As great as the SB titles were from a PQ point of view, people
rightly complained about the lack of extras. Other studios are putting
out 2-disc sets all the time, with the movie on disc 1 and extras
on disc 2. So that was what we asked for, simply add a disc with
extras to a SB disc and you get perfect 2-disc sets. And thats what
CTHV announced shortly after... And called it Superbit Deluxe. Excatly
what we asked for.
The only problem for movie buffs might be the fact that CTHV still
keeps the strict rules on the soundtracks, which means one DD5.1
and a DTS track, nothing else, e.g. commentary tracks. The good
news is, though, that they opted to include only the original language
tracks (see Crouching Tiger) in DD and DTS, instead of dubbed ones.
Here is my take on the SB 'concept' after some of the recent bashing
from those who don't appreciate the difference on their setups.
The technical side is well covered in my superbit reviews here
on my site, especially in my The Fifth
Element review. But the marketing side, the hype, the label,
is JUST AS VALID. Why?
Well, the ONE thing noone ever mentions, and that i think is THE
most important part about the superbit titles: CONSISTENCY! Yes,
other Studios also made a few reference titles. BUT, as we all know,
its always HIT AND MISS with them! The Superbit label on a DVD
is what THX should have been, but ISN'T.
Every single superbit title that i have checked out was reference
quality +/- 5 percent. For us videophiles the superbit label is
a complete breakthrough. Noone is as picky as i am, but I can buy
superbit titles without reading a review beforehand. I know exactly
what i get. As i said, thats what THX should have been all along.
Yes, i do like the non-EE, film-like quality of a few other titles
even a bit better than all of the SB titles. Thats why i said reference
quality +/- 5%. But there are not many movies i could name here.
'The Pledge', 'Remember the Titans', 'Rules of Engagement', 'The
Insider'. Less than 10 for sure. But again, these are mostly from
studios where you get a prince one day and a turd the next.
Studio consistency overview:
Columbia: Superbit consistenly 'reference'; all others consistently
'good'; never a turd
Fox: X-Men 'reference', Moulin Rouge 'great'; TPM 'bad',
Paramount: Braveheart 'reference'; Forrest Gump 'good-mediocre';
Tomb Raider 'flat'.
New Line: Blade, Seven 'reference'; Rush Hour 2 'mediocre'.
Warner: The Pledge 'ultimate reference'; all others recently
Universal: Erin Brokovich, Pitch Black, U-571, Fast and the
Furious 'reference'; American Pie 2 'good' (too dark, muddy); Jurassic
Park 1+2 'mediocre'.
MGM: Hannibal 'great'; all latest dual WS/PS releases 'mediocre';
Disney: Remember the Titans, The Insider 'reference'; Tombstone
'bad'; is getting much better overall.
The studio that puts out the best transfers 'on average' is probably
Warner. Fox also has lots of good ones and only a few Turds.
But Columbia is the ONLY studio where i now know EXACTLY what i
get when i buy a title.
CTHV's non-SB titles ALL look alike:
- a bit soft, because horizontal filtered
- a fair bit ringing/EE
- good black level (mostly a tad too hot, which is much preferred
over drowned blacks)
- perfect shadow delineation
- perfect color hues and saturation (if not a tad too saturated
Non of the non-SB titles are close to reference, but at least they
are never bad.
And their new SB titles ALSO all look alike:
- very high detail, horizontally non-filtered
- a bit of aliasing because of the above, a non-issue IMO because
its a sign of the high detail; the same amount of detail without
aliasing WOULD be possible with a better downconversion filter,
- still a bit EE, but much higher in frequency, really thin edge
halos, so not as big a deal as on the non-SB
- every other aspect like delineation and colors as good as non-SB
And now they even did what made the concept complete. Superbit
Delux, consistently perfect movie presentation on disc 1, extras
on disc 2. Yes, others are doing this for quite some time. But as
i said, no other studio has a label that guarantees a great presentation.
I mean Forrest Gump is also a 2-disc set. Yet, their Braveheart
single DVD with a lot lower average bitrate looks a lot better.
Anyway, the consistency on the SB lineup is most welcome, at least
I didn't expect the first Superbit Deluxe title 'The Patriot' (and
Hollow Man) to be any different from its characteristics than the
other SB titles and i am happy to report that they are not. I was
a little worried because of the running length of 'The Patriot',
but it didn't turn out to be a problem.
So i will keep this short and only show 2 little examples.
Note: The SUPERBIT version is always the one at the TOP or the
LEFT of the image.
The typical SB 'benefit', not more, not less. Look at the difference
in horizontal detail in the windows and columns.
The red arrows point to groups of soldiers that are still clearly
seperated on the SB, but are only blurry blobs on the non-SB. If
you look carefully, it can be seen throughout the whole picture.
The other advantage of the SB release is that the compression is
much cleaner. The old non-SB version had many shots where compression
artefacts like MPEG blocking, posterization and mosquito noise intruded
the picture in a disturbing manner. The reason for this is, that
the movie has many very grainy shots and the bitrate simply wasn't
sufficient on the old release. On the SB release, the higher bitrate
IS sufficient to capture these grainy shots without many compression
artefacts and that although there is much more detail (and thus
more grain) in the SB version to begin with. I had my worries there.