4K UHD Blu-Rays Have an Inclusion Problem
Last month I went to Best Buy to pick-up The Invisible Man 4K Steelbook. The Invisible Man is one of my favorite films of 2020 so far and I knew I wanted to have the 4K version. To my surprise, when I tried the film out at home, I discovered there was no Audio Description on the 4K disc. I found this strange, since I remember enjoying the film in the theater with a great audio description track. I discovered that only the regular blu-ray had an audio description track but the 4K disc did not. Upon further investigation of other 4K discs, I found that most Universal titles, including, Us, 1917 and even Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & SHaw, had the audio description track only on the blu-ray and not the 4K disc.
For those who are unaware, audio description is an audio track that narrates the movie action in between lines of dialogue for visually impaired users. Also, 4K picture is a significant improvement over blu-ray. I am visually impaired yet I can tell that 4K discs have much deeper blacks and much brighter colors than a regular 1080p picture. Including an audio description track on only the blu-ray and and not on the 4K disc is forcing visually impaired movie fans to choose between watching a movie with audio description or watching the movie with much better picture. This should not be a choice. Audiences should be able to have both. It is very likely, as is the case with me, that the 4K picture could help visually impaired viewers see the film a bit better and, combined with an audio description track, would create an optimal viewing experience.
I am not sure why Universal 4K titles are this way. It is not a matter of the 4k picture file being too big and not being able to fit the AD track. Avengers: Endgame (Disney) and Mission Impossible: Fallout (Paramount) are both significantly longer than The Invisible Man and managed to fit the full movie on the 4K disc with the option of an audio description track as well.
However, there is a bigger problem than just Universal 4K releases. Although audio description on newer releases is rather common, most older films do not have an audio description track. With 4K becoming more popular, (and many new films being delayed because of the pandemic) classic, older films are being remastered and released in a higher definition. FIlms like Jaws, Beetlejuice, The Shining and The Goonies were all released with newly remastered picture and audio but no audio description track was recorded for the new release. Luckily 2001: A Space Odyssey and Forest Gump did have AD tracks, but that seems rare. The Back to the Future trilogy will be released on 4K the third week of October, justin time for Back to the Future day. The trilogy currently has AD tracks for all three films on Netflix so hopefully those tracks carry over to the 4K rerelease but it is a Universal movie so it may only be on the blu-ray disc if at all.
With audio description tracks becoming more commonplace on newer releases, one would think that older movies that are being remastered would get a track as well. Visually impaired and blind movie fans, like myself, would love to be able to enjoy some of these classic films like everyone else. I could never watch something like Black Hawk Down without an audio description track even though I'm sure it looks great on 4K. Movies like that are just too fast and there is too much going on for me to be able to follow the action without AD.
Not including audio description on classic cinema robs people who are visually impaired of enjoying these landmark, must-see films. If they are being remastered and re-released anyway, why not go the extra mile and add audio description, making them accessible, so everyone can enjoy them?
Here’s a list of all the major titles that have been rereleased on 4K with no Audio Description track on the disc: (Keep in mind this is just the major ones, no where near all of them):
300 (iTunes, Prime Video, Spectrum Access)
A Few Good Men
Air Force One
Bad Boys 1 and 2
Batman and Robin
Black Hawk Down
The Blues Brothers (iTunes)
The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum (iTunes and prime Video)
Boys N the Hood
Braveheart (Prime Video)
The Cabin in the Woods (iTunes and Prime Video)
Casino Royale (Prime Video)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
The Dark Knight (only on regular blu-ray disc)
The Dark Knight Rises (ITunes, Prime Video)
Days of Thunder
E.T: The Extra Terrestrial (ITunes, Prime Video)
The Evil Dead (original)
Full Metal Jacket
Home Alone series
It’s A Wonderful Life
Jaws (iTunes, Prime Video)
Jurassic Park (Original trilogy) (ITunes, Prime, Netflix)
Matrix Trilogy (ITunes, Prime Video)
Mission: Impossible 1-3 (iTunes, Prime Video)
The Mummy (1999)
Predator 1 and 2
Rambo (all of them except Last Blood)
Requiem for a Dream
Saving Private Ryan (Prime Video)
Schindler’s List (iTunes, Netflix, Prime Video)
Shutter Island (Prime Video, Spectrum-Access)
Stand By Me
Top Gun (iTunes, Prime Video)
The Town (iTunes, Netflix, Prime, Spectrum Access)
Transformers (iTunes, Prime Video)
V for Vendetta (Prime Video)
X2 (Prime Video)
X-Men: The Last Stand (iTunes, Prime Video)