Friday, November 14, 2014

Lying Evily By Moonlight: Viz Defends SAILOR MOON Upscale, Lies Through Their Teeth To Do It

IN THE NAME OF VIDEO QUALITY,
I WILL THROTTLE YOU!

Really, Viz? You're going to make me do this, huh? Alright then. I've had a go at Media Blasters, I've called FUNimation on their bullshit, I can't tell you how many times I've had to publicly shame Arrow Video on old shenanigans, so if you want in on the "fun", that's your problem.


To be honest, I wanted to be polite about this. I wanted to post those atrotious SD upscaled screengrabs from Viz' SAILOR MOON Blu-ray once it came out, sigh really loudly and post a facepalm picture, say "Welp, ain't that some shit... wubba-lubba dub-dub!" and be done with it. I'm a busy guy, they've got money to make, the disclaimer would be enough for everyone to be somewhat satisfied, people could judge for themselves... this should have been easy. Frustrating, depressing and ugly, but easy, none the less.

Don't get me wrong, those promo shots and video clips Viz has been been pimping since about Anime Expo were always a bloody mess - a clusterfuck or questionable decisions and limited resources, I know, but fans of this franchise have been so starved for a complete, proper presentation that I don't even blame a single one of them for knowingly buying a shitty release, because I've done it myself many, many times over the years. 'It is what it is', I told myself. No sense dragging Viz through the mud for a release even they, and everyone else already knew, is a shit-show by nature... heck, I'm honestly a little disappointed to admit I was late to this particular party, not realizing how bad things were going to be until a couple weeks after everyone else had seen the proof.

I certainly had my reasons for being out of the loop. But we'll get to that later...


BEHOLD, KENTAI'S INCONSOLABLE FURY!!

I figured that, much like The Great Humongous, I'd stop all the violence and just walk away... and then you had to lie through your teeth to our collective face. Why, Viz? It's not bad enough that you have to put shit on our tongues, but you had to look us in the eye and tell us it's delicious Belgian chocolate, too? No, man. That's where I draw the fucking line. You don't literally feed the consumer half-true information about the quality of your product, and more specifically, misrepresent the quality of competing products and expect me to hold my tongue. You don't lie to the internet and expect anyone to forget, much less forgive. That's an amateur move, and what's worse, y'all fucking knew it when you made it.

I'm not writing this because the new Sailor Moon Blu-ray/DVD release sucks. It does, but that's not the part I'm mad about. I'm mad because they suck, and Viz is willing to throw Toei under the bus to say it's not their fault their own in-house upscale is a miserable pile of ass. Not happening, folks. Not on this blog, at any rate.

The lie I'm talking about specifically is THIS POST on the Neon Alley blog earlier in the week, which includes several comparisons between the Viz Blu-ray, and the Japanese DVD. These DVDs are region locked, feature no English language options, and were until very recently the only legitimate way to purchase the entire series for playback on NTSC systems. Don't get me wrong, I love image comparisons - they're a great way to learn how to identify video anomalies, and help consumers who have an eye for said differences. In short, an honest, accurate A/B comparison is the best way for consumers to make an informed decision.

The problem here is that Viz did not use accurate screenshots. They went out of their way to make the R2 DVD screenshots look worse than the actual discs in an effort to make their absolutely abhorrent HD "Remaster" look better by comparison. They also claim early comparisons were from the "Japanese DVD Release" itself, rather than the "DVD Master" as later samples were called. It's bullshotting at its finest either way, but I want to establish how utterly full of it Viz is being before we get into how they're being dishonest.

If you're a visual kinda' Sailor Soldier, here's pretty much all you need to know about what a filthy, back-stabbing lie Viz is pushing to make their set not look like a steaming pile of poorly upscaled shite:

  This is what Viz Media wants you to beLIEve the Japanese DVDs look like.
Keep in mind this is the LEAST damning comparison they've made so far.


This is what the Toei R2 imports actually look like.
Note that it's not a pile of ass - not for a DVD, at least.

Worse yet, if this Anime News Network ANNCast Interview with Charlene Ingram and Julie McDonald is any indication, they're digging their heels in for the long haul, with zero plans to fix the discs themselves, or change authoringhouses for future titles. In other words, I hope you like all of Viz' future upscales looking like frame-blended and saturation-boosted butthole, because that's all I'm ever going to expect from them going forward.

 For further examples of just how ridiculous the funky frame-blending issues are...

According to Viz, this is all somehow not the direct  result of video processing.
I assume Viz also swears that rain is somehow not the result of condensation.

