Posted: Nov 17th 2002, 10:42 am
People seem to forget that this show was not razor sharp when it was originally broadcast. However, the quality of the broadcast didn't prevent people from falling in love with the show.
The bitrate at which this was encoded is at a level that would not
add an excessive amount of noise. This was not digitally remastered and nobody ever claimed it would be. And despite that, I am not arguing over the quality. BMG used the same facility that it always used, and you are free to contact them at:
So far, DoubleBilled has complained about everything, including the menu "swoosh" sound that he doesn't like. You can't make everyone happy. You just cannot do anything in life and make everyone happy. And some people just will never be happy anyway.
DoubleBilled, if you don't want the DVDs, I will gladly buy them from you. I know plenty of people who want them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
DoubleBilled wrote:You're right, hon. My comments are 'lame'.
Look what they're about.
I have a hard time knowing it was the same man who chose AU to distribute out of EVERY BUSINESS on the net that also gave the go ahead on this crappy presentation.
When you add it up it seems fishy. Like a realtor dumping off marshland in Florida to unsuspecting buyers. Telling them you've "checked it for myself! It's prime coastland'. Only to buy it at a premium and find out that its nothing more than a swamp.
The guy that does that is crooked. I pray that it didn't actually happen to us. Because it sure as hell feels like it.
Posted: Nov 17th 2002, 6:26 pm
You can have it for $180. Thats what I paid. Why don't you just get one from your partners at AU?
And you are right, I have complained about everything, because so far it all sucks. Well ok, like I said, the sound came out great (stereo, not 5.1). And the box and packaging is fine.
There, don't say I never said anything good about it.
Feel free to email them. Cheese N Rice, dude. Like that will get anywhere. Where's Laser Pacific when you need them?
Posted: Nov 17th 2002, 8:34 pm
I haven't seen the DVD set yet, and I'm definitely interested in seeing the final results for myself. However, due to some statements I've been reading here, I decided to pop and say a few things. I'm a bit surprised at how these discussions are suddenly become more heated. There is no need for any of the insulting going on around here. Each of you has a valid point, but some of the statements and questions could certainly be done in a more "adult" manner. The repeated insults won't get you any closer to your answers, and only makes you look even more foolish with every post. (And a certain person should definitely be careful with the allegations being made in print in a public forum — Jason could easily file suit for repeated harassment and "defamation of character" due to these statements.)
First off, I've been involved in many various aspects of the motion picture industry over the past 20 years. This included a very long stint as a professional video editor (using equipment that would equal the cost of an average house) and an 18 year side job as a laserdisc/DVD reviewer. I've worked with a lot of folks in the industry, and I'm also very well versed in the inner working of most of the home video companies thanks to my days as a reviewer. I just wanted to give you a quick bio of myself, so you'd know that what I'll be discussing comes from long-time personal experience.
Getting back to the matter at hand, quite a few folks here have been wondering why the image quality of My So-Called Life looks the way it does, in comparison with other TV shows such as Buffy, Star Trek, Mary Tyler Moore Show, I Love Lucy, etc. etc. etc. Here's an explanation (and believe it or not, what follows is rather simplied one) that I hope will clear things up.
Over the years, I've discovered there is a tendency for most people to believe that all TV shows (and movies) are created equal. They are under the perception that all these projects were created under the best of circumstances, using the best methods and materials possible. They believe that these shows looked 100% perfect, crystal clear and pristine when they were original created/projected/broadcast, and therefore must look the same — or better — now that they are on DVD. Unfortunately, in many cases, this is the furthest from the truth, and is one of the reasons why MSCL looks the way it does.
The reason it looks different from other TV shows is because MSCL IS different — it is not Star Trek or I Love Lucy or Friends or Buffy — it is MSCL. All these shows were created and produced by different teams, for different studios, using different equipment, in a different year, with a different budget and production values. Each had unique filming, editing, and compositing methods, all of which contribute to the individual, different and unique look each show has when completed. Even something seemingly simple as film stock, camera, lighting conditions or lab processing methods could drastically change the outcome. Some TV shows will look "pristine" when completed, while others might come out permanently greenish and grainy.
EXAMPLE: The type of film stock can make a big difference in the way a show looks. Both I Love Lucy and the original Outer Limits were filmed in 35mm, and even though I Love Lucy at least a decade older than Outer Limits, it has a sharper, clearer image, with better contrasts and much less grain. Same thing with Star Trek — filmed a few years after Outer Limits, has a sharp, clean (and colorful) image due to the superior color film stock used.
