Specific discs where the LD is superior to the DVD

Note: list originally complied around 1997 and most of these DVD's have been remastered and re-released.

Here is a table of LD's (laserdiscs) that I feel are superior to the DVD:

title reason why
Babe not LBX, full frame except effects shots
Basic Instinct not directors cut
Blade Runner no irritating side break like the LD, but it is 192 kbps AC3
Blazing Saddles LD has ?better? picture
Brazil 192 kbps AC3
Dangerous Liasons digital artifacting "real bad too"
Dawn of the Dead authoring problems, lots of artifacts
Death Becomes Her not LBX
Fargo 192 kbps AC3
Halloween authoring problems, Anchor Bay strikes again
Highlander THX bad MPEG2 encoding, the blockiness is terrible
Karate Kid both are P&S, but LD has more picture (it is less zoomed in)
La Femme Nikita authoring problems, video artifacts, but it is 5.1
Ladyhawk "noticeable, even dramatic, MPEG2 artifacts in several scenes"
Outland authoring problems, horrible picture, picture bounce
Robocop not directors cut
Rock, The "Criterion to be slightly sharper than the DVD. Also, the color appears to be more accurate (probably due to Michael Bay's direct participation on that LD)"
Scream not directors cut, the LD PCM mix is better (more alive with ambience and detail)
Silence of the Lambs 192 kbps AC3
Substitute, The LD has ?better? picture
Terminator 2 THX not directors cut
Timecop not LBX
Tombstone 192 kbps AC3
Trainspotting not the Criterion directors cut?, but it is the UK cut?
True Romance 192 kbps AC3, the LD's audio is more dynamic
Usual Suspects 192 kbps AC3

DVD's that almost made my list

title reason almost why reason why not
Conan the Barbarian grainy picture on DVD causes mild artifacting the film transfer on the DVD is better than the LD, the mono sound on the DVD is better than muffled LD audio.
Crow, The some scenes at the start of the film are too bright and washed out The rest of the film is fantastic, a dark film like The Crow really benefits from DVD's very low video noise, the 5.1 audio also rocks!
Godzilla vs. Mothra washed out colors and "huge amounts" of MPEG artifacts, "Simitar release is an unmitigated disaster" one source has said the artifacts are NOT that bad. Also the Toho LD is P&S and analog mono. The Simitar DVD is LBX and digital mono, don't listen to the 5.1 its bad. While the DVD is has its share of flaws so does the LD.
Groundhog Day 192 kbps AC3 the audio and the music originally wasn't that spectacular, I love the film but still not much of a loss
Sleuth excessive compression artifacts, Anchor Bay The artifacts are mainly at the start then and not too bad after that. The old LD has been out of print for more than 5 years and was incredibly rare. This is the only pressing of Sleuth the HT crowd can get.


Now don't get me wrong, I love DVD. I own both a Pioneer CLD-99 LD player and a Sony DVP-S7000 DVD player, so I feel I am impartial to both formats. While my LD collection is bigger, I find that I'm mostly buying DVD's these days. The "reasons why" in the above list are all points that the studios could have easily avoided. That is, if they cared. Then maybe they do care, they care if they can sucker you into buying that deluxe special edition of T2 as many times as they can!

I think all DVD's should be anamorphic and that as much supplemental material should be included, but this isn't going to happen. Commentary tracks are great too, but I'm not going to add DVD's to this list because they are not anamorphic, or not 5.1, or they don't have any supplemental material or commentary tracks. This is a list of goofs that could of easily been avoided.

