Update to my review on Warner Archives CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN!

A few posts back I recommended the Warner Brothers Archive distributed, Hammer Studios made CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN disc, but did point out an issue with its aspect issue. That the so-called wide screen 1:85 version is ‘fake’ widescreen, that basically just zooms in and crops information on the sides and top of the film, and that the 1:66 version is superior to the 1:85 version.

While that is true as far as it goes, I have just seen the special features on the 2nd disc, and the light bulb goes off. The primary feature on this disc is the movie in 1:37, basically 4:3, tv frame. This film was shot to maintain the 4:3 standard, that was very much still the standard for cinema. The viewers they used to frame their shots, everything was 4 by 3. Widescreen in the 1950s was very much a hail Mary, to try and bring people back to the cinemas by giving them something they could not get in their homes… widescreen.

And where widescreen would be used to real effect, by filmmakers as the years went on, watching the 1:37 print, from frame effing one it is clear, this is how the film was meant to look. From the first frame you can see the castle at the top of the screen that the rider is climbing up the mountain toward. a castle that is not discernible in the 1:8 version and you can just make out the bottom of on the 1:66 version.

In the 1:33 version you can clearly see the destination the rider is heading toward. And the rest of the movie is likewise perfectly framed, you no longer get the horses ears getting cut out of the frame, or the tops of people’s heads touching the top of the screen or being clipped out of the frame.

I knew the moment I saw the 1:8 version that it was missing detail. The 1:66 version gave us some of that detail back, the 1:33 finally gives us all the story… and the scales fall from our eyes.

Not only do you gain data on the top and bottom of the frame, you also gain data on the sides. You gain all that information that had the picture feeling… lacking (to differing degrees) in the other two versions.

And the pictures looks great in this 4 by 3 version. I’m over-joyed they included the 1:33 version but am dismayed they relegated it to the special feature disc (that potentially most will not even know about), and the ‘legitimate’ versions will be touted as these fake wide-screen versions.

It actually makes me mad, that the superior version of the film, the 4 by 3 version, was not the marketable version. “Oh but everyone has a widescreen tv, and people don’t want the picture to not use all that widescreen real estate”, even if it means they are actually being sold an inferior viewing experience, under the guise that it is a superior standard.

Studio speak.

It reminds me of what is happening with 4K, People are sold this idea that 4k is a superior picture to Bluray, that is is 4 times as good picture wise, and as with fake widescreen, that is not true.

1st, the term 4K is a misnomer sold to idiots, it is not 4 times anything compared to Bluray. It can discern smaller pixels, so roughly twice more dots per inch. But that is about screen real estate, and is not picture quality. It is picture real estate that depending what you are looking at and how it is applied… could be a component of better picture quality, or not.

But as I’ve stated before, in real world situation on a 60″ or less tv, at a standard viewing distance you are not going to discern any notable difference in the resolution between HD and UHD (called inaccurately 4K). What you do notice is the bells and whistles they dress up the marginal difference with, ie Dolby Digital and/or HDR. And that is color grading. And that technology could have just as easily veen applied to Bluray, but then they could not have sold the masses on new Tvs and players.

UHD like Widescreen has the ability to be well used, but it also (as in THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN) has the ability to be lip-service to quality, rather than a true qualitative improvement.

It depends if the people mastering these discs, are just interested in selling you a buzz word and a fad to get you to part with your money, or if they are actually interested and capable of recognizing a superior picture, and providing you that experience.

As with widescreen, sometimes the UHD/4K is just a buzzword with no value, and you are better off getting the 4:3 or Bluray version.

THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is a great film, and if you have only seen it via the ‘wide-screen’ versions, go to disc 2 and watch the 1:33 version, and see what you have been missing. Highly Recommended!

TODAY’S TOP 3 BINAURAL RECORDINGS/NATURAL MUSIC!

I became a fan of Binaural recordings well over a decade ago. A technology that became briefly popular in the early days of the search for surround. Using a very interesting concept and relatively affordable requirements, Binaural allowed the effective reproduction of a surround sound environment, using only headphones. Unlike simple stereo in traditional recordings and systems, Binaural recordings created a definite spatial soundstage. Sound could be close or far, above or behind or in front. In other words it offered an alternative to expensive receiver/multi-speaker Dolby Surround setups, using only the binaural recording and a pair of headphones.

