Jurassic Park: DTS Collector's Edition DVD Review
PictureIn my previous comparison review, I compared the Jurassic Park Superbit (Japan) edition and the standard Region 2 edition, and both were nearly identical. Sporting good, reasonably clean transfers, they offer good black levels, detail and colour saturation and whilst not being as sharp as some of today's releases, the video quality is solid and competent.
With the two previous editions being so similar I expected the same from this Region 1 dts edition, so imagine my surprise when the transfer threw up some significant differences...
As the opening titles roll it all looks good - identical in fact to the Japanese and English versions - but when the scene switches to the archaeological dig and we see a close-up shot of the sand being brushed away from the fossilised bones, problems become apparent. Object outlines seem to take on a hazy, fuzzy edge, and in some cases it's like everything is double-edged (imagine edge enhancement but not quite so obvious), but it doesn't occur across the entire image. The brushing of the bones is a good example of this, and it's particularly noticeable on a large display. As the camera zooms out of this shot to reveal the entire skeleton, in the rib-cage area is some off-putting video noise: comparing this to the Japanese Superbit reveals no such problems there, and although the image is a little softer in this shot, the ribcage is completely clear of any gremlins.
I'm sad to say that things don't improve either. In the chapter where we meet the first dinosaur in Jurassic Park, the sequence begins with the jeeps approaching the hill from some way off. In this edition, the jeeps lack detail (that “haze” again), and again it's surprising to note that on both the standard Region 2 and Japanese editions, the jeeps are crystal clear and contain detail as soon as we see them. Faces, too have a haziness to them on the Region 1 edition - look at Dr Malcolm's face, it is visibly crisper and cleaner on the aforementioned editions.
There are numerous instances of this throughout the running time, which ruins an otherwise good transfer: the strange thing is that this occurrence is patchy, and many scenes look identical to the other versions I compared it with. But for a modern release, this is simply not up to standard, and when there are better examples of the same movie out there...well need I say more?
SoundLet's be honest, if there's one reason to shell out for another copy of Jurassic Park (because you likely already own it, right?), it's going to be the sound. Previously DTS has been sampled and compared to Dolby Digital on the Japanese Superbit and the standard Region 2 version, and the difference is astounding. This is what I had to say:
I first chose to listen to the opening of the movie in Dolby Digital, and I compared this with my existing Region 2 copy. By all accounts the two tracks seem identical, and as the credits appear on the screen the drums echo around the soundstage crisply and convincingly. Cut to shifting undergrowth, and all channels fill with a foreboding rustle and crackle of breaking branches. Something big is coming....
Overall this is a good example of a competent Dolby Digital soundtrack. Effects are well placed and rears serve to wrap the viewer up in the experience - watch the "Gallamimus Stampede" (1:34:00), which will have any first-time viewer ducking as the dinos charge left and right, almost running over the camera. The surround work is frantic yet precise, with screeches and stampeding feet zigzagging left to right and front to back. Witness also the "T-Rex is coming" sequence (1:00:00), the ambient rain effects are superb here, fused with the foreboding thump of the distant T-Rex.
Speaking of "thump", this disc isn't short of LFE action. For years Jurassic Park could be found in many AV demo rooms, and the Dolby Digital track still shows that it still has muscle and poise even by today's standards: the "radar shotgun" scene (6:14) is a good example, where the LFE is a wave which rolls and echoes around the room. But of course, when you mention the words "LFE" and "Jurassic Park" in the same breath, everyone thinks of the T-Rex. In the scene which this movie is famous for, T-Rex arrives around the 1:01:44 mark with the trademark ground vibration that will have your sub growling. Comparing this to Jurassic Park: The Lost World and Jurassic Park III, the footsteps do appear slightly subdued, but still there is a reassuring LFE thud that warns of the imminent attack.
All in all a solid affair, with excellent steering, good effects usage and a reasonable amount of LFE to shore up proceedings. But the big question is, how does the DTS fare?
If you mention DTS to any laserdisc owner, the one disc they are likely to own is the DTS version of Jurassic Park. Why? Well for one it was the first home edition to feature a DTS track, and not only that, it's always been widely regarded as a benchmark movie for showing how different the two sound formats can be. And in common with the laserdisc - wow! - do you notice it on this DVD!
I first rewound to the start of chapter one and switched from Dolby Digital to DTS sound. The first thought that occurred to me was "Did someone just turn the volume up?" The drums which accompany the opening logos all of a sudden take on a new life: forceful, certainly louder, and with a smile-inducing low-end kick. The difference is startling and undeniable, and it had me pressing the fast forward button to my favourite scenes
The "radar shotgun" scene is another where the DTS soundtrack kicks its counterpart onto the sidelines. The LFE is tighter and deeper, and you really get a sense of the force of the machine. Superb.
