HTF REVIEW: Bram Stoker's Dracula vs. Bram Stoker's Dracula (Superbits)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Dec 1, 2001.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    [​IMG] VS. [​IMG]

    Bram Stoker's Dracula

    As far as I am concerned, the jury is still
    out on this entire Superbits line of
    DVDs recently introduced by Columbia/Tristar.
    You can go from one review to another of the
    same Superbits title and some will see
    and hear a slight to remarkable difference while
    others will notice no improvement whatsoever.
    While my HTF REVIEW of the first batch of
    Superbit titles found no improvement to
    a slight improvement in video quality, I was
    impressed with the improvement on the DTS audio
    tracks. For that reason, I was a bit upbeat with
    this new line of DVDs and was anxiously awaiting
    the release of the next title, Bram Stoker's
    While there have been countless movies made about
    the legendary Transylvanian resident, none have
    been as favored as much as this 1992 version based
    more on Bram Stoker's classic novel of the same
    name. Winning Oscars for costumes and makeup,
    this film is craftily directed by Francis Ford
    Coppola, with gorgeous photography and a stellar
    cast that includes Gary Oldman, Winona Ryder,
    Anthony Hopkins and Keanu Reeves. To this day,
    Bram Stoker's Dracula remains the most
    vivid, seductive and visually horrific tale about
    Count Dracula ever brought to the screen.
    Comparing the original 1997 DVD release and this
    new Superbits release was a little
    difficult. Though I have multiple DVD players,
    I wanted these discs played from the same hardware
    source. To do this, I hate to constantly load and
    reload each disc to compare scenes, never quite
    giving me an exact split screen eye on any specific
    differences there might be. Nonetheless, I believe
    I was able to do an adequate comparison.
    First of all, it is apparent that the Superbit
    release comes from the same master as the 1997
    release. You can clearly see the same black splotches
    across the Columbia Pictures logo on both transfers.
    Starting with Chapter 2 (ST)/Chapter 1 (SB), I
    studied the very first scene of the film where
    Anthony Hopkins tells of the invading Muslim Turks.
    This scene was photographed very soft and almost
    with a muddy look. For that reason, there was grain
    evident on both versions. The scene goes on to
    Dracula (Oldman) leaving his bride, Elizabeth (Ryder)
    to fight the war. The first time I watched the
    first 10 minutes of this chapter on both discs,
    I could not find any difference in video quality.
    Upon studying further, I found that instead of an
    overall improvement in picture quality, I found
    little pieces of improvements. The armored hand
    that raises a sword looks more 3-D like against the
    map of Transylvania and Turkey. The images of
    Dracula bidding his bride goodbye are ever so
    slightly brighter and distinct.
    The review becomes more difficult as I find that
    chapters have been realigned and separated at
    different points in this new Superbits version.
    Chapter 8 (ST)/ Chapter 3 (SB) starts with a
    red waxed seal on an envelope. Jonathan (Reeves)
    is finalizing a document with the elderly count.
    Both versions showed vivid red detail in the count's
    long robe. Although again I could notice very
    little difference in the picture quality between
    the two discs, I did see a slight improvement in
    the flesh tone of Keanu Reeve's face. Still, a
    slight improvement.
    Chapter 10 (ST)/ Chapter 3 (SB) starts with a
    harp playing. We meet Lucy's (Sadie Frost) beau,
    Quincy (Bill Campbell). Here, I actually did notice
    a slight improvement in picture quality. On the
    standard edition, the faces of the two beautiful
    girls are less distinct compared to the Superbits
    version where faces are cleaner, more distinctive,
    and with more pronounced flesh tones. The color
    of Quincy's light brown overcoat also stands out
    more in the Superbits version.
    Lastly, I jumped ahead to chapter 48 (ST)/ Chapter 23
    (SB) where a carriage carrying Van Helsing (Hopkins)
    and Mina (Ryder) through the snowy outskirts of the
    castle. Again, I was hard pressed to find any great
    differences in overall picture quality here except
    for a slightly cleaner picture of the passengers
    riding through the snow to the castle and its open
    gates. Looking at Winona Ryder's face as she hastens
    the horses to move forward, I could see slightly more
    detail in her face on the Superbits version.
    Audio Quality....
    The original 1997 DVD release contained a 5.1
    Dolby Digital Track while the Superbits
    version adds a 5.1 DTS track.
    The DTS track is recorded at a lower volume
    than the Dolby Digital track. I had to turn
    up the volume considerably when listening to the
    DTS version. However, when I did, I found the
    audio to sounder cleaner than its DD counterpart.
    Though I didn't notice any addition or subtraction
    of effects from either audio soundtrack, I did
    immediately find that sounds are more effectively
    divided amongst the channels in the DTS version.
    Anthony Hopkin's narrative sounds more squarely
    in the center, where it should be. Turning up
    the volume did not distort any of the audio on
    the DTS version and the overall result was a more
    cleaner, natural surround environment.
    Final Thoughts....
    Whether there is a substantial improvement in
    the picture quality of Superbits over its
    standard counterpart, will not be something easily
    agreed upon.
    Show the discs back to back to someone off the
    street and they will be hard pressed to notice any
    Most of us on this forum with average Home Theater
    systems will really have to study both discs scene
    by scene to notice the slight improvements in picture
    quality. It's more or less little things that are
    brought out in the picture more than an overall
    improvement in clarity.
    High-end enthusiasts with front projection systems
    are usually the ones who notice improvement. I wish
    I had the chance to compare these discs on such
    equipment, and look forward to hearing remarks from
    those individuals.
    The DTS audio would be the only substantial reason
    to upgrade to the Superbits version. I found
    it to be cleaner with more distinctive channel
    Finally, the menu system is actually IMPROVED
    in the Superbits version, as the standard
    release was one of Columbia's earliest DVD titles
    and suffers from a lackluster chapter selection.
    The Superbits contains pictures from each
    scene to get you where you want to go, compared to
    plain text on the standard edition.
    All in all, I think the DVD world could clearly
    survive without Superbits. I have seen too
    many recent releases from all the studios that use
    up more bandwidth with extras and still boast a
    picture quality that rivals anything put out on
    the Superbits label.
    Release Date: December 11th
  2. Steve_Ch

