I have posted three copies of Heat on Blu-ray to three readers who undertook my Blu-ray picture quality survey. They were:
- Shane from the Gold Coast,
- Des from Queensland, and
- Simon Hewlett from Calwell, ACT, not far from where I am.
I should note that all three got the wrong answers, but did it in a good way. One of them got nine out of ten wrong, while the other two got all ten wrong.
Let’s go back and see what this tells us. The challenge was to compare two versions of the same frame, for ten different frames, and then work out whether they belonged to the original theatrical version of Natural Born Killer on Blu-ray, which had a fairly high 27.75Mbps average bitrate, or to the Director’s Cut version, which had a significantly lower 20.02Mbps.
What does that tell us? Well, there were basically two components to the challenge. The first was identify whether there were indeed quality differences between the two frames in each case, and then decide whether the superior version of each frame belonged to one or the other version of the movie.
Four people undertook the challenge and emailed me with a response. Three of the four correctly grouped together all ten of the frames from each version of the movie, and the fourth correctly grouped all but one.
Clearly, these four people proved themselves very competent at judging picture quality because of their high degree of accuracy.
Things went awry in the next stage: working out whether the better quality frames were from the high bitrate theatrical cut, or the lower bitrate Director’s cut. The three above assumed that the high quality went with the high bitrate. But the truth is, it was exactly the reverse in this example. The Director’s Cut has much more natural colour, and a greater level of detail that ranges from moderate to large.
Did the lower video bitrate damage picture quality? Perhaps. But to the extent that it did, its effects were completely swamped by the quality of the print used.
Incidentally, one person not only grouped the two lots of ten correctly, but allocated them to the correct versions of the movie. He wasn’t eligible to win the disc because he lives in America. He tells me that it was the ‘overly saturated colors of the theatrical’ version that gave the game away, since he’d read of that in US reviews.
A very concrete lesson that bitrate is not everything!