Will Bueché

»

Blog

I don't blog much 

Buffy HD campaign a success… on 3 or 4 shots

Posted in Uncategorized by Will on Tuesday, July 14th, 2015 ~ 8pm

Our voices were heard! Fox has made quick fixes to the most egregious errors seen in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer HD / Blu-ray remastering process!

As you may recall, Fox hired a no-name company with no experience to do the remastering of Buffy from the original film elements, and fans campaigned to bring awareness to the ineptitude of the company’s effort so that Fox would take notice. And notice they have!

See sample image below.

I am hopeful they are continuing to fix the errors, but we really don’t know anything beyond the fact that this week’s airing of Buffy on ABC family included several corrected shots – shots that had been ruined by the original remastering team, now done perfectly by the (presumed) new remastering team.

About this campaign: As is my usual method of operation, I didn’t create the BuffyHD facebook page nor do any heavy lifting myself; I simply dashed off an action plan over on the forum where we were discussing the problem (a home video forum where I am known as willbfree) and presented it to a guy who was motivated to enact it. I don’t know his real name either, but he’s the hero in this story. Everyone was ready to do their part, and the effort was joined by super-talented folks who made videos illustrating the problems which got zillions of views on YouTube.

I am so very proud of everyone.

This fan-led effort has been wildly more successful than my iZombie petition, enacted by iZombieObsessed, which has thus far only received 23 votes.

UPDATE: THEY FIXED THOSE FEW SHOTS, AND THEN PROCEEDED TO COMPLETELY RUIN EVERYTHING AFTER THAT. Evidently they used an artificial intelligence to reframe everything, and they had it set incorrectly. The AI was erroneously set to center and crop on any figures in the frame. As such, even the later seasons WHICH WERE ALREADY IN WIDESCREEN were reframed AGAIN, turning wide shots into closeups, and turning medium shots into closeups, and turning closeups into even closer closeups. Fox could easily sue to recover their expenses and hire pros to redo it.

 
The green area shows the original shot – a close-up of Buffy. The remastering program was incorrectly set to zoom in even more. Nearly every shot is like this. By the way, the green part of the frame is courtesy of an earlier DVD release; that’s how we can see what is missing.   Here, the AI recognized a human figure in the frame and automatically centered & zoomed in on it. So instead of being a shot of people in hospital beds, it become a shot of the floor. (Why even build sets?) There are hundreds of shots like this in every episode.

My Firefly Malcolm Reynolds Legacy action figure from Funko

Posted in Personal by Will on Sunday, July 5th, 2015 ~ 10am

Blu-Ray review: Highlander Endgame, Hong Kong release

Posted in Uncategorized by Will on Friday, June 12th, 2015 ~ 8pm

(My user review of the region free import of Highlander: Endgame)

The Story

Endgame is the first Highlander film to feature both Connor McLeod and Duncan McLeod, but it is not the first time these two highlanders have stood by each other’s sides – the pilot episode of the television series has that honor.

The producers of Endgame seem to have wanted to make up for Connor’s absence from the rest of the tv series by giving fans many flashbacks of Connor and Duncan together, even if it meant that the pace of the film would be a bit languid. The content of the flashbacks is solid though – we see Duncan and Connor both making mistakes across the centuries, which sets up the present day conflict.

When the inevitable super villain threatens impending doom, each of them must try to find forgiveness with those who they’d wronged before it is too late. It is a good, moral story. (The villain himself is suitably loathsome but not too original – a haughty religious figure who now taunts his adversaries with overtly homosexual taunts and exhibits hedonistic tendencies. His cliche is fortunately contrasted with the authentic love that Connor and Duncan express for one another).

It is a story that would have worked better as a season of the tv show rather than as a movie. But in the 1990s television did not have the kind of respect it has today; it is unlikely Christophe Lambert would have made himself available to be a recurring character alongside Adrian Paul in even one season of the tv series. If this had been possible it could have been an incredibly dramatic season.

Taken on its own merits as a single film, Highlander Endgame will remind fans of the tv series of the greatness the tv series sometimes achieved, while it fails to rise to that same level itself. As such it is a bit heartbreaking. And fans of the earlier film series will have their own cause for heartbreak – not only for the ultimate fate of a certain character, but also for the somberness with which that fate is foreshadowed.

Video Quality

This Hong Kong release is region free, with the menu (Play, Scenes, and Setup on a still image of the poster art) in English. Only the Chinese anti-piracy warning belies that this is from Hong Kong.

The encode is poorly done. Temporal noise reduction has been applied amateurishly, causing trails (moving objects smear and leave a trail behind them), especially noticeable in darker scenes. Smoothing (grain removal) has also been applied unprofessionally. Dark scenes should have a visible grain structure since low light shooting tends to be grainy, but someone attempted to eliminate the grain and wiped out all detail. Daytime scenes have also had been overly smoothed, and there is some edge ringing too. Blacks never get deeper than a dull grey, and sometimes break up into blocks.

The scan may also have been poorly done, or it may simply be that scans from 2001 were never expected to be used for anything higher quality than VHS and DVD. The print that was scanned has no obvious dirt or scratches, but the lack of detail and some picture unsteadiness calls for a rescan on modern equipment if this film is ever released on BluRay in the United States.