    Steve_Ch Supporting Actor

    Oct 14, 2001
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    Are there any differences in content?? I am referring to things such as extras (I do not have the current DVD). It sounds like the conclusion is similar to other superbits titles: if you don't have it, it's probably worth to get the Superbit version, but if you already have it, probably not worthwhile to buy another copy.
  3. JeremySt

    JeremySt Screenwriter

    Aug 19, 2001
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    Thanks for the review, and job well done. I am most certainly going to purchase this new edition of DRACLUA. I do have the old version, but the fact that it contains DTS is enough to make me justify buy a new one. I, for one, think that the video quality on SUBERBIT titles is dramatically improved. I am very surprised that Columbia decided to release SUPERBIT titles, especially ones with no fatures. I would understand it alot more if the SUPERBITS were released as special editions with extra features contained on a second disc. My basic conclusion on superbit is that those with mediocre displays( $1000 and less) and mediocre DVD players ( $1000 and less) shouldn't bother. These titles are meant for big buck sytems, with displays that show DVD's in their pure raw form, warts and all. On the other hand, if you have never owned the previous edition of Dracula, then youwould certainly buy this one. Just my 2 cents worth.
  4. HankM

    HankM Second Unit

    May 15, 1999
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    I can't wait to add this one to my collection, my original version was traded in when I heard it would be a Superbit title. I too see improvements with these Superbit titles with my Panny RP-91 & Mits 46805 which is ISF calibrated..
  5. Brad_W

    Brad_W Screenwriter

    Sep 18, 2001
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  6. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

    Aug 13, 2000
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    I don't own either version of Dracula so I will buy the Superbits' version. I believe, having a 61" TV, that some minor improvement would be visible. To me, even a small improvement in quality is worth the extra $5.00 increase for the Superbit version.
  7. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

    Apr 25, 2000
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    London, England
    Real Name:
    Steve Christou
    My R2 DVD of 'Bram Stoker's Dracula' did have some extras, a 29min documentary called 'Dracula, The Myth, The Legend', plus a costume design gallery and trailers, I'm very happy with my DVD and I would only buy it again if a special edition is released with a Francis Coppola commentary.
  8. Jeff Cooper

