Robert Harris on The Bits - 10/28/02 column - OFFICIAL THREAD

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bill Hunt, Oct 28, 2002.

  1. Bill Hunt

    Bill Hunt Insider
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    We've just posted Robert Harris' new column on The Digital Bits. This time around Robert ponders great films starring Alec Guinness, Columbia TriStar's SuperBit DVDs and the misconception of THX. And he ends it all with the words "Kevin Bacon" in his closing sentence. No kidding!
    SuperBit, THX and Six Degrees...
    As always, click on the link to read Robert's comments and then come on back here to this official thread at the HTF to discuss as you will. Enjoy!
     
  2. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    great article RAH, once and for all I now know what Sony's Superbit means.
    Cheers
    [​IMG]
     
  3. Veen_Senn

    Veen_Senn Auditioning

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    Mr Harris, your articles have often mentioned the importance of reproducing film grain in DVD transfers. I am in the dark as to how grain structure can improve the visual quality of a DVD. In fact, my only suspicion of what 'grain' is stems from watching the 'Kwaidan' DVD, in which I noticed that the image 'feels' more film-like. I do not seem to notice such an effect on newly-restored, older titles such as 'Citizen Kane' or 'Rififi'.

    Since many DVD review sites do not mention the contribution of grain to the visual quality, perhaps you can write an article on it and enlighten many of us. I hope too, that the issue of film grain may be discussed in this forum.


    Veen-Senn Wong.
     
  4. Michel_Hafner

    Michel_Hafner Supporting Actor

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    Hi,
    Some comments.
    Superbit titles. I have also compared some Superbit titles
    with the earlier version and agree that they offer better
    image quality (and due to DTS tracks also better audio
    quality.). You need a monitor or projector with full DVD
    resolution to appreciate the difference.
    Superbit uses a higher average bit rate, but in addition
    also a less filtered master with more fine detail, and less
    edge enhancement. Unfortunately there still is edge
    enhancement since Columbia-Tristar adds edge enhancement
    to almost all their transfers, including the HD versions.
    There can also be noise reduction artifacts on Superbit titles (example: Gattaca).
    Finally, superbit DVDs like all other DVDs pale compared
    to the HD masters they are made from. If you can get your
    hands on the HD version and have equipment with HD resolution the attractiveness of superbit DVDs is limited to
    DTS tracks and supplements. The real superbit versions will
    come when we have HD DVD or Columbia-Tristar joins the
    D-Theater wagon (which they hardly will). Watch CT stuff
    on HBO HD and it will blow the DVDs away despite only
    about twice the bitrate at max.
    Michel Hafner
     
  5. Brendon

    Brendon Second Unit

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    Mr. Harris,
    Thanks for another enlightening column. Whilst I don't want to turn the thread into a THX bashing session, I'm more concerned than ever as to what THX software certification means for the end consumer.
    (BTW I have a completely different opinion of THX hardware, although that is a different subject).
    If, as you point out, the THX badge on a DVD merely certifies the calibration of the equipment used during the authoring process of a disc but not the master used or the resultant disc, what is the point of the badge being on the disc ? I am presuming none.
    A (crude) analogy: I own a pie factory that buys in raw ingredients (the master), and produces pies (the DVDs for sale). My pie factory has certain standards that must be met in terms of the pie making process; handling of the raw materials by my staff, calibration of the hardware used in pie manufacturing etc (the standards that are adhered to during the process - THX).
    Given the principle of GOGO (garbage in, garbage out), with the highest adherence to the quality principles, it is still possible for my factory to make lousy pies. Yet a pie company would never put the quality certification of the pie making process on the box. (Buy your ISO9001 produced pie now!).
    If I was to make lousy pies in my factory and publicise the quality processes and standards involved, would my lousy pies not dent the reputation of the certifying body ? I think they would.
    Therefore if THX are not certifying the quality of the resultant disc, would they not be better operating "out of view" of the end consumer and merely being an internal industry standard/service ?
    At the risk of boring people who already know this story, I'd like to offer up an old tale re THX. In early 1998 the PAL Laserdisc boxset of the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition was slated for release one week before its NTSC equivalent in a bid to generate more sales.
    This deadline was met due to the ANH (Star Wars ep 4) disc needing to be repressed at THX's insistance. The set, like the NTSC box set, was THX certified. (The PCM stereo audio on side two of the disc was up or down 2dB from side one - can't remember which).
    My impression at the time was that THX were being dilligent and were exercising their right to reject "below par" product.
    New impression: As THX only certify the calibration of the equipment used in production (and with LD, the insertion of the calibration signal itself), not the master, then the resultant disc would have been a "true" representation of the master. If it wasn't, then surely THX themselves would have been at fault given they certified the production process & equipment.
    Lastly, on a personal note, thanks for the restoration of My Fair Lady. Having seen the revived West End show in London, I bought the DVD on spec - it looked tremendous, vivid and detailed. All I need now is for the theatrical print to come to my local multiplex (FAT chance, but I can dream!)
    Cheers,
    Brendon
     
  6. Justin Sallows

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    In response to the defense of the E.T. disc, I personally don't care that the old version was included. They're pretty much the same movie. I think the old version is better in some respects, and the newer better in some respects. My problem is that it's inclusion meant the dropping of the special features. Everything was set, we were getting the new film and all the features. I certainly wasn't going to pay $70.00 for the old film. I was absolutely fine with that set up. Now Steven puts in the old film and most of the features, which seemed lackluster compared to the laserdisc, got shifted to box set. I puzzled over this, put eventually said "screw it" and bought the 2-disc set at Wal-Mart for $16.99 anyway. Yeah I wanted the Laurent documentary, but I'll settle for the truncated version. I'm not going to pay 4 times the price to get it. Universal just never got their ducks in a row with this release, and Steven's last minute demand didn't help. A CD soundtrack? What the hell am I going to do with that? Sit at home and blast the theme from E.T. over and over? That's stupid!
     
