'Vertical Limit' Superbit R1 vs. Original R1
Bjoern Roy , June 6th, 2002

Yet another superbit title. "Same procedure as last year, James?"...

'Vertical Limit' and 'The Big Hit' formed the third wave of superbit titles from CTHV and i was curious to see whether the detail enhancements that i found in the first 2 waves, were also present this time around. I am happy to report that, yes, the improvement is indeed of the usual 'SB' caliber.

Seeing that all of the SB titles seem to follow the higher-detail 'scheme' that i first explained in The Fifth Element review, i am now confident that this is indeed the way they ALL will turn out. That means that you can EXPECT the increased horizontal detail on every SB release.

Note, that to this date, only the Desperado SB release also featured a brand new film-to-HD transfer, with a completely different characteristic in color balance etc. I am sure we will see another title where this is the case in the future, but this is NOT part of the SB 'scheme', its an added bonus on titles where CTHV thinks the HD transfer could be improved considerably. This is rarely needed, though. If you have ever seen any of these CTHV titles in HD, you know that their HD transfers are usually spectacular and its the DVD authoring/compression that is holding back the performance of the DVD counterparts.

And while here, with 'Vertical Limit', the new SB release is again much closer to the limits of the DVD format than the old release was, the HD broadcast was still another league. I will try to show some form of comparison screenshots of the DVD against the HD version one day...

I sometimes hear complains like "Why would they rerelease title XYZ in superbit, its perfect already!". Well, i have to disagree with that. ALL of the CTHV non-SB titles are filtered horizontally, removing the highest frequencies (finest detail). This results in a less than perfectly focused image on high-end setups. The SB titles on the other hand seem to be horizontally unfiltered and look much more detailed, the non-SB's look 'blurry' by comparison. And no, they not only seem blurry once you have seen the SB and go back. On a good setup, you can easily see the bluriness of non-SB CTHV titles even without a SB counterpart as a reference. They just aren't as detailed.

So, basically EVERY release from CTHV of the past years would benefit from the SB treatment. Some titles may appear to be very good already, but that would be due to poppy colors or beautiful cinematography. Charlie's Angels for example is a title that is considererd to be almost perfect, but in reality its only the colorful palette that is appealing (or not ;O). The improvement would be just as big on CA as it was on The Fifth Element .

And 'Vertical Limit' is no exception, so lets proceed to the screenshots.

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


Scene 1:

A very typical example. The small vertical teeth are filtered away on the non-SB version. An very apparent indication of the higher horizontal detail on the SB counterpart. The higher horizontal detail also leads to a tighter definition on vertical lines, as can be seen on the black reflection on the shaft.


Scene 2:

Same here. The whole person is tighter focused (e.g. shoulder) and some of the ropes don't even appear on the non-SB.


Its a bit more difficult to see differences in detail in this 'against-the-sky' shot, but what can easily be seen the lesser extend of ringing/halos and mosquito noise around the outline in the SB, e.g. legs, or to the right of the face.


Scene 3:

At first, the difference might appear a bit subtle here, but look at people's legs, for example the one person in the lower right or the guys to his side.


Scene 4:

Another difference is that the bitrate in the SB vesion is more appropriate for some grainy, difficult scenes than the bitrate in the non-SB version. Apart from the mosquito noise that was clearly visible in scene 2, the bitrate starvation also leads to heavy MPEG blocking and posterization in some uniformly colored scenes. In the SB version, you can clearly see a faint outline of a person in the grainy fog. Its a blocky mess in the non-SB version. If you don't have an eye for these kinds of subtle things yet, take a look at this modified version, where i increased the color saturation to give hints:


Scene 5:

Horizontal detail again.


Scene 6:

The yellow arrows point to yet another example of the higher horizontal detail, and the green arrow points to the high amount of mosquito noise that can be seen above the glove.


Conclusion and final thoughts

The 'Vertical Limit' superbit DVD didn't dissapoint in the slightest (picture quality, i am not here to judge the content). It shows EXACTLY the same amount of higher horizontal detail that i found in every other SB title.

I, and many other videophiles are at a point were we skip non-SB titles in anticipation of SB rereleases. I don't know if thats what CTHV tried to achieve, but there you have it. Bring on more SB titles, especially on NEW releases (Black Hawk Down was a unused opportunity) and we are happy.

Best regards
Bjoern Roy



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