On the other hand, the first two seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer were filmed in 16mm due to budgetary restrictions. Therefore the image is grainy, dark and sometimes muddy, because that is a problem inherent with most 16mm photography (it's really difficult to light for). When Buffy had their budget increased beginning with season 3, they switched over to the superior 35mm format, which is why the show looks so good today.
But there are examples of really outstanding 16mm photography — most people don't realize this, but The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles series was shot completely in 16mm, and thanks to its high budget, they were able to ensure that the final broadcast imagery looks outstanding.
Another matter entirely are those shows that were completed solely in the video realm. These shows are filmed in 35mm, and then the raw stock is transferred over to a tape format (i.e., DigiBeta, BetaCam, etc.). Once this material has been transferred to tape, the final editing, compositing, effects, titling, audio (dialogue, music, effects), etc. is completed (generally using an Avid, which is a non-linear editing console). The end result is a "broadcast master" tape, which contains the final completed version of an episode. Everything I mentioned earlier about filming, lighting, production techniques, etc. still holds true here, except that you now also have an extra level of production to worry about — how good the film-to-tape transfer is, how good your AVID operator is, the compression, the tweaking, and a slew of other things I won't get into here. Suffice it to say that your end result can vary greatly. One last thing to mention here is that once a "broadcast master" is produced, that's usually the end of the line — rarely are episodes/shows ever transferred back into a 35mm film format.
Okay, so enough about that. By now, you should all know that the image quality of a show can vary due to a variety of different things. But there's more — the way a show looked when it was originally completed/broadcast is a totally different beast from how it will look when released to DVD. (*sigh*) Again, we all like to remember a show as looking absolutely perfect when it was first broadcast, but viewing a show on DVD is a way different experience than watching it on broadcast TV, VHS or even LaserDisc. Since DVDs are of much higher resolution than TV/VHS/LD, any flaws present in the original materials are "enhanced" on the superior DVD format. Film grain, scratches, specks/dirt, color problems, you name it, are much, much more noticeable now. So some shows that might have looked "good" when broadcast on regular TV, can look pretty bad when seen in a higher-resolution format. Ultimately, a show can only look as good as it's original source materials will allow.
Contrary to what some folks might have you believe, it is certainly NOT a simple matter of just taking a tape and simply slapping it onto a DVD. Since this is a studio property, there are many things that must be considered when it comes time to produce one of these shows.
Among the first steps a studio/home video company takes when they wish to release a TV show on DVD is to figure out things like their target audiences, the popularity of a show, and what their potential sales/returns are going to be. Even though many folks work on projects out of pure love for the material, if the studio/company cannot expect to make a reasonable profit on the DVD over a certain period of time, then it rarely happens. (For example, nobody is going to spend $100,000 to fix up and release something like The Starlost if they only expect to sell 200 copies…) Here are some other factors that the studios and producers need to look into before a green-light can be given on a project:
• How long has it been since the show was originally created? (1 year, 5 years, 40
• How were the materials stored over the years? (Properly in a temperature-
controlled vault or in somebody's closet?)
• What is the condition of these materials? (Pristine, water- or heat-damaged,
disintegrating nitrate neg, damaged sprocket holes, fading, worn out mag
• Do the original 35mm/16mm film and audio elements still exist? Are the
original 35mm/16mm negs, fine grain, or IP available, or just a ratty dupe
master? Is the soundtrack intact, or does it need to be pieced together from
several sources? Are the original audio stems (dialogue/music/effects) available?
• For broadcast masters tapes, do these still exist or just dupes?
• Can the best film/audio elements even be found? (There are thousands of film
vaults & archives around the world, and each studio has numerous vaults and
storage locations of their own. In many cases, what is also labeled in the files,
or even on the film cans themselves, is not correct.)
Something else that needs to be taken into consideration — which I've hinted at above — it what it will take to get these materials into the best-possible presentable condition. If the materials are in fairly good to excellent shape, how much cleanup work is required? If necessary, can you afford to strike a new print from the original negatives or fine grains? Or what if a full restoration is required? And what about those shows that only exist in final form on a broadcast tape master (like MSCL)? It is reasonable (or even remotely possible), to find all the original film and audio materials and completely re-edit the episode(s)? (In most cases, no, it isn't.)
