Vertical Limit (Superbit) (2000)

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Released 3-Jan-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 159:22 (Case: 120)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Martin Campbell
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Chris O'Donnell
Bill Paxton
Robin Tunney
Scott Glenn
Case Soft Brackley-Opaque
RPI $49.95 Music James Newton Howard


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    So, I hear you are looking for a "reference title" that you can play on your home theatre setup. You are after a disc that is so clear the image is like looking out the window? A transfer so sharp you can cut your salami sandwich with it? And your visitors will leave the cinema room drooling and wondering why they purchased that $145 DVD player? Well folks look no further. This disc will do all of the above and made a great impression on me.

    The whole Superbit hype is something that I fell into quite early. I purchased my titles from the US, paying sometimes as much as $90 to land a title here in Australia and that was for an NTSC (Never Twice Same Colour) version. Now that PAL versions of the Superbit titles are available here in Australia the question I wanted answered was "Are they better than the versions I already have?" The answer is a resounding YES!!! The Region 1 version of Vertical Limit is an identical transfer to the Region 4 title I will review here, but the difference is that our release is just that notch better.

    For those not yet familiar with it, the concept of a Superbit title is to put a higher quality video and audio transfer onto the DVD compared to the original release of the same title. There is nothing "technically" special about this, contrary to what the Columbia Pictures Superbit website would have you believe. In fact, because a better master can be used, there would actually be less work on behalf of the disc authors and it should be cheaper to produce. The disc authors would not have to spend time and therefore money carefully checking that the compression levels used to shrink the size of the final product do not result in unsightly problems when viewed by the consumer. If you want my personal opinion, Superbits should be the standard and not seen as a higher quality than the usual offering. Certainly there would be less space for extras (which is not always the case, however), but let's face it - some of the extras that have been included on some Region 4 DVDs of late are practically worthless anyway. But I digress, and had better get back to the movie itself.

    Dean has already done a magnificent review of the Vertical Limit: Collector's Edition release so I will not regurgitate the same information. Instead, I will concentrate on the differences between our release and the initial release available in Region 1.

    With such a magnificent disc, which also contains the finest Columbia Tristar animated logo you will ever see in standard definition DVD, why are the worst quality audio trailers included? Depending on the soundtrack you pick, you will either see the Dolby Digital "City" trailer or the DTS "Digital Experience" trailer. Why not "Canyon" for Dolby which has a higher quality level but also has the camera searching its way through caverns until it finds the Dolby logo. Certainly more fitting for a mountain climbing movie and of a much better quality. For the DTS track, give me the short "Piano" version any day with its resonating sound and high quality worthy of inclusion on a Superbit DVD.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer of this movie is superb, and is of close enough to reference quality as to not really matter.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is extremely clear and extremely sharp from beginning to end and is a real pleasure to watch. The opening scene features sweeping camera pans through mountain ranges without a hint of the flickering or smeared edges that are visible briefly on the Region 1 version. The level of detail on this disc can clearly be seen in such areas as 1:20 where the individual fibres of the climbing ropes can be clearly seen. The wording on the NIKON camera is also as clear as if you were holding it for yourself. At 29:24, the climbers are coiling their equipment and the ropes can clearly be seen from their hand to the ground as they coil them after use. On the non Superbit version, these ropes tend to disappear from time to time in the snow haze, such as at 6:02 and 40:18. In the first example, Peter is holding a knife in front of a climbing rope and you can see the intricate detail of his blood-covered knuckles, the individual cracks in the skin of his hand, a colourful rope and the sharp edge of the pocket knife. The second example is a smooth panned shot of the communications equipment in the Command Tent. You can make out the smallest detail and almost every switch and button label can be clearly read. On the non Superbit version, this simply looks like a very impressive piece of equipment. Now it is actually sitting in your living room for you to play with! Shadow detail is exemplary, but most scenes in this movie were shot outside with excellent light. Light reflection off the snow also helps. The shots taken inside tents or caverns do, however, contain perfect levels of detail. There is no low level noise.