No, I won't be dissecting the whole discs for a 10-page autopsy: The above examples should be enough to prove beyond any shadow of a doubt that these are a train-wreck far beyond my already meager expectations. This wasn't hard, Viz: When you were offered SD materials, you should have done a DVD release, gauged customer interest in a Blu-ray and then double dipped a year or two down the line. Now customers are stuck with artifacts that are worse than the import editions, and for a release claiming to be a High Definition definitive remaster, that's unacceptable. In fact, it's bullshit.

And for the record, the DVD version is a 16:9 frame pillarboxed to 4:3, meaning about 25% of the frame is simply wasted space. Yes, most HDTV monitors at this point are 16:9, but that means resolution is limited more than it has to be. Yes, this is stupid. Yes, this was the wrong decision to make from a production standpoint. But it's so, so far down on the list of "shit wrong with Viz' release of Sailor Moon" that I'm not going to even give it the time of day.

Viz Media is lying to you. That's all there is to it. Straight from McDonald's mouth: "All I can tell you is that what you're seeing in terms of blended frames is not part of the post-production process." This is untrue; it's simply the result of an IVTC algorithm not being tweaked to handle unexpected 3:2 cadence changes, and yes, you bet your ass if I had been handed those gorgeous ProRes captures from Digibeta I could have been able to spit out a proper 23.976fps master without any consistent issues. Animation is one of the most problematic types of material you can work with, and it's become abundantly clear that Subatomic Digital - likely through inexperience more than a lack of sincere effort - have come up dramatically short.

The only possible reason this could be the result of the digital masters present to Viz is if Toei did something horribly wrong to produce them. Unfortunately, for that theory to hold any water, we'd have to assume any other international licensor was given the same shoddy materials to work with, since Toei has no reason to play favorites with anyone else. There have been numerous reports confirming that the progressive PAL DVDs released by Kaze Dynamic of Italy* are not only pulled from the same sources as Viz Media's 1080p abortion here, but that they managed to properly IVTC the source video and pitch it to 25fps without any issue. In other words, Kaze Dynamic did what Subatomic Digital didn't: Treat the footage properly, restore the original 23.976fps framerate without any frame blending, and leave the perfectly normal analogue film grain exactly as they should have.

"We're like, video passion on steroids here! That's how addicted we are to getting the best possible imagery..." she continues on the ANNCast. "I don't think there's a lot of ground we can cover by pointing to this or that image and saying, this is the right image, that's the right image... I can tell you without a doubt that myself and ten videophiles sit with me, 20 hours a day, working on this material know, and are providing Charlene and our Neon Alley folks with the images that we have access to."

Allow me to express my feelings in the only medium I find appropriate, under the circumstances:


Now, let me explain why I'm so incredibly pissed off by this answer, and why I was willing to try and ignore this sideshow since, franly, I don't have the time for it: This week, I finalized the M2V and AC3 files for a particular DVD release that'll hit shelves sometime next year after, quite literally, months of work I did over weekends and in the wee hours of the night after finishing my regular 40 hours a week doing what I do to make a living. I won't mention the title - odds are you all know what it is anyway, but I at least have to pretend Kentai is an anonymous parody of a shared autistic videophile sarcasm rather than a real human being with video processing credits well into the thousands now - but suffice to say it's a substantially less iconic piece of animation than Sailor Moon will ever hope to be. Honestly, if this title had been a dump of the not-so-great import DVD with no added work, the small fanbase for the sort of niche title we're talking about would have sighed, shrugged, and ponied up $20 just to show their support on principle. It's that kind of show... the kind that gets a release out of a combination of nostalgia from a small set of hardcore fans, and a morbidly curious subset looking for explosions of insanity they've somehow missed from yester-year who figure it's a fair price to peek their head into the freak tent.

The release took forever, but it's not exactly "pretty". Massively improved, absolutely, but those materials were a goddamn joke: I worked from the only surviving analog masters - certainly not fresh 2002 Digibetas that look like a perfect representation of the 16mm film they were shot on, but crumby analog tapes closer to VHS that DVD. We're talking NTSC masters so old they'd be legally allowed to drink! I spent an entire season fixing that two and a half hours or so worth of footage; color grading literally each and every shot for accurate flesh tones and exposure issues, manually removing scratches using matte plates to prevent eyeballs and drops of blood from distorting or disappearing, fixing major film and video damage that I found unacceptable, repairing analogue opticals with digital replacements when I had no other choice to avoid funky seams popping up as a result, experimenting for two weeks on DVNR algorithms that minimized the issues inherent to those god-awful sources without molesting any of the "real" detail underneath... this DVD is my fucking magnum opus. The sanity I've lost is something I can never get back, and honestly, the only praise I expect to see are one or two forum posts saying something along the lines of "Oh hey, that's finally out? Well, it looks better than my old VHS. Too bad there's no Blu-ray though."

