For May 1997
I am actually going out and buying the Pioneer DVL-700 today. You said that Paramount hasn't jumped on the DVD wagon yet. Isn't DVD supposed to replace VCR's. I was so impressed with the player we have at work (Innoventions, Epcot) that I knew it would be popular. Are the studios still skeptical about how well it will catch on? What do you think about how it's going to do?
(First off, I don't believe it's been stated that DVDs will replace VCRs - I think it's just a great hope that many people and studios have. From what I understand, it is hoped that DVD will attract the many people who currently think that videotape is the greatest thing ever invented. By getting them interested in a better quality, unwearable (hopefully!) and easier-to-use format, tapes sales are expected to drop. If the DVD format survives, it is also expected that VCRs will rapidly lose ground once recordable DVDs become available in several years.
As of right now, DVDs are doing very well considering that there still are not that many titles available. Many studios are apparently waiting in the wings and seeing how the DVD format does before commiting themselves fully. Every few weeks, new studios / home video companies have announced their support of the DVD format - the most recent being UAV Entertainment, Central Park Media (anime titles), Republic Home Video and LaserDisc Entertainment (adult). Rumours have been going around the industry recently that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment and Universal Studios Home Video will be announcing DVD releases in the near future, but that is completely unconfirmed at this time. Currently, I've heard of no plans - or even rumours - regarding DVD releases of titles from Buena Vista, Hollywood, Miramax, Paramount, Pioneer, Touchstone, Voyager / Criterion or Walt Disney. As for The Roan Group, they have already flat out stated that they have no intentions of releasing DVD product...
Personally, I think DVD is an absolutely wonderful format, and I'd really like to see it succeed - actually, myself and most of my friends really think it will succeed and seriously hope that it will completely kill the inferior videotape market. However, before that can happen, more titles must be made available and more studios must join up.
Truthfully, I don't quite understand the studio holdup - is there anyone out there who wouldn't immediately run out and buy DVDs of Citizen Kane, the Star Wars trilogy, the Star Trek films, the Indiana Jones films, Jurassic Park, E.T., Independence Day, The Little Mermaid or any of the thousands of other classic (and not so classic) films these studios have in their collections? I didn't think so...)
Just wanted to compliment you on the site! Very well done! I am a Laserdisc and Video CD enthusiast.. I hope to be moving into DVD myself as soon as my funds permit it. I wish I had found your site earlier!
I recently purchased the newly released laser disc of The Big Night. I have not yet opened the plastic, and this may be lucky. The film, in the theater, had quite a bit of Italian dialog -- most of which was subtitled. I was in my neighborhood video den (they also stock some lasers) and a guy came in complaining that there were no subtitles on the disc he had rented. Do you know this to be true? That's a kind of important "oops", isn't it? I would guess that in mastering the disc, they went back to a textless copy of the film and then forgot about them in the process.
(I did a little checking up on this title, and you are right, Columbia TriStar apparently forgot to subtitle all of the Italian passages, and they apparently aren't closed-captioned either. Many people now seem to be complaining about this, and I haven't heard anything regarding a repressing of the title to correct the error. I would suggest writing to Columbia TriStar and let them know how you feel... Unless you understand fluent Italian, several minutes of the film (and disc) are going to be completely incomprehensible.)
I understand coding was a requirement for DVD ... but I really enjoy Hong Kong movies such as the ones provided by Tai Seng. If production will be limited to Hong Kong I would doubt anyone will produce DVDs for a US market alone. There are many titles that I have enjoyed and there are many new ones on the horizen. There are classics other than Bruce Lee movies such as many Jackie Chan films and asian cult favorites such as The Five Deadly Venoms. This also brings to light the Japanese anime and martial art films too.
(I love Hong Kong films as well, and would love to see titles appear over here on DVD. Like everything else, production of titles will no doubt be based on consumer demand - if there is a huge demand for the U.S. DVD distribution of Hong Kong titles, companies would be foolish not to release them. I would suggest writing polite letters to the various companies with your suggestions.
On an almost-related side note, I saw a preview of John Woo's newest American film, Face Off, starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage. All I will really say about the film is that it was nearly 2-1/2 hours of pure John Woo action, and he has finally been given the artistic freedom here to direct the way he chooses to. See this one when it shows up in July...it's absolutely amazing!)
Wow! Great Site!
Just want to say thanks for putting up one of the better sites for LD/DVD on the net. As someone just starting out with DVD's (aren't we all?), I especially appreciate the reviews.
