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Superbit Gattaca

Discussion in 'Movie Forum' started by camlogan, Oct 22, 2002.

  1. camlogan

    camlogan
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    hi there all, I just bought myself the superbit version of Gattaca.

    Now the movie its self is great, the DTS sound is fantastic but the picture quality to me didn't seem to be anything specail - I thought my 'normal' copy of gladiator has far better picture quality.

    Has anyone compared a superbit dvd to a normal dvd to see if there is actually any difference in picture quality....or is it just a marketing ploy?

    I have a sim2 dmf projector and a 5 foot screen so good or bad quality definetly sticks out...though this movie just seemed right in the middle.

    thanks

    CaM
     
  2. James45

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    I wasn't overly impressed with my Reg2 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Superbit, the print was covered in dirt and I couldn't see much difference between that and the normal CTHD. Like you say I have much better plain ol' vanilla DVDs. I'll be interested to see what the Reg1 The Fifth Element Superbit is like that I have just ordered as it is supposed to be superb.
     
  3. graham.myers

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    I did an A/B test with the original 5th element and the superbit. definateley saw an improvement in the picture.

    Can't give a defniative comparison 'cos I'm useless at that!
     
  4. tee

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    The Fifth Element should blow you away...... The picture quailty is as good on that as I have ever seen. I have to admit I wasn't overly impressed by the picture on Superbit Air Force One and Dracula Superbit was reviewed on my site by Phil and he slated the image quality.
     
  5. bh

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    Agreed. Air Force One Superbit is very disappointing in trms of the picture quality (audio is great though).:(
     
  6. camlogan

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    hi there all, thanks for your replys. It seems then that superbit aint that super. The DTS sound add on is nice, but unless the picture was great to stat with (i.e. 5th element) then it isn't going to make any difference - my normal dvd copy of lawerence of arabia is so much better in terms of picture quality than Gattaca.....

    now if only they would superbit a movie like conan......

    CaM
     
  7. -=Kamikaze=-

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    I think that superbit DVD's are grossly misunderstood. They are used to achieve a better PQ by reducing compression and the artefacts that come with it. You can superbit a DVD as much as you like but as long as the transfer is bad the PQ will remain bad, it just won't have as many compression artefacts. It amazes me how bad most transfer of movies made in < 95 really are. I guess most film masters are not kept under pristine conditions and deteriorate quite fast and therefor need to be digitally mastered before they yield a acceptable PQ.
     
  8. kevb

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    Here is a Nice but long article about superbit DVD's that explains the difference nad misunderstandings about them. Long but worth a read. In two parts as it's so long.:eek:

    Beginning with the re-release of several of their higher profile titles, which might benefit from the higher rate because of more available information on the film or in the original hi-def transfer, Sony offered titles such as The Fifth Element* (which many had already considered as being of "reference" quality), Dracula* and The Mask of Zorro*. More recent offerings have been The Patriot*, A Knight's Tale* and a title which has stirred up a bit of controversy, David Fincher's Panic Room*.

    I noted discussions on The Home Theater Forum querying if Panic Room* could be considered a "true" SuperBit title, and decided to look into the situation. Was Sony merely marketing sizzle? SuperBit. It certainly makes it sound as if something special is being delivered. But is it?

    One of the major misnomers of video distribution was the concept that another superior product was being offered, albeit in another way, via Lucasfilm's THX branding of certain video releases. And quality was all over the place.

    The problem with THX was less with Lucasfilm and more with the studio marketing departments. Designed to strictly control the inputs and outputs of video and audio signals, THX made no representations toward the actual quality of any release, but rather simply was meant as a guidepost telling the consumer that all of the equipment through which the various electronic signals were run, were all up to a certain quality. No one from Lucasfilm ever was to make creative decisions. They were simply to make certain that all of the quality on the master made it through to the videotape, laserdisc or DVD.

    The marketing people, however, used the THX branding as a sales tool, telling the consumer that they were purchasing a video of superior quality, which had somehow been approved by Lucasfilm. And from this came some of the ugliest, least viewable videos to hit the market.

    Certainly there were quality releases, but it didn't really matter. The quality releases would have been high quality without the THX logo, which again, simply made certain that the hardware and software were functioning properly together. In the end, it was very misleading.

    However, having viewed a number of Sony's SuperBit releases, and having compared the earlier lower bit rate discs with the newer SuperBits, I can comfortably say that the SuperBit technology and releases are not only of higher quality, but worthwhile releases.

