Keaton & Chaplin -- DVD vs Laserdisc

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ken Horowitz, Nov 18, 2005.

  1. Ken Horowitz

    Ken Horowitz Agent

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    I have complete sets of the Kino Keaton and CBS/Fox Chaplin laserdiscs. The Pioneer laser-player is working fine, so there's no need to buy now. But...

    How do the current Chaplin and Keaton DVDs compare to the lasderdiscs?

    Significant difference?
    Worth the double-dip?
    Or are the lasers comparable?

    Opinions?
     
  2. Francois Caron

    Francois Caron Cinematographer

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    The one technical difference that would concern me is that the Laserdisc format is a composite video device while the DVD format is a component video device, which means the Laserdisc player combines both the b&w and color signals together on the same wire while the DVD player always carries these different signals on their own individual wires. When playing back each format side by side, you can get dramatically different results.

    On the Laserdisc player, the major consequence of trying to extract a specific signal from a jumbled mess is moire artifacts (red-blue rainbows) found in sequences containing fine detail. This effect will occur even with b&w movies because a color signal is still embedded in the original composite signal and it MUST be processed before displaying the image. DVD players don't produce moire artifacts when played back via the S-Video and component connections because the b&w and color signals are always kept separate from each other, avoiding any flaky reconstruction of the original signals.

    One glaring example of the moire effect can be found on the Laserdisc edition of "Ed Wood", in the parking lot right after the unusual wrap party. You can see the garage doors in the background "shimmer" with red and blue rainbows.
     
  3. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    I hate to tell you, Francois, but cross-colour on B/W LDs is not unavoidable. The NTSC format is so defined that the colour subcarrier goes to zero in a monochrome scene. Cross-colour in a monochrome scene on LD is thus a result of the colour-processing system, either in the player or in the display, reacting incorrectly to its input, and there is supposed to be a mechanism [often hard to find or adjust] for defeating this processing and passing through the pure monochrome signal. As a matter of fact, the potential picture quality differences between LD and DVD lean more toward LD in monochrome playback than colour playback.

    That said, the original poster is clearly looking for practical input by someone who has seen both editions of the films in question, not for theoretical considerations; I'm sure he knows exactly what both technologies are.
     
  4. Ken Horowitz

    Ken Horowitz Agent

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    Quite right. I know there are fewer and fewer laserdisc owners, but I'm hoping someone has actually seen these in both formats.
     
  5. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The MK2 farm-outs to Warner have lousy a/v and the Image (CBS-FOX LD ports) are quite good.

    I still think City Lights and The Circus look amazing on the Image DVD's. If you were to adjust the contrast just a little to have a darker image, they look perfect. Of course, the original City Lights DVD is the only way to get the Carl Davis re-orchestration, as well as maintaining the proper 1.20:1 aspect ratio.
     
  6. Danny Burk

    Danny Burk Second Unit

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    >Of course, the original City Lights DVD is the only way to get the Carl Davis re-orchestration, as well as maintaining the proper 1.20:1 aspect ratio.

    And the Image versions are the only way to get certain films (such as WOMAN OF PARIS and THE KID) in complete original versions, rather than the Chaplin-family-approved recuts that Chaplin did in later decades.
     
  7. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    The Warner discs are among the greatest transfers I've ever seen. If PAL bothers you then you'll have to wait for HD or try to locate the Image discs.
     
  8. Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson Screenwriter

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    Michael must be smokin' that stuff again. [​IMG] They are lousy. PAL-speedup, shoddy PAL-to-NTSC conversions which result in slight strobing artifacts (more noticeable on some titles than others), and shortened versions of many of the original films. The aspect ratios are often compromised as well. And to add insult to injury, the packaging and artwork thereof are incredibly chintzy. So, if shoddy transfers of shoddy PAL-to-NTSC conversions of shortened classic Chaplin films bother you, pick up the Image discs. But you'll pay a pretty penny for some of them.