Any chance of reviewing Unforgiven? Of the 10 DVD's I've bought so far, it's the only one that I truly question the video quality. It's not pixelation artifacts, either. At least with my copy, the picture (very evident in widescreen) seems to be slightly out of focus -- soft, or fuzzy. I'd be curious to see if you find the same or if perhaps I have a defective copy.
(Thanks for writing and letting us know what you think of the Laser Rot site. If people are happy with the site, that makes all the time, effort and expenditure worthwhile.
As for the DVD reviews, there should be a bunch more popping up shortly. We should get around to reviewing Unforgiven at some point, but as we haven't received a review copy of the title at this time. I'll probably go out and pick one up in the near future since I really love the movie, and when I do, you can be sure a review of it will pop up on these pages. I'll admit I've heard some negative things regarding the transfer, but I'll have to reserve my opinion until I've actually seen the disc for myself.)
I just wanted to say that I just LOVED your Dark Star review, especially those extra comments by Dan O'Bannon (I was laughing so much, I almost fell out of my chair!).
I can see his point about releasing an endless amount of copy-after-copy of his movie (well, aren't they doing it already with AC-3 and DTS?), but it is really sad to see someone like Dan be so bitter about the whole film thing to begin with. Now, I've read a lot on his involvement on numerous movies, and believe me when I say that he has been abused frequently. Scripts completely altered by producers, being kicked out of projects completely - his diatribe on the "trolls coming out to suck the creative marrow out of your bones" is great- but when you hear from other POV's, such as Walter Hill, Dave Giler, Ridley Scott, and others, Dan has a bit of an attitude problem and kind of brings it on himself (the fact that the script used for Alien was Walter Hill's, but Dan got the credit. It's kind of funny that Hill and Giler did the same thing to Vincent Ward with Alien 3). After being used, abused, and generally tossed about by Hollywood, it's understandable to have a negative frame of mind like he does. All I have to say is look at Total Recall; a script him and Ron Scushett pushed for @ 10 years (!), only to have it turn into an "Arnold" movie. The problem is that he is just as bad as the people he complains about, and if he is going to have such a negative additude on filmmaking in general, then he needs to get out and do something else. But that's just my opinion.
(Thanks for the letter, Chris! I'm pretty darned fond of that Dark Star review too, and had exactly the same reactions as you did when The Mad Man From Mars turned that disc review in for publication way back when. I thought he accurately stated what was on all our minds at the time - what a great looking disc from Image, but what a horrible thing for O'Bannon to do to it. When one considers how many people want longer director's cuts of films, how could he so callously SHORTEN a film. Oh well...
I am also very familiar with O'Bannon's history - okay...his string of incredibly bad luck - regarding every film project he's worked on, not to mention the extreme blowups he has on such projects. While I can understand his overall feelings due to years of disappointment, I don't think that any of us can condone most of his actions or general rudeness. Of course, I've never had my projects destroyed or ideas really stolen, so who am I to speak.
Anyway, Chris, thanks for the letter! And now that I think about it, I wonder if Dan will somehow manage to show up here again to make a stink about your letter and taking everything far too personally once again. Hmmmm...maybe I'd better go lock my door...?)
As a former Pond Scum subscriber I must first tell you how happy I am to see you all back in all your glory on the web. Hope the website becomes as popular a destination for others as it is becoming for me.
One question/quibble: On several reviews you list the aspect ratio of the image as 1.66:1. I don't think you're measuring the aspect ratio exactly right. The only way for a 1.66:1 aspect ratio to be encoded 16x9 anamorphic is to side box it. 16x9 has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. If there is no banding at all on a 16x9 anamorphic tranfer, then the aspect ratio is 1.78:1, not 1.66:1. Since 1.78:1 is wider than 1.66:1, side boxing to a narrower ratio is the only way to get 1.66:1.
Anyway, hope this little detail helps make the site even better than it already is.
(Welcome back! Glad you like the site and thanks for the words! I decided to get back into the swing of things with LDs (and now DVDs), since there was still nothing like the old Pond Scum on the web (or anywhere else, for that matter...). How could I turn down a chance to talk about my favorite subject...LDs?
Regarding the 1.66:1 aspect ratio and 16:9 encoding: I cannot and do not measure the 16:9 image, since I do not have a 16:9 set. Although I wouldn't mind having one, that's waaaay out of the budget at this time. All measurements are done by capturing the video image onto the computer (I have a full non-linear digital editing system) and measuring it that way. Hope that makes sense.
Some other info that might help clarify things...
For the reviews, although I cannot actually review the 16:9 enhancements directly, I can at least check to see if the discs are 16:9 encoded. The way I do this is to switch my player setup to 16:9 screen mode. If the image become squeezed onscreen thereafter, I know that it is 16:9 encoded.
