See how Shout Factory’s new 4K restored Collector’s Edition Blu-ray stacks up against their 2013 release
This article contains several comparisons which contrast the older Blu-ray’s transfer with the new restoration. The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.
Shout! Factory previously released Ninja III to Blu-ray in 2013 but has newly upgraded the cult favorite to “Collector’s Editon” status with a new transfer, bonus features, and artwork.
Looking at the transfers specifically, there are a few generalizations the hold true throughout –
- Overall, the clearest upgrade (literally) with the new version is that the grain looks much finer and less chunky — likely the direct benefit of working from a 4K scan.
- The new picture is generally brighter and of higher contrast, which is not necessarily a good or bad thing.
- The picture is now slightly cropped, introducing thin black mattes on the top and bottom. It’s a very small loss, but as the image is no wider than before, a seemingly unnecessary one.
Additionally, a couple other notes before jumping into the comparisons —
- Colors and vividness are often a matter of personal preference. There are definite variances here, but as the screens indicate, no particular identifiable sweeping changes — some shots are warmer, others cooler. Some more vivid, others less so.
- I think it’s fun to compare transfers and meaningful for people to see the differences — but in the long run these are things most viewers, myself included, would never notice under normal viewing circumstances. It’s only in direct comparison that most of these differences are evident, and you shouldn’t let small differences in a transfer hamper your enjoyment of this film on any disc.
Besides being noticeably less gritty, This first shot from the opening credits demonstrates a cooler palette and a stronger contrast.
Conversely, here the newer image is less vivid and more filmlike. It’s also evident that the grain is much finer now.
Here’s perhaps the least impressive shot I pulled from the new transfer. Comparing the sky in these shots, the old disc retains color information while the new release washes out to white. And just generally speaking this scene looks kind of harsh now – the older shot is clearly favorable.
Here’s a spot where the colors appear more muted now…
…but then again we also see the opposite. In this comparison, the new transfer is much more vivid, so much so that the sword resembles a lightsaber. It also seems a bit murkier and less defined.
Here’s another look at how much finer the grain presentation is. Whether from a lower resolution scan or from digital compression, the old transfer has a much more “marbley” structure.
Coloration appears richer and more lifelike in the new transfer below.
Here’s another instance of how the brighter, higher contrast image introduces some white-out in the patches of sky that peek through the trees.
I don’t have any particular observations on this last comparison, I just love James Hong.
Comparing the two transfers, I don’t have a clear favorite. The new transfer has a much cleaner and finer appearance, but I think in terms of color representation, I prefer the older transfer which is overall more natural looking (though as I noted, this varies scene to scene). If you own or plan to buy a large-screen TV, the finer grain structure and clarity will have a more meaningful impact on your viewing. If that’s not a concern, then the old transfer may actually be preferable.
Besides a new 4K-sourced transfer, the new Collector’s Edition also boasts several new special features. The transfer alone isn’t a slam-dunk upgrade, but these additional features make the new disc the definitive version for fans to own.
- NEW Interview With Actress Lucinda Dickey
- NEW Interview With Actor Jordan Bennett
- NEW Interview With Producer And Stuntman Alan Amiel
- NEW Audio Interviews With Production Designer Elliot Ellentuck And Co-Composer Misha Segal Featuring Isolated Tracks From The Original Score
- Theatrical Trailer (In HD) With Optional Trailers From Hell Commentary With Screenwriter Josh Olson
- Audio Commentary By Director Sam Firstenberg And Stunt Coordinator Steve Lambert
Get it at Amazon:
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.