Fans were extremely hyped when Avatar: The Last Airbender landed on Netflix earlier this year, though the celebrations were muted when people realized that the release was in standard definition and didn’t look so great. The streamer listened and in late June, Avatar was upgraded to full HD. Now, sequel show The Legend of Korra is finally available, but unfortunately, there appears to be yet more problems with image quality.
This time, the resolution isn’t the issue but rather, it’s the show’s frame rate. Animator Spencer Wan, who’s worked on Owl House and Castlevania, claims that Netflix has uploaded the series at an incorrect frame rate and that his “eyes are screaming.”
The issue seems to be that the show was produced at 23.97fps, but has been converted to a straight 24fps. A frame rate difference of 0.03 doesn’t sound like a huge deal, but it’s resulted in “ghost frames” where a blurry image is created as the compression algorithm compensates.
Here’s an example:
I think the frame rate must’ve changed from 23.97fps to 24fps when Korra switched to digital release, but the 24 frame rate was applied broadly during compression, resulting in ghost frames across season 1. pic.twitter.com/BcUAfFkiqN
— Spencer Wan (@SpencerWan) August 16, 2020
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Fans in the comments pointed out that sloppy compression like this aren’t unusual for Netflix, claiming that classic anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion got the same treatment when it appeared on the streaming service earlier this year.
A counter to this is that it may be an issue with the original masters rather than the compression. According to professional animator Maxime LeBled (who’s worked for game studios Valve, Nightdive and Facepunch):
“It must be a master issue because Netflix has very strict checks in place in their pipelines for all sorts of A/V issues.”
Even if it is a problem with the masters, I’d imagine that the technology exists to make the show as smooth as possible, perhaps with a more advanced AI-driven compression technique that could smartly interpolate a non-blurry frame. Let’s hope that, as they did with Avatar, Netflix considers fixing this, as The Legend of Korra deserves to be seen in the best possible light.