Another standout moment is the "sick dino", and this is a moment in the film which I'd not previously noticed for its sound. The rasping breath of the dinosaur is accompanied by a throaty growl of the subwoofer: it's not an "in your face" moment but the LFE channel does a remarkable job of reinforcing the power of this huge creature. Switching back to the Dolby Digital soundtrack reveals the same scene to sound thinner and altogether less convincing. As this scene moves on, we hear the portentous roll of thunder in the background and again, the DTS soundtrack drives this peeling rumble home with more force than its Dolby Digital counterpart: and the atmosphere is all the better for it.
Of course, the real stand-out sound moment of the movie is yet to come, and as T-Rex makes its presence known, we realise with the DTS track engaged that not only is the T-Rex making itself known, but making itself FELT. Because when the first distant thumps sound and the water in the cup starts rippling, well we're talking bass to scare all the cats in the street and annoy any unfortunate neighbours you may have. The LFE here is very deep, and significantly louder than the Dolby Digital version. Gone is the thin sounding Dolby effect, entering stage left right centre and behind is deep bass which almost - but not quite - rivals the levels heard on the later Jurassic Park movie soundtracks. Is it any more detailed? No, I wouldn't describe it as that. It is, however louder, and it's this increase in volume which serves to heighten the sense of drama unfolding before our eyes. I would add that at no time does the increased LFE volume sound overblown.... it just sounds correct and in context with the action.
The surround channels also benefit from the DTS soundtrack. I think it's important to clarify that the surrounds are louder rather than more detailed (a common misconception when comparing soundtracks I believe), but in the same scene as the T-Rex arriving, the noise of the rainfall is more pronounced, with the raindrops pounding down all around the viewer: it's certainly a more enveloping and richer experience. Funny what volume can do isn't it?
I described earlier the "Gallamimus Stampede" and if this scene has you ducking in Dolby Digital, it'll have you running for cover in DTS. Again the surrounds are livelier, and this is accompanied by a subtle - but forceful - underpinning of LFE which is absent in Dolby Digital. As Tim gapes at the feeding T-Rex ("Look how much blood!"), in DTS you can really hear the growling and working jaws as the prey is devoured behind you. Fantastic stuff.
In summary, the Dolby Digital soundtrack is a solid surround experience, but compared to DTS it sounds markedly thinner and less involving. I could perceive no further detail in the DTS soundtrack - dialogue remained indistinguishable between the two soundtracks to my ears - but it definitely benefits from being louder and less restrained. Both soundtracks offer excellent steering across all channels. Excellent stuff
Now that may seem like a cop-out quoting a previous review, but it's important to note just how good the Japanese DTS soundtrack is, as this is the reference. With identical bit-rates - both half-rate DTS - I expected the Region 1 DTS edition to sound identical, and before I go any further I should stress that my review copy is apparently the corrected DTS pressing (early versions of this disc had an incorrectly mastered DTS track, but I'm not sure how you can tell what's the corrected one and what isn't). So, are they identical?
In a word...NO. I am surprised and somewhat baffled by this, but it's clear from alternating comparisons that both DTS tracks are different. The same comments I wrote for the Japanese DTS track still apply here though, just not to the same degree. For whatever reason, the standard Region 1 DTS copy lacks the outright punch and extension of the Japanese Superbit. The LFE is still there - the opening credits still have guts, and the shotgun radar will still roll bass through your room - but not to the same degree as the Japanese Superbit does. It's a noticeable difference, and although detail remains consistent, I would argue that the movie is a less satisfying experience.
The best way to describe this is that it sits between Dolby Digital and DTS in terms of volume, but clearly the Japanese Superbit edition wins hands down.
ExtrasUnlike the Superbit edition, here we have a number of extras on offer, although it's worth noting there's less here than on the standard Region 2 version.
First up is an excellent, in-depth documentary “The Making of Jurassic Park”. Running for almost 50 minutes, this is a fascinating piece and essential viewing for Spielberg fans: covering Spielberg's influences and initial inspiration, and tracking the movie from pre-production through to it's opening, it contains a mass of information, and is narrated by none other than James Earl Jones.
Moving on from here, the extras get a little more on the fluffy side, with three theatrical trailers for the entire trilogy (with the trailer for Jurassic Park 3 being a rather laughable teaser which shows nothing). Also here is a “dinosaur encyclopaedia”, a set of static screens that shows pictorial views of dinosaurs from the different periods of history.
Wrapping up the package are the obligatory cast biographies, and production notes.
Overall the extras are thin on the ground, but this is more than compensated for, by the superb documentary.
VerdictA fantastic popcorn movie, shame about the DVD. While it contains extras (unlike the Superbit version), the picture quality is not up to scratch on this edition, and whilst still superior to the Dolby Digital track, the DTS soundtrack falls short again of the Superbit. Your call, but I'd recommend plumping for the Japanese Superbit or, if you're not willing to spend the money to import it, get the standard Region 2 version.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £29.99
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