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Predator 3D (2013), Predator UHE (2010) and Predator (2008) blu-rays
on March 16, 2012
(EDIT) 12/19/2013. Now that Predator 3D has been released, I thought a brief update to this review might be useful.
I was surprised at the quality of the 3D conversion, given that it used the automated JVC Fox workstation that was used for Jumper 3D and I, Robot 3D. The process costs about a third of what a typical catalog 3D conversion costs and can be done with about 3 people in 3 months. In contrast, Titanic took hundreds of people over a year to convert.
The slow rate of adoption of 3D has been attributed, in part, to the lack of available content. Fox Home Entertainment with JVC developed a business model using automated equipment that allowed the 3D conversion of catalog movies profitably.
I was doubtful that they would be successful in this after watching 3D clips of I, Robot shortly after it was released. I changed my mind after purchasing and watching Predator 3D.
The only caveat is that the extras are provided via a Disk two DVD. (Disk one is the 3D/2D disk which has no extras). It would have been better to include the Ultimate Hunter Edition Blu-ray as Disk two as they did for the European release, since it has several more extras, some of them in High Definition. (END EDIT)
So, you have recently upgraded your home theater for blu-ray and want to replace your old Predator DVD. Should you buy the 2008 release or the 2010 (UHE) release? Perhaps I can help you decide.
When the 2008 edition was released, blu-ray disks were purchased primarily by film purists who believed nothing in the original film should be altered. Today, blu-ray is mainstream and the film purists represent only 4% of the market . Fox, in 2010 was intent on providing a release, Ultimate Hunter Edition, that catered to the tastes of the majority of consumers. The film purist minority is unhappy with that release as well.
I saw the movie in the theater when it was released in 1987. The graininess of the image was disturbing. After some research, I found that the film was shot with a film stock that, in low light conditions created an excessively grainy image and that it was not the filmmaker's intent to do that for artistic reasons.
I own both the 2008 and the UHE blu-rays and have compared them exhaustively. In my opinion, The UHE is the superior disk in terms of color accuracy and detail.
The last word from Fox on the Predator UHE blu-ray comes from Vincent Marcais, Sr. V.P. for International Sales in a taped interview. "The film stock (source for the transfer) was poor. The criticism is unfair. The filmmaker's were consulted, which we always do while they are alive. The UHE is how the filmmaker's wanted it to look"
Lets put aside the fact that the UHE has 5 hours of supplemental information and the 2008 version has none; and the fact that the UHE uses a modern video codec (AVC MPEG 4 vs VC-1 for 2008) and has a higher bit rate, resulting in more potential detail.
Your choice if you consider yourself a film purist is the 2008 release. If you want to enjoy the movie as the director and cinematographer intended, your choice is the Ultimate Hunter Edition. If you are still conflicted, buy both.
In conclusion. I own both, but I only watch the Ultimate Hunter Editon.
I would caution you about visiting other forums to help you make a purchasing decision. The people on those forums represent only 4% of those that purchase blu-ray disks today and most are biased in favor of the film purists view.
Edit. 5/19/2012. I thought it might be interesting to some of you to read some technical details about the difficulty with the source used for the BD and the issue of director's intent:
Perhaps this will put to rest any uncertainty about the director's intent regarding grain/grittiness.
"As I think much has been said online seemingly `authoritatively' about the Director's intent and the use of the film "stock" to make Predator intentionally look gritty or grainy. Well, that's pretty much inaccurate speculation according to someone I recently spoke with intimately involved in the production.
The DP chose the Eastman Kodak stocks he did for the simple fact of capturing "usable" images on film under relatively low lighting conditions in the jungle...'grit' or `intentional' graininess was never intended in any artistic sense for `atmosphere'. If anything, it was an undesirable side effect of the acquisition because it caused "murkiness" esp. in the greys and blacks of dark jungle sequences and didn't allow the filmmakers the opportunity to cut the different stocks together in the same scene, which would have been nice to have had that flexibility. To give you an idea of the challenge, they were apparently restricted to shooting at a max. of only T2 in anything but high noon and the middle of the day.
Don McAlpine shot the film with 35mm Kodak 5247 and 5294, depending on the lighting conditions available, with or without the aid of artificial light illumination. The '94 (400T) was used for really low lit conditions (like those night sequences in the ravine at the end which apparently were only getting 7 or 8 footcandles down there, with only 4 or 5 footcandles after the smoke starting flowing during the action) and the '47 (125T) stock was used for the set-ups involving wide clearances which had more natural light and as well, could be more easily illuminated with artificial light, when justified. You see, once you add artificial light in the deep jungle, all it accomplishes is lighting the foreground to such an excessive degree that it looks obvious and fake to audiences. Lighting considerations were where the real photographic `artistry", if you will, of the captured imagery took place, not in any consideration of grain being used for a `gritty' look."
Vincent Marcais Senior V.P. International Marketing, was asked about the policy when remastering catalog titles and specifically about Predator. The Fox executive acknowledges that they got a lot of criticism, "but I don't think it was deserved," he countered, because the movie was shot on a film stock that wasn't good enough, and the Blu-ray version "represents what the filmmaker wanted it to look like." He said that Fox discusses the issue of "removing grain or not" with the filmmakers, "as long as they are alive".
Corporate Execs at this level are very careful about the statements they make for publication. There will be no remaster or new transfer of Predator in the foreseeable future based on his comment.