Combined with the popularity and potential sales statistics, these facts showing the potential work required are then used to determine the feasibility of proceeding with the project. Also taken into account during this period is whether the DVD will be a full-blown special edition or not. Clearance rights for some of the special edition material might need to obtained, or as was the case with MSCL clearances for the music was required. Sometimes even the importance or historical content of the materials is taken into consideration. If approved, a budget is drawn up for producing the DVD, and then the work begins. Usually, the higher-profile titles will generally get much larger budgets than the lower-profile ones, but again it depends on many factors.
I won't get into the actual process of how these materials are put together for a DVD, suffice it to say that with a few exceptions (such as Madacy, UAV and similar types), most companies have focused on releasing a quality TV product. That's why a really old show like I Love Lucy or Star Trek looks gorgeous on DVD — the original film negatives still exist, are in great shape, and the potential sales (not to mention syndicatin sales and showings) are so large, the studio can easily afford to strike brand new, restored prints. And coming from perfect 35mm original materials, that's why these two shows look much better than something relative new, like dear 16mm low-budget Buffy.
However, this isn't meant to disparage Buffy. The show does have a very large DVD budget, and the image quality is truly excellent. Yet some folks will endlessly complain about it because the image is really grainy, dark and muddy in places. But the facts remains that these episodes look far better than they ever did during during the original TV broadcasts, and are the best they can ever look due to their 16mm origins.
And the same thing holds true for MSCL. My understanding is that the original, final broadcast masters have been used to produce this DVD, therefore the DVDs can only look as good as that master. You can't magically create picture information that doesn't exist in the original source materials. MSCL was a low-budgeted show, and the show always looked as good as it's production and budget allowed... same as Buffy did for it's first couple of seasons. Therefore the DVD transfer of MSCL looks as good as it possibly can under these circumstances.
As I believe Jason said in here somewhere, in theory, the DVD transfer could have been a bit better, but they would have to have gone back to original film materials to do so. That would have meant finding every single piece of film and all the separate audio stems for each episode (if they even still existed, which sounds very unlikely), and then essentially RECREATE each episode from scratch. That would mean redoing every edit point, sound effect, fade or wipe, all the credits, EVERYTHING. It may sound easy to some people, but you have no idea how difficult, not to mention how prohibitively expensive, such a proposition would be (if it was even possible). Frankly, the show would never have been released, and it it were, the cost of the DVD sets would be far, far more than what AC was overcharged people.
Oh, and just as quick FYI: There was a small bit of discussion regarding the DVDs not being "digitally remastered." It's really no big deal. These days, most companies used the words "digitally remastered" as an all-encompasing sales phrase to catch the public's eye. "Digitally remastered" could mean anything… it certainly doesn't have anything to do with how good the final image quality is.
One last thing: Thus far, as more and more people are getting their DVD sets, the overall reaction is that people are pleased with what they are seeing. Most people aren't seeing any horrible artifacts, or ghosting, or the like. However, a few people are, and I don't doubt that they are seeing something. Frankly, from my experience, this "ghosting" sounds similar to what Macrovision encoding would do if your DVD players were hooked through a VCR, but since these discs aren't encoded that way, it's gotta be something else. I somehow doubt it's a defective disc — I've never heard of a disc "defect" that causes ghosting. The only other possibilities I can think of are: 1) you've got a weird set-up, 2) you've got some sort of interference (which is what it sounds like), 3) you have extremely good/high-res sets that are somehow showing the limitations of the broadcast master, 4) you've got your brightness/contrast set up WAY too high, which distorts the image (most people do), or 5) a combination of any of the above. I've got a really good set-up myself, and I'll definitely let you folks know what I see what I pick up my copy.
Whew! Well, that's all I have to say for now. My apologies over the length — I definitely wasn't planning for this thing to be THIS long, and my fingers hate me more than you can imagine. But I hope this somewhat explans that not all shows look the same, and the reasons why they are inherently different and should only be judged on their own merit. I also hopes this explains the average sort of thing most companies have to deal with in attempting to bring you the best possible image quality for your DVDs. It's definitely not a simple nor easy process. 'Nuff said.
