Need input and feedback about AitF video

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by David Lambert, Mar 15, 2002.

  1. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    I am asked for more experienced help from the very knowledgable members of the HTF. I would like some input on the video quality of the All In The Family DVD release.
    You see, I'm not exactly happy with the video. It's no Twin Peaks, that's for sure. It's not Star Trek or M*A*S*H quality; it's not even Stargate SG-1 or Planet of the Apes. I would compare it more with the videotaped segments of Cosmos. The scenes of Sagan on board the "spaceship of the imagination" have a soft, sorta-grainy, tiny cross-hatch pattern to it that bugs me whenever I see it. Yet...I never saw a review criticizing the video on Cosmos; it was characterized as being a good remastering of elements in poor shape by then, and being "about as good as it could get". AitF's video - what I've seen so far - seems to exhibit the same softness, the same cross-hatch pattern. Plus a generous helping of Edge Enhancement to boot...something I almost never notice on my DVD's, not even in The Phantom Menace, which everyone says is loaded with it.
    As I've mentioned elsewhere, Gord Lacey has asked me to review this product exclusively for his TVShowsOnDVD.com website (which is linked to in my sig, for those of you who don't know it). I have sent him some of the screen captures from the first episode, "Meet The Bunkers". He agrees with the softness and the EE, and thought you guys here might have some input.
    I am trying to keep in mind that, as the announcer tells you at the end of each show, "All In The Family was recorded ON TAPE before a live audience" (actually, I think the practice of the announcer saying that didn't happen in the first episode, but it definately happened before the end of the first season). In any case, this show was recorded to analog videotape...not to film like others were. And this tape is 32 years old! [​IMG] Was it "finished on film"? I don't know...does anyone else out there? Could this have looked better?
    I honestly have no idea what - if any - effort Columbia put into remastering the elements for this release. I doubt there was any, since there has been no marketing effort in the press release or what few (trade magazine) ads I've seen to publicize such efforts (usually it is a selling point, right?).
    I don't really think these issues are compression-related, though it might be and I just don't realize it. Huh...maybe the "Superbit" guys just could've used a higher bitrate! I dunno. It's 104 minutes on the 1st & 2nd discs and 130 on the 3rd. Discs are single-layer, though.
    Here are screencaps of what I was most concerned about (click on the link to see the picture; they're each 30-45KB in file size and 720x540x16.7):
    • #1 - Opening credits at the piano (check out Edith's face)
      {link to picture 1}
      #2 - The Bunkers and the Stivics at the breakfast table
      {link to picture 2}
      #3 - Archie in his chair (note Edge Enhancement along sleeve on right side of the pic)
      {link to picture 3}
      #4 - Archie watching Meathead & Gloria make out (more EE on his sleeve)
      {link to picture 4}
      #5 - I can barely read these closing credits sometimes! (Note that most of the time they look *GREAT* [​IMG] )
      {link to picture 5}
      #6 - More closing credits; note the almost-invisible text at the bottom
      {link to picture 6}
      #7 - Strangest of them all! A 1-second burst of video noise at 17:52 on the 1st episode, that Gord thinks is a dropout on the original analog tape. This isn't the only time it happens, though it's rare. Thoughts?
      {link to picture 7}
    So what do you armchair experts think out there? DOES it get any better than this? Or is this it.
    Note that my review scoring probably WILL NOT change based on your input; it will still point out that my initial impression of the video isn't very good, and is likely to annoy the casual purchaser of this disc, no matter WHAT the explanations are. I want your input as to what the explanations are, and whether it could have been better (which I don't think *should* affect the scores I give...even if it CAN'T be better, the purchaser doesn't care WHY it looks "bad", he just knows it does, right?). Full credit will be given to the individual and to the HTF, of course.
    This is my first "official" review, and I find I need help to explain why this isn't going to be as clear-looking as TNG will look, released the same day. [​IMG] Thanks for your input! I guess this asking for help doesn't make me much of a reviewer, but we all gotta start somewhere.
     
  2. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Since analog video tape and 35mm (and 16mm) film are completely different animals, I don't think it's a fair to compare "All in the Family" to any of the other TV series you mention - all of which were film-based (except those videotaped sections of Cosmos). AitF was shot and finished on tape. The "noise" you show on frame #7 looks exactly like a broadcast videotape dropout; I'll bet almost anything that it is on the original master from the day the episode was shot. These were shot for airing in the days of the 23" console TV with over-the-air reception. There is little chance they would look any better than the day they were broadcast, no matter what kind of "remastering" they may or may not have tried - analog video tape WILL degrade over time. Also, those end titles have always looked soft to me on any airing of the show.

    As for the EE or haloing, I can only guess that they tried to sharpen the picture somewhat with some type of enhancement.

    I'm not certain if any of the things you are seeing are compression-related, but I do think, however, that they should have used dual-layer discs to prevent the issue of compression artifacts.

    I think your review would be fair if it noted that the video quality is soft compared to contemporary television shows. You should try, however, to watch a couple of more episodes on the DVDs and then see a couple of broadcasts on Nick at Nite to compare fairly. Even if the DVDs were "perfect", I'd suspect they would show only a mild improvement over the cable airings. There's only so much resolution available on the original tapes...
     
  3. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Thank you, Peter...that's exactly the kind of help I was hoping for!
     
  4. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Dave, sounds to me like you are doing absolutely the right thing with respect to your review of this set. Rather than rushing out a review that states "the video is bad" without any mention of "why" it may look that way, you're taking the time to research the question properly. Quote away [​IMG] .
    I look forward to reading your review.
    Not that I think I'm an expert or anything, but any knowledge I do have of this stuff comes from being both a long-time film collector (16mm, 35mm, laserdisc & DVD) and working for over 22 years in a variety of technical and entertainment areas (movie theaters, video wholesale, etc.)
     
  5. Chad Gregory

    Chad Gregory Supporting Actor

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    David,
    I'm not going to be much help here as I am only a junior videophile, but to me those pics brought up memories of the Fawlty Towers set. The problems shown in those screenshots are exactly the same in FT and my first impression of FT was that the video was terrible.
    -Chad
     
  6. David Lambert

    David Lambert Executive Producer

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    Peter, thank you...I WILL quote away! I'm glad you think I'm taking the right approach...I want to do a good job and "learn the craft of reviewing". I appreciate your expertise on this particular matter.
    Chad, thank you for the Fawlty Towers reference. I don't own that set; I keep looking longingly at it at Costco. But, oh well...you can't own everything! [​IMG]
    I've finished watched Disc 1, and am taking a break from it for lunch and internet catch-up [​IMG] . The dropouts are most present in Episode #1, and slow down noticably as the shows go on. I might not even have noticed them so much if I wasn't reviewing the set, but merely just watching it. And...you get used to the softness. [​IMG]
     

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