    Jeff Cooper Screenwriter

    Mar 6, 2000
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    Just curious, what equipment were you using when doing the comparisons?
  9. Jim Reynolds

    Jim Reynolds Agent

    Jun 16, 1999
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    Dave H,Last night I stopped at our local Walmart and found CTHD,AF1,and 5th Element,all Superbit to my suprise,for less than $20.If I hadn't bought these I would have picked them up[​IMG] .Jim
  10. Dave H

    Dave H Producer

    Aug 13, 2000
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    Does anyone have any information as to how well the Superbits have been selling?
  11. Michael St. Clair

    May 3, 1999
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    The original 'Dracula' DVD had noticeable compression artifacts in dark scenes. They squeezed too much on a single-layered disc. I no longer have the movie, and will likely buy the new one.
    Even if it's the same telecine transfer, the new disc should have a LOT fewer artifacts. Ron, maybe your contrast and brightness are too low to see the bad artifacts on the original disc?
  12. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
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  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein
    I should always list the equipment I base my

    reviews upon....

    Toshiba 57HX81 RVP television

    Panasonic RP91 progressive scan DVD
  14. Dwayne

    Dwayne Supporting Actor

    Jan 22, 2000
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    Isn't Coppola working on a SE????

    If so, I'll wait 'till then before deciding on upgrading from the first disc.
  15. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

    Nov 5, 1998
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    I skipped the average DVD release before due to owning the Criterion LD. So I don't need content. Therefore I will be picking up this release as a no-brainer.

    Ron, while I can understand the "the world wouldn't miss Superbits", I do think that CTHV is on the right track in one manner. I think to be consistent with what LD was trying to do, the DVD world should be ALL Superbits accompanied by SEs for films. As DVD becomes huge I certainly think there is room to release to different markets. Heck, LDs came in CAV and CLV formats even from Criterion, let alone normal vs box sets.

    The only studio reason I could see is that they figure more money can be made by just producing 1 version and selling to all. However, a studio with their audience in mind would consider selling different product to different types of consumers. There are plenty of people who only want the film and don't care about extras, just as there are those who want tons of extras.

    For me it depends on the film, but I would like to have the choice on some films. 5th Element was perfect for me as I wasn't very interested in extras for that anyway, so if I was going to own it then the Superbit philosophy was just what I was looking for.
  16. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

    Oct 31, 1997
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    I just wanted to make sure one point wasn't lost in my garbled post.

    A brand new (or at least great-looking if they already have one), pristine HD transfer should be used for each "SuperBits" title. It's a "Garbage In, Garbage Out" reality with MPEG encoding. You can throw all the bits you want at a mediocre transfer, it will still look like a mediocre transfer. Kind of like trying to add a lot of wax to an old flaky paint job...
  17. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

    Dec 19, 1998
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    Bjoern Roy does an excellent job of analyzing what makes a good DVD transfer. He points out that increased bit rate is NOT a cure-all for mitigating transfer problems (EE, lack of shadow detail, muted colors, etc.). He points out that increased bit rate is of greatest benefit when the transfer has minimum filtering, thereby increasing detail. The greater bit rate is then needed to avoid MPEG artifacts.
  18. Roby Adams

    Roby Adams Stunt Coordinator

    Sep 30, 1999
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    It's Superbit.
  19. Youssef

    Youssef Stunt Coordinator

    May 30, 2000
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    i am eagerly awaiting this title myself since the first ones video transfer is really soft looking and washed out on my widescreen tv. I do have to disagree with the review though since Ron's review of the picture quality on the SB of 5th element said the improvement was not noticeable to him while i thought the improvement was so drastic that i would go so for as to say it was like night and day for me. so i guess i'll have to judge for myself on this one.
  20. ErichH

    ErichH Screenwriter

    Mar 1, 2001
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    I second the opinion of TheFifthElement SB as a BIG improvement .

    Some of the close ups are almost 3D and there's much more background

    sharpness on my set . RP91 with a non - progressive TV SonyKP43 .

    Can't wait to see it on my new Pioneer(coming soon) . The audio is

    great as well - being one of the most fun to hear discs in my collection .

    To Each His Own (or his own equipment & room)


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