'The Patriot' Superbit R1 vs. Regular R1
Bjoern Roy , June 6th, 2002

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. Kudos!

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', DH3 'horrible'.
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 consistently 'great'.
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 at times)

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, though.
- 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 from me.

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.

Scene 1:

The typical SB 'benefit', not more, not less. Look at the difference in horizontal detail in the windows and columns.


Scene 2:

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.


Conclusion and final thoughts

Although this is a rather long movie, the SB concept seemed to be able to improve this transfer as much as i hoped for. My only gripe with this transfer is that due to the large amount of grain in the film stock, a fair share of digital noise reduction (DNR) seems to have been applied, probably already in the film-to-HD transfer. This leads to its own share of artefacts, like pumping and shimmering in some scenes. They could have been a bit more careful in that departement. But i am not sure it would have been possible to put this long grainy movie on one disc without any DNR at all. And only a few hardcore videophiles like me would have preferred a version with completely maxed out bitrate on 2 discs/sides.

So the compromise is probably appropriate. Great DVD, kudos!

Best regards
Bjoern Roy



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