Raiders of the Lost Ark Blu-ray quality: photography issues or encoding?

The other day I sent my review in to Sound and Image of Paramount’s magnificent new Blu-ray box set: Indiana Jones – The Complete Adventures. This has the four movies plus a disc of extras.

In general it looks and sounds great. And that includes the first movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. But that’s not to say there were no issues. The opening scenes of Raiders tends towards a blown-out contrast and a few scenes which are quite soft. Pretty soon it tightens up and looks great.

But there was a short period in those early scenes where weird stuff was happening: the focus was largely soft, but would snap into sharpness for a frame or two and then go soft. This was most obvious during a roughly 3.5 second long sequence as Indiana and his companion are proceeding down the cave, shortly before the spider scene. I will get to that and over the fold I will show 64 frames from that sequence. But, first, here’s a shorter comparison from the spider scene itself.

Here’s the whole frame so you have a context. This is at 0:05:02 into the movie. Here is the 1,920 by 1,080 pixel frame, resized down to 600 pixels wide to fit:

Spider scene from RotLA - Full frame resized to 600 pixels wide

Now here is a detail of that scene. This is presented at the original resolution:

Spider scene from RotLA - original resolution

And here is the very next frame:

Spider scene from RotLA - original resolution - the very next frame!

Most of the frames in this scene are like the first one, soft and almost seeming to be double exposed. But this and the next frame are noticably sharper. You can see that on the spiders, but look at the base of the torch as well. After those two sharper frames the picture reverts to the soft one.

Over the fold I’ll lay out the sequence leading to the point, which shows a generally softly focused scene, snapping from time to time into focus for just a frame or two, and then going soft again. This was remarkably obvious when I watched the movie, and quite distracting. But in checking on-line reviews from two trusted sources (here and here), this has apparently previously gone unremarked. Perhaps the version released in Australia was different to that in the US.

So, to the cave walk. Here is the first frame for context, resized down to 600 pixels wide. This sequence starts at 0:04:40 into the movie:

Full frame of the cave walk from Raiders

Over the fold are all a full resolution detail of all 64 frames in the sequence. Most of these are soft, but a few are sharp. Indeed, look particularly at frames 3 (hover over the frame to get the number), 9, 19, 25 & 26, 37, 48, 57 and 61. Compare, for example, 19 to 18 and 21. During actual playback of the scene this flickering between soft and sharp was was obvious and distracting.

Update (16 November 2012) – steel_breeze over at the AVS forums says that the same problem was evident on the DVDs, but appears to have been increased by the greater clarity of the Blu-ray.

I’ve omitted the first second or so of this sequence. It it uniformly soft in focus so there was no point including another 20+ frames. The first two frames are representative of what was omitted. The third frame shows the first instance of unexpected sharpness. This sequence is all the frames for about 2 2/3 seconds. Note: these are details of the real frames and they are presented at the original resolution.

Cave Walk 01

Cave Walk 02

Cave Walk 03

Cave Walk 04

Cave Walk 05

Cave Walk 06

Cave Walk 07

Cave Walk 08

Cave Walk 09

Cave Walk 10

Cave Walk 11

Cave Walk 12

Cave Walk 13

Cave Walk 14

Cave Walk 15

Cave Walk 16

Cave Walk 17

Cave Walk 18

Cave Walk 19

Cave Walk 20

Cave Walk 21

Cave Walk 22

Cave Walk 23

Cave Walk 24

Cave Walk 25

Cave Walk 26

Cave Walk 27

Cave Walk 28

Cave Walk 29

Cave Walk 30

Cave Walk 31

Cave Walk 32

Cave Walk 33

Cave Walk 34

Cave Walk 35

Cave Walk 36

Cave Walk 37

Cave Walk 38

Cave Walk 39

Cave Walk 40

Cave Walk 41

Cave Walk 42

Cave Walk 43

Cave Walk 44

Cave Walk 45

Cave Walk 46

Cave Walk 47

Cave Walk 48

Cave Walk 49

Cave Walk 50

Cave Walk 51

Cave Walk 52

Cave Walk 53

Cave Walk 54

Cave Walk 55
Cave Walk 56

Cave Walk 57

Cave Walk 58

Cave Walk 59

Cave Walk 60

Cave Walk 61

Cave Walk 62

Cave Walk 63

Cave Walk 64

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