"Cheers" Season 7 - video quality

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Brad P, Nov 22, 2005.

  1. Brad P

    Brad P Stunt Coordinator

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    Why do the majority of the shots in the second half of "One Happy Chappy in a Sappy Serape" look so bloody awful? They look like the film has been caked in a layer of mud and then rained on for a century.

    I know that sometimes film negatives are lost, but honestly, couldn't they have found a better-looking print to source from than that?
     
  2. Nick_TV

    Nick_TV Stunt Coordinator

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    I was wondering the same. "Bar Wars II" has a lot of shots like that too. I can't remember if they're that way on TVLand or not. Was going to check the next time around.
     
  3. Mike*SC

    Mike*SC Second Unit

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    I'm sure it's not a negative or print issue, as "Cheers" was posted on video starting at season three (or maybe four), so there is no film master.
     
  4. Brad P

    Brad P Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, something is up with these shots to make them look cruddy.
     
  5. Brad P

    Brad P Stunt Coordinator

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    Are you sure the show was eventually shot on video? The image still has a very film-like quality during season 7, and the opening announcement never deviated from "Cheers is filmed before a live studio audience."
     
  6. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    No, "Cheers" was always shot on film. When Mike said "posted" on video, he meant that the original filmed elements were transferred to video for editing in what's called "post production". Prior to this shift to video editing, editing was done the "old fashioned" way: cut and splice. It's very time intensive and limiting for special effects edits. When a filmed show is "dumped" to video, it's also easier to re-edit later for syndication versions. Scene changes, such as the use of dissolves, wipes and other fancy edits are also easier to create on video. The drawback, and it's a big one, is that the final image has less resolution, and tends to have a "softer" appearance than a transfer completed on film.

    I've been watching a lot of TVonDVD from the '70s and early '80s lately. I'm always blown away by how good most of the transfers are on the shows shot and posted on film. When I watched the original broadcasts (long before cable/satelite/DVD, etc.) there was no way to appreciate how great these shows looked, since I was viewing them on mostly 13-25" TVs with "rabbit ear" antennas (Ah, the good old days!)

    I do remember, vividly, when shows started to switch to video posting. They took on a different look, noticeable even on those older sets. I always felt they had a real "low-budget" look about them, almost "smudgy" in appearance. The first giveaway to a show posted on video is usually the titles. They have that too vibrant look, since they are created by computer character generators, rather than the old-fashioned optical layering. A few examples of shows that were posted on video (and look it) are "Matlock", "Sledge Hammer", "Silk Stalkings" and "Mad About You". These transfers suffer so poorly that I cannot watch them on my big-screen. I watch them on a 32" or smaller, which is how I watched them when they were originally broadcast.

    Another sign a show was posted on film rather than video is during titles and scene changes involving dissolves or wipes. The process used to combine the film elements from these differing scenes resulted in slight (but noticeable) grain and dirt. When watching a scene, and there's a cut to a different camera angle with a drop in image quality, that's usually the sign a scene change about to occur, usually via a dissolve or wipe.

    I was watching the Season 1 of "Hart to Hart" recently and was totally blown away by how good the transfers are. Sony did (surprisingly) remaster them in HD, but I still detected the effects of the film post work at scene changes. These effects are still highly preferrable to the downgrade in overall image quality of video posted shows. Transfers as good as "Hart to Hart" can be easily enjoyed blown up on my big-screen, which is a bonus not available when originally broadcast!

    Back to "Cheers"...a few years ago there was an article on transferring old shows to HD and DVD, and "Cheers" was specifically mentioned. I remember because the spokesperson from Paramount talked about the difference in editing used over the course of the show, and how transferring it to HD created a whole set of problems. Because the later seasons were posted on video, and the earlier ones had been re-transferred to composite video masters, they were unusable for HD. He said they went back to the original filmed elements to make new transfers, with all the (previous video) edits re-created on film. He also explained how the process known as "tilt-and-scan" would be used to create the 16:9 version for HD.

    I haven't heard anything more about "Cheers" and HD, so I don't know if this T&S situation is still an issue we'll be dealing with in the future...but I'd imagine it will be.
    (We can't have those pesky black bars bothering us on the sides now, can we?)

