3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 11 June 2014
I have both sets at the moment. I guess that most customer will choose one set or another. This review is an attempt to help those customers.
The BFI box set is a wretched job of design: A flimsy box with discs poorly placed inside. It has a booklet with a short essay and black and white photos.
Discs from the BFI set are much more likely to scratch
than discs from the Shout Factory set. BFI's discs are colour coded and there is an index, on the box, listing the contents of each disc. The index lists discs by their number but they are ridiculously small. BFI was very ungenerous with the box set presentation.
The Shout Factory set is a beauty!
The set is like a book. It is smaller than it looks in the picture on Amazon: 19x19x3.5 cm (or about 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches).
It looks very stylish and elegant. The book starts with a 20 pages illustrated essay about Herzog's films. Photos are in colour and monochrome. After the essay you have a summary about each one of the main films.
The set is made of strong material. Discs are placed in individual slots similar to the ones in Hithcock or James Bond collector's sets. Pages for the discs are made of hard cardboard and there is one disc per page. Pages with discs have colour illustrations and bits of information about the discs. The discs' labels have photos of the main film in the disc.
Menus of the Shout Factory set are better than menus of the BFI set, which are quite confusing when I try to choose "with or without subtitles", for example.
Presentation is not only a matter of aesthetics although aesthetics does matter.
The discs in the Shout Factory set are better protected and are likely to last longer. It is also much easier to find what you are looking for in the Shout Factory set than in the BFI set.
The Shout Factory is clearly the one to choose if you consider presentation.
PLAYING THE DISCS
The BFI set has two big advantages here: You don't need a multi region blu player and you don't even need a blu ray player as BFI has also released this collection on a dvd set.
You will need a multi region blu ray player for the Shout Factory set. The set is available only on blu ray discs and is non European region only.
The BFI set is the one to choose if you don't have a multiregion blu ray player or if you have a dvd player.
QUALITY OF SOUND
The BFI has more options for sound in some of the discs but not in all of them. The audio on BFI's discs seems to be stronger, in general, than the sound on Shout Factory discs.
I am not sure if the sound quality is a reason to choose one set or the other.
QUALITY OF IMAGES
I have a four years old Loewe high def 32" TV and my perception of images is related to my TV and blu ray player, which is a medium priced multiregion Panasonic.
Images from the BFI set have, in general, a little more resolution than images from the Shout Factory set but I don't think this is related to the transfers.
I read somewhere that the European video system has a little more resolution than the American system. It seems that new digital tvs don't use NTSC (American) or Pal (European) system any more but that distinction is still valid for video players. The better resolution in some of the BFI discs is not necessarily a good thing because the quality of the photography in most of Herzog's films in both collections is very uneven and many times poor. A better resolution will improve the look of good images but will also be more revealing of poor images.
That said, the quality of images of the Shout Factory set is pretty similar to the quality of images of the BFI set.
I read, weeks ago, a review on dvd beaver praising the quality of images of the Nosferatu BFI blu ray disc and lashing out at the quality of the Shout Factory blu ray disc. The review says that "The BFI is rich with grain and the Shout! Factory heavy with DNR-style softening. What a blunder. I suppose it comes down to a personal preference but the BFI seems far more film-like to me. The BFI is darker and the Shout! Factory may show more information in the frame, but has lost its texture."
I wrote a non review before this review here. I wrote the following in that non review: The BFI set, in terms of titles and price, is much better than the American set and, if the information from dvdbeaver is correct, the remastering of the BFI set is better and then there is no reason whatsoever to chose the American set or to buy both sets.
Today, I feel very ashamed of myself for having written that. I did write "if the information from dvd beaver is correct" but it is no consolation. When I could finally compare both sets I felt cheated by the dvd beaver review.
If you have a state of the art home theater with the likes of a 60" plasma hdtv then the BFI set could be a better option although I am not sure about that.
