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Q's about DVD transfers, featuring caps from Apocalypse Now

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Q's about DVD transfers, featuring caps from Apocalypse Now

Old 02-22-07, 03:51 PM
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Q's about DVD transfers, featuring caps from Apocalypse Now

I usually watch movies on a pretty low tech set-up. Video goes from an old Sony carousel model through RCA cables into an old 27" CRT. So generally I don't have the opportunity to be critical of transfers. But lately I've been watching movies on various Mac computers. The Mac's DVD Player software does a really nice job upconverting the image to whatever resolution I'm running the monitor(s) at. My iMac 20" has a native resolution of 1680x1050 and a lot of DVD's look surprisingly good at that resolution. But some surprise me or disappoint me. I bought the recent Apocalypse Now re-issue expecting a near flawless transfer, largely because Preston Jones raved about it here: http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=22951

Almost as soon as I started watching it I was disappointed. I know that for now, if I watch it on my crappy TV, it'll look great. But when I get a nicer TV (soon, I hope) that can compete with the way my computer makes DVD's look... well, I'll wish I'd waited for the eventual HD Apocalypse Now.

Here's a still I grabbed from an early scene:


If it looks great to you, move along. But if you can see the heavy compression on the nose of the Huey, help me out- how typical is this in a disc that gets a perfect 5-Star image rating from a DVDTalk reviewer? If you can only "sort of" see the blockiness I am talking about, here's a crop where I've boosted the contrast and brightness:


I know maybe it doesn't seem so bad, but still frames can't tell the whole story. It's obviously a very difficult shot to transfer to video well because it's shot in sunlight with a spinning rotor above so there is a constant, fast-moving shadow arcing across the nose. But the net effect of not doing it well is that every single frame of video has a slightly different blobby/blocky mass of coloring, right in the center of the picture. So played at speed it looks atrocious- much worse than it does in this still shot.

If this whole post seems like a complaint, I apologize. I guess I'm not asking any specific questions, but I am looking for discussion of a few things. Like, how does this pass muster in the first place? Why don't they vary the bit-rate more, depending on the shot they are transferring? How typical is it that a "reference" quality DVD will end up having some really really ugly problems? Am I crazy? I dunno. I guess I'm just bummed out because I own a lot of DVD's that are supposedly near-flawless and I've been super excited waiting for the day when I can watch them all on a nicer TV. So I hate to think of how disappointed I'll end up with a lot of them. This isn't an isolated incident, either. I find myself noticing lots of edge enhancement on DVD's that lots of people think are great.



Bonus unrelated question about DVD transfers for people who actually got to the end of this post: It seems like almost every single DVD I've ever popped into a computer has weird horizontal bands at the top and or bottom of the frame. Normally I don't see them because of the overscan in my CRT television, but on the computer (and presumably a 16:9 TV) I do see them. Often these bands are only a couple of pixels "thick" but they run all the way from left to right near the extreme edge of the frame. I would love it if someone with a good knowledge of the telecine process could explain how these lines end up in the image. I've blown up and cropped an example from the same frame of Apocalypse Now in case you can't see it in the full shot above. On this DVD it is very faint but on some others it can be quite dark. Here you go:
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Old 02-22-07, 04:09 PM
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Upgrading a display can be a double-edged sword. The image will generally look better, but at times you will see things you couldn't on lesser and/or smaller displays. People who get projectors are surprised at first to see the flaws when the image is magnified to a giant screen. Better displays have the ability to make good images look better and bad images look worse.

As for the lines, one thing that can cause those is the use of edge enhancement. The letterbox bars are part of the image if it is wider than 1.78:1, and if EE is applied to that image, the edges of the bars are long black edges that get "enhanced." You can often spot troublesome EE right off the bat with a 2.35:1 (about 2:1 in this case) film by looking at the edges of the frame.
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Old 02-22-07, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Drexl
As for the lines, one thing that can cause those is the use of edge enhancement. The letterbox bars are part of the image if it is wider than 1.78:1, and if EE is applied to that image, the edges of the bars are long black edges that get "enhanced." You can often spot troublesome EE right off the bat with a 2.35:1 (about 2:1 in this case) film by looking at the edges of the frame.
Yeah, I figured that it was edge enhancement on the edge of the frame but kind of don't want to believe such ridiculous shit could get through QC. Generally the amount of EE is chosen for each shot by a tech, and I know that most EE is done on vertical lines, so I just can't imagine why someone would want to do it to the horizontal edge of the frame itself.

