Though I don’t have precise means to judge Blu-ray for all it provides, the differences between SD and HD are immediately noticeable. Despite the fact that Blu-ray doesn’t offer full 35mm resolution (about 4 times less, to be precise), it provides the best digital home viewing experience thus far.
I watched Eyes Wide Shut on a 1080p screen and it was stunning. Having watched EWS a dozen or so times since it was released nearly ten years ago (yeesh!), I know it more through its SD-DVD, which was never close to the theatrical experience I so loved. For starters, this Blu-ray disc retains the incredibly dense film grain of the 35mm experience, and is formatted in 16×9, providing the best yet copy of this film on video. The added resolution, nearly three times better than the SD-DVD, at least hints at what can be expected while viewing this film as it (truly) ought to be seen, which is theatrically.
What’s thrilling about this format is that resolution is no longer sacrificed in the home video business. Despite the success of YouTube, which offers painfully dull and pixelated images, Blu-ray is promisingly ambitious and becoming increasingly accessible and more inexpensive. Though it may spell out the end of theatrical moving going as we know it, the trade-offs aren’t so painful.
In the coming months, Vertigo, Chungking Express, Contempt, and Walkabout are all debuting on this new format. Even if iPod and YouTube resolution crunching is very much a thing of the present, the increasing amount of formats to choose from at least provides the illusion of variety.
[Click on the above still for a hi-res grab. It’s about 2/3rds of the 1080p frame]