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How High-Definition Is Bad News for SF Flicks

Cory Doctorow’s latest Locus Magazine is at Locus Online: How High-Definition Is Bad News for SF Flicks. An excerpt:

[The longevity of a film’s profitability] is now threatened by an unlikely menace: the high-definition screen. And no genre is more imperiled than science fiction/fantasy.

HD is poison for special-effects movies. Whatever sins are hidden in a standard-definition 12-inch TV set are thrown into stark relief by big, crisp displays. Whatever longevity can be wrung from a movie by releasing it to smaller, more forgiving screens is cut short by the living-room behemoths that are being pushed on us today.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

5 Comments on How High-Definition Is Bad News for SF Flicks

  1. Crap I tell you! Total crap! I wonder if the same thing was bantered about when color movies started showing up at the theaters. “Oh no! Black and white films are worthless now!” The same assertion has been applied to older video games as well. The thought was that no one would want to play games with boring graphics that weren’t pushing as many pixels as the latest releases.

    It’s all about content. Some of the old sci-fi films haven’t held up well because they were never that good to begin with. I still get sucked into watching Blade Runner when I catch a glimpse of it and I still can’t walk by a William’s Defender machine without playing a few games. Content has the longest legs.

  2. I stand with Dean on this one. Cory made a obviously (technically challenged) assumption. By this assessment any movie that was produced pre-HD the special effect “should” look poor on an HD screen. This is just not so. Take the beloved Star Wars: A New Hope as an example. I would say that the only thing that stands out more in HD than it did in SD was the matte paneling used when a space ship (like a tie-fighter) moved across the screen in space. (i.e. you see the little off black colored box/halo around the ship that doesn’t blend well with the “black space” behind it). But that is more telling of higher contrast ratios in new HD tv’s versus the older SD tube sets and really doesn’t have much to do with the extra resolution that HD offers.

    Also, speaking as someone with pretty advanced knowledge of how effects are made in movies, resolution is something that always needs to be tuned down for SD or even HD tv since graphics development PC computer screens can have FAR GREATER resolution than even a 1080p (1920 × 1080 at 60 Hz) HD set can offer. So effects developers are always scaling down to meet the target medium, just not as much as they used too with todays HD sets.

    Also, in re-reading his article, it read to me like he is “shoehorn-ing” the science to meet his desires with the article, and not the other way around as it should be. It reads like a “forced assumption” to meet his needs.

    In closing, viewing his bio pic, he needs to dump the “Weezer” emo look too.

  3. If a movie looks great on a cinema screen and it looks ok on TV then it should look good on larger screens. Doesn’t 35mm film have higher resolution than domestic ‘high definition’ ?

  4. He has to write a regular column. It doesn’t mean he has to be intelligent each time.


  5. More info: Locus readers respond to the article.

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