    Hope all this detail helps understand the difference between film and video "posting". If there are any experts who could add better explanations, I'd love to read about them.
     
  7. Mike*SC

    Mike*SC Second Unit

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    Thanks, Matt, for going into details that I sloppily left to the imagination.



    Really?! I'm amazed! Are you sure they actually did this? It would be extremely expensive, and few viewers would likely notice (posters here being likely exceptions). I was talking to the executive in charge of production for a major comedy producer a few years ago (back when comedies were shot on film -- all except, I believe, "Joey" and "Two and a Half Men" are now shot on the hi-def video process 24p), and I asked him what happened to the film itself after it was telecined (transfered) to video. He told me it was sent to, I kid you not, an old salt mine, where the temperature and lack of humidity would keep the film in good condition, in case it were ever needed again. But he added that going back to the original elements would be so expensive, the film would almost certainly be left there forever, and any higher definition mastering would be done with a computerized system that would interpolate the visual information between the lines of the lower resolution video. He said that such a thing was only experimental at that time, but that he had no doubt it would eventually become commonplace.
     
  8. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    Hi Mike,
    Yes, the article I referred to went into much greater detail than I posted, but I still remember most of it. (I'll see if I can find it archived online somewhere, then post it here). I remember it because I was thinking "wouldn't this be cool if all studios were able to do this with all their shows for HD and DVD!"

    The guy from Paramount said to go back to those film elements again, years later, and re-edit them, would be a very laborious and expensive endeavor, but necessary for certain shows intended for HD preservation. He also detailed how when master film elements are cut for an edit, an actual frame of film is "lost" on each side of the cut. This would result in minor audio-sync problems that would also need to be corrected. He went on to describe how all scene changes (dissolves/fades/wipes) and titles would be re-created on film. He basically said the later "Cheers" episodes would end up looking as good as the early seasons, but all would look better than they've ever looked before, especially when you consider the TVs they were viewed on in the early '80s compared with today's sets.
     
  9. Brad P

    Brad P Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the info, guys. Wasn't the same process also used for the Seinfeld DVDs?
     
  10. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    That didn't take long! A quick google and I found the article. I remember originally reading it in print form (I can't remember the magazine), but most of the article appears to be available here:

    http://www.kodak.com/US/en/motion/ne...1/cheers.shtml

    It's an interesting read.
     
  11. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    Yes. As I was typing my reply, I meant to mention that "Seinfeld" was also given the royal treatment for HD and DVD preservation. There probably aren't too many shows the studios will expend this sort of treatment to, especially those that have large numbers of episodes.

    Universal and Fox have been pretty good about "cleaning up" their shows, without actually remastering them.
     
  12. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    Of course, this discussion doesn't address the original poster's question as to the problems with one episode in Season 7. All I can guess is that they were able to remaster only a portion of that episode, with the rest lost or damaged beyond repair. Combining elements was all they could do. (Didn't Paramount do this with a few "Brady Bunch" episodes?).

    As annoying as the changing quality within an episode is, it's probably preferable than leaving the whole episode untouched. I still wish they would place a small disclaimer on the packaging regarding the deficiencies. It could serve as an explanation that all attempts were made to restore the episodes, but technical issues prevented one from being restored completely. At least some people would not try to return the set as defective, wasting their time exchanging it for another of the same.

    I have yet to open my Season 7 set, but with the warning, I'll jump right to the problem episode to see for myself. I know there are a handful of episodes on other seasons that have minor instances of poor quality within a scene. It sounds like this episode had a few more of those "instances".
     
  13. Mike*SC

    Mike*SC Second Unit

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    Wow! I had no idea! (Obviously.) Thanks for that, Matt!
     
  14. MattHR

    MattHR Screenwriter

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    Well, I just opened my Season 7 set to check the episode of discussion. Wow. It's much worse than I expected. The scenes are as Brad described in his initial post. It's strange, because it occurs all through the last half of the episode, but it's a two-second shot here on one camera, then a 10-second shot in the same scene from another camera...throughout many different sets and locations. Very strange indeed. I guess I'd describe it as watching a DVD where unprocessed deleted scenes, or work-print footage, has been added back into the program via branching. It's very annoying, because the transfer shifts so suddenly from good to horrible, then back again every few seconds. If there ever was a time for a studio to place a disclaimer on the package...this is it!

