Friday, July 18, 2008

呀? What the fuck is a 呀?!

After failing in a most epic manner to make the subtitle patch on my latest project work in any form or fashion, I'm waiting to see if anybody on the ADC forum has the most remote clue what my problem is - it's not a problem that's new, even, but none of the blokes there have called a disc "unpatchable", so if I'm doing something wrong I'd really like to know exactly what it is.

In the meantime, I figured I'd do something semi-constructive, preferably something that would actually give me a semi while I worked on it.

Without a second thought, I started transcribing the hard-subs from the Erobeat release of HININDEN GAUSU (緋忍伝 呀宇種). Frustratingly, the fansub isn't particularly good, despite being generally above speed-sub quality: technique names (think Naruto but better: "Ninja Breast Milk Technique!") are still in Japanese, the timing is very early and occasionally too wordy (even by my rambling standards!), and if there was ever a mortal sin, it'd be that actual words - like "Nani" - aren't subbed. Sure, you can let 'ossu' and 'che' and maybe even 'saa' slide, but tsk tsk on that one.

The bigger question, however, lies in the meaning of 呀宇種. The kanji used is so obscure that the title is spelled out phonetically in katakana - this is in Japan, mind you - and while I've been able to locate the meaning for the latter two characters, the first (呀) is still a mystery to me. For the love of Rin-Sin and all that's sexy and violent, if anybody has a clue, let me know. If it makes me look any smarter, the 'Hininden' part means "Tale of the Crimson Fern", far as I can tell.

The very tale at hand is a sad one, though: for those who don't know, Hininden Gausu was a 2005 ero anime OVA released by Pink Pineapple, based on a concept created by Rin-Sin, character designer and regular animation director for such classic tentacle rape shows as La Blue Girl, Twin Angels and Words Worth. She'd played around with the idea of doing a period kunoichi (female ninja) action title for quite some time, and eventually Pink Pineapple let her do it with her long time director, including Twin Angels and Inma Saiden, FUKUMOTO Kan. Three episodes were written, and summaries of the last 2 episodes are available on the official PinPai website linked above.

Unfortunately, only one of them were ever animated.

In the lengthy interview (also on the official site) Rin-Sin said that while she's glad she could bring a part of the story to life, she's basically given up on ero anime: there simply isn't any money to be made on OVAs anymore, and as financial ruin looms over the entire adult anime industry, she probably made the smart descision by deciding to work on shows like Ikki-Tousen: Dragon Destiny over expensive-to-produce fap material that fans would rather download illegally for free with virtually no marketing tie-ins to make ends meet. Okay, sure, there's the occasional PVC figure or pocket pussy, but as PinPai flatrly refused to sell their titles to international markets years ago, having felt that cheaper and uncensored releases were cutting into their bottom line, I don't think it's unfair to say that the entire adult anime industry is swirling slowly towards the drain. Heck, the studio that acknowledged they were fucked before anyone else was Pixy Soft, who not only had no uncensored international competition, but have produced some of the finest jack-off material known to man.

Seriously. If you don't get a raging boner during Himekishi Lilia, you're not my friend anymore.

With PinPai clamping down on costs and focusing on fetishtastic titles that were guaranteed to raise a quick yen (theoretically), Hininden Gausu simply got lost in the shuffle. It's been over 2 and a half years, and with no second episode even hinted at I think it's safe to say that the series is over. If your Japanese comprehension skills are better than my own, the episode 2-3 summaries will be as close to seeing them as you're ever going to get.

On this dour note, I'll leave you with something high-res to contemplate on.

We miss your pr0n, Rin-Sin. Yours was truly a cut above the rest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why I hate the Weinsteins (even more).

It's not like re-titling Chinese epics from something relevant into the esoteric... say, The Banquet becoming Legend of the Black Scorpion. (...seriously? THAT'S the new title?)

It's not the fact that they promise to deliver Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair and then sit on it while the US theatrical versions are already getting a Blu-ray release. Tarantino lost a bundle on Grindhouse (and shame on the rest of the world for it: he got my $7!), so why the hell wouldn't you kick him in the pills and make him start re-cutting his magnum opus into something fans will buy again?

It's not that they release Rob Zombie's Halloween in a 2 disc unrated edition and, like an idiot, I buy it despite knowing that a year later there will be a super special edition complete with the 4 and a half hour making-of Rob talked about shortly before the initial DVD came out. (At least I wasn't stupid enough to pay an extra $10 for the fucking lenticular slipcover.)

It's not even the fact that they release crap like Hoodwinked from time to time.

