Nausicaa Blu-Ray - How Does it Compare to the DVD?
Just how good does the Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind Blu-Ray look when compared to standard DVD? Here are a few screenshots to demonstrate. Those of you who have already purchase the Japanese or UK disc will already know this; the rest of us will have to wait a few weeks longer to discover for ourselves.
I wanted to share some of these screenshots and take a good long look. The difference is really striking when you see both formats together. Let's look at some specific examples from both the DVD and Japanese Blu-Ray.
The first example comes from the early scene of Nausicaa deep in the Sea of Decay. She is walking around, exploring, examining. The character looks smudgy against the background on DVD. Details are a bit obscured and lines are thick; this is a common fault with Ghibli's movies on standard-def. Now compare this to the clarity and resolution in the Blu-Ray. We can see detailed features to Nausicaa that we couldn't before. The dark blue hues are more pronounced, and we can detect the variations in color tones. What was once a monochromatic scene appears richer, warmer.
The second example comes from the early action sequence involving the runaway Ohmu. The DVD shot demonstrates one of my big beefs with anime on this format: solid textures are riddled with artifacts. This is where edge enhancement really makes itself known. Look at the billowing sand, and the white textures on Nausicaa's Mehve. Action lines on the ground look smudged, blurry, like a charcoal smudge.
Again, the Blu-Ray is a dramatic improvement. Colors are sharp and clear. Lines are sharper, more easily defined. Artifacts and edge enhancement are nowhere to be seen. The higher resolution of the picture is plainly obvious.
Finally, Our third example demonstrates the difference in the pencil lines for characters. This is something of a signature issue for Ghibli's movies on DVD. Notice how the lines appear thick, moreso than necessary. Edge enhancement, used to sharpen the picture, takes away the clarity of the pencil line. You can also see, once again, artifacts in the solid colors, and the slightly limited color palette. This looks more like tv anime than a feature movie.
The Blu-Ray photo? Exquisite. The higher resolution, richer color palette, amd lack of any edge enhancement or similar "tricks" are obvious. The colors are more properly balanced. And the pencil lines are clean, thin, clear. This looks like we're looking at a 35mm photograph of an animation cell. This is a terrific improvement.
There are a couple more points I should make about the Nausicaa Blu-Ray. As you can see, the color temperature on the Japanese disc is much "warmer" than the earlier DVD versions. This is a fairly recent development on Ghibli's part, as they use a different temperature point for white light. It's something like 9700K, instead of the 6500K which is standard white-color temp in the West. This is purely a question of style, and it's going to be standard on all the Studio Ghibli Blu-Rays from now on.
Another issue with Ghibli's BDs that has caused some controversy is the film grain. Hayao Miyazaki's goal is to capture the look of his movies on 35mm film. This means that film grain is present on Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, and My Neighbors the Yamadas. Miyazaki-san is particularly critical of the approach taken by Disney for their Blu-Ray classics, which aim to capture the look of the animation cels themselves.
Does Pinocchio and Snow White look better this way? Or do the images appear too "clean" to your eyes? This is a matter of debate among movie lovers, and I'm sure we'll be debating the merits for a long time. It's important to note that Optimum made changes to the UK release of Nausicaa Blu-Ray, by smoothing out the image and reducing film grain. This, however, has the effect of smoothing and softening the image, and the consensus is that the Japanese disc is the better version. "Better," of course, being a relative item., because the Optimum Nausicaa still looks spectacular.
Let's close with a few full screenshots from Nausicaa DVD and Blu-Ray. I'm sure you'll be able to spot many key differences between both formats. And just remind yourself, Americans - only eight more weeks. Only eight more weeks.