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This DVD release has certainly been cause for concern amongst the films fans as on its release the region 1 edition was spread across two DVDs while the region two edition was crammed onto one disc. Therefore people have wanted to know, which provides the better picture quality, the R1 or the R2? The R1 seemed like a safe bet as surely the bit rate would be higher if it was spread across two discs? Unfortunately it is not that easy as it would seem the R1 has been the victim of that evil halo-monster, Edge Enhancement.

The basic premise of Edge Enhancement is that it is used to trick the eye into thinking the picture is sharper than it is. This is used primarily for those people watching DVDs on smaller TVs. However when larger TVs and projectors come into the equation, problems arise. Outlines of people, buildings, cars, in fact anything that has an edge to it, then has a halo present. The annoying thing is that TVs generally come with a sharpness setting and so if it was left off the DVD, it could be tuned in manually by people with smaller screens instead of ruining the viewing experience of people with larger screen equipment.  There are some ripping examples of Edge Enhancement on DVD including Terminator 2:UE and Star Wars: Episode 1 (however the production company deny the existance of EE on this disc - obviously they haven't seen it!). The Region 2 version of Spawn:Directors Cut suffers from this problem too and so below are some shots detailing this. Each frame includes a zoomed part in which you will hopefully be able to see what I am going on about.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
As you can see, these halos are not a fixed colour, and will only be visible on larger screens. As they become more affordable, many of us are starting to invest in larger televisions, plasma screens and even projectors which means Edge Enhancement is really a problem. Hopefully in the future they will abandon the use of this concept.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
So that is your basic overview of EE and why it is used. A lot of people with larger viewing equipment have seen this frankly pointless phenomenon on the R1 edition of Gangs of New York.

Unfortunately I have not had access to both regions of this film so the screen caps were done by different people on different PCs. This means that there will be some discrepincies in colour and brightness levels as unfortuantely PowerDVD captures images based on its viewing settings rather than the original video settings. Hopefully you will be able to ignore these and concentrate of the Edge Enhancement. Could it be that the R2 is superior in that it is presented on just the one disc, and is free of EE? Lets find out.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
So on this outdoor scene we do get a halo around DDL's head. A little more pronounced on the R1, the image has slightly different brightness and contrast settings so it would appear that the edge enhancement is on both discs here at about the same level.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
Again we can see a halo, this time around angelic Leonardo's hat. Its fairly mild and a lot of the other hard lines in this scene do not produce the same affect leading me to think the edge enhancement is only mildly applied in this instance.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
Edge Enhancement shows up easier when there is a darker colour on a lighter background. There is not too much of that going on in this scene and I could not see any edge enhancement here.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
Again with this interior shot - there is very little haloing present. A real close inspection reveals some on the end of DeCaprio's nose due to the light reflecting off its surface however this scene is as before - no real viewable edge enhancement.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
As before this outdoor scene with its bright sky shows the edge enhancement up a lot more than on the darker interior shots. This particular scene is not a great example however you can stil see the halo present around various parts of people heads however it must not be confused with the bright edges to everything that are caused by the lighting of the scene.

Gangs of New York R1 vs R2Gangs of New York R1 vs R2
Here we can see the EE on the opening credits. It really is very visible here and these screen shots barely do it justice it is so prominent. Again, it looks more visible on the region 1 disc than on the region 2 for some reason.

Conclusion


So, what to conclude? Well the bit rate for the region 1 is an average of 7.08Mb/s (6.69 on disc 1 and 7.47 on disc 2) and the region 2 is 6.16Mb/s (all values calculated using Bit Rate Viewer 1.4 from visualdomain.net). The region 1 is presented on two dual layered discs however the film is for some reason presented on the first layer of each disc only, with extra features on the other layer of each disc whilst the region 2 film is packaged onto one dual layered disc (with the extras on a seperate disc). Edge enhancement does appear to be present on both discs. I cannot give a 100% that it is the same level on each but it does appear to be that way. This unfortunately makes my conclusion wary. If I had both sets of DVDs I think it would be easier to make a rock solid conclusion but unfortunately I cannot.

The apparent slightly higher bit rate would make the R1 the one to go for, but while the bit rate on the R2 is marginally lower, the picture is still good, but not awe-inspiring as perhaps a lot of us were hoping (however it does appear to be this way on the R1 too). Therefore it comes down to if you want to get up in the middle of the film to change discs. It might come as a welcome "bathroom break" as it is not a short film by any means, and so unless you think you will be able to see the difference in bit rate all the evidence seems to point to the region 2 DVD with it's better concept of single disc feature presentation.

Edge enhancement often gets picked up first by DVD enthusiasts in the US since it is much more the norm to have a 60" rear projection television or projector where as a lot of us in the UK have yet to go so large. Hopefully by the time we catch up, edge enhancement will have been left long behind.

This article would not have been possible without help from Jeremy Allin - thanks Jeremy!

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