Last edited by Five Cent Deposit; 02-22-07 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 02-22-07, 04:35 PM
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Sounds like you've had good luck with it, but my experience has been that the software DVD player on the Mac makes everything look horrible. I have a 17" widescreen iMac G4, and a lot of DVDs I watch on it look really blocky. A lot of it probably has to do with the higher native gamma of a Mac display as opposed to that of a non-Apple display, which is normally a very good thing, but it tends to make DVDs look like crap.

I noticed that some of the Photoshop work I've done in the past on PCs looked fine then, but if I load it up on the Mac, areas that have previously looked like a solid color were really messy. It caused me to be a lot more careful in compositing, etc., since the Mac really shows you what you have. Unfortunately, standard-def DVDs are treated the same way, and when added to the scaling, they tend to look really blocky, especially if you're not watching from across the room.

...of course I'm probably not watching the exact same DVDs you are, so I'd imagine that at least partial blame can fall on the disc itself in certain cases.
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Old 02-22-07, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
Yeah, I figured that it was edge enhancement on the edge of the frame but kind of don't want to believe such ridiculous shit could get through QC. Generally the amount of EE is chosen for each shot by a tech, and I know that most EE is done on vertical lines, so I just can't imagine why someone would want to do it to the horizontal edge of the frame itself.
By the way, the extreme edges of the screen aren't visible on a TV set (even digital ones, I believe). When you play a DVD on a computer, you see what's called the "overscan area" which isn't normally visible.
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Old 02-22-07, 05:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Adams
By the way, the extreme edges of the screen aren't visible on a TV set (even digital ones, I believe). When you play a DVD on a computer, you see what's called the "overscan area" which isn't normally visible.
Well, the friends I have who own nice sets generally dial their overscan out to pretty much zero and I know I probably will flirt with the edges too. The main reason I got into DVD was to see OAR composition and the amount of overscan on my TV kills me.

edit: regardless of overscan, as mentioned earlier in the thread if the AR of the film is wider than 1.78:1 then you are going to see the top and bottom of the frame, and that's where I always notice the banding.

Last edited by Five Cent Deposit; 02-22-07 at 05:16 PM.
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Old 02-22-07, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Adams
Sounds like you've had good luck with it, but my experience has been that the software DVD player on the Mac makes everything look horrible. I have a 17" widescreen iMac G4, and a lot of DVDs I watch on it look really blocky. A lot of it probably has to do with the higher native gamma of a Mac display as opposed to that of a non-Apple display, which is normally a very good thing, but it tends to make DVDs look like crap.

I noticed that some of the Photoshop work I've done in the past on PCs looked fine then, but if I load it up on the Mac, areas that have previously looked like a solid color were really messy. It caused me to be a lot more careful in compositing, etc., since the Mac really shows you what you have. Unfortunately, standard-def DVDs are treated the same way, and when added to the scaling, they tend to look really blocky, especially if you're not watching from across the room.

...of course I'm probably not watching the exact same DVDs you are, so I'd imagine that at least partial blame can fall on the disc itself in certain cases.

I would say that I am very pleased with how most DVD's look on my various Macs. My expectations are pretty normal- I do know the limitations of the format. So I can see the "nuts and bolts" of DVD transfers that I think are outstanding/as good as it gets, whether it's limited dynamic range, low resolution, whatever. I started this thread because of what I think is an egregious case of bad compression. Obviously I think there are transfers which are superior to the Apocalypse Now job, so it's frustrating to see it given a 5 star review here. The blocky shit on the nose of the Huey is some of the worst compression I've seen. So I guess what I am getting at is that by 2006 (and now 2007) we really shouldn't be seeing any compression like this. Or, to give another example, I thought the DVD of The New World had horrible edge enhancement. Aaron Beirle noticed, too, and gave the disc a 3.5 rating for video. It shouldn't be too much to expect most/all high profile DVD's to have true "reference" transfers at this point in the technology's lifespan.

Last edited by Five Cent Deposit; 02-22-07 at 05:23 PM.
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Old 02-22-07, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
edit: regardless of overscan, as mentioned earlier in the thread if the AR of the film is wider than 1.78:1 then you are going to see the top and bottom of the frame, and that's where I always notice the banding.
Ah, wasn't sure which edge you were referring to (because I probably didn't read carefully enough). That's most likely an artifact of it being the edge of the actual video signal (i.e. if it were letterboxed as opposed to anamorphic, so the "black bars" were actually part of the picture, you probably wouldn't see that).

