DVD Authoring Question

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Paul_Saul, Apr 24, 2005.

  1. Paul_Saul

    Paul_Saul Stunt Coordinator

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    I just watched the film After Life last night - good film but terrible transfer. So here is my question...

    Does it really cost significantly more $$$ to create a decent DVD transfer? I am not talking about restoring elements or digitally fixing scratches in the film itself as I can understand why these would add significant cost to a DVD release. What I am talking about is just the analog-to-digital conversion process itself. A film like After Life is a relatively new film so there are not any scratches to speak of, but what makes it look poor is the extreme compression. It looks like it is authored at 100 bits per second! Why, when films are digitized, don't they use the maximum bit rate possible such that the film (and extras) will still fit on the disc??? Does it really cost significantly more to do so?
     
  2. TomDaniel

    TomDaniel Auditioning

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    Hi-

    I don't know the film, although perhaps I should, as it's right up my alley. I can't post a link, but Gary Tooze's DVDBeaver website has a comparison between it and an R2 version. This isn't really an authoring question as the thread title states, but an encoding and mastering question. There are several things you can gather from his comparison, and one more you can infer.

    First, most of it was shot on 16mm, so it's never going to look all that great. Second, it's a New Yorker release, and all their stuff that I've seen is garbage. Third, evidently it was smoothed pretty heavily, and then EE applied. Both are pretty detrimental to video quality. Fourth, it has burned in subtitles. Fifth, it was encoded as widescreen 4:3, rather than anamorphic 16:9. According to Gary, it was cropped down to 1.53:1 from the original 1:66:1. If New Yorker had kept the original AR, it could have benefitted from 16:9 enhancement.

    There's one thing I can infer from past experience with New Yorker. It was almost certainly encoded as hard telecined 29.97fps. That is, 29.97fps telecined content is probably stored on the DVD, rather than 23.976fps progressive frames, with pulldown applied to output 29.97fps. This wastes 25% of the valuable bits encoding duplicate fields, and can wreak havoc for those with Progressive setups, where flag reading DVD players will only deinterlace the video, rather than outputting clean untouched frames. It's a reasonably long film, and wasting bits like that may also mean that, since it's on a DVD5, there may be compression artifacts, such as macroblocking in places, and mosquito noise.
     
  3. Paul_Saul

    Paul_Saul Stunt Coordinator

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    Ok, so let me make my question more specific. How much more would it have cost to do a proper job encoding this film on to DVD? Is it a cost issue or just sloppy work?
     
  4. TomDaniel

    TomDaniel Auditioning

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    Hi-

    Licensing and mastering costs I don't know. They obviously used some old analog master that already existed. So beyond whatever it cost to obtain the rights, preparing a new master would have cost New Yorker at least several more thousand dollars. But like I said, that's not my area of expertise. I did see recently, in response to a question about Milestone using an already existing PAL master for one of their NTSC DVDs, that Dennis Doros claimed a proper NTSC master would have cost an additional $20,000, and the projected sales didn't justify the additional cost. I'm sure there are plenty of people around here that know more about such things than I. But New Yorker is sort of a fly-by-night outfit, not much above Madacy, Goodtimes, and Alpha Video in the quality of their releases. But what can you do, other than to search out better DVD versions of these films from overseas? Many, many Japanese films have really lousy R1 DVD versions. Many of the R1 DVD versions of the classic Kitano films are just as bad. One of my favorites, Hana-Bi (Fireworks), is only available in R1 from New Yorker. It's just as bad as yours.

    So, maybe buy an all-region DVD player and check at DVDBeaver for the best DVD version of your favorites from overseas.
     
  5. John Whittle

    John Whittle Stunt Coordinator

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    Before you start encoding, you have to have a decent source. To get a decent source you need a decent transfer from film. Now if you assume the film elements are OK (and most aren't for transfer) then you'll spend at least a week (five dates at 8 to 10 hours a day) in telecine at $350 to $500 per hour in a decent post house plus tape and sundries.

    If you need new film elements (like a new IP from a negative) then you'll have lab costs on top of that and those will vary with the condition of the negative, the timing of the negative, color correction, etc.

    After you have that done, then you can proceed to encoding. But as with anything, GIGO. Many "old" transfers date to the days of "film chains" when films went to video like local television stations with 16mm prints, telecine projectors and tube cameras which results in "blended" fields and lots of "blured" frames created by those five-bladed shutters in the NTSC world. It was with the introduction of the Rank which did scans and used a frame store to build out the 29.97 that fields were "clear" and then could be reverse telecined to get decent compression on DVD.

    So no simple answer without a full estimate based on condition of elements. My guess is they felt they'd make just as much money using the old transfer as investing in the new elements--an unfortunate and common approach among some "low end" dvd labels.

    John
     
  6. Paul_Saul

    Paul_Saul Stunt Coordinator

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    Well, they (New Yorker) may think that they are saving money but they certainly lost me as a customer.
     
  7. Brian-W

    Brian-W Screenwriter

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    It doesn't take long to telecine a film. What takes time is color correction, that takes the major amount of time and cost investment. That isn't including any cleanup or restoration of the film either.
     
  8. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    Is the video grainy/noisy? This will result in the compression looking poor.

    As others have noted, getting a film to DVD takes a while. Time is money. Everything happens at a fraction of the speed of real time. The longer you work on the transfer, the better it will look, but the more it will cost.
     

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