Comic Con 2012: A Word on Blu-Rays from the People Who Make ‘Em

The Comic Con panel on Blu-Ray production, and word on the pitfalls of the profession from the people who know.

Witney Seiboldby Witney Seibold


House of Wax is getting a cleaned-up Blu-Ray, of course, but look!

So, yeah, Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is, without argument, the single best television show ever made my humans, is going to be getting the Blu-Ray treatment starting at the end of 2012, and extending into 2013. The second biggest challenge that the producers of Blu-Rays face is culling together brand new special features for the updated editions of various movies and TV shows. The first is, according to Robert Meyer Burnett, the director of the 1998 geek-centric film Free Enterprise and the man in charge of the TNG Blu-ray editions, is making a show that was shot on analog videotape look crisp and great on a new medium. Oh, don’t worry. He’s overseen some awesome digital processes that have kept as much of the original look as they could, but while brushing it up for a new generation. Those special features, by the way, also include a reunion of the entire cast. Like all of ‘em in the same room again. I’m wiggling so damn much right now.

Okay, I know that’s all about TV, and this is the film section, but it’s one of my favorite shows, so I had to give it a word.

Also cool: The Universal monster films are getting the Blu-Ray treatment next year. The Creature from the Black Lagoon will be in 3-D. With the ubiquity of the gimmick, we often forget that a previous generation also went through a schlocky (and, I think, much more fun) affair with it. If any film deserves the 3-D treatment, it’s Creature. Well, maybe Avatar.

Burnett also worked on Die Another Day, which he openly acknowledges to be the worst of the James Bond movies. Which was a pity for him, as he was a big James Bond fan, was offered a James Bond job, and got his least favorite one. Poor guy.

The Blu-ray producers panel here at Comic Con is not, as you might expect, a dull discussion about the technical of making a Blu-Ray disc. It was actually a subtle and insightful look at the way films are marketed and packaged in this ultra-saturated world. One of the producers on the panel is working, for instance, on Blu-Rays of The Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus, and he laments openly how little time he has to assemble a home video product. Different is the Blu-Ray for The Hunger Games, which is due out in August, and evidently was granted more time and money for special features and digital cleanup. It will, evidently, be given the same treatment as the so-called “catalogue titles.”

The makers of Blu-Rays are often working in close cahoots with the people making the making-of features, if they’re not the ones making the features themselves. What we have here is a class of people who are so passionate about the technical of movie making that they are only making movies about the making of movies. And there’s an element of that in all of us. Why else would we buy multi-disc editions of our favorite movies if we didn’t want to dissect everything?

The panel not only showed the documentary connected to The Hunger Games, but we also got to see some footage from an upcoming Blu-Ray of Singin’ in the Rain (in stores on Tuesday). A bit of tech talk: To make the Blu-Ray, the makers couldn’t just update the old DVD scan, but had to go back to an original print (Not the master print, sadly, as that was damaged in a studio fire decades ago, but an old, clean print nonetheless). The restoration is pristine. Well, from what I could tell from the projection in the panel hall. However many times you see it, there’s still something kinda magical about seeing Gene Kelly sing the film’s famous title song.

All of the producers also agreed on this: No matter how long they’ve been in the home video business, the ever-changing pop culture landscape, and ever-shrinking turnover times, and various Kafka-esque legal clearances (they can’t legally film, for instance, the Paramount studio entrance for a Blu-Ray special feature), are all making the Blu-Ray jobs harder and harder to complete with any sort of satisfactory quality. I guess the lesson is this: A long-awaited classic is going to look better and have a lot more money and hard work put into it than a new title like John Carter. There is also currently no plan (although there is some potential) for Blu-Ray-quality movies-on-demand. I think that quality and attention to preservation is a few years off.

The best thing about working the Blu-Ray beat? You can occasionally work on The Savage Depths. Described in the following way: “It’s about a monster turtle from the ocean floor. It’s a love story.” It was shot on 16mm. And it’ll be getting a Blu-Ray. Yeah.