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Phantom Menace VCD review

Old 04-10-00, 06:04 PM
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I thought I'd give this one a shot more out of curiousity than anything. I'm not reviewing the content itself, but sufice it to say I was not all that impressed when I saw it in the theaters. It was advertised at coolvcd.com for $13.88 and you get FedEx shipping with 2 vcds (standard mail was uninsured), so I purchased Little Voice for $6.88 as well. What I found odd was that standard mail was supposed to take 14-20days, but when I looked at the address the origin was in NY state somewhere. Go figure.

At any rate, the first thing I noticed when I got my package was the lousy packaging of TPM. It consists of a cardboard sleeve surrounding 2 jewel cases, that's it. Not even a way to keep the jewel cases and the sleeve together. On the back of the sleeve it says it's the Malaysian version and there's a certificate of authenticity. The various symbols, including VideoCD, Lucasfilm, 20th Century, but no Dolby symbol anywhere! More about that in a minute.

I popped the first vcd in my Apex player and waited for the VCD 2.0 identification to pop up. I pressed play and away we went. Hmm. Odd. Green screen. Switched to NTSC, works but part of the screen cropped off. I have a Panasonic DT-M3050W Hi-Def monitor so it should be able to play Pal discs fine. I finally figured out that the Apex cannot play back Pal discs through the component outputs. Switched the S-Video and everything worked as it should. Back to the movie.

The movie starts and my Sony Str-de835 showed PCM 44.1k. Cool. I turned on Pro-Logic decoding. Yep. Even though it's not listed it's clearly Dolby Pro-Logic. In fact, the movie uses the surround channels more than I've ever heard in any other movie, including AC-3 ones. One of my surround speakers actually blew durring the movie.

The beginning text rolls and I can tell already it's superior to the VHS version. The added resolution of PAL helps the picture quality as well. Overall I'd have to say it's a little superior to VHS, but it looks like the same crappy source was used. There's really no excuse for this, especially in a digital format because there was actually a digital source. The picture was dark and the colors were a bit washed out. The sound had a habbit of cracking and popping at times (aside from my blown surround speaker) things that should not have been missed in the final mastering.

While I saw the usual artifacting of mpeg1 when alot of motion was going on, the over all quality of the disc ranged from fair to decent. I'd say the biggest problem was the poor master that was used, not the problems with the vcd format. In fact, the Apex player handles vcd better than dvds, which says something about the origins of that player.

Overall, if you want a decent P&S TPM which you can play in your DVD, has similar picture quality of vhs with much superior sound, and you don't mind switching discs about 70mins in, then the VCD is for you. If the DVD was released now and the same source material would have been released now, then Lucas has a point when he says he needs to have time to focus all his attentions on it.

Still, I can't help but wondering what is in store for us when (and if) an anamorphic transfer hits dvd. Surely this is the way this movie was meant to be seen.
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Old 04-10-00, 07:23 PM
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Moving to Reviews forum.

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Old 04-10-00, 10:29 PM
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I picked up the Malaysian import as well. I paid $11.99 at getvcds.com. I though the quality was fairly good for a Malaysian disc. Of the imports I have bought the Malaysian ones are normally the worst quality, but this one was fairly good. Another thing you are correct about is the Apex. It is a great VCD player. Now if it would just play DVDs correctly like it was designed to do I would be alright.

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Old 04-10-00, 10:35 PM
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Why not get the Hong Kong version and not worry about Pal?
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Old 04-11-00, 12:57 AM
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Topgun, you seem to know about VCDs. What's the PBC option the Apex automatically turns on? The manual says nothing about VCD playback.

As far as PAL goes, if you buy the HK version you're going to have subtitles, which I can live without on an English movie. Most VCD players are region free anyways. In NTSC mode the players would just chop off a part of the screen. The Apex crops a little off the top and bottom making it look like a letterboxed movie. Alot of monitors (like mine) are multi-region now anyways.
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Old 04-11-00, 01:39 AM
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on my two dvd players, the pal vcds also are of lower quality.
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Old 04-11-00, 06:20 AM
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Is ther a big diference between the Hong Kong and other versions? I just ordered 2 copies of the Malaysian issue of the Phantom Menace VCDs. I'm not sure but would I be correct in assuming that the HK VCD boxset packaging is completely different (presentation/contents) from all of the other versions?
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Old 04-11-00, 07:33 AM
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quote:
Originally posted by Eric F:
Topgun, you seem to know about VCDs. What's the PBC option the Apex automatically turns on? The manual says nothing about VCD playback.


It stands for Play by Chapter. Which is the way you would normally want to watch the movie. Turning it off does not allow you to flip through the chapter stops on the movie. I haven't messed with it much.



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Old 04-11-00, 01:59 PM
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Crap, so the Malaysia (coolvcd.com) disc is PAL? I ordered a couple, but I guess I won't be able to play them.

The Hong Kong subtitled version is NTSC? Could anyone let me know where this can be had for cheap? preferrably as cheap as the Malaysia version.

Barry
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Old 04-11-00, 02:32 PM
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bjhess: Don't count the PAL version out yet. Most DVD/VCD players don't discriminate between VCD type so you might be ok.

Check out your DVD player manual. Usually if a PAL version is played on a NTSC player a little bit of the screen will be cropped.
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Old 04-12-00, 01:18 AM
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I have the HK version and it definitely sounds like the Malaysian version is in much inferior packaging. The HK version is in a deluxe cardboard box with nice cutouts to house the 2 jewel cases, plus it includes a nice pack of postcards from the movie, and even a coupon for Star Wars action figures from Toys R Us.
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Old 04-12-00, 01:48 AM
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Hey Raytrade,

Where did you get your deluxe VCD set from?
I want to get a copy but the best price I've found is $28 from a contact in Hong Kong. Can I get this set domestically?
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Old 04-12-00, 11:34 PM
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I believe there is a post in the bargain forum mentioning some online store that will have the Hong Kong version in the nice packaging by later this week.
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Old 04-12-00, 11:48 PM
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raytrade-may be goin' blind..i missed it.
If you happen to see the post,can you throw a link to it?
Thanks!

[This message has been edited by Weapon X (edited April 12, 2000).]
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Old 04-13-00, 04:54 PM
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X, look here http://talk.dvdtalk.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/009921.html
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Old 04-13-00, 09:17 PM
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Thanks!

Although the box is crappy,. in the end, I think I'd like the Malaysian version...but it really depends on if my DVD player can handle PAL...I just ordered 2 movies, figuring at worst, I could still enjoy them on my PC with my output to the t.v.
If the PAL thing doesn't work, it is off to yesasia.com.

The only bad part of that is the wait time..I have heard people complain of long waits.
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