    There is a great deal more going on here than marketing sizzle, especially now that Sony is going the route of multiple disc releases. So that rather than ending up with a higher quality film without the extras, you can now have it all. I would go out of my way, and pay more to have a film on SuperBit.

    Before I go into specifics, I must offer a single caveat. For those of you who have not yet moved up to a high quality monitor, especially of a larger size, the difference may not be noticeable, if it is noticed at all. The differences in these releases are in direct relationship to the quality of one's playback equipment. Therefore, if you plan to NEVER upgrade your equipment, SuperBit technology will do little for you, and you can probably skip the rest of this discussion.

    If, however, you plan to upgrade or already possess the video hardware to make your neighbors envious, then SuperBit is for you. Here is what I have discerned from the various releases...

    For those who are regular readers of The HTF, I have borrowed back some of my earlier postings. I see no reason to re-write what has already been written. For those with that odd sense of humor who will undoubtedly comment on HTF something on the order of "It was written then...," I'll beat you to the punch.

    Film doesn't lie!

    For those of you who have not yet discovered that multiple actuations of a button found on your DVD remote will bring up the constantly changing transfer speed as your disc is read by your player, this is probably the first place to go - possibly even before reading further. What you'll find there is a readout, measured in megabits per second, within a range of zero to ten. But this doesn't give you all the information you need. On top of the numbers, you must believe your eyes.

    The average DVD will be found to play mostly in the 3-7 area, with occasional peaks as necessary for a quality presentation without digital flaws. The compression is constantly changing based upon the "needs" of the individual frames/shots. The SuperBit titles have a higher overall bit rate, sometimes as much as 50% higher, with generally higher highs and higher lows in comparison to the non SuperBit titles.

    During compression - and I'm being really basic here - the actual numbers which read out are almost meaningless, as they are dependent upon what is on screen, and how what is on screen inter-relates on a frame by frame basis. The lower the level of movement, the lower the level of change from frame to frame, the less need for a higher transfer rate.

    If one were to look at Beauty and the Beast from Disney, or any high quality animated film, in which backgrounds are generally stationary, you'll note that the transfer rates don't need to be terribly high to generate a high quality digital image. On the other hand, if a scene in a live action film has a great deal of movement, rapidly changing foreground and background or high detail, which the compressionist would like to see make it to the final product, the bit rate must be raised.

    Therefore, it doesn't matter what the actual numbers happen to be, the final analysis is what is on screen. Some shots do not need to register more than 3.5-4 to look fully developed on your screen. Others need a faster bit flow and less compression.

    I did a full comparison of both The Mask of Zorro* and The Patriot*. While the original releases, which were quite beautiful in their own right, had a transfer range in the mid 3s to the high 8s and low 9s, their SuperBit incarnations work within a range starting in the mid 4s and hitting a full 10 on numerous occasions. And the difference in overall resolution, within those scenes which are affected, is MAJOR. In general scenes, for which a higher rate was not a necessity, it is much less obvious, or of no higher quality.

    One scene which I sampled from The Patriot* takes place in the second floor of a home between Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger. Outside the window a revolutionary battle is in full swing. A comparison of details in long shots brings forth a smoother, more satisfying image with slightly more detail. But there was also a close up in the room where the camera picks up Gibson's eyes. In the original release, one can make out the color of his eyes. In the SuperBit release, details can be discerned, which in the earlier example were nowhere to be found.

    In The Mask of Zorro* there are several scenes and shots which, via the higher rates offered by the SuperBit technology, are appreciably cleaner with more detail, better depth to shadows and less noise.

    The Mask of Zorro* is a 137 minute film. The Patriot* is a 165 minute film. This means that the DVD is made up of almost 240,000 frames, each which must be compressed in an interrelationship to those coming before and after.

    Panic Room* is a 112 minute film, or approximately 162,000 frames. And it is a totally different film than The Patriot*. And by this, I'm not referring to story, but rather, to the type of information on each individual frame. Where Patriot* has hundreds of extreme long shots, many of them digitally created, with huge amounts of foreground and background action, Panic Room* has many stationary shots.
     
  9. kevb

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    Continued....

    In the best of all worlds, The Patriot* cannot fit on a single layered DVD, so its 240,000 images are split in some fashion between two layers, each of which was designed to hold, on average, 194,000. Therefore, Panic Room* was pressed as a two layered disc, with each layer intended to carry 135 minutes of regularly compressed "entertainment." Again, being simplistic about it, one would use 135 minutes as a maximum.

