What blows this month? Well, it’s actually what has been “blowing” for quite some time now, and that would be the Hollywood branch of Deluxe Labs.
Currently there are three major film labs that are responsible for the majority of film printing for theatrical prints today. Surely everyone is familiar with Technicolor Labs (note: not the same thing as TES which was reviewed last month), but the other two are actually both Deluxe labs. The main one is located in Hollywood, California and the other one is located in Toronto, Canada.
Before I get too far into the review, let’s get acquainted with how to tell where a given print was made. The easiest method is of course to check the leaders.
Above is a picture of a tail leader from the Technicolor lab. Nice, big and easy to read block letters that read “right side up” on a platter. That’s assuming that you are a normal person and do not follow Kodak’s moronic and outdated suggestion of winding the film onto the platter “soundtrack down”. I apply a piece of tape on the back side of the film to clearly display the film's title, and as you can see with Technicolor prints, it works quite nicely.
Deluxe Toronto likes to get a bit more creative with their labeling. I have found that this adds much needed fun and excitement to the build up process. Sometimes it makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning knowing that I’ll get to deal with one of these fancy labels. Of course, they print the title upside down, so the tail of the last reel must be cut off and spliced "picture to soundtrack" to achieve the nice "right side up" orientation as is shown above.
Here is a leader from a Deluxe Hollywood print. Just like Deluxe Toronto, the letters are printed upside down. But that’s not all. As an added bonus, the tail leader has slash marks going through each letter making it a pain in the ass to read. It looks like they expect us all to follow Kodak’s outdated standard.
I usually cut the label off of one of the heads and splice it upside down onto the tail if I intend to use that label to identify the print on the platter. This way the lettering is "right side up" and there are no annoying slash marks.
Now that we have identified the three major labs by leader style, let’s go over the major studios currently using these labs.
Universal (crappy titles)
Fox (when Deluxe Hollywood cannot handle the order)
Universal (big titles)
With that being established, start paying attention to the prints you get. Notice how most of the prints with horrible registration (not counting The Sixth Sense) come from Deluxe Hollywood. Also notice how most of the prints with nasty lab splices are the product of Deluxe Hollywood as well. Let’s check out a few examples I have collected in the last month as I was preparing for this review.
Not trying to be “too mean” here, I have picked the best splice over the last month, and here it is in all its glory. It still sucks! Now here’s a typical Deluxe Hollywood splice.
Look familiar? It certainly is to anyone who regularly builds prints from this fine lab. But it’s more than just a splice. It’s a virus. Look at the picture below to see what I mean.
This mark was several feet away from the previous splice! Yes, sometimes the rest of a reel will continue with this “green flash” mark. Sometimes it’s brown, or even blue. But it’s always distracting and always affects the digital tracks. Sometimes it seems as if this is done on purpose, just to promote how much better compressed digital video will be over film. It just happens way too often.
So you’re saying “So what, it’s just a few minor defects”, right? Hell no. Any projectionist running Dolby Digital or SDDS sound knows what this lab is putting out. Check out the picture below and ask yourself “Would this strip of film play properly in Dolby Digital?”
There’s that incredible attention to quality again! Someone needs to tap them on the shoulder and let them know the digital bits of data are supposed to be BETWEEN the sprocket holes.
How often does a print come in where 2/3 of the reels are heads up and 1/3 of them are tails up. Ever want to know why? The reasoning is Deluxe screens selected reels through mega speed projectors. While I have not personally seen the “inspection room”, it is described to me as a couple of dozen projectors running many times over normal speed reel to reel. Now let’s think about this for a minute. First off we’ve got this one guy in a room doing nothing but re-threading projectors and spot checking the projected image. What happens when the reel runs out? SLAP, SLAP, SLAP! And there is where these marvelous scratches come from. That is of course not even getting into the high speed wear and tear on the digital soundtracks. Ever notice how that one reel that has digital dropout problems was that “tails out” reel? I have.
Now in defense of the lab, they CAN turn out nice quality prints. To make my argument clear, my problem is the inconsistency of their product. Sure, it’s easy for the big corporate guys to sit in their offices and claim quality control. It’s also very easy for people to inflict that sob story of “the labs have so much film to print in such little time, they do an excellent job for the rush they are in”. That’s a load of crap. If they are so damn busy, buy more printing machines! Don’t sacrifice the quality.
Bottom line: Deluxe Labs Hollywood is a disgrace to film.
The views contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers of this website. The published views express actual testimony to personal use of particular products or services. The testimonies, good or bad, are based on fact and thereby releases any and all people of any slanderous liability including the author. Anyone who views this portion of the website must accept these views as statements of the author of that opinion based on actual use of the product and/or service.