It’s called having standards
My respect for the majority of DVD production houses has just plummeted to a record low. Why? Well, my brother is currently involved in the production of an upcoming DVD release. Because it hasn’t officially been announced yet, I can’t tell you what the title is, but while the DVD is certainly not a cut-price endeavour by any means, it has not had the amount of money thrown at it that the majors (and even the more prominent independents) have access to.
Anyway, my brother’s main capacity in this operation (in addition to performing editing work on the exclusive director’s commentary, typing up the first ever English subtitle translation, designing the menus and a host of other tasks) is to handle the video transfer. He received the DigiBeta master tape and personally transferred it, and recently did his first pass on the DVD encode.
To say that the end result blows away every single commercially released DVD I have ever seen would be the understatement of the century.
Above: A typical highly-lauded DVD transfer for a multi-billion dollar movie from a major distributor. Where’s the detail?
I only wish I could show you direct screen captures at this time, because they really make a mockery of what pass for prestige releases from other studios. The level of detail is sublime (there are moments where, if you’d told me it was an HD DVD or Blu-ray release, I’d have believed you), the grain is accurately reproduced, and compression artefacts are basically a non-issue. It’s not even as if my brother had a brand new element to work with: on the contrary, the DigiBeta master he was sent was previously used by an other company who put out a release which, while not exactly awful by regular DVD standards, really left me scratching my head when I saw the quality of the master itself. A perfect example of how a company can take a decent master and then proceed to screw it up by applying a whole load of pointless “enhancement” algorithms.
So, what we will have here is a DVD for a low budget film that is more than 20 years old and was converted from DigiBeta to DVD-friendly MPEG-2 without anything being done to it beyond painting out a handful of cue marks and instances of print damage, and looks ten times better than what the big-shot studios are putting out for films that are only a few months old. For god’s sake, the damned trailer, taken from a dupe print that has presumably been lying around someone’s garage for the past two decades, shows more detail than any commercial DVD I’ve seen released in the last year.
Do you think this is fair?