the original three-track (left-center-right)
premixes, although reference was made to the 1989 levels relative to dialog and sound
effects. In keeping with the approach to the 1989 mix, sound effects were pretty much kept
to the front, screen speakers, with minimal utilization of subwoofers or surrounds.

As happy as we were with this revision, one problem remained: there were considerable
problems with generator noise during production, and we needed to go back to the
original edited dialog tracks, before noise reduction and equalization had been applied
during the 1989 premixing. For detailed information on the work at this stage, please see
the audio restoration demonstration program in the supplements section of this release.

The stems and printmaster for this version were kept at 96 kHz for release on Blu-ray. The
sound restoration took place at my company, Swelltone Labs, in New Orleans.

As was the case with picture, there are only two specific, notable changes that Steven and
l have made relative to the 1989 mix: can you guess what they are?

One never says never with restoring films, but this time, we think it’s for real. Steven asks
that you destroy all previous copies.

We welcome your comments.

Best regards,
Larry Blake


Criterion - Region 'A' / 'B' - Blu-ray



I don't want to put a damper on this 1080P transfer - I just want to get across that the film's realistic look, while authentically exported, doesn't advance in the usual ways via this new format - ways that some may anticipate. After all these years sex, lies and videotape seems a bit opaque - yet remains an intriguing character, and human, study. Experiencing the film again in Blu-ray was interesting as it was one of the first demonstrative steps in the advancing Indie film movement. Fans may be more appreciative of this dimensionless, uncompromised appearance while those less experienced may determine it to have undesirable limitations.


Criterion have given us an impressive package here with this new Blu-ray disc. The new 4k transfer and 5.1 sound mix make this film a must-own for fans. The extras are also enticing to curious viewers. There is a reason this film took the Palme D'Or at Cannes; the film introduced us to the unique style of Steven Soderbergh. Another important release from Criterion. 

Gary Tooze

November 10th, 2009

June 18th, 2018



also coming out by Criterion on Blu-ray on August 6th, 2018:



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