Murder to the tune of standards conversion
Update, January 5th, 2008 07:03 PM: Although many of the points expressed in this post remain valid, it has been brought to my attention that I made certain technical errors, and as such would like to clarify my points and apologise for any confusion. I have added a new post which will hopefully set the record straight on the matter.
Aaaargh! Curse you, DVD gods! Why was I not informed of this beforehand? I received my copy of Severin’s DVD of Lucio Fulci’s Seven Notes in Black (released under the far more mundane title of The Psychic) today, and, within seconds of popping it into my DVD drive, I knew that something was wrong. Where was all the detail? Why were the horizontal lines jumping about? What was with the ghosting?
That’s right: The Psychic is a PAL to NTSC standards conversion, and not a very good one at that (if “good” can ever be used to describe a standards conversion). Why did this happen? Why was this not spotted? Many reviewers complained about poor audio quality on the check discs they received - so much so that Severin delayed the title’s release and pressed the disc again with the sound corrected. How ironic (although not particularly unsurprising) that nothing was done about the poor image quality.
Popping in my French Collector’s Edition release (which unfortunately doesn’t include English audio or subtitles), the transfer is so much better it isn’t true. This is a real disappointment, and I’m saddened that Severin have opted to take such shortcuts, especially given that their earlier release of Fulci’s Perversion Story featured a very strong native NTSC transfer. The sad part is that it makes me considerably less likely to take a chance on picking up future releases from Severin, at least until I have heard reports from trusted sources.
Cripes, has no-one heard of a little thing called standards?
Update, December 29th, 2007 07:19 PM: My mistake - it seems that Fangoria did notice that this was a standards conversion. They appear to be the only ones.
Posted: Saturday, December 29, 2007 at 7:08 PM
| Comments: 15
I'm pretty amazed that Gary Tooze on DVD Beaver didn't notice it either. Is it even an improvement on the Alfa Digital version?
Posted by: Philly Q, December 29, 2007 10:24 PM
I haven’t done a side by side comparison yet, but I think that it’s actually worse overall. Which, when you think about it, is really sad, given that the Alfa Digital release was itself bootlegged from the French disc.
Posted by: Whiggles
, December 29, 2007 10:26 PM
I think I may not bother with it, then. It'll make up for the extortionate cost of the Four Flies DVD!
Posted by: Philly Q, December 29, 2007 10:56 PM
Considering the fact that Severing was never that good a label anyway (none of their DVDs are progressive!), your expections couldn't have been that high in the first place.
However, it's really a shame for DVD Beaver that they didn't notice this.
Posted by: Peter von Frosta
, December 29, 2007 11:23 PM
Well Michael,the other Michael from 10K Bullets (our good friend "meddle") wrote:
"Even though Severin Films has interlaced this transfer there are absolutely no problems with any ghosting or blurring of the image. The colors are lively and faithfully accurate right down to the flesh tones. The image is defined and razor sharp through out with minute details I never noticed before catching my attention due to the abundance of clarity in the image. "
Written back in November....
Also from November,Horrordvds wrote :
"It’s an interlaced transfer, and it very well could be from some tape master, but still, for the most part it is a quality job. Not the best, but considering it’s finally out and presentable, that’s all that matters."
So yes,it has been noticed by others.
Still looking forward to this disc.
Posted by: Crystal Plumage, December 30, 2007 9:48 PM
My review which has been up since November mentions how the the DVD was interlaced. On my home theater set up I did not see the image issues you mentioned. I did see some ghosting while making screen shots for my review. I didn't mention this in my review because I the ghosting only was noticeable when paused and I don't watch a movie in pause.
Whiggles you have the most astute visual eyes when its comes to seeing something wrong with a DVD. If I ever start a DVD company I will hire you to oversee all my transfers.
BTW, is there anyway you can add Severin's English audio with the French DVD transfer to make the best looking English language version of the film on DVD.
Posted by: Meddle
, December 31, 2007 5:31 AM
This is a real shame. I wanted to pick up the Severin DVD as I highly rate SEVEN BLACK NOTES as one of the very best gialli out there and a true Fulci classic.
I'd be very interested in any form of Whiggles image comparison on all the editions currently available.
Top work as per usual on the DVD standards front and a great service to all us consumers. Saved me some money on this one.
Posted by: Count Fosco
, December 31, 2007 2:40 PM
Crystal Plumage and Mike (Meddle):
Ah, you’re absolutely right. My apologies - I’ll update my post. I should have done my research a bit more thoroughly beforehand.
As for the issue of adding Severin’s English audio to the French transfer, I’m definitely considering giving it a go, as I’m sure it would give the most satisfying overall presentation. I’ll keep you posted. :)
Posted by: Whiggles
, December 31, 2007 3:08 PM
>> "Even though Severin Films has interlaced this transfer there are absolutely no problems with any ghosting or blurring of the image.