Last edited by Mike Adams; 02-23-07 at 12:05 AM.
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Old 02-22-07, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
I would say that I am very pleased with how most DVD's look on my various Macs. My expectations are pretty normal- I do know the limitations of the format. So I can see the "nuts and bolts" of DVD transfers that I think are outstanding/as good as it gets, whether it's limited dynamic range, low resolution, whatever. I started this thread because of what I think is an egregious case of bad compression. Obviously I think there are transfers which are superior to the Apocalypse Now job, so it's frustrating to see it given a 5 star review here. The blocky shit on the nose of the Huey is some of the worst compression I've seen. So I guess what I am getting at is that by 2006 (and now 2007) we really shouldn't be seeing any compression like this. Or, to give another example, I thought the DVD of The New World had horrible edge enhancement. Aaron Beirle noticed, too, and gave the disc a 3.5 rating for video. It shouldn't be too much to expect most/all high profile DVD's to have true "reference" transfers at this point in the technology's lifespan.
Eh, well, yeah, you can certainly expect decent transfers this late in the format's life, but to be fair, the format wasn't really designed for displays of the clarity and contrast ratio of an Apple display or HD TV. MPEG compression is based on blocks, it's just that you're not supposed to be able to make out individual blocks. I'm not saying that the DVD Forum only ever expected people to use blurry analog TVs, but a "reference" film transfer is probably beyond the capability of standard DVD. Of course I don't doubt that studios often get lazy and aren't thorough enough with QC on their transfers and compression.
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Old 02-22-07, 06:07 PM
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Oh, and I should point out that you're weighing the odds against the disc when you're scaling up to 578 from 480 lines, which I'm sure is what makes the "blockiness" look more severe, partially because 480 doesn't go evenly into 578. If you're talking PAL, then I can see where the screen grab would be 576 lines, but your handle leads me to believe you're here in NTSC land. Also, I assume you boosted the contrast and brightness just to illustrate the blockiness, but again, doing that is of course going to reveal stuff you're not normally gonna notice.

I should probably just let you hang on to the "man, DVDs today are shit, and the studios should be shot for selling this inferior crap, not to mention the reviewers for giving it five stars" stuff, but I think what's really happening is that people are starting to look at stuff as opposed to watching it. It's like stick-on window tinting -- if you look directly at it, you see every tiny bubble and it looks like shit. If you look through it, like you're supposed to, it looks fine. When I look at movies on my TV set, there's all these damn scan lines, like half the picture isn't even there, or I'm watching it through a giant comb. If I just watch the movie, I don't notice the scan lines.

In the same way that scan lines are inherent to interlaced video, and even though they look like shit they're accepted as the nature of the beast, macroblocking is unfortunately part of the DVD format, and similarly, viewers shouldn't go looking for them instead of just watching the film. You'd be hard pressed to find a screencap from DVD that doesn't look blocky if you scale it, increase the contrast, and increase the brightness.

Last edited by Mike Adams; 02-22-07 at 06:11 PM.
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Old 02-22-07, 07:31 PM
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Mike, I appreciate your responses- they're more or less what I was inviting when I posted the thread. But... I feel like my point isn't getting across. The kind of heavy pixelization that I see in this shot of Apocalypse Now is the exception rather than the rule. This is exactly why it irks me so much. Generally, (in my own experience, natch) upscaling on the Mac actually softens the image, which hides the inherent blockiness of the pixels. The big chunky sections of uniform color in the screen capture from Apocalypse Now aren't individual pixels- they are huge sections of pixels where the guy at the controls got lazy. I don't think today's DVD's are shit, at all. I've been blown away by how much better they are, on average, than older ones. And I'm the last guy anyone could accuse of "looking" instead of "watching." I'm a huge sucker for movies, and in any group I'm probably the most rapt, the most at the mercy of the film we're watching. The scene in question really just leapt out at me, right off the screen. Like a boom mike bonking an actor in the forehead. I didn't have to increase the contrast and brightness to see it. I was watching the movie and suddenly the nose of the chopper started looking like a bucket of worms. It was something I couldn't not see- kind of like how I see rainbows in some DLP displays.

