Shine your eyeballs on these new comparative screen captures from the first Riddick film
This article contains several comparisons which contrast Universal’s 2009 Blu-ray transfer with the new Arrow Video restoration. The frames aren’t necessarily exact matches, but should give a solid indication of the visual differences.
Arrow Video recently released Pitch Black as their second 4K title (following Flash Gordon), alongside new a standard Blu-ray edition.
Their foray into 4K titles is tremendously exciting for fans, with further titles since having been announced and released. I recently got my hands on a copy of the older Blu-ray, giving me a chance to compare the transfers directly.
Please note that, as I don’t have the means to capture the 4K disc, the Blu-ray version of Arrow’s disc was used for this article. While both formats use the same restoration, the actual 4K disc has a higher true resolution and color palette than what is captured here.
I don’t think I ever watched Universal’s original Blu-ray edition of Pitch Black , but assuming it’s the same transfer as the 2006 HD-DVD I owned, it looked pretty great in my opinion, and I’ve never questioned it as needing a better version. On the surface it even often appears sharper at times than Arrow’s new restoration. However, on closer analysis this is evident of the edge enhancement used liberally throughout, whereas Arrow’s scan has a certain purity to it.
The end credits might seem an odd place to start, but they demonstrate this pretty definitively. The older transfer appears much sharper, but you can see the chunky inconsistency of the text color, clearly evident of edge enhancement. Arrow’s version, on the other hand, doesn’t nearly look as crisp, but the consistency of the image is far superior — it looks like a pristine film print.
Pitch Black is thematically and physically tied to concepts of light and darkness, set on a planet with intensely bright days and dark nights, and its cinematography and composition directly reflect these qualities with a mix of bright and dark scenes, as well as high contrast juxtapositions.
Because of their stylized colorization and lighting, the planetary daylight scenes of Pitch Black are difficult to gauge “accurately” since they aren’t designed to demonstrate a natural appearance. I give Arrow the edge on this, as their color gradation is richer and subtler, and slightly less prone to white-out.
The film’s dimly lit interior scenes and dusk-set exteriors are the closest the film comes to “natural” lighting, and it’s here that Universal’s older Blu-ray disc arguably looked its comparative best, with using edge enhancement and contrast to draw out a bit more detail from the textures (trading off for slight halo effects on contours and chunkier grain).
Comparing the facial textures in the image below, I prefer Arrow’s more natural look (especially in motion). However the older disc does appear sharper, even if it does so artificially.
Both transfers do an admirable job of the namesake pitch black scenes, though Arrow excels with finer grain and darker backgrounds. And though it’s anecdotal, I think Keith David’s turban tells the biggest story here. I think the fact that it looks way grimier on the older transfer speaks to the punched-up contrast.
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the Blu-ray (not 4K) discs 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.