Re: Heaven and Earth Magic

From: Pip Chodorov (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Aug 26 2006 - 03:45:40 PDT

Thanks for your interest. Re:Voir is planning a
Blu-Ray release as soon as we can make a new HD
master. Alternate soundtracks are a great idea,
but already, even on VHS, the viewer is free to
put on any music! Since Blu-Ray players are java
compatible, we could have the disc bring up
random radio stations, or we could provide a
certain number of random alternate tracks that
could be periodically updated online, so the
films would always be shown with different tracks
from the Harry Smith archive, or other archives.
It would be great to release more Smith films,
but it will take some time, and money.

As to DVD, we are limited by the technology. We
cannot release Harry Smith on DVD because the
mpeg compression will eradicate most of what's
interesting and beautiful - essential in fact -
to Harry Smith's project. DVDs have a limited
throughput of 9.8 megabits per second, and that's
not enough for full frame video when the image is
radical, hand-painted animation. It's like too
much water through a too narrow pipe.
* (see below if you are interested in a more technical explanation)

We have successfully avoided DVD for the past 8
years. Now we are having trouble avoiding, but we
are only planning to release on DVD films
composed of natural and predictable movements:
the Zanzibar films, David Perlov's Diary, Steve
Dwoskin's Dyn Amo, Adolfas Mekas's Hallelujah the
Hills, Isidore Isou's Traité de Bave et
d'éternité, portraits of filmmakers... As soon
as we can feasibly produce and distribute Blu-Ray
discs we will start converting our complete VHS
line to disc.

In the meantime we are releasing new PAL VHS
tapes: Robert Breer's compilation "Un Miracle +"
and Christopher Maclaine's "Beat Films" just came
out; within the next week we will release Jim
Davis's "Horizons of Light" packaged with a new
book by Robert Haller including Davis'
correspondance; and a portrait of Rose Lowder
with some of her new Bouquets écologiques. VHS
isn't the greatest format, details are of course
missing, but at least you can see every frame of
the film at full resolution. Rose Lowder on DVD
is a catastrophe!

-Pip Chodorov

*technical explanation
DVD compression was designed, when it was
invented, to reproduce natural and predictable
motion. MPEG is based on a GOP, or group of
pictures. A GOP of 12 for example, means one
i-frame from the source material, followed by 11
p- or b- frames, which are predictable or
bi-directional. Pixels that move smoothly from
frame to frame are not recorded on the disc but
predicted. Backgrounds that remain still for many
frames do not have to be repeated. Only new
information is encoded on the disc. In the case
of Harry Smith, the frames are not predictable at
all. Everything moves! His films require encoding
at a GOP of 1, which means virtually no
compression. Too much water through a too narrow
pipe. The end result is a picture with not enough
information. The color palette is flattened,
subtle colors gradations are missing; details and
textures are missing; contrast is exaggerated,
details in the lights and darks are missing.
Grain is gone, replaced by macroblocks and
compression artefacts. Blu-Ray on the other hand
allows throughputs five times higher - up to 45
Megabits per second. HD also requires five times
more information, so these problems will persist,
but on a much smaller scale. It will not be
perfect but will hopefully be acceptable, given
the tests we have seen.

>many thanks for the clarification, Pip.
>Are you considering a DVD release for Smith's
>work? And would you include alternate
>soundtracks as special features??

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.