Posted: Nov 17th 2002, 10:23 pm
Krispow, thank you for that lengthy explanation. Hopefully it will shut some people up because quite frankly I, too, am tired of reading all the negative comments about how terrible the DVD looks. Even if this is true (which I do not believe to be the case), there is NOTHING we can do about it. We were not hired to do the authoring and quite frankly at this point, your options are keep your set or get rid of it by taking your chances with an AU return (their website claims to have a 30 day guarantee on all their products), selling it on Ebay, or even regifting it. Would you be happier if this project never came to fruition? Despite all the problems that have occurred since February, I for one am glad to have the set, and I say this as someone who already has the entire series (minus "The Zit") on tape. No one is holding a gun to anyone's head here. If you don't like the quality of the DVD, complaining about it here will not do anything to change that. We could nitpick every detail of every episode until the cows go home, but what will that accomplish? Remember what Angela said: "You just analyze everything until it barely even exists."
Posted: Nov 18th 2002, 2:03 am
Yes Krispow, thanks for the background on video mastering. I know of what you speak.
I would really like to hear your opinion on the discs when you receive yours.
Let me say in reference to your statements about set up, and interference, and etc. that my DVDs are played through a DVD deck, S-video output with Monster Cable S-video cable directly to the TV. 36" Sony. The TV is calibrated with Avia test disc. DVD's look great. I watched Episode II and LotR this weekend and they looked brilliant.
Now I'm not comparing Episode II's video to MSCL's video. Just saying that during the same time I viewed MSCL I viewed other DVD's, and they exhibited no defects that I'm seeing in the MSCL discs. If it were my setup or interference or something within my control, it's only happening on one disc. MSCL.
I see no one likes me talking bad about the Goose that laid the Golden Egg. Ok fine. I'll stop. But we DO need to find out why I'm seeing what I'm seeing, and others are as well. When you get your discs Krispow, go to the time code on my other thread:
Let us all know what you see. The video may be from an inferior source. The mastering may have been done from beta tapes and not film. But I have to guess that these blemishes I am seeing were neither filmed on set, or added in mastering the source so it has to be DVD authoring related. That, or, my equipment picking up something a DVD authoring facility and Jason can not. In either case, the root cause should be investigated and revealed.
Posted: Nov 18th 2002, 2:10 am
Therefore the DVD transfer of MSCL looks as good as it possibly can under these circumstances.
This is a bit of an oversimplification, since there are a number of things that can be done with the broadcast master (such as color correction, digital cleanup, contrast adjustment, etc) without having to go back to film. However, this does take time and money to do, and given the fact that BMG hadn't seen payment for anything until only recently, if I were in their shoes I would have grabbed whatever source was available and transferred it without getting overly concerned with spending time fixing it up.
There is also the issue of how much time was spent in authoring getting the best possible compression for the material. Proper QC has to be done by qualified, experienced personnel on calibrated equipment. however, until I have a chance to see these discs first hand, commenting on their quality, or lack thereof is foolish.
Posted: Nov 18th 2002, 8:44 am
When Compact Discs first came out, it was very common to see a Spars Code on the back side of the case near the UPC:
DDD Digital master recording
ADD Digitally remastered analog recording
AAD Analog recording
Too bad there isn't something like that for DVD's... that way you'd have some way of setting your expectations before puchasing.
I haven't received my discs yet, but I'll be sure to state my opinion when they come. I'm pretty easy to please, though. My whole house audio line level in/outpus are patched together with Cat 5 cable.
My view is that if the set had been delivered as a package with the bonus stuff, on time, and without the customer service wackiness, then there wouldn't really be any complaints. I think it is reasonable to be upset if you paid $100-$115 for something that is less than perfect minus the other stuff you were supposed to receive. The double charges don't really count as money paid, since that was disputable via bank or cc company.
Finally, I think there are ways to criticize how the project was handled without making personal attacks. My opinion is that partnering with au.com was a serious misjudgement and that proof of investment funds for the project should have been requested before the first order was accepted. On the scale of things I'm worried about, though, the hassle with the dvds or video quality questions concern me much less than say how much my 401k has dropped due to usa corporate greed (enron, world com) or health insurance premiums at my place of employment doubling.
Posted: Nov 18th 2002, 3:04 pm
The codes on CDs were just a marketing gimmick, and no real indication of the quality of the product. There are a lot of all digital recordings that sound far worse than any analogue recording due to the poor quality of early digital technology, and as recent remasters of old material prove, analogue is still an excellent medium for recording.
All CDs and DVDs are digitally mastered - they have to be. The question is whether they are done by people who know what they are doing or not. There is no way to label a DVD that would indicate whether the people responsible for the transfer and compression was competant, nor whether those responsible for locating suitable source elements did their job well. That is what reviewers are for, to examine the product and look for quality issues, however even these are limited to final impressions, and can't always take into account what could or could not be done to make the end product better.