For example, even though The Exorcist measures out at 1.66:1 (really!) for the regular letterboxed edition, it does fill up my entire screen "squeezed" WITHOUT any of the black banding on the tops or side. I woiuld assume a 1.66:1 film like this should be showing up on your 16:9 screen complete and with the black bands onscreen however your 16:9 set encodes it, but if it measures 1.78:1 then I can only assume that you are losing picture information somewhere.
What you might want to do is this: First off, check out the DVD FAQ online at our site to see if this subject is covered (I believe it is, but I could be mistaken). Secondly, you should probably place a posting over on the alt.video.dvd newsgroup asking this same question - one of the DVD technical gurus might have an in-depth answer regarding the subject.
Wish I had a better answer regarding the 16:9 encoding, but I hope I've been somewhat helpful.)
More stuff from Greg...
A 16x9 set is way out of my budget at this time as well. However, if one was to do the math, 16x9 measures to exactly a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Your measurements do raise an interesting question. I don't currently have The Exorcist on DVD, so I can't do my own measurements, but I do have an Avid Media Composer which will run in 16x9 anamorphic mode for playback and editing. I'll see if I can pull the DVD player over to the Composer and do some checking.
(Good idea...please let us know what you come up with...)
If you watch a widescreen version of a DVD movie on a standard television, you'll see the horizontal bars on the screen, but what would happen if you watch a standard version of the movie on a widescreen TV? I really appreciate your answer.
(Okay, Chau, you've got me there...I really don't have the slightest idea, since I don't have a widescreen TV. I would assume that you get vertical bars on the left and right side of your screen (kind of like reverse letterboxing), or possibly some minor cropping. Again, I can't test this out for myself and I am unfamiliar with the technical details regarding 16:9 TVs.
Anyone out there have any ideas? Please let Chau and myself know...)
I've been in to Laser discs for 11 years and got my DVD machine a few days after you did. I saw mention of your website in the Laser Disc Newsletter and I'm really glad I did. I've found myself there many times since the first time. The site is really cool, lots of good info on DVD's and LD's. You're in Burbank! I'm in Glendale. I'm looking forward to many hours of reading at your website, thanks........ Later!
I noticed in the review of A Long Kiss Goodnight that the author thought he noticed some artifacting during a slowmotion closeup of Geena Davis' hand. I have noticed a similar occurrance in a Sony DVD demo running on a 32" Sony TV at my local store. It was a slowmotion closeup of a woman's face.
Nevertheless, I've got to admit that overall I was HIGHLY impressed. As I was comparing a LD running Mission Impossible next to the DVD display, I was constantly amazed at how similar the quality was. Plus, the fact that the DVDs are smaller, don't require flipping, and are cheaper than LDs makes it an easier decision.
By the way, I have really enjoyed reading the info on your page about DVD. I think it's the most detailed and objective out there. Keep up the good work guys!!!
(Yeah, I was afraid that was some very minor artifacting, but I too have to admit that the disc is darned impressive. Just like you said, I think the quality is astounding for a 5" disc, and as long as it's at least laserdisc quality or better, I couldn't be happier myself. You forgot to mention the lower price, too! I'm much happier plopping down my $40.00 and getting two films instead of one. Also, before I forget, just because something is in slow motion doesn't mean that there will be artifacts - it solely depends upon the transfer and the actual scene as it has been processed.
However, after watching several DVDs titles, I finally did see my first "definitely noticeable" artifact (not just a "maybe"). In Species, there was a segment that did some weird freezing & shifting (see review for the full details). I've heard other people complaining or similar artifacts on other titles, but when I checked my own discs those problems weren't present (at least on my player/software). But aside from those few weird seconds in Species, it was a fine looking disc (and I'm sure most people wouldn't even notice it unless they were picky LD fans like myself).
So thanks for writing and thanks for letting me know that you like the website! I'll try to keep on doing my best...okay, I fully intend to!)
Cool web site!
I have a couple of suggestions for inclusion in the header portion of the reviews.
In the Aspect ratio section:
In the Sound Information section:
I may be wrong here as I don't own any AC-3 equipment, but it may be possible that some DVDs have 2 channel Dolby Digital rather than 5.1 channel DD. If this is true, it should be noted.
Here's a question I have about The Long Kiss Goodnight that I'm not sure even the above info will cover. How do they fit this 120 minute movie on a single layer single side in both wide screen format and full frame?
Here are the possibilities that I see:
(Okay...let's try to answer this stuff in order...