My blood, sweat and tears are infused into that remaster, and yet I doubt it'll sell more than 2,000 copies before the license expires. For fuck's sake, I haven't even discussed payment yet because (and please, don't tell my boss this!) that's not why I do it, or at least that's not my primary motivation for doing it... I did it because it was the right thing to do. Because ultimately popular culture is our culture, in all of its kitschy, grotesque and embarrassing glory. Sailor Moon in particular holds a very special place in the hearts of girls who grew up on it - a show about empowerment that was still feminine, wrapped up in a charming bubblegum aesthetic and with a cast of defined, lovable characters? That's the kind of shit people eat up forever. This is a title that fans have been frustrated to only have abridged, incomplete, and heinous quality options for... and this is how their patience and love has been repaid. A botched pseudo-HD master and a bunch of carefully worded corporate deflections that all boil down to, we tried super hard, you guys! Honest!

"As a videophile yourself", Zac Bertschy asks, "Do you look at this and say: Okay, this is as good as this show can look?"

"You know, my feeling about it is I'm really happy with what we did to it, based on what we had to work with. I'm thrilled with it... these issues don't trouble because I don't think they make the product in any way less - I know the love and care we put into it. So am I happy with it? I am happy with it... I'm completely over the moon with it, if you must know!"

Zac later asks: "So fans who pre-ordered this set and get their copy in the mail. They aren't happy with the video quality. What do you suggest that they do?"

Charlene has an answer on that front: "Of course we take all feedback very seriously, but that's... It's up to everyone to decide what they want to do with what they bought. Given - to echo Julie's point - given what we had to work with, that's how it was able to turn out with everyone working on it, so, we just don't have any news on that at this time."

In other words, if you think this release is a slap in the face... you can eat a dick. In fact, you can eat a whole bag of soggy lukewarm dicks if you're still hungry. They're sticking with their partners, they're not changing the process, and we can expect similar results going forward. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Before I can go any further, I need to quote the following piece from the Neon Alley blog that raises further questions:

The original footage for Sailor Moon, being from way back in 1992, is also older than many fans who adore the series now. In 2009, Japan released the seasons on DVD using the best materials available, Unfortunately, the original film from 1992 just does not exist. In making our Blu-ray releases, we used the same masters used to create the those beautiful releases, but make them work for the modern Blu-ray format.


Waaaaaitasecond... let me re-emphasise the part that caight my eye, just to be clear:

"In 2009, Japan released the seasons on DVD using the best materials available, Unfortunately, the original film from 1992 just does not exist."

First of all, the SD Telecine work was done in 2002 - a minor correction, I know, but the fact that a 12 year old DVD kicked your shoddy upscale's ass is still worth pointing out for a total understanding of how hard this ball was dropped. More importantly though, why the fuck does the original film "not exist" for this series, exactly? Toei had no trouble pulling the camera negatives for Dragon Ball Z out to do their fascinating (if not entirely successful) Dragon Ball Kai experiment a couple years back. In 2009, the entire 152 episode Fist of the North Star TV series had a new HD master created from the original film negatives, creating an even higher quality DVD release that the previous 2004 edition. Toei has pulled 35mm negatives out of cold storage for feature films including the Saint Seiya and Galaxy Express and Sherlock Hound movies... and yet somehow, Sailor Moon - easily Toei Animation's most iconic and internationally beloved magical girl franchise, not to mention one of their top earning franchises of the 1990s - "doesn't exist"? Unless you can point me to some dramatic explanation for this one, I'm calling bullshit.

To put this into perspective, that company I worked with? They had a contract with a major Japanese animation distributor. They asked for an HD master, and were told one didn't exist. They asked if they could get a film print, and were told if they were willing to pay they'd make a new Interpositive. So yes, technically it's possible that whatever actual 16mm elements were scanned in 2002 have gone lost. But to imply that Sailor Moon is the one vintage Toei Animation show that simply DOES NOT HAVE FILM ELEMENTS? No fucking chance do I buy that. I mean, if this were some no-budget obscure OVA produced by a nobody in 198X for the faint hope of breaking even? Sadly, you might have something. But Toei somehow lost all of their film masters for Sailor Moon? Really? Come on, guys - this isn't Genocyber, Dream Hunter Rem, Roots Search or some other obscure mess I'd believe has been lost to the sands of time. Honestly, this would be like saying that Warner Brothers can't find the camera negative for The Shining. Because, reasons, don't worry about it.