If you have a normal high def tv, like most customers have(I guess), then don't be fooled by geeks and teenagers with short span of attention who can't read a review properly. There is no difference of consequence between the quality of images of the BFI and the Shout Factory sets.
Quality of images is not a reason to choose or set or the other.
Some controversy is going on about the differences between video quality of the sets. The controversy started because of a review on dvd beaver where a reviewer criticised one disc from the Shout Factory set and praised one disc from the BFI set. The review was about one disc only, "Nosferatu", which was released back in may this year.
The reviewer is a person. He is not the voice of God or a panel of engineers. That specific reviewer has a state of the art home theater and a 60" plasma hd TV. He is some sort of expert in compression and will see more details and faults on videos than most people would ever notice or care about.
So, tell me: Do you have a Pioneer Plasma flat 60 inches HDTV which has the suggested price, on the company site, of $5,500 ? I don't...
The dvd beaver review compares several photos taken from the BFI "Nosferatu" and the Shout Factory "Nosferatu". Pay no attention to what I am saying here, pay no attention to reviewers who are saying that the BFI set is much better than the Shout Factory set, pay no attention to the dvd beaver review. Check the photos yourself:
Photos from the Shout Factory blu ray disc "Nosferatu" are always the last ones and, just before them , you will see photos from the BFI disc "Nosferatu".
Photos on the internet are not an accurate way of comparing images from videos but they do give some sort of reliable reference. Look at the photo of the cat with the locket necklace, for example. Do you see an abysm of difference that justifies choosing one disc or another? Do you see anything that would make you consider "the BFI transfers as brilliant and the Shout Factory! transfers as sub-par" as one five stars review is saying?
Look at the photos of Nosferatu with his arms open. Would you say that the BFI disc blows the Shout Factory disc away in terms of picture quality as another five stars review is saying?
Please note that I wrote "disc", not "set", as the mentioned review is about one disc only. The reviewer admitted that it might be just a matter of personal preference, that is, some people will prefer the more grainy, film like texture of the BFI disc, as the reviewer sees those images, whilst some people will prefer the more filtered and boosted look of the Shout Factory disc.
There is a complete and very clinical review on bluray.com about the Shout Factory set. The reviewer, like the reviewer from dvd beaver, is a person. He is not the voice of God or a panel of engineers.
Actually, he is a professional musician.
He gives 3.0, 3.5 or 4.0 stars, out of a maximum of 5.0 stars to the video quality of most films from the Shout Factory set. Only one film gets less than three stars: "Fitzcarraldo", which gets 2.5 stars. But if you read the review about the video quality of "Fitzcarraldo" you will see that is not as bad as it looks as the reviewer is clearly looking for perfection.
There is no review about the whole BFI set on bluray.com yet. There are sparse reviews about some discs of the BFI set on dvd beaver. They are all very positive about the video quality apart from the review on "Cobra Verde".
Only the discs "Nosferatu" from BFI and Shout Factory, released separately months before the sets, have reviews in both bluray.com and dvdbeaver.
So, it is a blatant lie to say that "both of the big Blu-Ray review websites identify the BFI transfers as brilliant and the Shout Factory! transfers as sub-par" as one five stars review is saying. Review that was posted, in the very words of its authour, when he didn't even have the BFI set.
The reviewer from bluray.com ends his thorough review about the Shout Factory set saying that "There's a rather wide gamut of video (and to a lesser extent, audio) quality here, and while there will probably be a fair amount of hand wringing that everything isn't perfect here, overall this is a very good to excellent set. Yes, there are stumbles here (some of them probably avoidable), but taken as a whole, Herzog: The Collection comes Highly recommended."
Incidentally, the Shout Factory set is temporarily out of stock on Amazon US... The set has only five or four stars from reviewers on Amazon US and Amazon Canada apart from a single one star review on Amazon US posted by an idiot who says that the set is five stars but he was upset because of changes in the price.
