Setting the record straight: The Psychic
A week ago, I wrote a post on Severin Films’ release of Lucio Fulci’s DVD of The Psychic, criticising its image quality based on flaws which I believed indicated a PAL to NTSC video standards conversion. The truth is actually more complicated than that, and I would like to apologise for misleading anyone in any way.
However, rather than asking you to take my word for it, I thought it would be better if I let someone else explain it - someone who knows more about this subject matter than me and has had first hand experience with video encoding.
David Mackenzie says:
Michael has given me this disc for my input. It’s a very strange one and sadly, I have to say that it is definitely a poor disc. The opening shot of the car driving clearly shows a lot of motion judder and also some interpolated frames (strange for a Progressive disc). The frame rate is 29.970fps, and not the correct (for telecine’d film) 23.976fps.
For those that would like to get into technicalities, this is not a video standards conversion in the typical sense. I can understand why it would be mistaken for one because of the aforementioned doubled frames in the opening shot, but it’s different. It is actually worse than a traditional standards conversion. With typical PAL 50i->NTSC 60i conversions, better Deinterlacing hardware (in high-end TVs, projectors, DVD players, video processors etc) can attempt to recover much of the original resolution, albeit with the caveats that standards conversions bring to the table (slight motion blur).
However, this disc is a badly done Progressive one. That means that no matter how good your video processing hardware is, it’s never going to look much better than this. The video for this film has not been handled correctly. The entire film has a lot of aliasing (which is probably why it was mistaken for a 50i->60i standards conversion in the first place) which appears to be the result of it being run through a crude Deinterlacing process. This creates jaggies and causes a loss of resolution. On the up-side, there’s no motion blur for most of the film.
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.
I realise that companies releasing “cult” foreign material on DVD have enough problems to worry about - rights issues, tracking down good masters, etc., and I realise that not everyone is a video enthusiast, so smaller labels won’t necessarily know what to do in every case. That said, proper conversion between the formats is not at all difficult 99% of the time, so it’s a problem everyone could do without.
With that in mind, if anyone at Severin would like to contact me, I’d be more than willing to explain how to convert a PAL master tape into NTSC Film (23.976fps progressive) using the correct method.
- David Mackenzie
Hardware Reviewer and DVD author
Posted: Saturday, January 05, 2008 at 7:26 PM
| Comments: 10
Posted by: Crystal Plumage, January 5, 2008 9:12 PM
Fascinating discussion, even if I don't really understand it. Any chance of a French/Severin/Alfa screenshot comparison...? I have the alfa, and I watched it again last night and once the opening sequence and credits are over the picture quality picks up and looks reasonably OK to me. I don't know whether to upgrade to the Severin, though with the dollar so weak perhaps I shouldn't be so cheap.
Posted by: Tom, January 6, 2008 12:02 AM
I’m going to put together a comparison at some point in the near future. The French release is by far the best, with the Alfa Digital somewhere in the middle. The Severin fares the worst, which is a shame because it really should have looked better than an unauthorised bootleg.
Posted by: Whiggles
, January 6, 2008 12:19 AM
Thanks for this. I can honestly say I didn't notice any real problems when watching. I do have a good Oppo player and Samsung TV which might have reduced the issue (if that is possible?) - perhaps I should get my eyes tested!
Posted by: Tim R-T-C
, January 6, 2008 8:22 AM
"With that in mind, if anyone at Severin would like to contact me, I'd be more than willing to explain how to convert a PAL master tape into NTSC Film (23.976fps progressive) using the correct method."
David and Michael, have you contacted Severin about it? Maybe they'll actually take your advice and won't make the same cockup again. You might even make some money out of it!
I'm looking forward to the comparison.
Posted by: Philly Q, January 6, 2008 2:04 PM
That's what I tried to post before it got lost...
Posted by: Crystal Plumage, January 6, 2008 7:16 PM
Oops,I see it didn't get lost after all *blush*
Posted by: Crystal Plumage, January 6, 2008 7:18 PM
Sorry about your post, Crystal Plumage. For some reason Movable Type has blacklisted your IP, and it mistakenly flagged it as spam. I’ve rescued it from the depths, however, and it’s now on the site (as post #1).
Posted by: Whiggles
, January 6, 2008 7:19 PM
hi David, I can't find your previous post about 2:2 vs. 3:2 pulldown but asked Severin's transfer house why they do a 3:2 pulldown when converting a native PAL master to NTSC - a common practice for films whose negatives are stored in Europe - and they said this:
"We are adding a 3:2 pull down during the conversion process when we convert
from PAL (film based 25fps / 2:2). If we didn't do this process you would
get interpolated frames with double imaging, ghosting/smearing which is a
result of frame blending. For film based programs this is the highest
quality conversion available. The next best process is to retransfer your
film element. You can not acheive clean frames without this process."
FYI I do not see the motion judder or aliasing you speak of on my copy of The Psychic.
Posted by: sev fan, January 7, 2008 5:38 PM
Thanks for getting back in touch, Sev Fan. Would you mind e-mailing me and putting me in touch with Severin? I'm lyris1 AT gmail.com.
It's difficult to know in what order the mastering house is applying these processes. That may be where the problem lies. Here's what I would do myself:
1. Capture the 25fps PAL source.
2. Rescale the image to 720x480 NTSC resolution and change the frame rate to 23.976fps (NTSC Telecine speed).
3. Resample the audio to perfectly match the new, slower frame rate.
4. Send this "24p" source input to the MPEG-2 encoder and have it apply the Pulldown Flags to the video stream. This means that the 3-2 pulldown process will be applied in the DVD player.
Severin's "Psychic" disc has a frame rate of 29.970. It looks like they have applied pulldown, only unusually, it's progressive. If they used my 24p suggestion and had the player do this part, they would not only save disc space (a real bonus since they are using single layer media), but they'd improve the quality and also allow people with capable high-end hardware to losslessly extract the original 24fps.
Posted by: David Mackenzie
, January 7, 2008 7:25 PM
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