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HTF REVIEW: The Simpsons - The Complete Third Season (Highly Recommended!)

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140 replies to this topic

#61 of 141 OFFLINE   Bill R.

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Posted August 25 2003 - 08:34 AM

Hello everyone ...

This my first post to this forum, so let me take a moment to give you some background on who I am. I've worked as a broadcast TV engineer for the past 30 years, and in that time I've seen just about everything "bad" that can happen to video, and can cite the cause of most things I see. Over the course of the years I've also developed friendships with many people who work in the Hollywood post-production community, have sat in on several telecine sessions for both movies, dramas and sitcoms, and have been on the stage and in the control room when 100-piece orchestras were recording scores for blockbuster films.

I mention all of this just as a way of letting you know I'm not just some guy who dropped in off the street. Posted Image

That said, I'd like to chime in on the discussion here about the video quality of the Simpsons DVDs. The main problem we're dealing with here is the fact that although the original images for the show were captured with film, the finished product is VIDEOTAPE. That is, all of the original film material was transferred to videotape, and the editing of the show took place on a tape format. Thus, these DVDs are ALL derived from VIDEOTAPE masters (all three seasons), and not the original film elements.

To use the film elements they would have the RE-TRANSFER all the film (assuming that all the pieces were cataloged for easy retrieval), and then RE-EDIT each episode, recreate the titling, etc. This is a daunting and hugely expensive task, especially considering the number of episodes involved. It's unlikely that they would go to this trouble "just" for the DVD release, but it might happen in the future if they want to make the show available in HD. Paramount recently did this with CHEERS, so there is some precedent for it (the Season 1 DVD box of CHEERS is a downconvert from the new HD masters).

Now, to make matters worse, the first few seasons of the Simpsons (perhaps up to season 5 or so) were all mastered on 1-inch tape, which is a COMPOSITE video format. To use this to produce DVDs, it must be decoded into component format, which never looks as good as something that originated in component. So, that's strike-one against top-notch quality.

Strike two occurred during the editing process of those early episodes. Many of the scenes in the first four or five (or maybe even six) seasons were shortened or lengthened during the edit to adjust the pacing -- unfortunately, since this was done by slowing down (or speeding up) the videotape for that scene, the video quality goes way, WAY down. As has been mentioned here, those scenes appear very soft, with a cyclical blurring of the vertical edges, and an odd "enhanced" look. That's just the nature of the way those 1-inch machines worked when you ran them off speed.

Fortunately, they eventually stopped this practice (can't remember exactly when, but I can find out if there's a real interest), and later moved into producing the show on a component video format (Digital Betacam). Once they release THOSE episodes on DVD, you should see a marked improvement in quality.

In the meantime, I think these DVDs are a pretty good reflection of what's on the master tapes (I have seen a 2nd generation 1-inch dub, so I have a fair idea of what they look like), and are a FAR, FAR, FAR cry from what you'll see if you watch the show in syndication. Wow, those versions look really, really incredibly bad.

I hope this helps explain some of the things you're seeing. --Bill R.

#62 of 141 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 25 2003 - 09:11 AM

Thanks Bill!

expertise like yours is always welcome on the board!!!

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#63 of 141 OFFLINE   Mark Bendiksen

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Posted August 25 2003 - 09:20 AM


Wow, Bill. That's pretty enlightening information, to say the least.

Man, I love HTF. Posted Image


#64 of 141 OFFLINE   David Williams

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Posted August 25 2003 - 04:50 PM

Many thanks for the tech update, Bill! Posted Image

Quote:
Fortunately, they eventually stopped this practice (can't remember exactly when, but I can find out if there's a real interest), and later moved into producing the show on a component video format (Digital Betacam). Once they release THOSE episodes on DVD, you should see a marked improvement in quality.

I, for one, would be very interested in which season they upgraded to the digi betacam, so we know when to expect the bump in quality. Of course, at the rate they're releasing these, I could well be middle-aged before that happens. Posted Image
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#65 of 141 OFFLINE   Bill R.

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Posted August 25 2003 - 08:15 PM

David,

I don't know the answer to that right off the top of my head, but I will try to find out (I know a guy who is on pretty good terms with some of people who work on the show).

I think they stopped using the "speed up/slow down" production tool even before they went to Digital Betacam, so I don't think we have to wait for that point to at least eliminate THAT annoyance.

--Bill R.

#66 of 141 OFFLINE   Steven Simon

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Posted August 26 2003 - 04:04 AM

Adam,

Awesome review!!!
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#67 of 141 OFFLINE   Jonny P

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Posted August 26 2003 - 04:58 AM

The show ranks as classic TV animation. Obviously, the early seasons won't have the same quality that a show like "Futurama" or newer "Simpsons" have, but issues with age are to be expected.

I purchased the first two seasons, but jumped off for the third. To be honest, the third was a pretty entertaining season.

However, I am having a difficult time with the release schedule. We are getting one season per year. At this rate, I may be 40 by the time we get to season 10. Will DVD be a format at that point?

Nobody wants to see stuff done too hastily, but when it comes to these season sets, they need to be fairly expedient.

#68 of 141 OFFLINE   Bill R.