Not that I care about number of stars but all reviews about the Shout Factory set on Amazon US or Amazon Canada are very positive whilst here the majority of reviews about the BFI set are not positive and two of the three five stars reviews were posted by inconsiderate reviewers who did not have any of the sets by the time of their review. One of them says so himself and the other one posted his review four months before the release of the set...
If you go to dvd talk you will read a review on the Shout Factory set written by a film editor who was nominated for an Emmy and worked, for example, in special effects on "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "1941" before becoming an editor of television spots and film trailers. He headed the editorial department for MGM Home Video for six years. He is also a book author and has a couple of books on films at Amazon UK. This is the link to his review:
The dvd talk reviewer is the only reviewer writing about the Shout Factory set, as far as I know, that does work in the film and tv industry. He writes that "I watched about half of the films and sampled the rest, coming up with no bad discs and no transfers of inferior quality".
Let me repeat that: "No transfers of inferior quality"...Did the reviewer, Glenn Erickson, noticed the use of filters in the transfers? Of course he did. Did he think that they were relevant enough to mention? Of course not.
There is a second review on dvd talk about the Shout Factory set. It is a more complete and critical review but the overall rating for the video quality of the set is four out of five stars.
That reviewer ends his review saying that the Shout Factory set " is close to a perfect box set. Some of the transfers are problematic, and many of Herzog's documentaries from this period have been excluded. That's the bad news. Here's the good news: this is an overwhelming collection of 16 films, that range from good-to-classic (and nothing less), often complimented by entertaining and illuminating commentaries by the auteur himself. This is a giant, vital chunk of cinema history, all in one convenient collection. DVD Talk Collector Series ( what is the highest recommendation in the site).
"Some of the transfers are problematic". I have no doubt about that. But I also know that most people, who are not experts on compression, will not notice things such as "some obvious high frequency noise reduction here that has an odd and somewhat differing effect on the film's grain structure" as the very competent and professional reviewer from bluray.com wrote about one of the discs.
So let me join a reviewer from dvd talk and say that the Shout Factory set is close to a perfect box set.
PEOPLE CAN'T READ
I wrote the long previous section just to show, with examples, that there is no technical review on dvdbeaver, bluray.com, dvdtalk or in any other technical site identifying "the BFI transfers as brilliant and the Shout Factory! transfers as sub-par" as one five stars review falsely claims.
The author of that misleading review says that the world is a "terrible, terrible place". Indeed ! And the modern mix of short span of attention with idleness is one of the things that make the world such a terrible place.
Shout Factory put much more work in their box set than BFI did. Moreover, when I look at both sets it is easy to see that Shout Factory also put passion and creativity in their work whislt the BFI set is nothing but one more set in their assembly line.
It is disgraceful to see such an excellent set being dragged down by reviewers who can't read.
It is ironic and sad that Herzog once criticised "misinformation propagated by the media" and now technical reviews about his set are being misinterpreted.
This is what Herzog said to a reporter last year: "But I have to add there are really funny things out there. For example, there is one letter going around which I supposedly wrote to my cleaning lady, and in which I insult her in the meanest possible way. When you read it, you'll see that the real author mentions his name right below the heading, but most people completely overlook that because, I suppose, people cannot read."
Herzog confirmed his accusation with a rather convincing argument:
"Most are illiterates, even though they know how to combine letters and make phrases and so on. I say: Consuming the internet, TV, and even cinema makes you lose the world. Only by reading can you gain the world."
WHY TECHNICAL WEBSITES CAN BE MISLEADING
It dawn on me that if those reviews from bluray.com and dvdbeaver about Herzog's set are not read in the right perspective they can become quite misleading because those reviews are mainly about the transfers, not the original quality of images, and they are written by experts on compression who have state of the art home theaters that most customers don't have.
It was only recently that I first read reviews on bluray.com and dvd beaver and only because of Herzog's new blu ray sets. You see, I had a great time watching about four thousand films and tv series on discs without having ever read a review from those sites...
