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FulvueDrive-In.com: The Ratings System (Includes Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and Super Audio CD standards)

When this website was founded 14+ years ago, we knew High Definition was on the way, film would always represent a high standard link to other format and thus formatted our ratings system accordingly. Though we received some questions along the way, the old and brief descriptions got us this far, but the future of Home Video and HD has changed a good bit since our debut and continues to do so. In an effort to make certain we have clear-cut ratings that help our readers, especially when we have seen many other review outlets botch their systems, restart them or discard years of good work, we may have seemed initially harsher about picture and sound performance. Now, with the success of Blu-Ray digital High Definition formats (2D and now, 3D), HD all over cable, satellite, broadcast, (even the failed HD-DVD format) and the arrival of 4K, Mastered in 4K and 2160p Ultra HD with HDR formats, our ratings make more sense to everyone as we intended. This has an added value to those who have already bought HDTVs and have been reading our site worldwide. We now present the update to our system...

A+ Reference Quality - For video, this now only applies to the new 2160p Mastered in 4K Ultra HD high-definition video (and higher, like pure 4K) that has a film-like appearance in the Blu-ray format, so that is why A & A- have been rarely assigned to any DVD reviews and A+ has yet to surface. We have skipped the D-VHS format, which is now dead and has more dated sound than anyone may have considered at the time. For sound, this top rating only applies to the very best in the new high-definition audio formats (The barely produced DVD-Audio, the still very much alive Super Audio CD turning up on some Blu-ray players and had been on early PS3 machines and audio-only Blu-rays) and best audio tacks for HD video formats (Dolby Atmos, DTS: X, Auro 11.1, etc.) for music extraordinary sound design for films or music video multi-channel presentation, that is state-of-the-art. In the beginning of this site, it was our opinion that only DTS is capable of such performance in the video realm, though lossless sound arrived, evening out the quality differences. DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) became the most popular lossless audio codec, but some Dolby TrueHD (as on Akira and some newer releases) as well as the rare PCM 5.1 mix can perform strongly. 11.1 tracks are NO guarantee of better sound over a 5.1 or 7.1 mix either.

DTS' competing, uncompressed DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless format (originally dubbed DTS++) has proved itself on Blu-ray and across the industry can with encoding as high as 192kHz/24bits of multi-channel sound in some cases along with the rare 192/24 Dolby TrueHD, as was the case on Akira. This was another step after this is the impressive DTS 96/24 prior to Blu-ray. Other forms of DTS include 48kHz DTS in its 20bit 1,509 kilobits-per-second mode, or 48/24 at 754 kbps. Dolby added Dolby Digital Plus with slightly better kbps rates and better for its flexibility than anything, but it was still lossless. Their best 5.1 and 6.1 matrixed sound comes in at an old 384 kbps, newer 448 kbps in later DVDs, and 576 kbps for D-VHS. DTS' 6.1 was all discreet, but sadly both 6.1 options faded with the arrival of 7.1 mixes.

A Outstanding - This is for great performers that just miss the mark and the highest rating the content of a film, the culmination of extras, or other types of programs can receive. This is not even to say that picture or sound just miss the mark with this rating. This is our highest rating in very rare cases for DVD, often because the print and transfer was so right and only widescreen and anamorphically enhanced DVDs qualify. To date, only 2D standard Blu-rays have landed this rating including Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ron Fricke's Baraka and Samsara, David Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia, John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix, and the IMAX sections of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight. No actual IMAX Blu-rays have landed the rating yet, but there are many A- ratings for Blu-ray 3D and 2D releases. In Ultra HD playback, these discs will be among those that hold up the best.

A- Excellent - This is the highest rating many of the classic sound designed films will get, as well as most of the highly rated, lossless DTS-MA and Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. Near-classics also get this rating for the near-flawless work in either field. We have seen a disturbing trend of people and especially lame critics throwing away the past in a ''know-it-all'' mode and acting like multi-channel sound arrived last year. In fact, it has been around since the 1950s and their lack of reference point is painfully clear. For picture, we are particularly partial from this rating up to prints with exceptional color and definition like large-frame formats (70mm, IMAX, VistaVision), with more complex color systems (three-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor among the best) and real black and white (rich in darkness and deep Black) a huge plus. This is the highest most new films in the Blu-ray formats have achieved to date. This is the highest rating we have given any Blu-ray 3D titles to date and expect the majority of any such rated disc will still playback well and look good on new Ultra HD 4K monitors and projectors. With HDR, The Revenant has been one of our best-tested Ultra HD 4K Blu-rays in picture to date.