    The colours really shine in this production and are even bolder than the Region 1 release. For safety reasons as well as fashionable ones, climbing gear is usually made of very bright colours and this disc truly brings justice to the gear the actors are wearing. In all cases they are made of bright colours and the shots inside tents make for some very colourful backdrops against the actors inside. Have a look at 31:42 for an example which also features colourful computer screens showing the local weather forecast against a backdrop of the colourful skin of the tent. The colours and detail here are brilliant.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen and aliasing was also something that was absent. Film artefacts do make an appearance in the opening scenes up until around 6:30 when they seem to almost disappear. The artefacts on this disc are identical to the Region 1 Superbit version once you allow for the slight differences in NTSC/PAL speedup and the way they track time. On close comparison it is clear that the two versions have been taken from an identical master.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with a seamless layer change. It has moved position from the Collectors Edition at 82:55 and I have been unable to confirm its new position at the moment.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    This is a magnificent audio transfer, and is of reference quality.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD with the default track dependent upon your DVD player. When I inserted the disc into my Denon 1600 DVD player, the default track was DTS. In a Toshiba DVD-ROM drive, the default track was Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to both soundtracks. If you have equipment that can decode the DTS signal, this is definitely the track of choice on this title, particularly during the avalanche and helicopter sequences, where the sound just hits your ears with more realism and clout than the Dolby Digital track seems to deliver.

    The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. The dialogue and effects were also well balanced across the entire dynamic range of the soundtrack.

    Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by James Newton Howard was very well mixed and is a real mood setter for the entire feature. His tunes will have you feeling calm in some places and tense in others, depending on the film sequence. It is definitely a fitting choice for this style of movie. The volume levels did not drown out the dialogue at any point during the movie.

    As good as the image is, the soundtrack is even better and is one of the best DTS or Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes you can hear. The dynamics and fidelity are wide and expansive, and the helicopter sequences will have you ducking and weaving in your chair. You will feel an overwhelming sense of surround engagement. Crank this baby all the way up to let the neighbours share the experience too!

    The surround channels were very aggressively used for ambience, music and for lots of special effects. In all instances the surround use added the necessary depth and realism to the visual feast. Directional effects and precise sound placement within the sound field are something you would expect from a Superbit and this is something you will not be disappointed with in this title.

    The subwoofer was highly active during the action sequences, and placed an excellent bottom end on these sequences.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     As with most of the Superbit titles, there are no extras. The titles that do contain an extra disc of content are marketed as Superbit Deluxe (in Region 1).

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced with no sound. The main menu features the same menu design as the other Superbit titles I have seen which is a metallic 4 option menu. You can choose from the following options;

Brochure

    There is a small 1 page brochure which shows the other Superbit titles on one side and an overview of what the difference between a standard DVD and a Superbit DVD is. Remember, this is Columbia Tristar Home Video's version and has little to do with the DVD standard or technical aspects of the disc and is merely a justification as to why you are charged more.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    As I mentioned earlier, an identical film transfer has been used for both Superbit discs based on film artefact placement. The main differences are in the subtitle options and unless this is a key factor for you I would definitely lean towards the Region 4 version. The Region 1 DVD exhibits a slight flicker on my Loewe Aconda when its DMM (Digital Movie Motion) feature is enabled. The smoother image that is available from the Region 4 PAL transfer definitely makes ours the pick of the two. The image is just cleaner and smoother during pans, plus I don't have to turn DMM off either.

    The Region 1 version has a cardboard slipcase and plastic DVD case, both in silver. The Region 4 version also has a cardboard slipcase but it has been changed to black along with the colour of the plastic DVD case. The slipcases are of a sturdy nature and should hold up to repeat gentle handling. There has been a slight graphical change to the cover photo, no doubt to distinguish from the Region 1 version if the colour difference was not enough. The back cover contains the same photo with only the usual changes to the Region coding, barcode, and so forth. The Region 4 release does have an easier to read information bar at the bottom which has made its way onto a lot of Columbia Tristar's titles lately. It easily shows on a white background the Language Options, Subtitles, Region coding and feature length information.

Summary

    Even before the Superbit version of this title arrived I have had many enjoyable viewings of this movie. This movie has all the elements of a great title and even knowing the end still has the ability to draw me back to watch it again. For me, this was something that Cliffhanger never seemed to pull off.

    The video quality is superb, and only missed out on reference quality status due to the first 6 minutes of film artefacts. This is during the outdoor cliff climbing scenes and may be due to the processes used to take footage in a technically challenging location.

    The audio quality is superb, and is of reference quality.

    There are no extras but quite frankly I don't care. This is a superb title and your DVD collection is not complete without at least one Superbit to use for the "show-off" value as well as your enjoyment. Get a copy now!!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Mellor (read my bio)
Friday, March 21, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersWhatmough Audiolabs Magnum M30 (Mains); M05 (Centre); M10 (Rears); Magnat Vector Needle Sub25A Active SubWoofer

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Comments (Add)
Superbit DVDs now reduced to $39.95 at HMV. - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Re: Superbit DVDs now reduced to $39.95 at HMV - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
In reply to Alex H - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
why is this version longer 40 minutes longer than the regular version? -