I couldn't possibly care less about those websites and am mentioning them because it is necessary, as some posters are wrongly using those sites as proof that the BFI set is better than the Shout Factory set. It is a fake proof based on a mediocre method of work.
As I said before, I more or less believed in the dvd beaver review praising the "Nosferatu" BFI blu ray disc and lashing out at the "Nosferatu" blu ray disc from Shout Factory. When I watched the discs myself I felt cheated. However, I don't doubt that differences in compression are there. It is just that, on my tv, they are irrelevant. They really don't matter.
I liked Jeffrey Kaufmann reviews on bluray.com, though. They are more technical, more complete and more professional than the reviews from dvd beaver. What I especially liked about the reviews on bluray.com is that they do give interesting information about the original films.
But it is clear to me that those reviews from bluray.com and dvdbeaver are reviews written by experts on compression and their public will be mainly geeks and film/tv professionals, considering the vocabulary used in those reviews. Moreover, sometimes they focus too much on technical aspects of the transfers and forget about the original quality of the films transferred to blu ray disc.
Most of Herzog's films included in the sets have poor technical quality of image and sound to begin with and there is no magic compression or magic blu ray disc that will make images that were never stunning to look stunning.
I elaborate: Look at the film "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" on blu ray disc. Both reviews from dvd beaver and bluray.com are very positive about the video quality of the disc's images. But "Aguirre" was filmed with a very simple 35 mm that was being used by film students in a school before Herzog stole it...
They used cheap lenses and cheap film stock. They filmed Aguirre under extremely adverse conditions and the budget for the film, including lab work, was low. On the top of that, the cinematographer wasn't very experienced.
The images of "Aguirre", no matter how good was the transfer, are far inferior to images on blu ray disc from "True Grit", "The Tree of Life" or, to use a 1955 film as example, "Violent Saturday" ...
I read posts and reviews praising to high heavens the quality of images of the BFI set. There are probably three main explanations for that:
1 They are young customers, who never watched a Herzog 35 or 16 mm film projected on a film screen and they are too familiar with rubbish images from youtube. They also watch films mainly online, where the quality of image is inferior to blu ray discs. Those customers seem to be raising the bar too low.
2 There is, and here I am guessing, some sort of silly turf war going on.
3 The usual cheerleading that is rife on Amazon. Many narrow minded posters and reviewers want to see only positive reviews about films and tv series they like. They would delete all reviews that are not five or four stars if they could.
Let me be very clear about one thing: I am not taking sides here. The images of both BFI and Shout Factory Herzog sets are never excellent or extraordinary. Blu ray will have stunning images only when the original source was already stunning. Blu ray can't make miracles. There are plenty of ugly washed out images in the Nosferatu blu ray disc from both BFI and Shout Factory sets, for example.
The reviews about the audio quality on "Aguirre" are even more revealing on what I wrote about finding the right perspective to read technical reviews. The reviewer from bluray com gives four out of five stars to the audio of "Aguirre" from the Shout Factory set. He wrote that " some audiophiles may opt for the 2.0 track, which offers excellent fidelity and a somewhat more focused soundfield. There's also an odd frequency shift between the 5.1 mix and the 2.0 mix, where if you toggle between them, you can actually hear the underscore fluctuate a few centimes between the two."
How many customers would notice those very technical details? And how many customers have the equipment to notice those details?
The reviewer from dvd beaver also wrote a very positive review about the audio of "Aguirre" and said that the audio "has a few notable separations and is very robust through a DTS-HD Master track at 3025 kbps... The 'theme', written by Florian Fricke is notable and sounds very clean throughout with a touch of depth in the sounds of the water currents."
Both reviews are quite misleading. People will expect a wonderful audio that is simply not there. I have a Loewe tv and they are known for their good audio quality.
I am sure that the transfers are very good, as those reviews suggest, but the sound in "Aguirre" from both sets is weird, to say the least.
