'Das Boot' Superbit R1 vs. Original R1
Bjoern Roy , June 13th, 2003

When 'Das Boot: Director's Cut' was released in Dezember 1997, it was one of the few titles that was split over 2 sides due to its running time of 210 minutes. Back then, dual layer technology wasn't established as it is today, so both sides were single layer. Today, Col/Tri decided to use 2 dual layer discs, to encode the Superbit version. That way, they were able to increase the bitrate like they do on their normal 1 disc SB titles. For a second, people thought Col/Tri might try to cram the SB version on only 1 disc. Thankfully, they didn't. Excellent choice.

The SB release uses the same transfer (film -> HD) as the original release. So, as with all SB titles except Desperado, which is still the only SB title i know of that actually also featured a new transfer, the differences on the Das Boot SB are merely in the SB encoding scheme. Read, more horizontal detail through different prefiltering, plus less compression artefacts. At least on average, since there are also always scenes in all SB titles, where the higher useable bitrate isn't enough to cope with the increased horizontal detail after the pre-filtering. Will try to post an example some day.

Anyway. Since Das Boot is a rather typical SB title, lets simply proceed to the screenshots. General thoughts on the SB lineup, their merits, the technical background etc, can be found in older SB reviews, especially The Fifth Element and The Patriot.

 

Note: The SUPERBIT version is always the one at the TOP or the LEFT of the image.

Scene 1:

Nothing new here. No difference in vertical detail, but a fair bit more horizontal detail, as expected. If you have trouble looking for 'more horizontal detail' in shots like the one above, take a look at the horizontal 'separation' of small vertical things. For example the legs of the soldiers on the left. Or that vertical pipe that is clearly visible on the SB (rightmost arrow), yet is blurred on the regular version. Or the increased clarity of the red flag.

 

Scene 2:

In this example, not only the increased horizontal detail is apparent... the higher bitrate is capable of increasing the general detail definition to quite some extend. To see this, take a look at the 2 faces below the green arrow. Much better defined in the SB. Color separation also much better of the top face, for example. Of course you can also clearly see the normal higher horizontal detail in the columns left and right of that face.

Grain is of course much more visible in the SB release due to less filtering AND the higher bitrate. A lot of bitrate is needed to properly encode grain, since it is nothing more than random noise, often leading to bitrate starvation in the encoder. Both images are merely mediocre MPEG approximations of the actual image. In a grainy, detail, difficult frame like the above, the difference to the actual uncompressed frame are huge. The SB image looks better, since it is 'less mediocre' :-)

 

Conclusion and final thoughts

Yet another SB release. Great looking, differences to the regular release as expected.

The other aspects of this transfer are very good. Colors appear properly saturated and tinted. Contrat is good. Shadow delineation and highlight handling is mostly great. Many shots have quite a bit of grain, which the SB release handles much better than the regular release (see Scene 2 above). The few brightly lit daylight shots show a bit more ringing/EE than the usual 1.85:1 Col/Tri title. More like a 2.35:1 title from them. Since most of the film is dark, this isn't that big of an issue, though.

I think a new HD transfer on a current telecine could squeeze another few percent out of the title, even without restoration. But the way it is, the SB release of this 22 year old movie, looks better than 80% of the transfers/encodings of 'current' movies (2000-2003) released by most other studios. Until i will be able to enjoy this great movie in HD one day, the SB version is about as good as it gets.

Happy camper!

Best regards
Bjoern Roy

 

 

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