I could criticize this stupidity for hours on end, but... honestly, I'd rather not. My office is in the process of moving, I really need to get some sleep at some point, and I'd rather just call this shit and move on with my life. Viz, you fucked up. Hard. You're on the shit list, and don't expect me to assume the best from you while you continue to squat down and let releases like this congeal out of your company's backside.

For those curious how this horrendous level of bullshit was accomplished, here's a list of exactly what's wrong with the Viz comparison: 

1) THE IMAGES ARE NOT PROPERLY SCALED.

The R2 DVD screenshots are presented in their 'native' 1.5:1 aspect ratio. DVD stores MPEG-2 video at a resolution of 720:480 at 29.97fps. That 720:480 file is then given a "flag" which tells the DVD decoder to play the file as either squished to 4:3 (ie: SDTV "square") or stretched to 16:9 (ie: HDTV "wide").

In short, nobody would ever, ever watch a DVD with a fat, distorted 2:1 aspect ratio as is being displayed in Viz' own comparison. Yes, technically the DVDs do store their data that way, but that's now how it actually looks when played back on literally any piece of software designed to play DVDs.

Also note that there's some pretty severe aliasing


2) THE IMAGES ARE SHOWN AS RAW, INTERLACED FOOTAGE.

The R2 DVD screenshots show interlacing. This is a trickier one to discuss because, yes, most anime DVDs are interlaced - that is, the 24fps film frames were converted to irregular patterns of 29.97fps video that show "combing" during motion. Interlacing is normal on NTSC signals, and isn't technically a 'flaw', just a normal part of the broadcast process.

When you watch an interlaced DVD on an interlaced TV, the set itself is refreshing in half-frame intervals, so everything looks normal. When you watch an interlaced DVD on a progressive monitor (like an HDTV), either the display or the DVD player is deinterlacing the signal first. Sometimes deinterlacing looks like crap and introduces jagged, aliased edges and blended frames; other times the deinterlacer is "smart" enough that it can reconstruct the original film frames and look like a proper, progressive image. It really depends on your hardware, and the content itself: Anime, due to its typically low framerates, is infamously difficult to convert from interlaced frames back to the original film frames due to limited motion wigging the algorithms out.

Is it difficult to remove interlacing on cartoons without leaving interlacing behind, or creating blended frames? Immensely. But it can be done. I know this because I manually tweak Inverse Telecine scripts every fucking week at the office. It's difficult to get the right mix and sometimes occasional frames are bound to get fucked, but as you can see at THIS COMPARISON, it's not impossible to convert the 480i broadcast signal on the DVDs back to 480p film frames... hell, knowing Toei's general lab work, I doubt this was even what I'd consider a "difficult" job.

3) THE IMAGES HAVE HAD THEIR COLORS BOOSTED.

There's really no proper excuse for this one. The chroma channel has been boosted on their "DVD" screenshots to the point where reds have become oversaturated and detail has gone missing completely - detail that is present on their Blu-ray release. The most obvious offender is the far shot of Usagi's house, in which subtle gradations of red and orange smear into a big neon blob on the "Master" shot, but look fairly natural and less... day-glo, on the Blu-ray sample.

Explain that to me, miss McDonald: How the heck do you show color information in a final encode that does not even exist on the master? Do you understand that this is why old film prints often have a nasty yellow push to them - because the pigment itself has simply ceased to exist? You've worked in the industry for over 25 years, so I'm sure you do. How do you show color information that's been boosted out of existance?

You fucking don't, is the obvious answer. Those screenshots - by malicious editing, or by simple colorspace ignorance - are missing color info that exists on the ProRes and Digibeta masters, because if it didn't, it wouldn't be on the fucking Blu-ray. FUCKING HELL.


...I could go on, but honestly, fuck it. It's 1 AM and I'm packing up HDCAM decks in the morning. Viz has confirmed that future releases will be no different, I'm sure a number of Sailor Moon fans will compromise with this turd of a release, five years later someone else will find some 16mm prints and do a proper HD telecine, double dips will be planned... world keeps spinning. I'd make a Dragon Ball Z comparison, but remembering how fucking good those "Level" sets were - and how we'll never see more of them - is still a wound too fresh to talk much more about without sinking straight into despair.
 
And uh, for the record, I couldn't be any prouder of Zac Bertschy for the way he handled this interview. He was left with the uncomfortable spot of being forced to ask - if not in so many words - why Viz was lying to their customers. He was honest, he was direct, and yet he continued to be polite and corteous while trying to drag the answers out that customers needed to know. Mind you, Justin Sevakis could have called them on this bullshit ten times harder, but... well, I guess that'd be too much like giving ANN a rocket launcher in a knife fight, while Viz had one leg tied to the other.