It is very easy to notice that people's voices don't match with their surroundings. I've been near waterfalls like the ones in Aguirre. It is deafening.
They did a very bad job with the sound and I am not talking about BFI or Shout Factory. I am talking about Herzog's crew. Watch the waterfall scenes from "The Last of the Mohicans" or "The Mission", for example, and compare their audio with the audio from Aguirre in the Herzog blu ray sets. The audio of those two films is far better than the audio of "Aguirre".
The poor sound quality doesn't make the film any less impressive and magic than it is, because of Herzog's exquisite story. The story is what really matter.
But reviews on bluray.com and dvdbeaver praise the audio of Aguirre when the audio is actually poor. It is the misleading factor caused by the difference between the quality of the transfer and the quality of the original audio of the film.
Another example: Bluray.com has a very positive review about the audio quality of "Cobra Verde". The review says that " Both dialogue and the glut of ambient environmental effects are rendered with excellent fidelity and some surprising dynamic range."
I am sure it is true but, again, there is a big difference between the transfer and the film itself. The audio of "Cobra Verde" has a serious fault: Lack of sync. Many times an actor, probably speaking in Portuguese, is dubbed to German or English. It looks awful. You can see the lips moving when there is no voice and you can hear the voice when the lips are not moving...
The review on dvd beaver about the film "Cobra Verde" from the BFI set was written by a reviewer not mentioned here before. He is clearly unhappy with the video quality of the BFI disc but he hesitates in criticises it and wants to see the Shout Factory disc before writing a more conclusive review...
It is a very strange and questionable decision considering that other reviewer from dvd beaver praises to high heavens the quality of the BFI blu ray disc "Aguirre" and he didn't need to compare it with the Shout Factory disc...
Moreover, the reviewer from bluray.com wrote a very positive review about the video quality
of the Shout Factory "Cobra Verde". It is a very detailed review, much more complete that dvd beaver's reviews, and he didn't need to see the BFI disc in order to write that review...
Reviewers who wrote about the BFI discs seem to be writing in the UK because they have the BFI set but don't have the Shout Factory set, which was released several weeks before the BFI set.
I wonder if the negative review about "Cobra Verde" from BFI on dvdbeaver is not conclusive because the reviewer doesn't want to upset his pals at the BFI. I am sorry if I sound too cynical here but the whole thing is strange and it seems to me that reviews on dvd beaver about the BFI set are not as kosher as the implacable reviews on bluray.com about the Shout Factory set.
The video quality of "Woyzeck" is considered very good by a review on dvdbeaver. The reviewer, the same one who wrote the review about "Nosferatu" discs, compares the BFI blu ray disc with dvds and says that "Flesh tones become more natural, colors tighten, detail rises, depth is apparent, it ha a max'ed out bitrate... It also shows more information in the frame."
There is a big house near a lake in the beginning of "Woyzeck". The house's walls look greenish/brownish in both BFI and the Shout Factory discs. I thought it was odd so I checked the Anchor Bay UK dvd, which is not even the best dvd copy of the film. The walls are white washed on the dvd, what is certainly their original color, and the house looks much better on the dvd.
There is more: The grass looks synthetic in both BFI and Shout Factory blu ray discs. Its look is more natural on the dvd. There is just so much one can do with films of poor original quality. Maybe both BFI and Shout Factory tried too hard to make poor original photography to look better than it possibly could. I first watched the film many years ago, in the cinema. It was a real film projected onto a real film screen. I didn't notice that kind of thing at that time but, after having watched so many films one gets more critical, I suppose.
The photography in "Woyzeck" is of film school quality. There is a scene, for example, where Woyzeck is with the doctor and the captain. The light changes completely in a matter of seconds altough they are in the same place at the same time. It looks bad. The night scenes also look very bad, very amateurish.
So, I don't really care aboutt "max'ed out bitrate"... What I see is grass looking as if it was made of plastic, in both blu ray discs. What I see is the white wall of a house looking greenish/brownish in both bluray discs when the house should look white.
