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The Joy of Classic Films on Blu-Ray

For years and years, I’ve heard people talk online about the importance of certain audio or video quality. As every band I like releases a new album, there’s bound to be some people who jump to their feet and announce the audio quality is so horrible they can’t even listen to it, while I meanwhile think the quality sounds just fine. While others have opined for lossless audio files, it’s never been a concern for me.

The same would be true for classic films. It was never much of concern for me what the aspect ratio was, or anything like that. I was, after all, used to seeing certain old films that looked like the picture had been broadcast through a potato. The constant hissing that exists in many early talkies still drove me nuts, but aside from that I didn’t care much about what I saw. I could put up with popping and all that. No big deal, right?

All that changed when I got a Blu-Ray player this past Christmas.

Along with that, I got a couple of recent movies on Blu-Ray. The first I ended up seeing on there was Midnight in Paris, and I was in awe of how fantastic the city of Paris looked in the picture quality. It was clear right away that recent movies looked perfect on Blu-Ray. But, no surprise here, I don’t watch a lot of new movies. The question became just how good classic old films could look on Blu-Ray. I was skeptical that it would be worth it, but I had to give it a shot.

The first two, which I was able to pick up cheaply, were Sunset Boulevard and City Lights. I was highly impressed and my view of how to watch classic films changed forever.

It was pretty shocking how good they both looked. City Lights in particular was the best looking silent film print I had ever seen. Having been so used to terribly deteriorating silents, seeing one that looked so pristine was a while new experience. Sunset Boulevard looked even better in it’s restored version (not to mention tons of extras).

But in some ways, those films didn’t provide the full Blu-Ray experience. Neither are in color, and because their original aspect ratios were used (as they should be) they weren’t in 16:9. Then I saw North by Northwest. The movie seems almost more alive in this restored version. The colors pop off the screen and the landscape of outdoor scenes like the crop dust plane have never looked better.

So yes, now I do care a lot more about picture quality. When something’s not in 16:9, I’m kind of disappointed. But more importantly, I’ve learned that restored classic films are absolutely worth getting. It’s a whole new way to experience these films in absolute clarity.

So in short: join the dark side.

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