Needless to say the cost effective Binaural was crushed out of existence by multi-million dollar marketing push of competing technologies such as Dolby and licensing deals of companies whose livelihood depended on selling you expensive receivers/decoders and multi-speaker setups.

And don’t get me wrong, those things have their place. I grew up during the age of great speakers and receivers, from Polk to B&W 801s to Legacy Classic series; sound systems that cost more than cars. And I went through my share of such systems, but for personal entertainment, when you are not trying to blow the roof off or entertain a roomful of people… such systems are overkill.

Especially now in the age of miniaturization (and to some extent isolation) that the itunes and media player model has made of music listening, everyone is listening through headphones. And in such an environment Binaural not Dolby, is the surround scheme that is most impressive and immersive.

Unfortunately big business has a way of killing the affordable technology or alternative technology in favor  of the bloated, controllable, and prohibitively expensive model. So for this reason there is only a handful of mass-produced binarual music cds in existance.

Thankfully the very nature of Binaural means anyone can produce recordings using this technology. The detriment of that being you get the binaural recording technique, coopted by ‘new agey’ and suspect alternative health types, putting out mostly awful CDs that are supposed to help you receive some exceptional brain state. Most of these CDs are what you would expect from such claims.

But the real fans of Binaural understand the technology is for making kick-ass ‘you are there’ sound recordings.

Binaural allows effective placement of sound using headphones. So yes it makes for effective recordings of environments, be it a rain forest or a subway or a concert hall.

So without further ado here are the best binaural recordings currently available:

The Mist Movie Tie-In: In 3 D Sound [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]
Book Description
Release Date: October 2, 2007
Suspended in a haze of terror, humanity makes its last stand against unholy destruction!

Stephen King’s sinister imagination and the miracle of 3-D sound transport you to a hot, lazy day in a sleepy all-American town — where a sudden, violent storm leaves behind a mysterious mist that traps you in the supermarket with dozens of others, cut off from your families and the world.

The Mist is alive, seething with unearthly sounds and movements. The Mist has you in its grip, and this masterpiece of 3-D sound engineering surrounds you with horror so real that you’ll be grabbing your own arm for reassurance. To one side — and whipping around your chair, a slither of tentacles. Swooping down upon you, a rush of grotesque, prehistoric wings. In the impenetrable mist, hearing is seeing — and believing. And what you’re about to hear, you’ll never forget.

The Mist: In 3 D Sound

Richard Strauss: Also Sprach Zarathustra; Camille Saint-Saëns: Symphony No. 3 (Organ)


‘This is my favorite classical recording in my whole collection. This is a true audiophile recording for those seeking recordings with above standard audio qualities. This recording uses the binaural Neumann KU 100 dummy head and 20-bit resolution. Binaural recordings produce natural ‘3d’ audio, in 360 degree direction using only standard headphones. This is not Dolby surround. This is two-tracks. You don’t need a 5 speaker setup, all you need are headphones!

If you are a headphone user you should not hesitate one moment to get this, especially if you’ve never heard a binaural recording before. The difference is profound. When listening with headphones you will experience the orchestra as if you were there- all the instruments will be in their proper locations and distances all without using mixing board tricks.’
— Amazon reviewer

Also Sprach Zarathustra / Symphony 3


Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps / Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances

‘Binaural recordings are very rare and very unique. But in my opinion, binaural is the BEST way to record live music. Why? Because binaural captures the exact audio of a live event in 100 percent natural 360 degree audio.

To hear the binaural effect properly you must wear headphones while listening to this CD. And when you do, in effect, you will ‘be there’ like no other audio technolgy can offer. In fact, I’d say binuaral is far superior than Dolby or any other 3D technology.

When listening with headphones, thanks to the binaural recording technique, you will hear every instrument in every location exactly as they really are- the perspective is incredible. You can detect the exact distance and location of each musician. This is an UNBELIEVABLE experience! ‘– Amazon Reviewer

Stravinsky: Le Sacre du Printemps / Rachmaninoff: Symphonic Dances