A highly intelligent and very well written assessment of the differences between 70mm and digital 4K presentations of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master was provided this morning by Twitchfilm’s Jason Gorber. He basically says 4K is just as good as 70mm, and in some ways better. I agree. I saw The Master in 4K last weekend and I could hear the dialogue more clearly than during my initial 70mm exposure in Toronto.

Gorber also notices something that I pointed out on 9.19 when I wrote that that “delicate bits of dirt have been added to the 4K version of The Master — to the digital intermediate, I mean — in order to give the digital versions the look of film.” As Gorber puts it, “you can still see dirt on the 4K ‘print’…occasionally black specks creep into the image, little bits of grunge that keep the image from appearing pristine.

“This was very confusing,” Gorber writes, until he realized that the black specks and grungy gunks are there “because PTA wanted them there.

“It’s gunk he either added, or at least allowed to stay, built into the digital master as artifacts of the process. This is the cinema equivalent of leaving in easily removable tape hiss, or worse, adding in the sound of vinyl pops or cracks in order to come across as ‘retro.’ In certain scenes (the ‘blinking’ test is one), in both presentations, you can hear the wheeze of the camera chugging away.

“This is a filmmaker not afraid to show the seams of his process, and while reluctantly creating a digital ‘print,’ he nonetheless left in a number of these quirks of analogue filmmaking to make it appear a bit less … perfect.

“Going further, PTA could easily have added the cue marks as well to the 4K, added bob and weave into the digital source so that it to exhibited all the ‘flaws’ inherent in film projection. He went part way but not all the way there, still crafting a near pristine digital master that does a more than satisfactory job of presenting the film in its best possible light.”