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Posted August 26 2003 - 07:33 AM

FYI, for those following along, according to my "contact," he believes that it wasn't until Season 6 that they stopped using the time-compression/expansion "tool" to adjust the scene length. So, we may have to put up with this for awhile longer.

Still waiting for an answer on the Digital Betacam question -- he's got to check with someone else about that. I'll post it here when/if I get an answer.

--Bill R.

#69 of 141 OFFLINE   David Williams

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Posted August 26 2003 - 10:35 AM

Many thanks for the info, Bill and also to your 'contact'! Posted Image
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#70 of 141 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted August 26 2003 - 10:39 AM

Does anyone know what season the Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy episode is on?

Thanks!

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#71 of 141 OFFLINE   streeter

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Posted August 26 2003 - 11:06 AM

I spent a long time looking for the audio outtakes - glad that I finally know how to find them!

Additionally, has anyone had any trouble accessing the Czech audiotrack on Treehouse of Horrors? I clicked through the tracks and it skipped track 5 out of 6. 1 is English, 2 is Spanish, 3 is French, 4 is commentary, and 6 is Polish. But my player didn't let me pick track 5. Has anyone else had this problem? I haven't tried it on any of my other players yet, but I thought it was a little strange.
Then again, why am I so interested in the Czech track? I guess I'm more interested in finding out why it skipped over it.
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#72 of 141 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted August 26 2003 - 11:47 AM

Quote:
Does anyone know what season the Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy episode is on?


Do you mean the one where they made a R.M. movie? I'm not sure what season that was, but I'm sure someone probably does.

#73 of 141 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted August 26 2003 - 12:20 PM

Yes Jeff that's the one - where
Bart tries out but Millhouse gets the part
- it's got my favorite McBain lines in it. Posted Image

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#74 of 141 OFFLINE   Sean Hardiman

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Posted August 26 2003 - 01:52 PM

Hi everyone,

I know this isn't directly related to the discussion on video quality, but I wanted to extend a big thumbs down to whomever at Fox decided what glue was to be used to secure the little paper backing to the case for Simpsons Season 3. Instead of using the little drabs of glue that has been used for past seasons of The X-Files and The Simpsons (you know, the stuff that magazines use to attach posters or maps inside the issue), my copy came with an industrial strength size 1" strip of glue down the right hand side that made removing the paper sheet at all virtually impossible. It took almost an hour to remove the paper and clear off all the gunk that was left (and there was a substantial amount) with Goo Gone. FOX, what's wrong with the easily removable glue that was used before? This stuff you used this time is a major pain in the head to remove. Please go back to using whatever glue you were using before; this stuff was absolutely terrible.

So big Posted Image to whomever in FOX manufacturing who approved this. Fix it for next time, please.

SCH

#75 of 141 OFFLINE   Adam Tyner

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Posted August 26 2003 - 02:02 PM

Carlo: The episode is "Radioactive Man" and it's from season seven.

#76 of 141 OFFLINE   Prentice Cotham

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Posted August 26 2003 - 02:26 PM

Quote:
Carlo: The episode is "Radioactive Man" and it's from season seven.


Which we will see in the Season 7 set in 2007. Posted Image
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#77 of 141 OFFLINE   Michael Bee

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Posted August 26 2003 - 02:30 PM

I think the switch to digital was fairly recent, because in one of the commentaries someone (Al Jean, I think) mentions it. Not too recent though, maybe Season 10 or so?

#78 of 141 OFFLINE   Adam Lenhardt

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Posted August 26 2003 - 02:41 PM

Quote:
I think the switch to digital was fairly recent, because in one of the commentaries someone (Al Jean, I think) mentions it. Not too recent though, maybe Season 10 or so?
Episode 300, last season. But from the way I'm reading Bill's post, the problem is the manner in which the master tapes were created. Once we get up to the point when they started mastering on Betacam and stopped fussing with the frame rate, there should be a marked improvement.

#79 of 141 OFFLINE   Craig S

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Posted August 26 2003 - 05:36 PM

Quote:
wanted to extend a big thumbs down to whomever at Fox decided what glue was to be used to secure the little paper backing to the case for Simpsons Season 3. Instead of using the little drabs of glue that has been used for past seasons of The X-Files and The Simpsons (you know, the stuff that magazines use to attach posters or maps inside the issue), my copy came with an industrial strength size 1" strip of glue down the right hand side that made removing the paper sheet at all virtually impossible.
That's odd, the paper on my copy came right off. It was held by a long but thin strip of the good old "easy off" glue that you can just roll up and pull off.

Maybe something different about the Canadian sets??
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#80 of 141 OFFLINE   Sean Hardiman

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Posted August 26 2003 - 06:18 PM

Quote:
That's odd, the paper on my copy came right off. It was held by a long but thin strip of the good old "easy off" glue that you can just roll up and pull off.


You know, that's what I thought as well. Whatever this stuff was, it was pretty tough adhesive. In retrospect, it was probably a 1/2", but this stuff just would not come off at all! Perhaps it is a Canadian thing, but the sets didn't look any different (i.e. none of the usual Canadian markings). Anyway, Canadians at least, beware. Thank goodness for goo-gone, though. I was able to get rid of the stuff without damaging the case, so that was a plus.


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