After the positive encounter with my first Superbit title The
Fifth Element , i was really eager to see whether the improvements
would also show up equally on the other SB releases. Now i have
the second batch in my hand: Desperado, Crouching Tiger and Air
Force One. I only skipped Johnny M., and no, don't ask :O>
The first of the new titles that i checked out is Desperado, one
of my all time favorites. The old transfer had its flaws, which
were completely unrelated to bitrate or compression artefacts. So
i was happy to hear that Columbia not only re-encoded this title
with their new Superbit scheme, but infact did a whole new HD transfer.
Therefore the improvements found in this new DVD can be put in
2 categories. The increased horizontal resolution together with
a little less EE, just like on The Fifth
Element , which can be attributed to the Superbit scheme. On
top of that, there are difference in color, brightness, contrast
etc. that are due to the new transfer.
This comparison is against the Dual Feature S.E. R1 edition. The
original plain R1 version had the exact same transfer.
Here we go.
Read the Screenshot 1-0-1 on the main
page for info about how these screenshots are obtained.
Note: The SUPERBIT version is always the one at the TOP or the
LEFT of the image.
The SB version has quite a bit more horizontal detail than the old
one. Again, there is almost no difference in vertical detail. The
increase in resolution is not directly due to the higher bitrate,
but rater indirectly. I explained that in detail in the first section
of the TFE review.
The somewhat soft look of the old version is gone, the picture
is highly detailed, you simply feel like you are there.
Here are some samples. Again, to judge horizontal detail, look
at vertical edges, to judge vertical detail, look at horizontal
Increase in horizontal detail is clearly visible here. Vertical
detail is the same (look at long white horiz. line)
More detail everywhere (guitar, face, wall)
Unfortunately, the improvement in this regard on Desperado is
not quite as profound as it was on TFE
In the vertical direction, both the amplitude and the frequency
stay the same, though the ripple is a bit more profound. In the
example below, you can see the typical pimary dark and bright EE
halos. But on the SB version (upper half), the inverse secondary
ripple is stronger. You can clearly see a brighter halo that follows
the dark one in the red, and a darker halo that follows the bright
in the blue. This is sadly a bit more pronounced in the SB version:
In the horizontal direction, the amplitude of the ringing is slightly
higher, giving even higher contrast at the edges. But at the same
time, just like on TFE, the frequency
increased by a fair amount, which means that the halos are less
disturbing, because they are thinner.
Look at the upper edges of the red wall.
I used the example above to point out another issue, MPEG mosquito
noise. Some people seem to think that edge enhancement is not used
deliberately on DVD, but is rather an unavoidable side effect of
MPEG encoding. This is not true at all, and i already tackled the
issue in several threads. The example above can be used to demonstrate
the difference quite nicely.
The examples of both the horizontal and vertical edge enhancement
demonstrated above already proove that the considerably higher bitrate
(and thus lower compression) that is used on the SB version did
not get rid of the edge enhacement halos. If anything, they are
slightly worse here.
At the same time, you can see the edge artefacts that are really
incuded through high compression, called 'mosquito noise'. MN is
noise that occurs at contrasty edges if the compression is too high.
The characteristic thing about MN is that it is bound to MPEG blocks
(8x8 pixels). A block is either noisy or it isn't. Thus, the noise
can't really follow a contour precicely, but rather shows up in
those blocks, that are crossed by the contrasty edge. To demonstrate
this, i highlighted the outline of some of the MPEG blocks that
show this noise.
Overall, while the EE on the new SB edition isn't gone, its still
less than on most DVDs and the extreme detail and smoothness of
the transfer isn't disturbed by it too much. Personally, the only
scenes where i found the EE a bit bothersome are the ones with the
red wall (fortress of the 'villain') above.
As i already mentioned, the SB edition boasts a completely new transfer.
So, the improvements that i mention now are related to that fact
and not the Superbit encoding scheme in general. Keep that in mind!
Problems with the old transfer have been: shadow detail, slightly
pale colors and an overall muted look with limited contrast, (which
was obvious right from the beginning Columbia logo). The new transfer
completely solves all these issues!
Things to note on the thumbnails above:
- the color timing is completely different on the SB edition
(left), greens are acutally green, yellows more saturated
- maybe there is even a tad too much green in the new transfer,
because a) the sky in the Columbia logo looks a bit too turquoise
and b) the cloth on the table looks neon.
- Overall though, the new color scheme looks a lot better
than the old one
- On the logo, you can see what i meant with 'limited contrast
range' on the old edition. Bright parts clip at a point well below
the actual limit.
In the picture above, you can see just how different the two versions
look hue-wise. You can also see how the darker parts (door) show
a better shadow delineation. The added detail is also very noticable.
There is one other issue that is very interesting. It can be seen
if this shot is analysed:
On top of the already discussed issues (detail, colors), you can
see that the bright part of the white jacket is actually clipping
to a dirty white on the regular edition (lower image). On the SB
edition, the highlight detail is preserved, although its contrast
Now, the really interesting thing can be seen if you look at the
While the regular edition seems clipped in the middle part, it
looks actually darker/murkier at the sides (look at the guy at the
right). On the SB edition on the other hand, the contrast delineation
seems evenly distributed across the whole frame. This is most probably
due to advanced telecine gear that was used on the new transfer.
This would also mean that possibly a lot of the older DVDs from
Col/Tri might improve considerably if new transfers were done. Add
the Superbit treatment and you get vast improvements all around,
just like here with Desperado.