1. It's sort of there, and sort of not. At least in the actual reviews, I always try to indicate whether the film/program was shot in an anamorphic format.. It's also sort of there in the header as well, under "theatrical aspect ratio," which tell you what process it was filmed in. If it says "matted" in the logo, it isn't anamorphic. If it says letterboxed, it is. Another easy way to tell is by reading the "filmed-in" process under that logo - Spherical Panavision isn't anamorphic, but "Panavision" and "Technoscope" are. Anyway, as I said in the letter down below, I'm putting together an "explanation of the icons" page that will be up soon to explain the strange fine details of the header logos. Should help clear up things a little.
2. Pretty much the same as #1... However, I have found that it's often not the easiest thing in the world to actually figure out whether a film has a hard or soft matte if it was shot in Super 35, but we do what we can. In the very least, our reviews always reflect the difference between the two versions - if you've read our reviews for both Mortal Kombat and The Long Kiss Goodnight, it does reflect the difference between the "widescreen" and "full-frame" editions, in that the full-frame version features more picture info on the top and bottom of the frame (a significant amount, actually), but less on the sides. Full-frame transfer icons also appear before the review. Again, that icon information is there for quick reference - it's not supposed to be an all-inclusive detailed guide. The fine details are in the review itself.
3. No, don't worry about nitpicking, I do it all the time myself, so please feel free to. However, in this case, you are only partially correct - the full-frame film ratio is 1.33:1, however, full-frame video is actually 1.37:1 - not a big difference, but a difference nonetheless. That's why on older films you'll still see heads and feet getting cut off, although film is almost the same aspect as your modern tv set, it just slightly different. That's why the full frame info is reflected as 1.37:1 in the icon section, not as 1.33:1. (In our massive LD reviews section, we have many entries listed as 1.33:1 under "theatrical aspect" and 1.37:1 under "transfer" - it's stated that way for a reason).
4. (i.e. The Sound Stuff). Nope, it's not only possible, it's a fact. Several DVD titles either contain Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks AND a 2 channel Dolby Surround track (like GoldenEye), or just have your standard 2 channel Dolby Surround track. Again,this fact has been noted in our sound information already, depending, of course, whether it applies to the specific review. For example, of the three we've done so far, Eraser ONLY has an English & French Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, and that's reflected in the icons. As for Mortal Kombat and The Long Kiss Goodbye, both contain Dolby Digital 5.1 English tracks in addition to 2-channel French Dolby Surround tracks, which again have been noted in the icons. Whatever the language, and whatever the sound mix on the disc, it already is - and will continue to be - noted. When we get around to reviewing GoldenEye, there will sound logos that say "Dolby Digital English" and "Dolby Surround English" along with the rest of them (I should know, since I already did the graphics for them a couple of weeks ago.). The information is already there, so I don't know why you're saying it's not being noted.
5. Re: The Long Kiss Goodbye - The movie is put onto the disc and compressed. Also, just to be specific, there is not both a widescreen copy and full frame version on the same side - the letterboxed version is on one side, and you flip the disc over to see the full-frame version. It's a single-layer with two sides, not dual layer. Again, the review for this title has been up for a couple of days, so you might want to read it since it'll answer your questions about the title. As for your other LKG questions, you're wrong on all four accounts. I would highly recommend checking out Jim Taylor's DVD FAQ which is available here online - it's chock full of information on the DVD format, and will answer the compression and layering questions you have far better than I am able to.)
Actually...I love your page, but in the DVD coming distractions section, the dates don't line up with the disc info. Please fix that - it's annoying!!
Cool name, by the way. It sure is a "distraction" when looking at your updated lists. Anyway, just to inform you that the release dates on this page don't quite line up with their titles. It starts getting very crooked and eventually I can't tell which date is for which title. This starts in the Columbia TriStar section at the top.
(All I can say is "whoops...bad Jeff"! Anyway, although we do extensive testing of the pages on different browsers, both the DVD & LD "Coming Distractions" pages did some really weird formatting on some browsers. Everything looked perfect on my end, as it did for several testers, but elsewhere it obviously bombed. Here's the story...while doing the coding, Jeff completely forgot that everyone's default font sizes are set differently, and the listings would get cut off & word wrapped in places they weren't meant to (and in places that didn't show up in three different browsers I have). Anyway, all if now fixed and is guaranteed to work perfectly forever after - unless I screw up again, of course, at which point I expect everyone to yell at me again and set me straight! Thanks especially to Lou, who helped out immensely in this!)
Love your site. There is one thing I think should be on your DVD info of upcoming/reviews of titles. That is if it requires a disc flip. Something like "FLP" to indicate the movie needs to be flipped to view the whole thing
[I'd also like to see] THX and Dolby Digital Trailers at the beginning of all 5.1 channel movies...