It's the simple, jaw-dropping problem of them creating utterly worthless AC3 Dolby Digital tracks that can't be played properly (or sometimes, at all) in Media Player Classic. Every single other DVD I've thrown at FFDShow's audio decoder has been just fine, even hack jobs by Central Park Media and Manga Entertainment before either one of them could release a DVD that looked better than VHS, forget sound better than an LD. It's not that fucking hard to create original Dolby audio tracks that lack hiss and dropouts on a standard fucking decoder, is it? Heck, even when 4.0 tracks knock FFDShow for a loop, the audio still sounds good, it just gets the channels mixed up beyond all recognition (Left and Center? Not the same thing.), yet all I'm trying to do is watch À l'intérieur (INSIDE), and all I get is stuttering warbling crapola.

Shut down Media Player Classic, load up Power DVD, and viola, crisp and clean and perfect in every way.

I know FFDShow isn't perfect. You need a Golden God to run anything worthwhile, and there are so many options that you'll be dead and buried long before you've figured out how to properly setup your colorspace options. But it's still the most flexible and attractive option we've got for raw software DVD processing, and until I see a hardware solution that offers AVISynth, I'm going to stick with it. The fact that I need PowerDVD at all is just dumbfounding, and makes me wonder what the hell these guys are doing to make their AC3 files so damned unfriendly.

So, PowerDVD chugging along, back to INSIDE. I don't know what the French are freebasing that's making them produce such great gore films these days, but whatever it is I hope they keep it up.

Hey everahbody!

Like I said France, whatever it is, keep it up!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Legend of the Overtransfer

As always, there's some good news and bad news when I record a new LD...

Schwing! Sparke sparkle.

In short, Anime 18 kicked my ass this time out. I could be a dick and argue that the black levels are borked on the R1 transfer, as it was done in the LD days when NTSC required black levels be IRE 7.5 and not 0 (not in the US anyway), so the difference isn't a "mistake" as much as it is just the way things are handled across the pond.

What you can't see in that shot is the rather horrific temporal dot crawl. While I stand pretty firm on the Lite-On recorder being good at getting rid of rainbows, the same can sadly not be said for the literal dot crawl that crops up between different colors.

The worst STD I've ever seen.

I know that ghosting plays a part in what we're seeing here, but the dot crawl is so bad we can literally see the tentacle-cock twice. I won't bother to show you the artifacting during rampant movement, either: the A18 DVD is progressive, the LD isn't, so even though my transfer has the higher bitrate there's almost nothing I can do to change that.

I really either need to stop comparing transfers or just capture shit to my HDD so I can use AVISynth/CCE SP from the start.

The good news is that the master plan was always to splice the Kanji credits into the Anime 18 transfer. Of course this was back when all I had to work with was a VHS tape, but I think the reasoning holds up well enough, and thankfully the first/last 5 minutes of the film are easier to restore and re-encode than the whole 108 minute feature. I'll back up the entire LD, of course, just to satisfy that horrid little OCD monster in the back of my head that says 2 seconds from 1 video version may not appear on a restoration that includes 12 minutes of never before seen footage, and if that 2 seconds goes missing I'm just going to be a bitter bastard forever for it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Anchor Bay Strikes Back!

Watched the new 'Anchor Bay Collection' release of Dario Argento's 1982 giallo TENEBRAE the other night. (Or is that Tenebre? Damned Italian/Latin mishmash...) The good news is that not only does it port all of the special features from the old US DVD - including a Dario Argento and friend commentary track, 2 making-of sequences, international trailer, and an alternate credits sequence - but it also features a brand new documentary about the making of the film and features interviews with most of the prominent staff members. It's pretty cool stuff, and short of comparing it to the Aussie DVD (which is a port of the 'old' R1 plus the hour-long AN EYE FOR HORROR documentary), it's easily the best release out there in terms of special features.

Here's the bad news.

Allow me to quote Anchor Bay's clever marketing machine for a moment:

The five films in this collection have been remastered from original vault elements and are presented uncut and uncensored for an all-new look at one of the most controversial and influential filmmakers in the history of modern cinema.