    The only Warner Chaplin release worth picking up IMO is THE GOLD RUSH, because, as an extra, it contains the real actual silent version of the film. And perhaps THE GREAT DICTATOR, for the documentary THE TRAMP AND THE DICTATOR.
     
  9. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    The recuts aren't as much of an issue as the speedup. Comedy needs to be shown at the proper frame rate. The Great Dictator is the worst... Chaplin sounds like he's breathing helium throughout the movie.

    I don't see why it's not regarded as a bigger issue in Europe. Speeding up a film to 25fps is simply butchery.
     
  10. Marko Berg

    Marko Berg Supporting Actor

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    Most people aren't aware of the whole PAL speed-up issue. It's what they have been watching all their lives and therefore don't know the problem exists.

    I can detect video and audio artifacts caused by PAL speed-up easily, but I'm not able to see them all the time. I have PAL presentations of 24fps films in my collection that I think look excellent. And if some HTF members, generally obsessive about video and audio quality, can't always tell a difference, the general public certainly won't be able to.

    Add to this the fact that there are DVDs with pitch correction applied, and the audio aspect of the problem becomes even less easily detectable to many people. Regarding video, bear in mind we watch DVDs in native PAL and ghosting effects etc. that plague PAL-to-NTSC conversions don't exist.

    I'm confident the next-generation HD video formats will take care of this issue since HD requires multi-syncing displays that can display most anything as far as framerate requirements are concerned.
     
  11. Marko Berg

    Marko Berg Supporting Actor

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    In order to not take the discussion totally off-topic into the realm of the old PAL vs. NTSC, I have a question:

    I've read that many old silent films, including some of those by Chaplin, were filmed on a hand-cranked camera. To me, this seems an unfortunate, although a perfectly understandable, limitation of the time. Does anyone know how this method of filming relates to the playback speed of these films? I would think such an irregular method of filming could affect the required playback speed at various points in the film. I mean how likely is it the camera operator cranked the camera at exactly the same speed throughout the photography of a movie?

    A customer review (I know, not necessarily the best source of information but the only quote I could find in a short time) for the Essanay and Mutual films DVD collection at Amazon.com states the following:



    I agree, but not all the Chaplin films released on DVD were shot 24fps. Can we be certain all his films have been released at the exactly correct playback speed in their NTSC editions?
     
  12. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    The Image Entertainment lasers are, overall, a far superior presentation of the films.

    Unfortunately, ego came into play here, with the creators of the new DVDs taking a position of "but you do not like our work?"

    Hence the PAL speedup.

    A total and undeniable mess, which still needs to be remedied. Hopefully, we'll see qualilty 24fps transfers when high definition arrives.

    RAH
     
  13. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    Sound films are 24fps [except for perhaps the earliest ones, and the extreme rarity of 30fps Todd-AO]: that was the value standardised when sound-on-film came around, so that there would be no question of distorting the audio. Silents have various frame rates, although I understand that the proponderance of them were standardised at something like 18fps.
    As far as hand-cranked cameras go, I always understood that the cameramen maintained on average a very regular speed, and the only variations are cyclical -- a drift in the instantaneous framerate from the top of the crank cycle to the bottom. Also, it was my understanding that film was projected at a constant speed from the beginning, using either clockwork or motor-drive, and that hand-cranking was a result of such mechanisms not being stable or portable enough at the time for use on a moving mount. Of course overcranking and undercranking existed, just as they do today, to get an effect of "slow" or "fast" motion, but that trick is dependent upon the assumption of a constant projection speed.

    Someone please correct me if I really am wrong.
     
  14. Michael Elliott

    Michael Elliott Lead Actor

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    Actually, my television must be smokin' that "stuff" again. [​IMG]

    The Image discs are full of speckles, scratches and various other issues that are not on the Warner discs. The only thing the Warner titles suffer from is the PAL issue, which wouldn't be an issue if no one knew they were PAL. If you look at the original posts everyone was praising these transfers to high heaven until someone mentioned the word PAL. Then everyone, even if they hadn't seen the transfers, started saying they were bad.