(Something similar to that is already onsite in two places... 1) We'll always mention that in our reviews; 2) In the icons section beneath the DVD title, there's that first section that has "color" and "rating" on the left side, the "Region 1" deal in the center, and several icons in the right hand column. It tells you that a) it's a 5" DVD; b) whether the title is a single-layer or dual-layer disc; and c) how many sides the movie is spread over. That will tell you whether or not you'll have to flip the disc. (I will be adding an "icon explanation" page in the near future...)
As for mentioning that in our "Coming Distractions" section for upcoming titles, as of right now, it's just not possible to do that. The studios are not releasing that information as of yet, and we find out whether a film is split over two sides at the same time as everyone else...when the DVD is actually released.
However, what I have done is gone ahead and added a code ("#s), which will tell you how many sides the movie is on. "1s" means everything is on one side (not disc flip), and "2s" or more means...that's right...a disc flip.
As of right now, I know that Woodstock, JFK, Seven, Michael Collins and Sleepers all require disc flips, if that helps.
With regards to the THX and Dolby Digital trailers, I wouldn't mind seeing those as well, but with some exceptions. The Dolby Digital trailer should be on any Dolby Digital or remixed for 5.1 discs. As for the THX trailer, it has nothing to do with 5.1 movies and definitely shouldn't appear on "all 5.1 channel movies"...although I think the THX spots are cool, they should only appear on with THX transferred titles, like Twister or Elite's upcoming Night of the Living Dead.)
Just found your site. Looks good. I would like to see some kind of simple rating ( A to F ) for both picture and sound each. This would aid in comparing LD and DVD disc. Thanks, Bob Williams
(Robert...Thanks for letting us know how you like our site....!
With regard to a ratings system for LD & DVD titles, this is something we've gone back and forth on for a while, and at least as of right now, it is not going to be implemented in our pages. Back in the early days when we were publishing Pond Scum, we did have a ratings system (we used fish egg and tadpole graphics as a rating system...yes, strange, but the company was originally called J&R Frogg and the magazine Pond Scum...go figure.)
Anyway, we found that we ourselves ran into problems with such a ratings system early on since reviews and ratings are completely subjective, and they don't necessarily reflect how someone else might find the disc. Often enough, I didn't agree with the rating one of my other reviewers would give a title, and vice versa. So we dropped the system.
In the long term, we discovered that full, in-depth reviews goes a lot farther than simple ratings in giving readers an overall idea of what the quality of the individual titles are like (whew!). Also, with the new DVD reviews, we will be comparing the quality between the LD & DVD whenever possible. Take care...!)
Just wanted to tell you that you have a very nice site. I came across it while doing a search for DVD info.
I've been a laserdisc owner for quite a number of years now. So far, it's been the only way to watch movies at home. I just saw a DVD demo at a local Hi-end dealer and was impressed. We watched a good deal of Eraser ( I've got it on laser and it looks and sounds terrific) as well as Twister( which I also have). The store didn't have laserdisc versions of the two flims to do a comparison, but from what I could see the DVD looked really good. I didn't notice any motion artifacts, except possibly toward the end of Twister in a scene where they are running thru a barn to escape the large tornado. I've got to check that scene out on the laserdisc to see how it compares. There were a large number of vertical objects in the scene and for a few moments the picture looked a bit ragged . I really enjoyed Twister both in the movies and on laser, I found it to be a fun movie. The sound on the LD is just fantastic and the picture quality is very good.
The store was using a Pioneer LD/DVD player so a comparison of the LD with the DVD would have been very easy.
I probably will get a DVD shortly. It's overall quality looks high and a big plus is the cost of the discs. Many places here (Long Island N.Y.) are selling DVD's for $19.95, that's half the price of a typical LD. I'm just waiting for more DVD titles to be released.
Good job on your site. "I'LL BE BACK"
(Hi Tom! Thanks for the response, and I'm glad you enjoy the pages. We're trying to do our best here to get the information out, and it looks like we're actually succeeding.
I've been an LD owner for a long, long time (I've literally got thousands of discs here...you wouldn't believe how much space the darn things take up!), but the DVD demos I saw really impressed me. And yes, I like the idea of smaller discs and that $19.95 price (well, for most titles...Columbia TriStar's new releases are generally going for around $24.98 discounted here in the Los Angeles area.
Anyway, good luck with your LD or DVD decisions!)
Nice page. Very informative. Will laser rot start including DVD reviews in the near future?
(Editor's Note: As of matter of fact, Danny, yes. Laser Rot reviews of DVD titles began appearing on May 2, 1997 in our Reviews section. There are only a couple up right now, but many more will be making an appearance shortly.)
Originally Created: 05/03/97