Well, it'll always be more ghosted or blurred than the original film elements would be. Whether or not it ghosts or blurs will depend on how their Deinterlacing hardware (be it in their DVD player, TV or computer) handles the Deinterlacing.
It's actually easier, depending on the method, to do this sort of transfer properly (assuming they had the PAL original to start with). Maybe we should get in contact with them and show them how?
Posted by: Lyris
, January 1, 2008 6:31 PM
Your absolutely right that the transfer could have been better and I am not sure why companies continue to release titles interlaced or as standard conversions. I will say that it is not about saving money or cutting corners for most of these companies it is the source they are giving dictates the final product and many times the source material is below what is should be. These cult movie companies try their best with the loin share of titles looking very good and only a handful of missteps which often negate the hard-work put into their many excellent releases. I fear that the one major thing that will put these cult movie lables under is not lack of retail support but the lack of fan support which at times gets a tad too brutal. Come on now we are only talking about obscure films that no one has cared about for many years that have had a recent resurgence and now everyone wants a home-run release every time out. If we look hard enough I am sure we can find something wrong with every title ever released on DVD.
Posted by: Meddle
, January 2, 2008 5:45 AM
I'll often buy a problematic release if it's the path of least resistance to a film I want to see (Redemption's awful new THE NUDE VAMPIRE), but I'm not going to forgo calling public attention to those problems - if they're avoidable transfer/mastering issues.
The compromised master might not bethe direct work of the releasing company, but *somebody* made the decisions, and public message boards and the like have a pretty fair track record in bringing these things to light, and sometimes getting them addressed.
Posted by: Jeffrey Allen Rydell, January 3, 2008 4:35 AM
Actually, Perversion Story was progressive. Prior to The Psychic, it was the only disc from Severin that I’d seen.
Posted by: Whiggles
, January 3, 2008 9:30 PM
I have no problems with anyone who notices a flaw pointing it out. I was just making a general comment that may be this is the best that DVD company could do. Also I am not saying you should buy a release you feel is flawed. In the end the golden age of cult movies is gone and don;t expect any comeback because fans have become to fickle when buying these titles when before they would buy just about anything cult related five six years ago.
Jeffrey, the region 2 Redemption DVD for the Nude Vampire looks like the best option right now.
Posted by: Meddle
, January 3, 2008 10:05 PM
Michael, you could do with learning what you're talking about before throwing about erroneous accusations. All No Shame and Blue Underground (yes, I know you're the guy who hates all BU transfers but you're definitely in the minority) of Italian films are transferred PAL when the original film elements are sourced in Europe. They are then converted using the correct reverse 3:2 process (and not the more inexpensive but markedly inferior alchemist process) to NTSC. The Psychic was standards converted using this same process at the same facility that did the process on Perversion Story, all the Black Emanuelle titles, the Franco Golden titles, all of BU's titles etc. The same master that was used for the French release was used but additional clean-up was done to it. Unfortunately NTSC is inferior to PAL but that's the accepted standard in the US. FYI nearly all of Severin's releases are progressive. Please get informed before spreading your propaganda at various sites against a label's output and the process used to create their DVDs.
Posted by: Sev fan, January 5, 2008 6:38 PM
Hi Sev Fan
Michael has given me this disc for my input. It's a very strange one and is definitely a poor disc. The opening shot of the car driving clearly shows a lot of motion judder and also some interpolated frames (yet is Progressive). The frame rate is 29.970fps, and not the correct (for film) 23.976.
>> Italian films are transferred PAL when the original film elements are sourced in Europe. They are then converted using the correct reverse 3:2 process (and not the more inexpensive but markedly inferior alchemist process) to NTSC.
Just one thing: if the masters were in PAL, then the process would be 2:2, not 3:2. Reverse 3:2 is used to extract 23.976fps from an interlaced NTSC master.
The conversion has not been done correctly as you suggest. Michael is correct that it is a poor disc. The amount of aliasing and jagged edges on display suggests that the entire film has been run through a lossy Deinterlacing process - or a very poor scaling algorithm of some sort.
Mike also showed me the French R2 PAL release. It's MUCH better (despite having some more film damage). It doesn't have the jagged lines, and there's no motion blur on any scene.
If anyone from Severin is reading this, they are more than welcome to e-mail me (lyris1 AT gmail DOT com) and perhaps we can avoid errors like this in the future. I've advised people this way in the past.
Hardware Reviews, DVDTimes.co.uk
Posted by: David Mackenzie
, January 5, 2008 7:00 PM
Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog: