HTF REVIEW: "Vertical Limit" Superbit vs. Standard

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Apr 3, 2002.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    Vertical Limit

    Hold Your Breath
    Sitting in my collection for the past year
    or more is a sealed copy of the original Columbia
    DVD release of Vertical Limit. It stands
    amongst hundreds of other DVDs that I have yet
    to watch because my time is taken up with reviews.
    Fortunately, Columbia sent me an early copy
    of their new Superbit version of this title.
    It gave me the opportunity to finally sit down
    and watch a film I had always wanted to see.
    Many of you already have seen this film
    theatrically or on DVD. Since this review is
    intended to promote the new DVD release, I will
    recap the film's story for those that have never
    seen it.
    The story is a tale of young climber Peter Garrett
    (Chris O'Donnell), who launches a treacherous
    rescue effort up K2, the world's second highest
    peak. His sister Annie Annie (Robin Tunney), and
    her teammates (Bill Paxton and Nicholas Lea) are
    trapped in a crevice that has become enclosed by
    an avalanche at 26,000+ feet. This is the endurance
    point known as the Vertical Limit where the human
    body cannot survive the elements.
    The movie comes off as a roller coaster than a
    logical progression of events. While it remains
    somewhat thrilling at times, it becomes filled
    with all sorts of distractions including the
    scheming of a publicity hungry media mogul, and
    of a crazy old mountaineer who constantly combs
    the mountain in search of his wife who died in a
    disaster several years previously, and oh yes,
    unstable nitro-glycerine at a Pakistani military
    Superbit vs. Standard
    Many of you already know that I am not exactly
    an advocate for Superbit. In most
    side-by-side reviews that I have done on other
    titles, I can usually see either little improvement
    or no improvement at all over the original DVD
    release. Let's face it -- most studios are putting
    out incredible DVD product that look incredible
    while not boasting extra signal bandwidth.
    You will notice immediately that the Superbit
    version has a generic menu as well as no Special
    Features as the original DVD release did. The
    reason is simple: if you want to have the bandwidth
    for the extra bitrate and DTS track, you need to
    can all the extras.
    For this reason, the ONE question that should be
    on everyone's mind is whether it is worth upgrading
    from the original 2001 DVD release brimmed with
    Special Features and commentary, to the Superbit
    release that has no extras except a DTS track.
    Transfer vs. Transfer
    To compare both these titles, no-one needs to
    go any further than the first 12 minutes of the
    film where we are exposed to warm desert browns
    and cold snow whites.
    Because I don't have two identical players,
    I had to constantly compare scenes by switching
    DVDs back and forth. Unfortunately, this hinders
    the opportunity to make a proper side-by-side
    After watching the first 12 minutes of this
    movie, switching back and forth between both
    discs, I am sorry to say that once again I find
    no difference in the video quality.
    All the video noise I saw was identical in
    both versions. Shots of overhead blue sky as
    well as shots set against brown rocks both
    gave out the same amount of video noise.
    Let's face it -- both these releases are about
    a year apart. Last Year Columbia was releasing
    top-notch transfers out of their hi-def center.
    Everyone knew that last year's Vertical Limit
    release was among the year's top transfers.
    So trying to find a difference in overall transfer
    quality is like trying to find a needle in a
    haystack. I found the standard release of the
    DVD to be just as good as the Superbit
    version in overall transfer.
    Sound is another matter....
    The 5.1 DTS track is amazingly more robust
    than the Dolby Digital track. I could immediately
    hear more powerful sound coming from my speakers,
    with more emphasis put on the LFE channel. My
    SV SUBWOOFER was getting more pounds per beat
    over the Dolby Digital track on the standard release.
    My recommendation?
    If I could find a reason to make any of you
    cough up another $20 to buy this new version, it
    would be solely based on the DTS track.
    The problem is, I always prefer DTS over Dolby
    Digital, finding DTS discs to be a sonic
    improvement over their counterpart. So, the fact
    that Columbia wins on their Superbit merely
    because of a DTS track makes them real losers.
    If this were a perfect world, Columbia would
    release ALL their titles with a DTS track like
    Universal and Fox usually do. This way, people
    don't get duped into buying an initially unannounced
    separate version that gets released a year later.
    Once again, I find myself at bitter odds with
    Superbit. It's a gimmick that I feel has
    worn out its welcome. Why doesn't Columbia just
    continue putting out first-rate standard DVD
    releases as they always have, and include a DTS
    track? If Columbia is so intent on Superbit,
    then they should release ALL their "A" titles in
    that format from the get go. Otherwise, these are
    just attempts to make us repurchase titles we
    already own.
  2. Jeff Adams

    Jeff Adams Screenwriter

    Dec 13, 1999
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    Thanks Ron, I almost picked this one up yesterday when I was at Best buy purchasing Bandits and Usual Suspects special edition. But I wanted to wait and get my fellow Home Theater Forum members valued opinion first. I myself was wondering about how much better can this transfer be. The first one they put out was simply amazing. I agree Ron, if they are trying to market this as having better picture quality due to more bandwith then they need to deliver. If it is delivering a better sondtrack due to the DTS version of the movie, then just include the DTS soundtrack on the first version and scrap this whole gimmicky Superbit thing. I am all for a better quality version of the original but if they can do it right the first time then they should.
  3. Kenneth Cummings

    Kenneth Cummings Supporting Actor

    Aug 7, 2001
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    Well I glad this wasn't all that different. I just got the special edition on Monday(used for 12 dollars) and I yet to watch it. Once I get some time, I will enjoy this pop corn ride ^^.
  4. Bjoern Roy

    Bjoern Roy Second Unit

    Oct 15, 1998
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    like with the other superbit titles, it completely depends on the level of equipment. From a videophiles perspective, the difference in detail on VL is just as big as it was on all the other SB titles.
    So, if you weren't able to appreciate the difference on the older SB titles, there is no reason why this or ANY future SB titles will appeal to you.
    Thats why i kinda don't understand why you even bother to write SB reviews, Ron. If you don't see a difference on your setup, then you don't see it. Every future review will be like 'Again, no difference. Told you so!' [​IMG] Whats the point?
    You already acknowledged in another SB review that mostly videophiles with FP setups are going to see a difference on these titles. And we DO.
    If you accept the fact that the videophile minority on this forum sees and appreciates the difference, then you will ask 'So what, other studios make SB level transfers as well?'. Thats a valid point, and i tried to tackle that question in this thread.
    I will post an A/B review on VL later, with the usual amount of comparison pics. In short, like on 5thE (see review on my page), the difference is solely more horizontal detail with a bit less/finer EE.
    Makes a 'good' transfer 'great' on a highend setup.
  5. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    I have every right to continue writing SB

    reviews as I believe my reviews represent

    the average Home Theater consumer.

    I own a new Toshiba 57" anamorphic

    television and I would estimate most members

    in this forum have setups close to mine. These

    are mid-range systems.

    I would think most of the DVD buying population

    don't even come close to owning mid-range systems.

    Are you trying to tell me that Columbia is

    marketing these discs solely for high-end

    videophiles that represent the smallest sect of

    the DVD buying population?

    The truth is, you can look up any thread on

    this forum that has a poll on SB and MOST

    of the members here see little or no difference

    in picture quality over previous versions.

    I don't write reviews of SB titles just so I

    can shove them in the faces of people like

    yourself and say, "Aha - I told you so!". I

    watch these releases and write reviews hoping

    that just one of them will show me how much

    improvement there really is for the average

    DVD consumer.
  6. Dan Brecher

    Dan Brecher Producer

    Jan 8, 1999
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  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    I believe it's Columbia's goal to sell high-end videophiles and as many medium-end videophiles as possible at least two different dvd releases of the same film. One will be loaded with features and the other a superbit edition. Also, if their lucky, maybe a third release such as a barebones early dvd release of a title. Remember, these studios learned their lessons well from the laser market.

  8. Bjoern Roy

    Bjoern Roy Second Unit

    Oct 15, 1998
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    Hi Ron,

  9. DarrenA

    DarrenA Second Unit

    Aug 30, 2000
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    All I can say is that you both are correct. On my 50" CRT RPTV I see little to no difference between the standard version versus the SB version. However, when I do an A/B comparison on my 92" CRT FPTV their truly is a difference. The SB version does have more detail, less noise in the dark details and more depth to the image.
  10. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    I truly respect you and your opinion. I

    have known you as a member here for quite

    some time, and find you always contribute

    honest and intelligent input to this forum.

    Perhaps you are correct that I will never

    see a difference with Superbit.

    I think the real problem I have with the

    format goes back to laserdisc days and what

    laserphiles know better than anyone else...

    The studios will always come up with new

    ways to make you buy a title more than once.

    Even Director John Landis made that statement

    during a recent HTF live chat.

    There are other things about Superbit that

    make me think it's just a gimmick with limited


    * Why not release ALL future titles in

    SUPERBIT? If it truly is the best DVD has

    to offer, shouldn't the studio responsible

    ensure that all its releases are done this way?

    * Why doesn't Columbia give us an initial

    intent of future SUPERBIT release when they

    put out the standard version?

    * If other studios are putting out exceptional

    quality DVD product with DTS tracks on standard

    releases, why can't Columbia?

    You have to forgive my attitude here. I

    think Columbia is one of the best DVD studios

    out there, consistently putting out the best

    transfers in the business.

    However, the studios are constantly putting

    out revised versions of their previously

    released product that should have been done

    right in the first place.

    After a while it's hard to trust what the

    studio's incentive is to re-release and

  11. Tom Rags

    Tom Rags Supporting Actor

    Apr 4, 2001
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    Do you get medical and dental coverage working at Columbia/TriStar, Bjoern? [​IMG]
    Just kidding! I can see both of your points. However, don't be discouraged about the reviews Ron. With my meager setup, I really appreciate the opinion of an "everyman." I also enjoy reading Bjoern's comparisons, thinking that some day, with enough equipment and beer, I too may notice these differences. I tend to be a bit more concerned about audio than video anyway. To each their own I guess [​IMG] Take care gents!
  12. Peter Overduin

    Peter Overduin Supporting Actor

    Jun 30, 1997
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    The original release is a family eye-candy fav! As such, it is a tremendous video and audio treat. From that persepctive, I truly wonder why they chose it for a SB. The original also sports a series of extra features that are very interesting to anyone who enjoys this genre of film.
    I have yet to buy a single SB for the simple reason that my better than average equipment (Sony Wega 36", Paradigm monitors, ADP 170s, PS1200, Denon DVD1000 and 1601) leaves nothing to be desired with this title (and very little with the others I've compared). I am also very aggravated by Columbia's continued insistence at releasing already issued titles in the re-gurgitated format. Perhaps if they would do SB with a new release, and give me the choice, I would be happy and buy some. I'm not, and I won't [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Administrator

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    You took the words right out of my mouth.

    If Columbia is going to continue releasing

    SUPERBIT TITLES, they should do it with NEW

    releases and give us a choice.

    Otherwise, the public feels greatly cheated

    a year later and is wary about the real intent

    over the rerelease.

    Is it really QUALITY improvement or a way to

    sell a title twice?
  14. Gruson

    Gruson Second Unit

    Sep 20, 2000
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    I for one do see a difference on my 65" 16x9 set.

    I wish every DVD looked as good as the superbit releases.

    Keep 'em coming!
  15. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

    Dec 20, 1999
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    Real Name:
    Peter Apruzzese
  16. Luis A

    Luis A Second Unit

    Aug 2, 2001
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    FWIW I do see a difference in PQ on Superbit titles, but mostly buy'em for the DTS track.[​IMG]
  17. Dave Mack

    Dave Mack Producer

    Jan 28, 2002
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    Hey Y'all!
    I own a Mitsubishi 55908 Diamond and I see a BIG difference in the Bram Stoker's Dracula SB compared to the original. Much better detail and color accuracy.
    And the sound... Wow.
    [​IMG] D
  18. DeanWalsh

    DeanWalsh Second Unit

    Apr 17, 1999
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    While I can appreciate the Superbit releases, I am annoyed that CTHV will only put a DTS track on the Superbit titles. The 6th Day, Replacement Killers and Starship Troopers ALL should have had a DTS track, but yet again studio politics get in the way of definitive releases of these films. Wasted opportunities. [​IMG] [​IMG]
  19. luke j. chung

    Oct 8, 2001
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    It's my feeling that in order to fully discern and appreciate the upgrade in video quality of a Superbit vs. "regular" edition release, the hardware has to be in the top 10% of all consumer digital television displays in terms of resolution (and size)! Most rear projectors, even high-def displays, unless they are at least 61 inches or larger and capable of 16 x 9 anamorphic playback for DVDs, simply will not show an appreciable difference in picture quality when showing an unfiltered Superbit disc. For those who have front projection CRT or DLP setups, the improvement can be easily seen. My main objection to Superbit is the way Columbia/Sony has marketed the concept, NOT with the quality of their product.[​IMG]
  20. Andrew_Ballew

    Andrew_Ballew Second Unit

    Feb 21, 2002
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    I have a 53" Pioneer 16:9 DTV (non-elite) and I do see the improvement as well.

    All this debate closely resembles the ongoing AC-3 vs DTS war.


    Andrew B.

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