This is exactly the sort of thing I wish I saw in other circles I could, quite easily, draw numerous current parallels to. Yeah, I don't exactly "get" why Zac still writes about anime for a living when it's become clear he doesn't care for the medium's output 9 times out of 10, but I can't fault him for being absolutely spot-on in speaking for the customer when they've been given a raw deal. I only wish I saw honest, probing questioning from the video games media when they sell us broken, unfinished games brimming with DLC and app-purchase enhancements at full price.

UPDATE 1: Just to establish what an unmitigated shit-show this release is, here's a FAN-MADE COMPARISON between the actual Viz Blu-ray, and a fan-made "HD Upscale" using the already compressed, already chroma-subsampled, and (if I'm not mistaken) already-interlaced R2 DVD.

WHY THE FUCK DO I WASTE MY LIFE TRYING TO
MAINTAIN "IMAGE QUALITY" IN THIS MARKET?!

Fuck Viz. Fuck Sailormoon - in fact, until further notice, fuck Blu-ray in general. Processing imperfect video is what I earn a paycheck doing, upping my game to make sure even shitty looking content looks as good as it possibly can. To see this be the standard that not only Viz Media, but goddamn Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon is held to makes me physically ill.

Yeah kiddos, I mad. If you've missed seeing me sling shit at deserving targets after a long period of apathy, you might just get your wish...

UPDATE 2: Slight correction for my Continental Homies - the progressive PAL DVD release that came out in Italy was released by Dynamic, not Kaze. Kaze is actually the French/German licensor who used an interlaced NTSC-to-PAL conversion. The simple truth is that most PAL anime DVDs in general are crappy interlaced conversions, and not being English friendly to start with I have little reason to pay close attention to them either way.

Fun Fact: Despite Kaze being primarily a French/German distributor, they do occasionally negotiate for the United Kingdom. That's why the "UK" releases of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Roujin Z and Code Geass have subtitles and dubs in all of these languages. I don't know if Code Geass still has the (incredibly stupid) BBFC mandated cuts in the second season that affected the DVD release, though I suppose I should look into that...

UPDATE 3 [Jesus Fucking Christ Edition]: Never thought I'd have to clarify this, but no, I am not Justin Sevakis. Nor has he ever used me as a sock puppet. You'd have better luck trying to prove I'm the Lindberg Baby than ANN's founder, but the fact that people started playing Internet Detective and thought we're just similar enough is... kind of fucking hilarious. No, really! The thought of Mr. Sevakis sitting through Gutterballs just to talk about a rush of "Modern Grindhouse" movies would be so out of character for him you might as well suggest that Harry Knowels has been Roger Ebert the whole time.

Nor am I anyone else of note in the North American anime industry. If I ever became someone in a position like that, you'd probably see this site quietly retired to try and avoid any major clusterfucks down the road. To be frank, I'm in that awkward position where I'm just friendly enough with a handful of people in this profession that I don't want to shit all over them unless they really did something to deserve it: I've done this sort of work for years now. I know people have schedules, I know that handing anything to a third party can result in fuck-ups and miscommunications. I even know that sometimes Person X at the studio knows exactly what the problem is and could probably fix it if they had an extra three days to spare, but Person Y has already done an interview about it and wants that shit on iTunes yesterday, so... there you go.

The problem is oh so rarely that everyone involved don't care, it's that they simply don't have the budget or the time to fix it. And that's a far more frustrating feeling than that oversimplified smug dismissal that's so easy to give when you know that content in and out, and if you'd been there you could have had it fixed in no time.

At the same time, I'm not so friendly with anyone I won't call them when they've clearly fucked up. I don't want to trash on Viz, or FUNimation, Blue Underground, Shout Factory, Media Blasters or whoever happens to have screwed the pooch that week. Consumers are paying to own movies they've probably already seen, and they have the right to know if the product they're going to get is up to whatever their standards may be. If anyone reading this post sees those ghastly Sailor Moon screenshots and says to themselves - "Huh, that's a shame. But oh well, still looks good enough for me!" - well, that's certainly not how I felt about it. But if I've helped you make up your mind one way or another, hooray! Me bitching like an angry sociopath wasn't a total waste of time.

26 comments:

BluMeino said...

I've said enough about Suhlur Muhn lately, but OnDeeD did release some nice looking Dream Hunter Rem encodes last year, probably about the best you could expect without a new HD transfer.

Anonymous said...

From what I have read online, it looks like Media Blaster's upcoming "Kite" blu ray will not only be the censored version, but some parts will be video sourced.

Haunted said...

