Lord of the Rings Has Color Issues?

A minor kerfuffle has broken out about the upcoming “The Lord of the Rings” Extended Edition trilogy Blu-ray set.

When the theatrical versions hit Blu-ray, reviews of the video quality were generally only so-so with “The Fellowship of the Ring” in particular singled out as a disappointing transfer.

With the ‘Extended Edition’ release however, new HD transfers were struck and remastered from the film’s original 2K digital files while the color timing on ‘Fellowship’ has been redone.

The Digital Bits has posted a review in which they state “I’ve confirmed with production-related sources that Jackson and cinematographer Andrew Lesnie were directly involved in all decisions related to this new transfer and approved it personally. So to the extent that there are changes to the color-timing, they were made at Jackson and Lesnie’s direction – the films look exactly as they want them to.”

More importantly however, they say “the HD image quality for this film is vastly improved from the Theatrical Blu-ray… In fact, it’s breathtaking. There are significant gains in fine detail and overall contrast. The image is delicately textured and refined. You can actually see the very light grain structure of the image, which results in a far less digital and far more film-like presentation.”

Yet the new color timing has lead to some concern in online circles, predominantly due to a Youtube video which has a side-by-side screen shot comparison of the theatrical and extended edition version of the Gandalf arriving in Hobbiton scene.

The extended edition shows a distinctly more greenish tone to it in said sequence, same with shots later in the film of the fellowship making their way across the mountains. Yet there’s also been a dropping of the oversaturated red in certain sequences, especially the Rivendell scenes.

This isn’t a “French Connection” scenario thankfully, other captures from different parts of the extended edition Blu-ray in comparison to the theatrical version however show a major improvement in coloring along with decidedly more detail.

I took screen caps from here and here and cut out the same 590×300 piece from each image. Remember this is only a fraction of the image, yet you can already see the distinct difference in quality:

More importantly even the stuffiest of the cynics seem blown away by the picture quality. I watched a clip of the Balrog’s appearance in the Moria scene – colors seem spot on, detail level is superb and there’s no hint of any DNR or artificial adjustments to the image. How fans will feel about the color changes however will be interesting to see when the discs hit stores on June 28th.