Showing posts with label dvd. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dvd. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Anamorphic problems even in U.S. releases

The anamorphic woes continue. Previously, I have written about how the Red Cliff Part I DVD was not "anamorphic" and the image quality was not worthy of a high-definition LCD TV presentation. Inspired by a discussion on Facebook, I rummaged my DVD storage for my copy of Silence of the Lambs, the serial killer thriller that popularised the character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), hoping to relive the grisly world that the bad doctor resides in. To my horror, the disc also suffers the same problem as the Red Cliff disc, as the video appeared squashed on the original or 16:9 aspect ratio setting.

Jodie Foster looking like prime material for Buffalo Bill's makeover.

Changing the TV ratio setting to 4:3 corrects Jodie Foster's fat quotient. However, this proves that the video was modified to fit the squarish frame of televisions of yore, and not widescreen televisions. Notice that Jodie looks just right, but because the presentation won't fit a rectangular widescreen TV, hence there are two vertical bars on the left and right. 

You can't really fix this, unless you can "zoom in" to fill the screen more, but the video quality will look worse, and the grainy, un-mastered condition doesn't help the situation. Getting the anamorphic Silence of the Lambs DVD or Blu-Ray is the best option if money is not an issue. The movie was shot in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, so the picture should fit the screen fully like this:

I should have used these graphic examples to highlight the problems on the Red Cliff I DVD. You guys may have been and maybe still are a little confused about my babblings on that post. But it's the same problem there and here.

What's frustrating is that the DVD packaging indicates prominently that the disc is made for widescreen presentation.

It didn't say that it was anamorphic, though. But that's like saying you could sell me a car without a steering wheel if they didn't mention it having one in the manual.

I bought the DVD probably five years or more ago, likely from Choa Chu Kang Laser Flair, Lot One branch. (Don't worry, Laser Flair, I won't charge. Free publicity.) High definition TVs weren't so prevalent during those days, so I guess people didn't take much notice of the ratio and anamorphic issues, including yours truly. I'm sure I played this very DVD for more than ten times (on my still-alive ten-year-old JVC cathode ray tube television, of course) and still never noticed anything wrong!  

Can't remember how much I paid for this. No special features.
Nice, freaky DVD box design, though. Sssssslurp!

If you want to know more about anamorphic DVDs, this site explains it pretty well.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The stuff of Nightmares

I used to be the type who goes for the O.G., the original stuff. The days of breaking the bank for collector's editions and McFarlane movie-theme figurines are over. There's no bargain I could refuse. Thus begin my mild obsession with 4-in-1 DVD packs!

Two-in-ones, three, four, sometimes fifty-in-ones (ah, MP4s) are quite the norms in pirated wares, but the legitimate faction is also into the bargain pack game, although almost usually with older, evergreen titles. The great thing in going legit here is the quality: pirated bundle-packs usually cram several movies onto a single disc. Depending on the movie lengths, an 8.5 Gb double-layer disc (affectionately called by the pirates as "DVD-9s") is quite a tight fit even for just two movies. Video quality is sacrificed in the process.

Get an original many-in-ones though, and you'll not find such compromise. Using dual-side DVDs (equivalent to taking two DVDs and glueing them together on the label side), each movie in a way occupies its own entire disc space, no different than when the movies were produced and sold individually. The Nightmare on Elm Street 4-in-1 DVD pack has Parts I and II printed on the first disc. You watch one movie on one side, then flip it over to see the other. I don't know how the company is able to save cost and lower the prices significantly by using this format, since they would still have to burn the same amount of sides if the movies were produced and sold individually. Physically compacting 4 movies into 2 discs also helps a little in maximising shelf space.

One of the disadvantages of dual-side DVDs is that its "sensitive" regions are exposed on both sides, which encourages easy smudges and all other manner of scratches, the hassle is worth the price tag. Another problem is that one of the mainstays sacrificed in the name of bargain hunters is the second-disc special features. Unless the movie is truly one of your favourites, special features can be quite a chore to sift through. There aren't many titles (with more than two sequels) given the economy pack treatment, probably due to their everlasting appeal (e.g. the pricey Aliens Quadrilogy box set, Harry Potter, Die Hard, James Bond, etc.) So far, I've only found A Nightmare on Elm Street (pictured above), Lethal Weapon, Ocean's Eleven, Batman, Rush Hour, etc. There are some eco-packs that are a mixture of unrelated titles, but these are usually two-packers than four.

In conclusion, original 4-in-1 DVD sets are great value for money and takes no more shelf space than a standard DVD box does. Titles available on these four-packers aren't wide, though, and special feature discs that accompany the main feature on the individual DVDs are usually left out of the set. The highly exposed discs get easily damaged too, if you have butter fingers.

Next up: A Nightmare on Elm Street - The Review!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A layman's lesson in anamorphic transfers: Red Cliff DVDs

Just wanted to share my experience renting the DVDs to John Woo's excellent Red Cliff bilogy. It is also a good opportunity to make known the importance of anamorphic DVDs.

Back to Red Cliff: The movies are not really sequels, but two parts of an entire storyline. The movies were shown separately in the cinemas, and were also released in two separate DVDs.

Red Cliff was a big hit in Asia, so it was a surprised to discover how poorly conceived one of the DVDs were.