What they fail to mention is that Tenebrae's transfer is actually just an IVTC/Upscale of the 1998 Roan Group LD. That's right, a decade later and we're still stuck with a trimmed, overexposed, soft, moire pattern prone transfer that was less than state of the art the moment it was made. That's not to say it's unwatchable, and all other English friendly uncut/anamorphic transfers have all sorts of crazy color timing issues (the Japanese DVD turns fucking green 45 minutes in!). The English mono track is nowhere to be found, and in its' stead is a 5.1 mix (and a stereo downmix) with all sorts of new hiss-free sound effects thrown in to disorient the hell out of the viewer. While not a clusterfuck of Suspiria-esque proportions, my only real complaint is that, like a lot of second-string 5.1 mixes taken from primitive mono mixes, the dialog is really, really quiet while the music gets really, really fucking loud, which means I'm turning the volume up and down every few minutes just to keep my ears from bleeding and not missing any of the already lo-fi dubbed performances. The mono Italian track is included, but A) most of the actors were speaking English on-set, and B) there's no English subtitles, so it's basically useless for a Yank like myself.

To top it off, the disc is slightly stretched from its' proper 1.85:1 to roughly 1.8:1, and as you can see by the above image it's prone to random deinterlacing-like aliasing due to both the scaling of a painfully low resolution source, and the original transfer likely not having been progressive and thus prone to bad 3:2 cadence. What you can't see (but I may show off later out of spite) are the moire effects that become really obvious during those nice long tracking shots the film is so famous for, particularly early on when John Saxon is walking with Anthony Franciosa out of the airport. A decade ago this transfer was easily the definitive release, but for Anchor Bay to pull its' deluxe "Anchor Bay Collection" moniker out for this cheap 'restoration' is just plain wicked of them, and not much more than a little white lie.

Would you hit Miss Eva Robin's, knowing she has balls? I might.

It also isn't technically "uncensored", since the stabbing at the end of the second dream sequence is cut from two to one, but the difference is so slight that I'd never recommend skipping the release just because of it. There's a couple snippets of basically nothing missing due to print damage, but nobody seems to give a fuck about those. The reason the footage was missed was because the footage is used twice in the film, and the Roan Group thought that stabbing once was how the scene was "supposed" to go. (D'oh!)

PHENOMENA has something an excuse to be cut: the additional minute's worth of footage was only used for the Italian edition of the film, and as such there's no English soundtrack for any of the extended dialog. (Hello, deleted scenes?! *Sigh*) The Japanese and Austrian DVDs spliced these scenes back in - albiet the film switches from English to Italian - and the Italian release is the full Integrale version ("Integral Hard" as it was called in Japan), but the whole film is dubbed in Italian (with English subtitles, at least), which means neither Jennifer Connelley nor Donald Pleasance are speaking with their own voices. See? this is exactly why I never wanted to like Argento, because the DVDs are all fucked up in some way-

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, right, Tenebrae!

To put this into perspective, the 5 Films by Dario Argento steelbook - which also includes their "remaster" of Phenomena, and previously released DVDs of Trauma*, The Card Player, and Do You Like Hitchcock? - sells for $50 retail. The single 'remastered' discs (in covers that could have been cool had they been given a metallic slip cover) are only $20 a piece, so it's not as if you have to buy his latter films to get these. I also got the set as a gift - I requested it, even - so I had an idea as to what I was getting into. It may not have been the difinitive, Criterion-esque release that the fine film arguably deserves, but for the value of the price and the special features I'd say it's still the best option out there for people who've never seen it before, and can live with the issues I've mentioned in the above passages. Plus you get to see a surprisingly un-manly tranny choke some dude on her pump heel and a great double lesbian murder with a straight razor started off by the single greatest crane shot in genre cinema. How often can you say that?

*Trauma is its' own special little AB mishap... but I'll let you do the research if you're interested. The short of it is Anchor Bay promised to reveal never before seen footage, offering a unique Integral cut of the film. This in no way happened, and worse yet, they were handed never before seen English dubbed deleted scenes and didn't bother including them at all. These guys are... special.

Also... am I crazy, or is the titling 5 Films by Dario Argento meant to have the same subconscious ring to it as 4 Flies on Gray Velvet, the only Dario Argento giallo to have thus far never been given a legitimate English language video release? I could be insane ("Unsane", you say? Nyuk-nyuk...), but the more I think about it, the more I think I have something.

If you already own the flick in pretty much any edition, don't upgrade. The 18 minute featurette is nice, but nothing you can't learn by looking it up on Wikipedia just like everyone else. If - like me - you got here late to the Dario party, there are nicer looking and slightly longer options to those willing to import, but every new release of Tenebrae screws up as much as it fixes. Personally, I'm waiting until we've got some Tovoli approved HD remaster, since the only other option is to buy an expensive import and literally color correct every reel myself. Fuck that. They don't pay me enough for that kind of TLC, and by "they" I mean no-one and by "pay" I mean... christ, what do I mean at this point?

I could also point out that Tovoli is fucking insane, but this is another matter entirely and thus one I'll talk about another day.