I have a good friend who used to always argue that LD looked better than DVD. I thought he was nuts, because I thought resolution was everything. But he was talking about the greater fidelity and range of the uncompressed analog signal on LD's vs. older generation DVD's with bad compression and mastering. He's got himself a nice HT now and with the quality of many DVD's in the last few years he obviously can see that a GOOD DVD will be better than a GOOD LD. Seeing bad work on a new DVD makes me realize how far we've come from the early days of the technology.

Anyway, don't let my captures fool you- I can see the shitty compression artifacts on Apocalypse Now even on my junky old television. It's got nothing to do with how my computer scales the image- otherwise I'd see a lot more of it, and everything to do with bad authoring. As I mentioned earlier, it's a very difficult shot to get right because of the constant, subtle fluctuations in light and color. I just wish they'd worked a little harder on it.

Oh, and if you are curious, before I cropped out the small black bars the screen cap was 1152x648. But it looks bad at any resolution- 480x853, 720x1280, 1680x945, etc.

Last edited by Five Cent Deposit; 02-22-07 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 02-22-07, 07:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Adams
You'd be hard pressed to find a screencap from DVD that doesn't look blocky if you scale it, increase the contrast, and increase the brightness.
The short version of my post above this one is that I disagree 100% with this statement. Take a look at any other part of the screen cap and it looks a thousand times better than the one part I am talking about. Most shots in the film do not have the same bad compression. The exceptional nature of the bad compression, considering the exceptional nature of the film in question, is the disappointment.

edited to add this, before I go home for the night:



The "good part" has had the same upscaling, contrast and brightness boosting as the "bad" part. The good part looks like film, but the bad part looks like youtube. I know you can see this. My attitude isn't "Wahhh, DVD's are poo!" My attitude is "How can they get it so wonderfully right some of the time and still screw parts of it up?"

Last edited by Five Cent Deposit; 02-22-07 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 02-22-07, 11:41 PM
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I'll stick my neck out even further and say that you obviously don't understand MPEG compression, or digital imaging in general for that matter. I'm not trying to insult you, just explain why things like what you point out above happen. Since both areas are part of the same vehicle, I won't claim that motion is a factor, but that does happen, where areas with little or no motion look fine, but moving objects look like they're made with LEGOs.

In this case, it's all about color, and the fact that machines don't have a damn clue what something is, and therefore it can't tell what areas are a solid color and other areas have a lot of detail. In the "good" area, it's easier to detect detail, and there's a wider range of colors. In the "bad" area, it's an area comprised of very similar colors, and MPEG compression doesn't handle those well. Why? Because it wasn't designed to be shown on a display where a block of color with an RGB value of 134/240/76 is going to be visually discernible from a block of 152/236/75. Those subtle variations stand out because the whole block ends up as one color because the differences are so slight.

The shittiest commercial DVD I think I've ever seen is Genesis: The Way We Walk Live, where there are multiple angles, and therefore a relatively low bitrate, so areas of smoke over the audience look more like rocks in the Atari 2600 version of Asteroids. There's so many almost identical colors that in one frame a certain block ends up with the RGB value 24/24/24, and in the very next frame, it changes to 23/26/18. Multiply that over several blocks and take into account that many of those block-like areas originally had a subtle gradation in color but most are now a single color, and you might see why some parts of the screen look shitty and others look fine.

DVD is simply not very good at areas of very low (but not zero) contrast -- perhaps HD-DVD or Blu-ray will look better to you.
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Old 02-22-07, 11:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
Oh, and if you are curious, before I cropped out the small black bars the screen cap was 1152x648. But it looks bad at any resolution- 480x853, 720x1280, 1680x945, etc.
My point was that you need to judge DVD picture quality at the native resolution of 720x480. It doesn't matter what the native resolution of your display is, DVD has nothing more than 720x480 on it (or 720x576 in PAL). Looking at an image that has been scaled to a vertical resolution of larger than 480 lines is going to lead you to making an unfair judgement. Furthermore, DVD is an interlaced medium, so stills often show artifacts such as "tearing" when intermediate fields don't line up.

