Yet another superbit title. "Same procedure as last year,
'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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Horizontal detail again.
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.