Don't get your hopes up on Phenomena being any better. Pretty much everything I said about Tenebrae is also true there: still not technically uncut, upscale of a non-anamorphic digital master tape, one new featurette and all the old extras from the original Anchor Bay DVD. Similarly, there is no definitive version of Phenomena, so if you don't already own it, just pick up the 5 Films collection and be done with it.

While half-heartedly recommending the Japanese release of Tenebrae as being uncut and (vaguely) the better transfer, I'll point out that Xploited Cinema still sells it for about $40, and also point out that they're not quite going out of business, but they'll no longer be re/stocking new titles and thus are limited to whatever they have on hand at this moment. Tony and his crew are good people, and while I was hardly a regular there's no-one else I'd even think of turning to first for non-R1 DVDs. Xploited Cinema, you will be missed by me and so many of my spirritual co-horts that it makes me very sad.


Is this more appropriate here, or for The Gong Show?

That's right, a UK cover actually features nips... wow, how times have changed!

It even includes a PAL DVD with 'Whoever Says the Truth Shall Die', which Criterion was too stuck up to include on their upcoming DVD. Granted Criterion has some exclusive extras of its' own, but the promise of a new 1080p24 transfer, scanned directly from the Italian negative has me all sorts of moist. I guess if this release is Region A/B I'll no longer have an excuse to wait on a PS3, eh?

Monday, July 07, 2008

How Many DVD+R DL Burns Does It Take... get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?


Seriously, I had a bone to pick with some DVD+R DL burns I had kicking around. See, the media was good, they verified perfectly, but for some damn reason my LG DVD+R/W/RAM drive (the very same that burned them) got very... uppity, while I tried to watch the chapter in which the layer break happens. The disc only paused once or twice, as was expected, but the drive itself went insane, blowing hot air like a jet engine as it tried to decode the layer change seamlessly and effectively fell flat on its' ass, only the tray of delicious data cake unharmed in the process. It's all well and good, I guess, but why is it struggling to read a disc it wrote to the day before in the first place?

So I tried something crazy: telling the DVD+R DL to lie like a cheap rug.

There's something called "Book Type" on some burnable media. It's a couple 0's and 1's that tell the drive wither the disc is a DVD-ROM, DVD-RAM, DVD-R/+R, DVD-RW/-RW, or a DVD+R DL/-R DL (the last of which isn't even spec, but let's not get into that). Drives will try to handle different media different ways when given the chance, but why would they need to? The clever schmucks who built the awesome freeware ImgBurn software asked themselves the same question, and allow users to manually change the bitsetting on DVD+R and DVD+R DL media to DVD-ROM, should the way the discs burn give them any guff. This becomes especially important for DL discs, because some drives don't even know how to recognize a dual-layer burned disc, but if the Book Type is set for DVD-ROM, it'll read it like a pressed disc instead. Genius!

So I recently re-burned a fansub of the gorgeous full bitrate DTS toting Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust DVD, having wasted countless Sony disks prior* trying to get a working copy going. So using the same methods I'd used prior to burn the disc, I changed the book type. Like magic, it plays in PowerDVD without a hitch, and only minimal issues in Media Player Classic using DScaler as an MPEG decoder. Similarly, no stuttering bullshit on a stand alone player, which was an issue with a disc that claimed to have verified just fine, though the stand alone still took forever to load and made a big loud "Grah!" sound before it started the disc. Pissy little bitch.

*Sony discs are just re-badged Ritek media. Never, ever use Ritek for anything. Seriously. Stick with Verbatim and Taiyo Yuden. Nothing else is worth the money for DVD+R DL.

So, with the compatability issues finally ironed out I'm going to do my damndest to afford dual layer media from now on for those "special" projects where doing a multi-disc release for a single film is simply out of the question. That said, the cost of dual-layer blanks is still dramatically higher than single-layer, so it'll likely be a while before I give up the ghost and burn DVD-9 data as a pair of cheap DVD-R which I can later reassemble on a HDD and play as-is. But then, I've always been a cheap bastard.

Expect more bullshit from me in the coming week. The hammer done come down, and y'all know what I'm talking about.

Also, so this seemingly minor flash in the pan post isn't totally without some merit:

What in the HELL do we have here? I can't say I don't like it, but seriously, is that Amano or Wolverine? In short, awesome. I also love that it brags specifically about how many cells (3,000) went into the creation of the "new erotic scene", and that it goes so far as to call the Inferno Road movie a "Prolog" to Urotsukidoji: Kanketsu Hen. And we all know how that turned out.

A shame The Final Chapter didn't get a similarly awesome psuedo-live action looking painted poster.