Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hi Defness: Heat

If any filmmaker was destined for HD, it's Michael Mann. I can remember not understanding the complaints leveled against him when he went completely Hi-def with "Collateral", "Miami Vice" and (most recently) "Public Enemies". People who did not see these films shown on a digital projector were certainly missing the visual boat. Mann is a filmmaker who uses the fluorescent city to his extreme advantage. The aerial scene in "Heat" (pictured below) as the camera begins on a long shot of downtown Los Angeles at night, then slowly arches downward to track one lone van crawling through the industrial section of town, is a feast of light and dark. Until watching it on Blu Ray over the weekend- when I let out an 'oh my god' after seeing how much detail is present in the transfer- I'd never realized the glorious potentials of Blu Ray. Granted, my HD-DVD choice about 15 months ago was the wrong one, but Blu Ray seems to trump even that format in clarity and sound. I certainly don't remember my sparse copies of HD-DVD movies looking/sounding this terrific.

So back to the aforementioned scene. It's the little details that Blu Ray accentuates in "Heat". Only having seen this film on standard copies before, the array of colors picked up at night is startling. As the van moves down the street, one can see green lights in certain doorways and blue lights in other portions of the frame. Whereas the image before had been flat, this HD transfer vividly calls out the obscured lighting that (probably) had no intention of being noticed before. For a film geek such as myself that revels in the details, I'm in cinematic heaven.

The other noticeable difference in the Blu Ray version of "Heat" is the way this new format defines the human body. In the picture above, as Det. Hannah (Pacino) talks on the phone against the backdrop of downtown Los Angeles, his figure looks and feels set apart from the background.... something that standard DVD is just unable to differentiate. The shadow of Pacino's body (and every other actor) flows into the rest of the image. In HD, depth is revelatory. For the 3rd time, "Heat" has served as my introductory choice for a new technology. This time, my anticipation is matched by pristine quality. I may never leave the couch again.


TALKING MOVIEzzz said...

Welcome to Blu-Ray! HEAT is a great looking disc.

Having seen his digital films on standard projection, I think Mann has to either wait for more theatres to go digital, or release directly to Blu-Ray. The films, especially VICE, looked awful converted to 35 and then released to theatres.

In my area, the only digital projections are mainly for 3-D films.

Joe Baker said...

That's sad to hear about the lack of digital projectors in your area. Hopefully, more and more theaters will convert as HD becomes the dominant visual source. I can only say it makes even so-so films like "Superman Returns" look terrific.

elgringo said...

I've always felt that Terrence Malick was the director most deserving of higher quality DVD releases. Nothing would make me happier than to see Days of Heaven on Blu-Ray. Or projected on the big screen. That is a beautiful movie.