"Fata Morgana" is a very interesting example of the differences and similarities between both sets. I could hardly tell one from the other but the Shout Factory disc, as all other discs from the set, has subtitles that are easier to read than subtitles on the BFI discs. People at Shout Factory really thougth about everything.
Let's look at "Heart of Glass" now. The review about the video quality of Shout Factory disc on bluray.com is very positive. It says that "The bulk of this transfer looks very good, with a natural, if at times light, grain field, and nicely saturated colors."
So, the bluray.com review considers the transfer of that disc very good, not "subpar"...
There is a long sequence of images that last about five minutes right in the beginning of the film. Waterfalls and landscapes. They look awful on both BFI and Shout Factory blu ray discs.
The higher resolution of the blu ray highlights the poor quality of the original image without capturing the film texture that would certainly make those images have a more ""dream like" look.
The review's main focus is obviously the quality of the video transfer. He does mention and criticises the awful scenes in the beginning of the film. It is a time lapse but it is so badly done that it doesn't look like one.
I couldn't find a review about the BFI bluray "Heart of Glass" on dvd beaver. It looks like they don't have one yet but I bet they will write a very positive review...
The BFI disc is far too dark. You see talking heads without torso...The Shout Factory disc is a little better, a little less dark. But the best copy I saw from "Heart of Glass" is actually the German dvd from Arthaus. The look of the film on that dvd seems to be closer to the original look of the film.
There is a sequence in "Heart of Glass" where a man with a moustache is talking. There are two glasses of beer in front of him and two candles.
He is wearing a dark jacket. I could see only his face on the BFI disc. His shoulders were blending with the dark background and I couldn't see them. It looks awful.
I could see , on the Shout Factory disc, the shoulders of the man talking. It is not much of an improvement as the film is also dark but the BFI disc is certainly darker.
I could see, on the Arthaus dvd, the jacket of the man talking. That jacket is not visible at all on the BFI disc and is barely visible on the Shout Factory disc.
Independent of whatever technical websites have to say and how correct they are, I do know that the quality of image is often poor in Heart of Glass because the original film didn't have a very good technical quality of image to begin with.
It seems to me that video quality is not the same as image quality...Or, better saying, a good video quality doesn't necessarily means a good original photographic quality.
ABOUT THE TITLES
It is very likely that many customers buying any of these sets will already have several of Herzog's titles. They will be looking for new titles or just to have them on blu ray . BFI has the best titles because it has the most difficult titles to find.
I first wrote that I didn't think that you could find some of the BFI set titles on dvd. I was very wrong. You can find all those shorts from the BFI set and many more on Herzog's site and also on an Australian site. But they will be very expensive, more than the cost of BFI and Shout Factory sets together.
The BFI set doesn't have six of of the American set's titles. But you can buy five of them separately on Amazon and will still spend much less than buying the Shout Factory set.
The six titles are :
Ballad of Little Soldier
Where the Green Ants Dream
Little Dieter needs to fly
My best Fiend
Even Dwarfs started small
Lessons of Darkness
If you want to have the more titles possible at a better cost then the clear option is the BFI set.
But beware that you might be exchanging quality for quantity because many of the titles exclusive to the BFI set are not really important or have serious quality problems.
THE REVIEW CONTINUES IN THE COMMENTS...
Amazon wasn't letting me post the complete review because of its size so I had to delete my previous review in order to add a first comment where I continue the review. It is a very long review because it is a very detailed review. I wanted this way because it is the only way to effectively unmask some idle reviews and comments about the new Herzog blu ray sets.
P.S. Internet hoodlums and cybershills were plaguing this review with unsubstantiated comments. I was going through my reviews and decided that I won't allow those cheerleaders to get a "lift" in my review so I deleted it and am posting the review again. One of the cheerleaders said that he was going to write a review. He lied. He never wrote a review. It is likely that he never bought the set and/or is a cybershill.