  7. Eujin

    Eujin Supporting Actor

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  8. Troy LaMont

    Troy LaMont Supporting Actor

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    Excellent post on SuperBit Mr Harris!
    Thanks.
    Hopefully to those who were non-believers up until this point (even after Bjoern so eloquently pointed out the differences many a time), will finally understand.
    Now if we can just get that D-Theater/D-VHS concept to stick as well.... [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Troy
     
  9. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    Nice to hear that E.T. and the Guiness Collection get the RAH seal of approval. [​IMG]
     
  10. Bob Muir

    Bob Muir Extra

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    Sorry to hear that "High Noon" was such bad quality that Harris couldn't recommend a purchase of the DVD. But figure the odds that the studio (after spending the money they've already spent on the release) will revisit the material and publish a new and improved special edition. :-/
     
  11. GlennH

    GlennH Cinematographer

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    Regarding film grain on DVD, I found the following statement in Brian Florian's review of Star Trek III to be interesting.
     
  12. Andy Kim

    Andy Kim Second Unit

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    As a supporter of Superbit, I was glad to read what Richard had to say.
    I just wish Columbia would market it better (simultaneous release date announcements with regular versions) and release better titles under the Superbit line.
    Anyone have an idea as to when we can expect a BHD or Spiderman Superbit?
     
  13. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Film grain is certainly discernable on DVD, especially on high end systems.

    Re: Rear Window, or any extremely early Eastman Color derived films, a certain amount of grain should be visible, especially where optical steps have been involved.

    It is more obvious, however, in early black and white films which have been transferred from high quality early generational elements. The further away from original one goes, the less obvious the grain structure.

    Remove the grain, and you remove the foundation of the film and base element which makes what we call a picture.

    RAH
     
  14. Veen_Senn

    Veen_Senn Auditioning

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    Yes, but how does one tell grain and video noise apart?
     
  15. John Hofbauer

    John Hofbauer Auditioning

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    Why oh why can't Republic do a proper transfer to DVD
    of "The Quiet Man"!! I don't believe the elements are
    in that bad shape because I watched a gorgeous print on
    a Boston superstation several years ago. But the
    laserdisc of 10 years ago sucked bigtime and the first
    DVD appeared to just be a port of that and the new
    collectors edition appears to be about the same.
     
  16. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

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    Wow. Awesome article. Only one comment:

     
  17. Brian-W

    Brian-W Screenwriter

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  18. Seth_S

    Seth_S Second Unit

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    Mr. Harris,

    Is there a reason why Lucasfilm hasn't piped up about what THX certification actually means? Studios have gone as far as to imply that THX certification means that the transfer was created at Lucasfilm. Furthermore, I find it surprising that Lucasfilm never objected to how studios recycled THX certified LaserDisc transfers for DVD releases and slapped the THX logo on the DVD box art, thus implying that the DVD release was THX certified. Essentially, studios have been using the THX logo as a means of false advertising and yet THX seems to turn the blind eye, even though it hurts the credibility of their certification?

    Speaking of studios re-releasing DVD titles in higher resolution, do you know if Universal has any plans to re-release Psycho and Vertigo in anamorphic widescreen?

    Thanks
     
  19. Robert Harris

    Robert Harris Archivist
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    Re: Seth_S ...

    I have no information regarding THX and Lucasfilm and their methodology of licensing beyond my understanding that any misinformation or questionable use of the trademark did not come from Lucasfilm, but rather from the studio / publisher
    community.

    Re: "Vertigo" and Psycho...

    These are both superb transfers from Universal.

    "Vertigo" was produced just before the move to anamorphic, but even that additional technology would have had no affect, as it was a full scale large format transfer at a facility which did not have anamorphic capability.

    The cost of "Vertigo" was tremendous, and except for moving forward to a HiDef transfer, which is not yet necessary, I would not be able to in good conscience suggest that Universal re-transfer at this time.

    RAH
     
  20. Duncan Harvey

    Duncan Harvey Stunt Coordinator

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    One thing which people often forget re Superbit is that until Godzilla came out, Sony did not appear to have any DVD 9 replication facilities. Hence all of their films came out (usually) as DVD 10s with the widescreen and 4:3 versions on separate sides (or with the extras on the other side as with the original disc of Starship Troopers).

    Hence bit rates were restricted simply because they only had 4.7gb to play with.

    Superbit is a nice snazzy marketing logo to cover the re-release schedule of these earlier single layer releases, and if they look better - well great - given nearly twice as much space they ought to!

    As for new releases - again given DVD9s and improvements in compression technology these ought to look superb.

    So congrats to Sony, but only to the extent that they are doing their job - would anyone be satisfied with anything less?
     

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