    Another observation: This set HAS NOT been remastered from the original film elements as detailed in the previous posts. It was evident immediately, since I checked it on my big screen, and video-posted material from this era is unacceptable to view on anything larger than a 32" (IMO). I'd have to check my Seasons 4-6 (I've only watched Seasons 1-3...and they're beautiful!) to see if they are remastered or not. The signs of video post-producuction are evident everywhere. The vibrant, film quality of Seasons 1-3 are not on display with this set.

    The restoration of "Cheers", as described in the article linked in a previous post, clearly was abandoned somewhere along the line. Too bad, since I thought the transfers of the first three seasons were on par with the best, such as "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Star Trek: TOS".

    A HUGE disappointment! [​IMG]

    EDIT: According to the article on the "Cheers" restoration I linked above, video post-production started during Season 5. I'll check it later to see if I can detect the exact episode where the editing switched from film to video. Maybe Paramount only truly remastered the episodes that were already edited on film, rather than re-do the rest as stated in the article.

    This is definitely a matter for Gord and Dave to investigate with Paramount.

    ***URGENT NEWS*** I had to keep interrupting my post while typing because of the following breaking news:

    The details are at: http://www.usmagazine.com/

    What a shame...what with the holidays right around the corner. [​IMG]
     
  15. MatthewA

    MatthewA Lead Actor

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    Man, this is "Cheers" were talking about. The show that started Must See TV. If the elements exist, there's just no excuse not to fully remaster the episodes, whatever the cost.
     
  16. Brad P

    Brad P Stunt Coordinator

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    The article states that "the first 90 episodes" were posted on film. There are 95 episodes between seasons 1-4, so I would assume the video-posting began with the beginning of season 5, probably for budget/time reasons.

    The re-transferring for HD does explain why they accidentally used the season 5 opening credits (with Kelsey Grammer's name) during a season 4 episode.
     
  17. Mike*SC

    Mike*SC Second Unit

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    Really? Would you be willing to spend $100 per season set? Or would you just expect Paramount to take a huge loss for the privilege of selling you their wares?
     
  18. Brad P

    Brad P Stunt Coordinator

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    I made two screen caps from every season currently available on DVD. The image quality does seem to drop at season 6, and to my amateur eyes, it seems like at that point the transfers were sourced from video, not film.

    What do you guys think?

    [​IMG]
    "Give Me A Ring Sometime" - September 30, 1982 [Season 1]

    [​IMG]
    "Pick A Con, Any Con" - February 24, 1983 [Season 1]

    [​IMG]
    "Manager Coach" - November 24, 1983 [Season 2]

    [​IMG]
    "I'll Be Seeing You (Part 1)" - May 3, 1984 [Season 2]

    [​IMG]
    "Rebound (Part 1)" - September 27, 1984 [Season 3]

    [​IMG]
    "Cheerio, Cheers" - April 11, 1985 [Season 3]

    [​IMG]
    "Woody Goes Belly Up" - October 3, 1985 [Season 4]

    [​IMG]
    "Fools And Their Money" - December 12, 1985 [Season 4]

    [​IMG]
    "Thanksgiving Orphans" - November 27, 1986 [Season 5]

    [​IMG]
    "I Do And Audieu" - May 7, 1987 [Season 5]

    [​IMG]
    "Home Is The Sailor" - September 24, 1987 [Season 6]

    [​IMG]
    "Airport V" - February 25, 1988 [Season 6]

    [​IMG]
    "How To Recede In Business" - October 24, 1988 [Season 7]

    [​IMG]
    "The Gift Of The Woodi" - April 6, 1989 [Season 7]
     
  19. AndrewWickliffe

    AndrewWickliffe Second Unit

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    I think it looks consistent from 5 on....

    Those early episodes might have gotten better cleaning just because Paramount didn't know how the series was going to sell. They also came out on VHS in the 1990s, so there could have been nice transfers around....
     
  20. Brad P

    Brad P Stunt Coordinator

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    Weren't those Columbia House videos, though? How nice could those transfers be?
     

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