Take a picture with a digital camera (one with a resolution of 2 megapixels or higher), then scale it down to 720x480 and look at the size difference. The biggest selling point of DVD is convenience and interactivity, not necessarily image quality. In terms of quality, MPEG compression means DVD is fighting with one arm tied behind its back.
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Old 02-23-07, 12:11 AM
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To sum up, here's a pattern you'll probably always see with standard DVD:

light/high-contrast areas = good
dark/low-contrast areas = bad
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Old 02-23-07, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike Adams
I'll stick my neck out even further and say that you obviously don't understand MPEG compression, or digital imaging in general for that matter. I'm not trying to insult you, just explain why things like what you point out above happen.
That's an awesome thing to say, considering I've made it very clear that I *do* understand:

Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
It's obviously a very difficult shot to transfer to video well because it's shot in sunlight with a spinning rotor above so there is a constant, fast-moving shadow arcing across the nose.
Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
As I mentioned earlier, it's a very difficult shot to get right because of the constant, subtle fluctuations in light and color.
So I know that because of the motion and subtle color variations (among other things) MPEG compression will result in smearing, loss of detail/depth, etc. I do know this, I do understand what compression is, how it works, and so on. Your breakdown of how color values that are similar are discarded in favor of uniformity isn't news to me. I was avoiding going into the depth that you did, because I *know* I have a problem with logorrhea and my posts are too long already. To refer back to what you said, I don't need to be told why the image looks goofy- I know what bad compression (overcompression) is. What I do want to know is why it is still around, why it slips through the cracks. I'm curious to check, later today, how much space on the AN:TCD disc is unused, and what the average bit rate of the disc is. I suspect that with more care, more attention to detail, that shot could have looked better. I'm almost positive of it. Why am I so sure? Because, as I repeatedly point out:

Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
...egregious case of bad compression. Obviously I think there are transfers which are superior to the Apocalypse Now job, so it's frustrating to see it given a 5 star review here. The blocky shit on the nose of the Huey is some of the worst compression I've seen...
Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
The kind of heavy pixelization that I see in this shot of Apocalypse Now is the exception rather than the rule.
Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
Most shots in the film do not have the same bad compression. The exceptional nature of the bad compression...
I've also been quick to reiterate that, contrary to what you seem to be driving at with every post, most DVD's with a good transfer look great with upscaling. I'm not going to go back and dig up more quotes, but they are there from the beginning. Yes, there are uniformly great transfers, uniformly good ones, uniformly bad ones, and uniformly average ones. I've made the mistake of using words like "reference" and "flawless" which may give you the idea that I expect a good DVD to faithfully recreate the look of a 35mm print. But I've also repeatedly said that I don't have unrealistic expectations for the format. When I talk about "reference" transfers that look "flawless" what I mean is transfers that look as good as anything I have ever seen on DVD, and as good as DVD can get. Apocalypse Now doesn't meet those criteria. DVDTalk reviewers have given out about 350 ratings of 5 Stars, out of about 18,500 reviews. That's about 1 in 50. What I want from this thread is for people who've seen more DVD's than I have, on better displays, to tell me whether they think poor compression artifacts like what I see in AN:TCD are typical of the kind of DVD that merits a "1 in 50" rating.

Originally Posted by Mike Adams
DVD is simply not very good at areas of very low (but not zero) contrast -- perhaps HD-DVD or Blu-ray will look better to you.
If you want to make generalizations, you are welcome to. I'm inclined to agree with you on this one anyway. BUT the point I am making is that DVD can be better at areas of very low (but not zero) contrast than what I've seen on the AN:TCD disc. I don't sit around looking for nits to pick. I only notice bad authoring when it is truly distracting. I assure you, when you watch the scene in motion, the portion of the shot I'm referring to stands out from the rest of the frame- it's ugly.

Originally Posted by Mike Adams
My point was that you need to judge DVD picture quality at the native resolution of 720x480.
I think you wouldn't find many reviewers who would agree with you. I also think you won't find anyone who is capable of judging a DVD at 720x480, because there aren't any displays with that resolution. DVD was never meant to be displayed at 720x480. Never. There will always be some form of upscaling or downscaling. And I've already said this:

Originally Posted by Five Cent Deposit
...don't let my captures fool you- I can see the shitty compression artifacts on Apocalypse Now even on my junky old television.
I've got to go to work now but I'm close to done with this. DVD's are clearly meant to be watched on widescreen, 16x9 televisions with resolutions higher than 720x480. Most DVD's from big studios in the last several years reflect that intended purpose. I'd venture that most people who watch DVD's on a nice HDTV set-up feel pretty happy with what they see and think the DVD image benefits from upscaling. Certainly any qualified DVD reviewer isn't going to be satisfied watching DVD's on technology that dates from 1997. I agree with Drexl, who said early in the thread:

Originally Posted by Drexl
Better displays have the ability to make good images look better and bad images look worse.
And I am going to lump the scene in question from AN:TCD into the latter category.