    Perhaps I'm naive or just bullheaded (probably the problem) but I'd be willing to bet I could have nearly anyone over to my house and they wouldn't detect a PAL transfer.

    THE KID (apparently) is PD and the Image transfer is all over the place on various PD titles. If I believe no one could tell the difference if they didn't already know we were watching a PAL disc then on the other hand I'd love someone to sit down with me and view both editions of THE KID and tell me how it was the better transfer. The same with MODERN TIMES, CITY LIGHTS and THE CIRCUS (these are the only Image discs I owned).

    But I'll gladly admit when I'm wrong. If someone would be kind enough to tell me what else is wrong with the Warner discs (besides PAL) then I'll look at them over the weekend. If I see the issues I'll certainly stop praising these discs.
     
  15. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Silent films were not projected at a standard speed.

    Theatres had a system with variable speed motors, synced to tachometers -- one in the booth and one at the conductor's podium, as an aid to synching with the orchestra.

    Notes which accompanied prints would designate the proper speed in frames per second for the entire film, or sequences thereof.

    RAH
     
  16. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    No, that's not what it is.
    No frame is deleted, all are shown (and only once), just almost 0.00167 secs shorter. As a principle it's not much worse than playing it with 'hick-ups' like the NTSC 3:2 pull-down (show every odd frame three times and the even ones twice).
    This means: in NTSC DVD's odd frames are shown 0.0083 secs too long and even frames 0.0083 secs too short. These differences are definitely much more than PAL's and the inequality leads to problems of its own (motion artifacts)!

    The speed-up "problems" lay elsewhere than the film being "butchered", or even changed in the slightest!


    Cees
     
  17. Brian PB

    Brian PB Supporting Actor

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    The Laser Examiner has performed an in-depth comparison of the R1 Warner DVDs vs the R2 mk2 DVDs vs the Fox Video laserdiscs for four titles: The Gold Rush, Modern Times, The Great Dictator, and Limelight. If you agree with their semi-quantitative analysis methods, the R2 DVDs rated the best in every case, but the flawed PAL-to-NTSC transfers of the R1 DVDs rated superior to the LDs for all four titles as well.

    I bought the R2 complete box set, and I'm been very pleased. IMHO, it's absurd to complain about a 4% speedup for silent films, when there's little agreement about the "correct" speed at which they should be projected (note the contentious debate about Fritz Lang's Metropolis, where experts have argued that the correct projection speed is anywhere from 16 up to 28 frames per second!).
     
  18. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Yeah, because except for Modern Times, they have extensive DVNR applied.

    The masters David Shepard worked on had hundreds of interpolations (meaning, footage from various sources intercut whenever necessary in order to use the best print source) and extensive manual dirt/scratch/etc. removal. City Lights has a few problem shots, but it's nearly pristine. The Circus is nearly perfect.

    Out of all the MK2 "remasters", City Lights is the biggest joke. It's softer, noise reduced, and has contrast boosting. Look at the last capture on DVD Beaver's comparison: http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/citylights.htm

    You can see both lines through the dollar sign in the Image version, but they're blurred together on the MK2 version. In the first capture, you can make out the policeman's fingers on his glove. In the MK2 version, they're gone. And this is the PAL version without the poor conversion! MK2 at least did a good job with The Kid, as it is sharper, but 24fps doesn't look right for the film. The Great Dictator is pretty much the same, except that MK2's has too much DVNR. With most of the Image editions, just adjusting the black level a little bit gets them to look just right:

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Ken Horowitz

    Ken Horowitz Agent

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    Anyone have thoughts regarding the Buster Keaton laserdiscs vs DVDs? (Thanks for the opinions so far on the Chaplin titles.)
     
  20. Matt Stieg

    Matt Stieg Stunt Coordinator

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    I assume you're referring to Kino's 1995 laserdisc releases versus their 1999-00 DVD releases? If so, the DVD's are better simply because...they're DVD's. The only disappointing thing is Kino replaced their wonderful, excellent composite orchestral score for Go West with a vastly inferior synthesizer score by Eric Beheim on the DVD.
     

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