Never commented here before but I've been reading this blog for a while now and find it really interesting and informative. Previous to finding your blog I knew very little about the processes involved with movie transfers and licensing, especially in regard to niche genres. I'm a horror fan but I enjoy a weird anime flick every now and then (nice Genocyber shoutout!). Keep posting -- even posts like this about shows I have no interest in are fascinating.

Anonymous said...

Ah good, a lovely write up . Just what we need to spam on Viz's fuckbook page.

BTW- props to Eddie for battling it out with the crusty rusty's who can't comprehend the abysmal "fake" HD picture quality. Cheerio mate.

Anonymous said...

That was a brilliant read. Bravo, dude.

But really, Viz botched what should've been this year's biggest anime title... all because they 'had' to put it on Blu-ray.

Anonymous said...

I too am frustrated by Viz's response and the non-answers to the apparent superior versions in Japan and Italy and elsewhere.

This was pointed out in the ANN discussion thread finally explains everything:
http://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.php?p=10020303&postcount=1334

======================================

http://prettyguardiansailormoon.com/viewtopic.php?p=550443&sid=ad2d6d2b52dcb70e6dfb473f3ffef3dd#p550443

http://prettyguardiansailormoon.com/viewtopic.php?p=551437#p551437

That was just re-posted elsewhere. Both posts are a translation of parts of an interview with the producers of the Mexican DVDs. In it they state that Toei really DO have two masters, one that they consider a "remastered" one that they were very reluctant to hand over, and another ancient one that is kept on Betacam tapes.

Basically, the Mexicans fought very hard with Toei to get the remastered version (which is obviously the version that is found on the Japanese/Italian DVDs), as the other was degraded and ugly. In the end they won out and managed to strike a deal with Toei for it.

They state that there were two conditions to this. Obviously one was that it was going to cost them a lot more. The other was that they had to leave the video quality untouched so that it remained the best it could be.

So if Viz found themselves in the same situation, this means they may have either cheaped out on the more expensive licence (but still saw fit to charge an outrageous price for a crappy master), OR, Toei didn't trust them to treat the remastered version respectfully, with them going Blu-ray and wanting to "remaster" it further.

======================================

Anonymous said...

Slight correction but the Sailor Moon Italian DVDs were released by Dynit.

Kaze has the license in both Germany & France and those DVDs have their own share of issues.

Germany - The DVDs has two video streams, one with German hardsubs on the Japanese video and the other with the German dub on an edited broadcast master (only edits are with the OP & ED with the eyecatches removed) and from a screencap comparison shown on someone's unboxing of the first set, there is some problems shown in some of the JP caps.

http://youtu.be/-1zZBEArkfc?t=3m12s

France - The following three links are to comparisons that someone posted comparing the Kaze & Viz DVDs with one of them also showing screencaps from the Dynit DVDs.

https://www.facebook.com/SailorMoonGalaxy/posts/692279070879024

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.692288327544765.1073742055.374684202638514&type=1

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.692352590871672.1073742057.374684202638514&type=1

It seems that before Viz did their upscale that the French DVDs were the worst looking available.

There's also something going on with Mexico because for their release of Talk Box Venus (the first half of the S season), Capital 8 touched up the video a bit.

https://www.facebook.com/SailorMoonTalkBox/photos/pb.280283771998008.-2207520000.1415690424./994380610588317/?type=3&theater

And there was also the Sailor Stars DVDs that were released in Chile last year (and were brought over here this year prior to Viz's license announcement) that had it's own set of problems.

http://www.fandompost.com/oldforums/showthread.php?17057-1-amp-Only-License-Rumors-amp-Speculations-Thread&p=242602&viewfull=1#post242602

Anonymous said...

Good god. The blu-ray looks like smeary washed blurred blepharitis rinse of cancer. Holy hell.

Kentai 拳態 said...

BluMeino: Good to know someone still has the time to treat the classics with the respect they deserve. Knowing the guys I work with are "looking into" a specific series from back when I've always loved I'm considering doing some prep-work on it, just in case, but there's enough stupidity going on in my day to day life that I should probably hold off on that for at least a little while yet.

Haunted: Glad you enjoyed the show, new friend! I know not everyone can handle the pink... hell, it took about 15 episodes of Card Captor Sakura before I shook off any doubts of my own badassery and could just enjoy it for what it is, and I was hoping I could finally give Sailor Moon a proper chance, having in time loved what it had inspired.

Then Viz had to take a wet shit on the carpet and pretend it weren't no thing. Fuck that. I'd simply go watch more of the CRYSTAL remake instead, but the missus hates the CG. Like, literally starts screaming about how Usagi's hair is flopping like a huge bag of dicks. I don't much like janky unmatched CG in my 2D cartoons either, but her fury is about 200% more white hot than my own reaction to, say, the Berserk movies.