Originally Posted by Mike Adams
Looking at an image that has been scaled to a vertical resolution of larger than 480 lines is going to lead you to making an unfair judgement. Furthermore, DVD is an interlaced medium, so stills often show artifacts such as "tearing" when intermediate fields don't line up.
I'm not making any unfair judgements. I'm not comparing DVD to HD, or DVD to 35mm, or anything like that. I'm comparing one DVD, scaled up, to other DVD's, scaled up. Wait, no. I can just leave it at comparing one shot from one DVD compared to other shots from the same DVD. What's unfair in that? I know that DVD is interlaced, too. But horizontal tearing isn't mentioned anywhere in my post and I can't see any evidence of it in the screen capture I posted.

Originally Posted by Mike Adams
To sum up, here's a pattern you'll probably always see with standard DVD:

light/high-contrast areas = good
dark/low-contrast areas = bad
To sum up, I don't always see that pattern with standard DVD. That's the reason I am disappointed in the transfer of AN:TCD.
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Old 02-23-07, 09:34 AM
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You've increased contrast and brightness, which is going to bring out flaws, just as increasing sharpness will. Artifacts and noise will be apparant on any DVD you throw in, period. The best looking transfers will probably be from Disney animated films, since animation tends to look a lot better. Live action films though, there's always going to be some sort of noise or grain, that's just SD for ya. It's just to a matter of what degree.

I was able to spot the artifacts in the dark area that you noticed, but you can't take a 'for example' and throw it up when a reviewer really looks at the film quality of the transfer overall throughout the entire film. AN: R really does look pretty good for a film of its age on DVD, no kidding. But you're going to be disappointed with a lot of the older DVD's you have. You can't be THAT picky when watching a SD-DVD on an HD-TV. That's the bad thing about HD-TV's, you'll progressively spot all the flaws in SD just like that the more you continue to watch it.

A lot of technical stuff has been thrown out there that really explains what you're seeing with depth. You're disappointed now but eventually you'll have a really good reference of what DVD's look amazing, which DVD's look pretty damn good, and which ones just dont' cut it. DVD reviewers always talk about the noise and artifacting, and they even speak about worse things you'll eventually notice on some releases... such as the black level. I've seen DVD's where the darkest 'black' ever becomes is gray. You're watching on a computer now, but you're going to get an HD-TV someday quite possibly... and you're going to have to get used to all of this.

The resolution you upconverted at doesn't help matters much either, but that's been beaten to death here already, so I wont' get into the logistics of all that. Just imagine taking a video that was encoded in a small WMP window, and then do the 'alt-enter' trick and watch that same small video at full screen. You're pushing that file to fit your screen, so you notice all the flaws you normally wouldn't at its own resolution. You're doing that with your MAC monitor, and then pushing it even further than that. For the resolution you're pushing it at as well, that picture for a DVD transfer still doesn't look quite that bad!

A large part of DVD image is how your monitor/set is calibrated. Higher brightness, and higher sharpness will always bring out the largest flaws in an image. The reason why you never notice the dark areas in some DVD's to be bad, is because you're used to watching a SD-DVD on an SD-TV. That's what they're made for. They look AMAZING on those sets. You throw that smaller image of 480 into something much much higher, you're doing that old 'small video on a full size screen' thing as I mentioned. Don't get too discouraged though, that's just the 'HD-TV' blues you'll get once you get an HD-TV. A great DVD transfer will no doubt have its flaws and it won't look perfect, but a great transfer will look like you're watching a movie on the movie screen, instead of looking like sharp crystal clear imagery.

Last edited by mzupeman2; 02-23-07 at 09:36 AM.
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Old 02-23-07, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by mzupeman2
You've increased contrast and brightness, which is going to bring out flaws, just as increasing sharpness will. Artifacts and noise will be apparant on any DVD you throw in, period. The best looking transfers will probably be from Disney animated films, since animation tends to look a lot better. Live action films though, there's always going to be some sort of noise or grain, that's just SD for ya. It's just to a matter of what degree.

