Does HD streaming rental make a difference with old movies?

I’m particularly interested in the 1960’s movie “Lion in Winter” as it was recommended on the Crusader Kings 2 forum.

I would rent it in HD so I can see stuff better with my shitty eyes, but can it really be any different considering it’s an old movie? I mean at that time weren’t tv’s just 320x200 lines of interlaced resolution?

Perhaps TVs were, but movies weren’t. It depends if the movie has received the blu-ray treatment and how it’s been digitally restored, or if it’s instead sourced from an old DVD.

Looks like this movie has not had a Blu-Ray version of it done yet. So does Amazon just digitize the DVD, or the actual cellulose film itself?

There was some restoration work done a decade ago and there has been a Bluray release in Europe, with varying opinions on quality (though take that with a ‘phile’ grain of salt, being from the kind of folk that post at these sources):

Ultimately, who knows what content Amazon are providing, but at least you would think it is the restored version, given how long ago that was done, in which case HD would be better than SD.

Go on youtube, search for Lion in Winter, select Filter> and choose HD. There’s a bunch of videos. However, this makes the assumption that a) the source video they uploaded was “HD” b) youtube hasn’t eaten the quality somehow. But it might give you an idea?

I’ve found that what version you see depends on what was available when the service got the rights to show the movie. If the non restored, non HD version of Lion in Winter was what was available, that’s what you’ll get. If the restored or HD version became available after the deal has been made with the streaming service, the service has to pay for it if they want to stream it. Needless to say, most services won’t pay again for the same movie, even if it’s a better version.

Theatrical 35 mm film negatives from the 60s would be in the 3.5k resolution range. (The whole point of 4k TV is to finally achieve the resolution of film.) So as a general rule, yes, if there’s an HD version of an old movie on offer, it should in theory look better.

Yes. 35mm is much higher resolution than standard def video. Obviously, movie by movie it depends on the quality of the restoration (if any) done and the quality of the film-video-transfer. But old movies are not low-def. 35 mm is a big, detail-rich format, notwithstanding the vagaries of time and transfers.

But how big will the film grain be with those 60s lenses? :)

Or is that something that hasn’t really changed since then?

I think the grain is a factor of the film, not the lenses of the time. That’s why some directors still shoot on film if they want some grain, rather than use post-processing.

I read somewhere that 16mm film can’t even provide DVD(480p) level of detail. 35mm has more than enough detail for 1080p. So yes, high definition will make a difference in most movies, no matter how old they are.

The key still is finding out who has the rights to show the good version. I know early on some studios cheaped out and merely upscaled DVD versions to create ‘high definition’ versions. Another lesser approach was to create a high definition version from an inferior source, so yes that is a ‘real’ 1080p version but it still looks like crap. Another thing that has been done is to primarily use automated software to restore the movie. This approach will clean up the image, but will also remove film grain that is part of what made the movie look the way it did originally. It takes a human hand to identify true artifacts that need to be removed but that costs a lot of money.

Yes, grain comes from film emulsion. Older lenses, I think, didn’t have as sharp focus as current ones, but they could still be plenty sharp. Lawrence of Arabia was shot in 1962, after all… (granted, that’s 70mm, but we were talking about lenses)