Various Anon-kun's: I honestly don't expect Media Blasters to ever have the cajones to release the fully uncut version of A-KITE again. Rest assured, if and when that miserable threat of a release appears on Blu-ray, I'll say everything that needs to be said about it... it can't possibly be worse than UROTSUKIDOJI, can it?!

Thanks to whoever caught that I mentally swapped Kaze France for Dynamic Italy. Fixed now. A small issue in the scheme of things, but I'd rather my madman ravings be accurate, lest Viz see a minor screw-up and try to paint me as full of shit in the long run for it.

As for the talk of the Latin American edition, I suspect that the "old" masters that Toei is referring to are the analogue Betacam SP tapes that they would have made the LD release from. In short, the only release made from that set of masters was the original subtitled ADV/DIC release of the first two seasons. I'm sure Toei would gladly give those gnarly SVHS quality masters up for a little less bank, but Viz themselves have confirmed that these are the "remastered Japanese DVD masters".

In other words, there isn't some just-slightly-worse component video source Toei gave to spite Viz. They just done fucked up.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kentai thanks for repsonding. I'm just wondering how did they get the aliasing though?

Kentai 拳態 said...

Anon: My guess at this point is that they swapped the field parity - likely by simply not setting it and letting the IVTC algorithm guess as it goes along, which'll typically swap between Top Field (Odd Field) and Bottom Field (Even Field) depending on how much intra-frame interference it thinks it sees... In other words, instead of applying consistent 3:2 pulldown removal by dropping the correct duplicate fields every time (barring video drops/edits), it's making its best guess at each and every frame, and without knowing *HOW* to interpret those fields properly, screw-ups are bound to happen.

(For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, it means that when they tried to convert the 30fps interlaced master back to 24fps progressive frames, they screwed up which "parts" of the interlaced frames to weave back together. Think of it as trying to remove the commas from an article, and instead replacing the periods - it's still readable, but it's not "right".)

Here's the thing about any proper IVTC algorithm: IF it field-matches and the result is still interlaced, it'll use a deinterlace filter on the frame to split the difference. This is actually very useful for stuff like reality TV that'll often have 30fps interlaced effects on top of 24fps film footage... but can also deinterlace random, progressive frames because it thinks a Venetian blind or shifting chain mail or a fading subtitle or something is actually interlacing. It gets super annoying, and animation in particular are a bitch to set properly due to limited movement.

That said, you can usually tweak the parameters to let a certain "percentage" of possible interlacing through - which is especially great if the footage is fine but there's a little funkiness on, say, fading credits or simple analogue signal interference that only "looks" sort of like interlacing (but isn't). Sadly, if these guys don't fucking know how to get the field parity right in the first place, I doubt they're up on tweaking the more in-depth variables...

So, barring a more honest and technically inclined answer from Viz I doubt we'll ever see, my current guess is that whoever did this "remaster" borked the field order, which made every frame technically pseudo-interlaced, and these frames were then deinterlaced on top of that, which caused further blending/aliasing.

It's a bit confusing since NTSC broadcast masters should always been even field (BFF), but most NTSC DVDs are actually progressive content flagged for interlaced playback as odd field (TFF). This led to me assuming NTSC "should" be even field dominant for years, even though the opposite is true. Technically there's nothing "wrong" with odd field dominant SD content, it's just not typical and can screw up editing when you mix the two all willy-nilly.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kentai, with all this IVTC talk, I really don't think any of the US companies know what the fuck they're doing when handling interlaced content. I'm not all that optimistic about how Bebop's outcome will be, especially since it wasn't supposed to be left interlaced on the JP Blu-ray in the first place.

Kinda makes me wish you were the one handling the transfer and not fucking Funnelmation.

;(

Huy Tran said...

Hi Kentai,

Your blog post on this whole release is extremely informative and appreciated. Thanks for putting this out there--it's definitely a bit horrid how Viz has handled this entire PR disaster.

As someone who was looking to buy this set, do you think there are any real alternatives (even in the near future) of obtaining something that's better? Or is this still "it" for American fans who are looking to own it? Especially with the re-dub of the show?

Kentai 拳態 said...

Anon-kun: Well, for all the doom and gloom this whole situation has left us, I'm glad to say that 1080i HD content is MUCH easier to IVTC without unwanted side-effects than 486i. Yes, animation and its weird low framerates can cause a snag here or there, but I honestly don't think we have too much to worry about in regards to COWBOY BEBOP.