I was able to spot the artifacts in the dark area that you noticed, but you can't take a 'for example' and throw it up when a reviewer really looks at the film quality of the transfer overall throughout the entire film. AN: R really does look pretty good for a film of its age on DVD, no kidding. But you're going to be disappointed with a lot of the older DVD's you have. You can't be THAT picky when watching a SD-DVD on an HD-TV. That's the bad thing about HD-TV's, you'll progressively spot all the flaws in SD just like that the more you continue to watch it.

A lot of technical stuff has been thrown out there that really explains what you're seeing with depth. You're disappointed now but eventually you'll have a really good reference of what DVD's look amazing, which DVD's look pretty damn good, and which ones just dont' cut it. DVD reviewers always talk about the noise and artifacting, and they even speak about worse things you'll eventually notice on some releases... such as the black level. I've seen DVD's where the darkest 'black' ever becomes is gray. You're watching on a computer now, but you're going to get an HD-TV someday quite possibly... and you're going to have to get used to all of this.

The resolution you upconverted at doesn't help matters much either, but that's been beaten to death here already, so I wont' get into the logistics of all that. Just imagine taking a video that was encoded in a small WMP window, and then do the 'alt-enter' trick and watch that same small video at full screen. You're pushing that file to fit your screen, so you notice all the flaws you normally wouldn't at its own resolution. You're doing that with your MAC monitor, and then pushing it even further than that. For the resolution you're pushing it at as well, that picture for a DVD transfer still doesn't look quite that bad!

A large part of DVD image is how your monitor/set is calibrated. Higher brightness, and higher sharpness will always bring out the largest flaws in an image. The reason why you never notice the dark areas in some DVD's to be bad, is because you're used to watching a SD-DVD on an SD-TV. That's what they're made for. They look AMAZING on those sets. You throw that smaller image of 480 into something much much higher, you're doing that old 'small video on a full size screen' thing as I mentioned. Don't get too discouraged though, that's just the 'HD-TV' blues you'll get once you get an HD-TV. A great DVD transfer will no doubt have its flaws and it won't look perfect, but a great transfer will look like you're watching a movie on the movie screen, instead of looking like sharp crystal clear imagery.
Thanks for the response- I do appreciate it. Still, I need to repeat that this looks bad even on my old SDTV. I know that it isn't representative of the DVD as a whole. I've been to busy to even watch the rest of the movie- as soon as I saw this shot (quite early in the film) I stopped watching. I've probably been wasting my time ever since. But I checked it at numerous resolutions, and even popped it out of the computer to look at it on my regular TV. It looks glaringly bad to me- especially in comparison to the rest of the disc up to that point. That's kind of my point though- I guess I'd like to hear from people who can vouch for discs that truly hold up all the way through, with no "defects" or glaring problems. I do know that reviewers have to look at the overall picture. What I've been getting at is that I'd personally probably take away points for a scene with compression like this one. I've watched more than a few DVD's at higher resolution than this (on 720p and 1080p televisions) where I didn't notice any scenes with bad compression. I feel pretty prepared for the day when I get an HDTV myself- I mean I do know what to expect.

Also, I need to state again for the record that the original screen grab in the first post hasn't had any tweaking (brightness/contrast/whatever) done to it. All I did was crop out the letterboxing. It looks much worse in motion, too.

One thing I want to reiterate is that the Mac's DVD software doesn't just blow the image up. It resamples it just like any upconverting player does. You're free to believe that it's all hooey, but generally upconversion, when done right, improves image quality. I'm not interested in arguing about that point. There are lots of people who have more experience at converting resolution than I do, and whole internet forums devoted to it. I don't know what Alt-Enter does with WMP windows, but my bet is it doesn't resample the video.

The thread seems to have devolved somewhat... my original feelings of disappointment in this DVD may wane after I've watched the whole thing. I'm not claiming that the whole movie is ruined or that I want to chuck the disc in the garbage. But I have a strong suspicion (which I am too lazy to confirm) that this DVD didn't maximize the potential of the format- I'm claiming that it could have been less compressed and had a better bit rate. I do think every DVD that comes out today should be right at the bleeding edge of the limits of the technology. Especially one as important as AN, and with the resources behind it I'm surprised it isn't better. The age of the film has nothing to do with it- I'm not talking about print flaws. I just think they could have done a better job with this DVD.

