'Traffic' Criterion Collection R1 vs. Original R1
Bjoern Roy , June 13th, 2003

The 2 transfers are different in just about every possible area: color timing, horizontal and vertical detail, compression artefacts, framing..... Yet most of the differences are rather subtle for the non-videophile. Actually, i cannot think of any other comparison i ever made with this many subtle 'differences'.

Framing:

  • in a lot of shots, the framing is identical
  • in most of the other shots, the CC has slightly more picture at the bottom, but a little less at the top
  • in some of the Mexican shots, the picture is 'tilted' by about 2-3 degree! I have never seen something like this before
  • in some other Mexican shots, the CC has more picture on the right, but less on the left


Color timing:

  • the 'Mexican' shots are consideralby improved in color tone, color saturation, contrast, delineation in the CC version. This is probably the biggest difference between the 2 versions. The CC is CONSIDERABLE better, IMO.
  • the 'Normal', colorful shots are basically identical
  • the cool 'Blue-ish' colored scenes of Douglas' world are also just about identical


Detail:

  • throughout the WHOLE movie, the normal edition has 'slightly' more vertical detail than the CC version, which appears to be more filtered (vertically)
  • in most shots, the CC version on the other hand, has more horizontal detail (think non-SB to SB here, only much more subtle)
  • in other shots, the horizontal detail is identical
  • overall, subjectively, the slightly higher vertical detail makes the normal edition appear a tad more detailed overall.
  • thankfully, both editions have basically zero EE/ringing. Very film-like, bravo!


Compression:

  • the CC version does have less compression artefacts (mosquito noise, blocking). Both play at a very high, satisfying level, though.


Subtitles:

  • the CC version has the original burned-in subtitles, while the regular release uses player generated ones. Being properly anti-aliased by definition and being in the type font that was originally intended, they burned-in subs look much more pleasing.

 

The differences in detail and framing are so subtle, that showing them in screenshots is kinda pointless. So i will focus on 2 shots which highlight the only really significant difference between the 2 version, the contrast and color timing in the 'Mexico' shots.

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

 

Scene 1:

In this shot, most differences are already apparent:

  • On the CC (top), delineation appears appropriate. In the original release, the white point is choose so high, that bright objects like the white hood are blown out and clipped. Since the highlight detail (opposite of shadow detail) that is clipped by this choice is readily apparent in the CC edition, it cannot be director's intend.
  • In addition to the increased contrast, the original edition also appears to have a different gamma chosen, which makes midtones look too bright. This results in better shadow delineation (e.g. Manolo's shirt) , but washes out everything else.
  • Saturation is also higher on the CC. The darker gamma also helps here.
  • Color balance is difference. Too much green and not enough red in the regular release.
  • The original burned-in subtitles can be seen in the shot of the Criterion edition. On the regular release, i chose not to include my player generated subs for comparison, since they differ from player to player anyway. Just imagine whatever blocky subs your current player generates.
  • In this shot, you can also see that the frame is tilted by a few degree. I recon its the original release that got manipulated. On the CC, the car front looks much more hanging to the right, than on the regular. Probably done in post on the transfer of the original DVD, along with the contrast and color corrections, to compensate the tilt.

 

Scene 2:

Here, the situation is similar:

  • In this case, the white point in the regular release is choosen too low, resulting in decreased contrast. The white point of the CC appears to be slightly too high, with the window highlights clipping, but its actually just barely not.
  • The higher saturation and different color balance is also readily apparent here.

 

Conclusion and final thoughts

Both editions are really good. Overall, i prefer the CC version, since:

  • the Mexican scenes look quite a bit better to me, due to the improved color timing and contrast
  • the slight difference in detail is not that important, IMO. Both have a very detailed, ringing-free, film-like picture
  • the burned-in subtitles on the CC are much easier to look at, than the blocky player generated ones on the original DVD


This is one of my favorite movies. Being able to choose from 2 basically equally impressive incarnations on DVD is a pleasure. Kudos to those involved!


Best regards
Bjoern Roy

 

 

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