DVNR stands for Digital Video Noise Reduction and it is a rack mount unit that reduces video noise in a signal. The idea is to reduce the noise of old or damaged transfers, bad video transfers, or just too much film grain. This is important when MPEG video is encoded because trying to encode video noise, film grain, or film damage wastes an incredible number of bits. In extreme cases the macroblocks (compression artifacts) are visible. A little softening at the right places can easily eliminate a bad case of the "blockies." Now on the other extreme if too much DVNR is used the result is an overly soft picture and things like starfields in sci-fi films start to disappear! Compression artifacts are rare on DVD but they do happen. Usually they are the fault of negligence by operators or the studio just having too small of a budget for the transfer. So it is a love/hate relationship with the DVNR. We hate soft transfers, but we hate compression artifacts even more.

On the topic of softness. The Sony "softness" or on other players, the jaggies decimation, when doing the anamorphic to 4:3 scaling can make the LD picture look better or sharper in certain respects to the DVD. Care must be taken when evaluating an anamorphic DVD and this is NOT a good reason for a film to make this list.

192kbps AC3
Why do I dislike 2 channel 192 kbps AC3 (Dolby Digital)? I don't mind stereo but I think the 192kbps AC3 tracks that I've heard don't sound great. The LD's PCM tracks sound better. It's subtle I admit but detail is missing and music sounds bad. It's a case of just not enough bits. Lets hope the studios start using a higher bitrate for those stereo DVD releases. The Dolby AC3 encoder can encode stereo or mono at 384kbps or higher, it can be done, the studios have just chosen not to. Also 384kbps 5.1 AC3 can be encoded at 448kbps or 640kbps, but usually it isn't, now it would be nice if the studios started doing this. And to those who say 192kbps is enough for stereo this is what I have to say; "you are wrong!" Either you haven't compared the two, you have bad hearing, or you don't know how to listen.

I also haven't listed all the 2 channel 192 kbps DVDs either. Only the ones with great music or great sound effects. There are a lot more 192kbps AC3 mastered DVD's than you think. Basically anything that was stereo surround in the theatres is being mastered as two channel AC3 at 192kbps on DVD. This isn't a rule and there are exceptions but usually this is the case. Sometimes studios get the 4.0 sound elements that were used to create the 2 channel matrix version and encode that as 5.1, they should call it 4.0 but they don't. Read the packaging. Buyer beware.

Be a dual formatter
There still are good reasons to own both a LD and a DVD player. Star Wars Trilogy, Indiana Jones, Men In Black, and all the animated Disney films to name a few. Their eventual release on DVD (not DIXV) is currently in limbo.

DVD does have a lot going for it. Lower cost, slightly better resolution, perfect color separation, less video noise. Contact SE with its low price and 3 commentary tracks is a bargin. Bram Strokers Dracula is 5.1 and has a wonderful picture. Nightmare Before Christmas is beautiful and has no chroma comb filter effects. Even my CLD-99 with its 3D comb filter had problems with accurately separating the luma and the chroma on Nightmare Before Christmas. I could ramble on about the greatness of DVD, but I won't.

My advice to the studios
Please stop releasing DVD's that are butchered in some sense, either be it bad transfers, poor MPEG encoding, Pan and Scan only, or 2 channel 192kbps AC3. If a film has a directors cut please release that and if the sound master is just stereo dolby surround, fine, just make sure to encode it at a higher bit rate, like 2 channel at 384kbps. But chances are if it's stereo surround, then the original masters were 4.0, so if you can get those and master it as 4.0 at 384kbps, even better. Also if you could encode the 5.1 AC3 at 448kbps instead of the lower standard 384kbps rate I'd be very happy. All players can handle 448kbps so it is not an issue of compatibility. 640kbps would be a nice optional track, but so far only the Sony's can pass that through.

Now for the advice. Keep on cranking out those special editions and commentary tracks, we love 'em. I will buy the film again, if it has interesting supplemental material or a commentary track, even if I already have it on laser! Also an anamorphic transfer is an added perk, someday I'll own a 16:9 TV and collecting anamorphic transfers today seems like good sense to me. So if you make DVD's that have all the "features" that make all of us drooling movie fanatics happy, then I'm sure you will sell more discs!

Check out my home theatre tips page.