You guys obviously know the difference between a good DVD and a bad one. If I came in here saying I was disappointed in Madacy's Metropolis you wouldn't be saying stuff like "LOL that's just the limitations of DVD which obviously you aren't able to comprehend or deal with and you are only making it worse by trying to watch it on anything other than your grampa's TV," you'd be saying "You picked a notoriously shit DVD where they got everything wrong. Here, try looking at the Eureka R2 version. They did a better job."

I don't see how this is any different. I don't think Apocalypse Now: The Complete Dossier should have been given a 5-Star rating for video. What you guys are saying is that if I stick to watching it on a crappy TV with crappy RCA connectors, then I'll really appreciate it? No thanks.

Last edited by Five Cent Deposit; 02-23-07 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 02-23-07, 04:04 PM
  #19  
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FCD (or should I just call you "OCD"?)... please change the title of your thread. You obviously do not have questions about DVD transfers, you have complaints about them.

DVD contains an interlaced 720x480 image... PERIOD.

DVD was introduced in 1997, at which time the 1080p displays that are available today were not sold in stores. Most people had analog CRT TVs at that time, which is where the 480-line limit on standard-def DVDs came from. 240 lines in a standard CRT display, doubled as a result of interlacing, equals 480. The preceding format in the chain was S-VHS and Hi-8, with around the same number of lines. Again, if you want a format that's designed for hi-res display, go with HD-DVD or Blu-ray.

I've explained this in great detail to nin74, but if you start with 720x480, you CANNOT gain anything beyond that. Scaling algorithms do not know what the picture is and therefore cannot fill in missing detail, no matter how advanced they are. You mention "resampling", but you forget that the only thing that's being "resampled" is a 720x480 interlaced image. It's not like you have the original film frames stored on the disc and can simply "resample" a frame to get precisely the resolution your display supports. You will always be doing nothing more than scaling up from 480 lines, and when the resolution you're scaling to is not one that 480 goes into evenly, there WILL be some picture distortion.

What's next? Are you going to read the comics with a magnifying glass and start a thread complaining that as long as printing technology has been around, they shouldn't still be using a bunch of different-colored dots to represent other colors?

Don't claim to have questions if you refuse to accept the answers, and you should know that this forum is not a gathering place for malcontents (despite appearances). Either participate in a productive discussion or go away.

Last edited by Mike Adams; 02-23-07 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 02-23-07, 05:52 PM
  #20  
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what's the time reference for the capture in question, I'll take a look on my 57" tv and see how it looks.

There were a few compression aretefacts last time I watched it but nothing that was too distracting I would have to say.
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Old 02-23-07, 09:11 PM
  #21  
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Well yes, if you stick to watching it on a crappy TV (standard def), then yes, you will appreciate it, lol. I appreciate your argument here but that's how it works in SD-DVD land. There are DVD's that look magnificent even on an HD set, but once in a great while you may see some artifacting. It happens. Perhaps five stars won't represent the entire film, but compared to most other sources out there especially for a film as old as this one, it definitely represents a five star transfer. You can't compare this movie to something that's newer out on DVD, it's just not fair. And really, with the screenshot you provided, it really doesn't look that bad anyhow. I'm sure in motion it looks a lot worse, with the blocks moving all around and really make it obvious. You may not 'accept' the fact that a DVD has to have these kinds of issues even at higher resolutions... but you need to, or just don't watch them on a PC at higher resolutions or don't get yourself an HD-TV. This is the truth of the matter, and your last sentence or two there are really kind of putting down the people who have taken the time in this thread to try and educate in a helpful way. I don't think many people here have really lead to the 'decline' of any kind of quality in this thread, other than your own disappointment and unacceptance of what's going on. You can't take a picture, and blow it up, resample it, whatever. Resampling or upconverting only does so much. You watch 480 material at 720 or 1080, or even higher on a computer, and you're going to notice the outstanding blemishes that much more. Upconverting can't actually add much to the image, it can only mess around with it to the best of its capabilities. There are many people that still can't see TOO much difference with upconversion anyway, depending on the source. Not all movies, even with great transfers, are consistant. You may once ina while see grain in some scenes, while the rest of the movie looks golden. You don't accept any or all of this, that's fine, and I know you did gracefully say you appreciated the comments here before but a part of your post did seem to be a bit unappreciative of the help people are providing to try here. You don't like your picture, as said above, you don't seem to have questions, you have complaints. Sorry.
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