The subject in scrutiny is DVD Part I, which was not an anamorphic transfer, meaning that the the video was recorded as a 4:3 fullscreen video (a near perfect square, like what you see on free TV). This isn't an issue if the video was cropped to fit a fullscreen TV, but they used the widescreen format (a rectangle, like in the cinemas) and "squeezed" it into fullscreen. This means that on a classic, square TV, you will see the two black bars on the top and bottom of the screen instead of a video that fills the entire screen. Not much problem there. But on a widescreen TV, the picture looks overstretched width-wise. Worse, the black bars eats up screen and data space, reducing the picture quality of the actual video presentation. If you are not familiar with anamorphic transfers, there's a bit of a technical explanation to it, but essentially it's a recording technique that efficiently retains video quality of movies shot in widescreen format on DVDs. Most good original DVDs would indicate whether it's an anamorphic transfer at the back of their covers. Red Cliff Part I DVD is not anamorphic, thus the video quality is glaringly low on a hi-definition LCD.

Red Cliff Part 2 DVD is anamorphic, though, and the picture fits my LCD correctly. Picture quality is a lot better than Part I DVD, but then I noticed that the video seemed to have fine, horizontal "black stripes". I was about to blame the DVD again, until I read this article about video interlacing and progressive scan. Nevertheless, the video quality is still not to my satisfaction when compared to other original DVDs I owned.

Bottom line: Don't buy Red Cliff Part I DVD (unless they release an anamorphic version), but Part II is ok, though you may see some interlacing issues if your player or TV isn't "progressive". Chim... The Red Cliff Blu-Rays are a better bet, but no comments on those until I finally get them.

All the Red Cliff discs in Singapore are currently distributed by Scorpio East.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The price you pay for original?

Caveat emptor... let the buyer beware! According to the Sunday Straits, video stores have been unwittingly peddling pirated wares forged by the Jack Sparrows of the movie industry, whose scanning and Photoshop skills have shown marked improvements.

However, this is not the first time poop like this has happened. Many ages ago, a video store with a name that rhymes with "taser" brought in purportedly original VCDs of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King from Thailand, mere weeks after the theatrical release. Took a while before anyone noticed the aquatic stench, including yours truly, who was at the time just too elated to have the opportunity to revisit Middle Earth at such short notice. The company was slapped with a million-dollar fine for its efforts; unfortunately I can't seem to track down the original news article about this fiasco. Hopefully, the evidences of my gullibility, as pictured on the left, would suffice.

Anyway, the article suggests that we should all become digital artwork analysts and look out for slightly "pixellated" graphics, in order to guard ourselves from these fakes. We know how busy the officials are, catching those pesky teen downloaders and fining holiday-ers who bought the same fake DVDs abroad; we must do our part to protect the billion-dollar movie industry from losing millions. Actually, there is an easier and quicker way to spot a dodgy DVD - if an English movie has big Chinese titles on its cover, avoid buying it. This will reduce your chances of making a bogus buy by about maybe 99, 100%?

Left picture: The Maltese Falcon DVD, a made in Taiwan variant (with an all-English cover art) sold at Suntec Carrefour for a measly S$6.99...

Err... Then again, maybe not.

Friday, November 23, 2007

DVD Watch #2

Christmas is just around the corner, and what better time to drop some hints onto your friends about what you're hoping to see most in your X-mas stockings! (Preferably those that'll be too big to fit into said feetwear; refer to pic, ahem!)
DVD highlights for the month:
  • Live Free or Die Hard (Unrated Edition) - the full R-rated version, yippee-ki-yay!
  • The Jason Bourne Collection (The Bourne Identity/ The Bourne Supremacy/ The Bourne Ultimatum)
  • Blade Runner (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector's Edition) - the final, final, FINAL director's cut plus other not-so final versions in one package!
  • Ocean's Thirteen (Widescreen Edition)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition) - just for that awesome wizards fight scene!
  • The Simpsons Movie (Widescreen Edition)
  • James Bond Ultimate Collector's Set - from Dr. No to the new Casino Royale with Daniel Craig, sans the old Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again. Older Bonds' video are remastered, while a bonus disc is included for each movie. Gotta catch 'em all!
  • The X-Files: The Ultimate Collection - cost-effective if you want to own the entire series and leave no stone unturned!
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation - Complete Series - to boldly buy what no jock has bought before!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

DVD Watch #1

It was fun posting about the Serenity DVD release, so why not make it a regular thing, I thought? Thus, here it is, the first DVD Watch post, dedicated to bring you the news of the latest DVD of your favourite blockbusters (and not-so-blockbusters).
Between now to November, keep an eye out for:
  • Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer: The Power Cosmic Edition (2-Disc)
  • Grindhouse Presents, Death Proof: Extended and Unrated (2-Disc)
  • Grindhouse Presents, Planet Terror: Extended and Unrated (2-Disc)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, 2-Disc Limited Edition
  • Ratatouille (?)
  • Spider-man 3, 2-Disc Special Edition
  • Transformers, 2-Disc Special Edition

Will post more info on the discs' special features once they're available. So many DVDs, so little income. Sigh...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Still a Heroes virgin...

Yeah, being the geek that I am, I still haven't seen a single Heroes episode, believe it or not. I meant to catch it when it aired on free TV in April, but I knew I was too busy to catch every episode, and opted to wait for the DVD. Now that it's finally out on DVD, I'm still not sure if I have time for it, with a new 3D project, a huge backlog of unwatched DVDs and unwritten reviews all begging for attention.
Anyway, for those who care, click here for's review.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Currently my most anticipated DVD is the Collector's Edition of Serenity, a great sci-fi movie based on a great sci-fi television series that I just can't seem to stop gushing about. Luckily, I didn't buy the first edition DVD that came out earlier with the godawful cover design (see below).

At least the theatrical poster wasn't too bad (see below).

Serenity Collector's Edition DVD is out on August 21.