Additionally, the film suffers from many missing frames. The missing frames aren’t from damage per se – six editors worked on this film trying to make it gel, and I suspect we are seeing edit points that were reconsidered and patched back together.

Another longstanding problem with this film’s visuals is that a very prominent billboard seen throughout a rooftop fight sequence was blurred out after some controversy regarding non-payment for in-film advertising. Once you notice this you can never un-notice it, and this again is something which a restoration of the film should correct. Despite the amateurish blur placed over it, it is clearly an ad for “JVC”. Let it say “JVC” without the blur, please, if this film is ever restored.

Audio Quality

The soundscape is acceptable. Simple surround sounds, appropriate to the scenes, nothing distracting, just a nice wrapping around of the sound. Endgame actually had a rather good musical score, and it sounds fine here.

Dialogue is clear. It remains obvious that all the dialogue in the post-script scene (and one line early in the film) are spoken by someone other than Adrian Paul. The producers who edited this cut of the film must have worked on it after Paul had concluded his part.

Extras

The version of the film presented on this BluRay is what was known as The Producers Cut when it was originally released on DVD in 2001 as part of a 2-disc set. The second disc of that 2-DVD set contained an early rough cut of the film with different scenes. That early rough cut is not included in this BluRay release, indeed there are no extras of any kind. If you have the 2-DVD set, you will want to hang on to it as well. (I actually prefer many of the scenes in the rough cut, and hope that someday the remaining producer will commission a Final Cut of Endgame that will bring some of the best of those missing scenes over.)

Overall

Overall, this is a poor transfer of a film that admirably tried to bring the tv series universe to the big screen, but never achieved the greatness of the tv series. For many fans, this was the final story set in the tv series universe – a sequel shot several years later in the frigid Baltics on an extraordinarily low budget called The Source, which again follows Duncan McLeod, is essentially disowned by all involved.

As the final story told in the tv universe, fans of the tv series will no doubt want Highlander Endgame in their BluRay collection. However, it needs a new scan and a new encode for it to satisfy anyone.

Taking the fun out of Funko

Posted in Personal by Will on Sunday, May 3rd, 2015 ~ 10pm

Seriously, you came all this way to learn more about a dust-up between me and an anonymous guy who ran an unofficial Funko action figure page? Well alright, that’s some serious free time you have – so I will oblige, ’cause I have to respect that sort of interest:

In an aside, on a public forum, I’d alluded to that guy being a “moody dick”. Someone replied,

He [the person that runs the unofficial Funko Legacy page] can be an outright dick, is what you mean. He gets pretty curt with people. Regardless of that, he has revealed some pretty cool stuff, and does a better job of keeping an open line of communication to Funko than Funko does. We wouldn’t know half the stuff without that page. Still, it is only a fan page, so I don’t get why it should be more professionally run. He wants to be a dick he can be a dick I guess. He only stands to lose followers.

And that comment prompted me to tell of my experience. Here’s my telling of my tale:

So it wasn’t just me then! I was going to post this as a post, but I think it is contrary to [this forum’s] rules about talking ^$@* about people. So, just for you:

My experience was that a Kickstarter campaign was posted on the page, promoted as a comedic documentary about action figure collecting. I viewed the promo and noticed no one had donated yet. I commented that maybe a comedic documentary would sell itself better if there was some trace of comedy in the promo. He immediately sacked me, with a message that the comedian filmmaker was a fwend of his, and that dissent would not be tolerated. But the results of the Kickstarter proved my point: The Kickstarter raised $0. Zero. Nothing.

I’d also remained calm when he was worried that Funko was going to attend ComicCon without a booth. I noted that many companies did the same in other industries (personal experience here by the way). He felt that having an informed opinion and not joining in the worry was “acting contrary”.

Which is a long way of saying that some people need others to align exactly with their point of view, especially when they’re wrong.

The page has good interviews with Reis O’Brien [of Funko], though. So it’s a love-hate thing. After TheFwoosh (of course!), I prefer the official Funko forum for most discussion of Funko, but the official forum doesn’t like posting advance information, so, fan sites are useful.

So, dear detective, that’s the dust-up. Sorry if it was disappointingly mundane.

The denouement came about very recently, on the occasion of that guy ending his run on that page and doing it in the style he was known for – calling me out for, well, for calling him out.

(He saw the above comment – which is great, I’d hoped it would be shared, since if he doesn’t hear feedback how will he ever change?)

In a public message that was obliquely written to him, I concluded,

For the record, I don’t mind at all that someone said my wish for Buffy Legacy figures of only the main cast was a stupid idea, or disagreed that Cusack’s character from Say Anything was a poor choice for Funko’s vinyl line sculpted by An Evil Corporation, because I actually enjoy differing options. That’s the way to be – to be part of a steady dialogue of ideas and opinions, and not become upset when someone disagrees with you. There is a beauty in diversity of opinion, and it is what I value.

Being part of a community that is excited about Funko’s developments is a terribly nice diversion, and I just wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation to everyone (here and on FF).

I recently said some unkind words about someone, and I apologize for my unkindness.

And I meant it. I was unkind, and it was my unkindness for which I apologized. Not for my opinion of him.

But, I don’t know him. My opinion of “him” is meaningless, considering that I don’t know him. My opinion was not of him, only of his actions and words, so my criticism should have been leveled solely at his actions and words, rather than him as a person.

past »