    The quality of a digital video release must initially be based upon the quality of the original transfer from film, which in turn is based upon the availability/selection of a high quality film element. That beautiful transfer can be either destroyed, or come to us as reference quality, by its handling in compression.

    Due to the discussion on The HTF, I went to my local Borders and purchased a copy of Panic Room*. After viewing, and sampling the bit rate, there was no doubt in my mind that, albeit in different packaging, Panic Room* IS a SuperBit release.

    Sony offered it as a SuperBit ONLY release at a sell though street price of under $20. The only difference between Panic Room* and other SuperBit releases is that it contains some additional track information, which takes up very little real estate.

    I was confounded seeing disgruntled comments on The HTF about the release, because it didn't fit into a pre-determined, totally stripped format, which can be predicated by either the film's length or a combination of length, detail and movement within the frames.

    I'll repeat. This is a 112 minute film on a double layer disc, capable and designed to hold 270 minutes of compressed information.

    One also has to take into consideration that this is a David Fincher film, which in this case means that the frame includes a great deal of darkness, and dimly lit images, which is the single most difficult thing to bring across with high quality on DVD. In Panic Room*, it is more what you DON'T see than what you do, that makes the difference in viewing pleasure based upon a higher overall resolution.

    I don't know if the film was even released on VHS, but if it was, then a brief look at a tape will give you some idea of precisely how noisy this film might have looked. It is only because there is no non-SuperBit release that the transfer is calling attention to itself. But going along with Sony's edict for quality transfers AND the fact that this film was only 112 minutes, gave them the ability to do a general release in SuperBit on a single DVD.

    Have other companies released films with a high bit rate? Certainly. One such title which easily fits into this mold is the new release from Warner, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood*. This 116 minute film also has a high bit rate and one of the most beautiful transfers that I've recently viewed via a new production. It's obvious that a great deal of care went into this release.

    As an aside, I went into Ya-Ya blind. I knew very little about it other than it was billed as a women's film. Wrong. It's a people film with superb performances, a many layered story and absolutely beautiful cinematography by John Bailey.

    Seemingly, the major need for SuperBit is less with films which run under two hours, and more for films of longer running times, where the digital squeeze to both hold quality while adding features becomes an oxymoron. And this would answer the question of why Panic Room* was available as a SuperBit release at regular prices. The other side of the Panic Room* coin, which should be brought to light however, is that had Sony wished, it could have released the film as a single layer disc -- but did not. They held the quality and went for two layers.Sony has created this as a signature product of high quality, using the trade term "SuperBit." In releasing Panic Room* as such, the studio is simply allowing the audience to know that while this is not being offered as a premium priced product, it fits within the guidelines of a certain quantifiable quality upon which the audience should be able to rely.

    The final product is a combination of transfer and compression... and finally authoring. Many titles which COULD be released with a high bit transfer rate are not. What must be understood is that the film elements and transfer quality must both be of high enough quality or the SuperBit compression (or whatever another studio might wish to call it)...

    ...WILL MAKE THE FINAL PRODUCED DVD LOOK WORSE, as all of the film element and transfer flaws begin to show.

    What Sony has created via their SuperBit label is a viable working example of what THX might have (and should have) been, but never became since a confused audience never understood what it was. The fact that it was sold as a product of higher quality was a misnomer, created via poorly thought out marketing. THX merely meant that the recording hardware was working at a certain index had nothing to do with the quality of the final product.

    Sony, in marketing their SuperBit tradename, has created and IS DELIVERING a higher quality product, albeit one which has its greatest value when played back on the high quality systems which some of you enjoy.
     
  10. Geezer

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    KevB isnt the region 2 panic room non superbit? as it isnt advertised on the packaging
     
  11. kevb

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    To be honest Geezer I don't know, I supose it's not a superbit disk as it's not been billed as one. The article above relates to the R1 Superbit disks but still holds true for the PAL versions.
     
  12. Geezer

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    Oh yes forgot about the difference between region 1 and 2. Oh well ill go back to my corner:D
     
  13. Jeff

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    Just watched R2 CTHD superbit, although it has 3 sound tracks instead of the normal 2, I found the PQ to be very good indeed. In fact its easily better than my other 2 (R1) superbits (Fifth Element and Desperado). The solid blacks make a welcome change.
     

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