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.


greentea said...

I like the 'restore' treatment of the Disney films fine. Why wouldn't you want the picture to look closer to the original art work? Changing the color, however, is another thing. Maybe I wouldn't notice it without the DVD shot in comparison, but I'm not crazy about this color treatment of Nausicaa. The lines and sharpness look good, but the colors are too rosy, too pink. But it's not a big deal.

notfadeaway said...

The point is that by "restoring" films they introduce artefacts that were not there in the first place, as Daniel notes in the blog post. You cannot cleanly filter grain from a motion picture without introducing artefacts unless you do it by hand on a frame by frame basis and check each one by eye.

I believe BV Japan have filtered the grain for the Laputa Blu-ray (can you confirm Daniel?) which results in blob like grain rather than the ultra fine grain as seen on the Nausicaa Blu-ray. This is bad, and a perfect example of why this kind of restoration is futile, although the disc and picture is still fantastic. BV Japan may have done this in response to complaints about the Nausicaa Blu-ray from Japanese consumers; who by now are used to the ultra clean, grain free, HD digital quality of all modern TV anime.

It's not a contradiction to wish for the best quality releases *with* grain. The films were shot on 35mm film and this is part of their character and history.


Jonathanio said...

An excellent restoration on Nausicaa

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

I'm not sure how Castle in the Sky and My Neighbors the Yamadas differ from Nausicaa in reagard to film grain. Perhaps changes were made, perhaps not. I'll need to look at a copy to see for certain. What's clear is that this will be a point of debate among anime fans.

Now, as for me, I watched a copy of the Nausicaa Blu-Ray last night (abso-freakin-lutely spectacular), and I enjoyed the film grain look. It's a subtle look, and does not interfere with the picture at all. It looks like you're watching Nausicaa on film. It certainly isn't anywhere close to the artifacts and digital effects on a standard DVD.

I'll be willing to wager that most people watching will never even notice. Personally, I wouldn't want a perfectly clean, "digital" look, because that's simply not what the movie is. Nausicaa isn't going to look the same way as Ponyo, it just isn't. I want a movie that looks true to itself, and I think Studio Ghibli has succeeded. This Blu-Ray looks fantastic!

Just wait and see for yourself. If you still doubt me....well, sit down and watch Warriors of the Wind.

notfadeaway said...

Well a quick googling reveals these two pages:

Regarding Laputa: Castle in the Sky video quality:

- More grain filter applied than Nausicaa. They tried not to lose the "sharp" look to it while keeping the grain minimum

I did notice that the grain structure in Laputa certainly looks different to Nausicaa, like I said the impact isn't that bad (although I haven't looked at the image with a really critical eye). It would be better if they didn't give-in to the complaints but ultimately the consumer gets what the consumer wants.


serhei said...

I remember having a soft spot for watching Disney films recorded on PAL tapes in SECAM VHS players (or is it the other way around?)... anyhow, the point was that the picture ended up being black and white. This, naturally, toned down the color palette which (in my opinion) was overly distracting from the animation. And the poor quality of the VHS could be counted as part of an 'old black and white movie' look.

Of course, this habit bit me majorly years later when I sat down to watch a 'remastered' DVD of Alladin and the 21st century color treatment on the hyperactive genie sequences came close to burning my eyes out.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

The film grain on Castle in the Sky definitely looks different than on Nausicaa, but it's clearly still there. Personally, I don't mind it at all. I find a purely clear, digital look to be a bit plastic, too much like video games, and not enough like an anime movie.

Frankly, the Japanese are being spoiled brats over this. The Ghibli Blu-Rays look spectacular. They have no right to complain and bellyache like babies. Miyazaki-san should continue to do what he's doing, and bring us his movies on his terms.

I do hope we'll get Castle in the Sky and My Neighbors the Yamadas in the West soon. Importing these BDs is really expensive. I just ordered the Castle disc from$82! Sure, I'll get it in 2-5 business days, but stil....damn!

Gnickerson said...

As a collector of Disney animated films, I've been quite pleased and happy with the treatments most of the films have gotten. The marquee films like Snow White, Beauty and the Beast etc. have received excellent transfers.

As far as the Blu-Ray transfers for some of the older films, I have no issue with any of them. For Snow White and Pinocchio, the general opinion seems to be positive. However with Sleeping Beauty, I do know some who were irked with the Blu-Ray, as the color palette was altered in the restoration.

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