B+ Near Excellent - This covers performance that is still in the state-of-the-art range, even if it is not covering all the bases. Including if the program and extras content gets this rating, it is an indication that this is a quality that will yield many repeat viewings and playbacks. We believe that this is the minimum of picture performance both formats should offer to attain that ''WOW'' factor, though some B performers are impressive. This is the cut-off point for filmed materials (Movies, TV, Music Videos, Concerts) where we mean this is as good as a quality film print, plus we expect the playback on new Ultra HD 4K monitors and projectors to still often impress.

B Very Good - Our least-high overall recommendation, this still applies to items and qualities readers should definitely check into. Sometimes, a picture will rate higher than usual because the color or monochrome is exceptional, even if the performance has other problems, like limited scratches or debris on a print or fuzziness from an older transfer that got more right than expected. In the sound realm, this is much harder to achieve, since lossy Dolby Digital rarely is this good and most PCM CD-type sound is not as full as on many CDs. This should also be the low limit for any HD format, audio or video, because they are supposed to automatically be better than DVDs and/or CDs. For Blu-ray, it can mean it is terrific to watch but has some flaws, or is just better than a standard DVD version at the least. On new Ultra HD 4K monitors and projectors, it is a title that may not always hold up, but should still be watchable.

B- Good - This is the rating we use when we feel something is really worthwhile, but might not be for all tastes, or has some obvious flaws or problems that are undeniable. Many programs have received this rating just for being too short or mixed, but this is for a title that is always worth a look. This is a barely passable rating for an HD format, sound or picture, so on new Ultra HD monitors and projectors, such titles will not fare so well.

C+ Above Average - This is not good, but far from the worse that is out there. It also indicates something that will get boring and played-out quickly, even in its limited quality. It is obviously more tolerable if it is something one really likes and is the rating for most full screen 1.33 X 1 analog videotaped TV and Music Video materials that originated in the NTSC, PAL or even SECAM formats. Again, we think even DVDs should look decent on HD sets, but DVD has not anamorphic equivalent for 1.33, though it does for 1.66 framing. For great sitcoms, talk shows and Music Videos of the past, there is a little more room for improvement when they are issued on HD formats. For filmed programs in either HD format, this is no better than standard DVD and that's bad. On new Ultra HD 4K monitors and projectors, such rated titles will definitely not be good at all getting worse as we go lower, though we are increasingly seeing old analog standard definition format upscaled on Blu-ray, especially in classical music releases.

C Average - This is dullsville, like so much that is out there or has already been played out. Lacking is another term that applies well. This is something we are saying about a given title that is not good and except in historic exceptions (old kinescopes and barely surviving archival footage and sound), will get replaced by something technically superior eventually. If the content gets this rating, expect little from it.

C- Below Average - This applies to product that is not so bad that it should be trashed, but does apply to things that are very lacking, show there age, or are very limited in content and/or quality. Brittle in picture or sound; something that needs fixed immediately is what this rating indicates for performance. It also indicates sources are too many generations down and recycled to death. As for content, skip it.

D DISASTER - This means that the picture might as well be old VHS, Beta, Selectavision (the videodisc that played with a video needle aka CED), Kinescope or have the sound a cylinder record made of aluminum foil, the extras are non-existent or so little that they could be on a tape, and/or that the program is so bad that it should have never been released. Skip this product or expect this aspect to be a waste of time.

Theatrical Film Review Ratings

10 = A+ or The Best

9 = A, A- or Excellent

8 = A- to B+ or Very Good

7 = B to B- or Good

6 = C+, B- or Decent

5 = C or Average

4 = C- or Fair

3 = D or Bad


2 = D- or Poor

1 = F or The Worst

Our one time theatrical film critic Chuck O'Leary wanted lower ratings because so many bad films are getting made, so there you have it.


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