I'm basically guaranteed to pick up that "Betacam" Limited Edition anyway. I really liked the idea of the LP cover, but then I read about how the BDs would be kept inside "slits" in the cardboard gatefold, and decided I'd rather not stress myself out every time I take a disc out the same way I do with my ALIEN ANTHOLOGY set. Goddamn, just seeing it on my shelf gets my blood pressure rising!

Functional Packaging > Innovative Packaging. Never forget that, licensors of the world.

Huy: Short of sales tanking or someone at Toei throwing a fit, I think we're stuck with this miserable release for the forseeable future. Forever? I'm not convinced. But I can't see Viz giving this license up without a fight, and I can't see Toei wanting to touch the US market with it themselves if Viz already set whatever goodwill it had on fire anyway.

Germany, France, Mexico and Italy have all done "remastered" DVDs, so the countries left who might love the show enough to justify doing a new HD telecine are more or less gone. About all we can do at this point is pray that SAILOR MOON CRYSTAL does so amazingly well in Japan that Toei decides to do an HD telecine of the original series themselves to compliment it. They won't, no, but that's literally the only way I could see this ending in an English Friendly BD popping up in, say, the UK or AU. 'Murica's done with this one.

I hate to say it, but if you have to own the show in some capacity, buy the DVDs. I'd usually take an upscale over an SD presentation, but this is one of those rare times where the upscale itself is so unacceptable that I'd rather it simply not be supported in any way. Alternately, just get a Hulu Plus membership; cheaper in the long run by a wide margin anyway.

Anonymous said...

I haven't visited your blog before but now I'm curious to know the title of the forthcoming DVD release whose poor source material you slaved over til wee hours in perfectionist fashion, yet humbly decline naming. You make a convincing enough case that I'd be willing to buy it just to witness your dedicated handiwork more than the anime itself!

Huy Tran said...

Gotcha Kentai,

Thanks a bunch for your response! I'll definitely take it under consideration if I decide to support this abomination. Things like this make putting down money really hard to swallow despite really wanting to see the new dub, the new sub, removal of censorship, and retread some old ground. I second what the above Anon poster said and do hope you divulge what you're working on someday since I'd like to see your hard work on it.

P.S. Been reading your other posts and love your insight and wit.

cj_iwakura said...

It's very telling that I think the ADV sets still look better.
(The packaging is, too.)

Anonymous said...

Oh, Viz's situation is much, much worse here in Canada. They did not even bother to release the original Sailor Moon anime up here. Neon Alley is restricted to the US, Hulu is restricted to the US, Viz's magic is restricted to the US, I could go on... The clear fact of the matter is that Viz's field of vision only covers the US, and we here in Canada are completely pushed aside by this company, and Canada was the *launch country* for the original Sailor Moon anime in the entire English-speaking world! Viz already has several options available for streaming the original Sailor Moon up here in Canada, but refuses to even take a glance at them.

Kriztoffer Swank said...

Thing is, I've waited nearly twenty years to see Sailor Moon complete, subbed, and uncut, passing on the previous US DVDs because I heard they looked like garbage, and they were pricy to boot. I can wait twenty more years or the rest of my life if I have to—Viz done fucked up and won't be getting my money.

Pooch said...

Hi Kentai,

As always, an excellent post. I have bought the Blu-Ray release, as I had it on Pre-Order from Amazon.com.

I am extremely disappointed, but I'm now left with two choices:

1) Do I return it for a refund, because the AV quality is so bloody awful, but then potentially risk being one of the people who helped kill SAILOR MOON from being released uncut and uncensored in the USA, or

2) Do I stick with a shoddy release, and hope that at some point in the future, Viz pull their hands out of their arseholes, and fix this gigantic screw-up?

I've chosen Option 2, because I want to support the SAILOR MOON franchise being released uncut, but if Viz screw-up on Season 1, Part 2, then I will definitely stop purchasing their releases!

Fire Leo said...

I wish ADV did the rerelease of sailor moon. atleast this way it wouldn't have been so watered down

SLUSH SWEET said...

First time reader of your blog - via AnimeCornerStore's weekly newsletter. Very eye opening. I would love to read some of your posts regarding FUNimation. I've been saying for years that their early Blu-ray titles were messed up - noticed with an untrained eye! In fact, MANY of their DVD 're-masters' of previously released items are so funky looking they are difficult for me to watch. But therein lies the rub - do you boycott said title due to a cruddy presentation, knowing the Company (pick your choice) WILL NOT correct their discs, thus NEVER getting an official release? I can't stand what FUNimation has done to the EVANGELION films - but, yes, I've purchased them so far.
NOTE: Only company I can remember correcting discs was AnimEigo, back in the early 2000s!

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