Topic: Sliders DVD Releases (Universal, Mill Creek, SD blu-ray, Restoration)
EDITED BY IREACTIONS TO ADD: A Summary of all SLIDERS home video releases to date.
SLIDERS has had home video releases from three separate companies. www.slidecage.com from our friend Jim_Hall also has some excellent reviews of the DVD sets.
Universal Home Video DVD
Universal released a Season 1 and 2 box set in 2004 followed by individual season sets of Seasons 1 - 5 and subsequently a complete series set. In all these sets, the episodes are presented in airdate order instead of intended order. The pilot is accompanied by a commentary track from the original series creators.
Season 1 Video Blurriniess: The pilot episode of SLIDERS is in excellent quality. Unfortunately, the rest of Season 1 looks extremely poor: it is blurry and lacking in fine detail or sharply defined outlines. This is due to SLIDERS' first season episodes after the pilot being stored on low resolution analog videotape.
Produced in 1994 - 1995, SLIDERS' first season was shot on film (35mm for the first three seasons). For editing, the film was then transferred to videotape with approximately 250 lines of resolution (possibly U-Matic, Betamax or 8mm tape), causing the image to lose detail and clarity. This would have been adequate for standard definition TV broadcast at the time, but the damage is glaring when these episodes are screened on modern HDTVs. Some fans have mistaken the blurry image quality for DVD overcompression, but the blurriness is in the master tapes.
The Pilot episode looks sharp because it had a higher budget than the series that followed and was edited on a higher resolution format, possibly film or a high quality SD videotape format like Hi8 or some equivalent with 420 lines of resolution.
Season 1 Video Aliasing: Outdated DVD authoring techniques for CRT screens has also created problems for modern HDTV displays. The episodes suffer from severe aliasing (jagged edges and flicker on straight lines for shelves, vehicles and buildings).
Videotape and DVD are interlaced formats (formed from alternating field lines of image detail). When authoring the DVDs, Universal's home video department converted the analog videotapes into the DVD format but the even-odd fields seem to have been scaled to DVD resolution independently without being woven back together, resulting in visual distortions.
Season 1 Video Playback Issues: In addition, the 29.97 interlaced frames per second format of NTSC DVD can cause problems for modern blu-ray/DVD players. 29.97 fps video that is interlaced will, if played without deinterlacing, have only half the image for each frame.
For modern HDTV playback, most blu-ray players will combine these half-frames into full frames and then duplicate them as needed for a 24fps filmic frame rate. Many players with limited processing capability achieve this by fully deinterlacing unmoving visual elements but drop half of the field frames for in-motion elements. Due to Season 1's low video quality and misaligned fields, this deinterlacing approach leads to even poorer image quality on many players.
DVD Upscaling Season 1: Some fan video enthusiasts have been able to fix the aliasing issues by running the DVD files for these episodes through the TIVTC inverse telecine process and the QGTMC frame repair process. This recovers a closer approximation of the original film image and removes the jagged edges and comb lines.
Some fans playing these Season 1 episode DVDs on upscaling blu-ray players have achieved passable results where the video is at least an adequate DVD image, likely due to their players providing a more capable deinterlacing process than what is in standard blu-ray machines.
Season 2 Video Quality: Season 2 achieves good DVD video quality. From Season 2 onward, SLIDERS would have been edited on digital videotape, introduced by Panasonic in 2005 with its 540 lines of resolution becoming the industry standard. Digital videotape can hold a scaled-down version of the film image that retains an approximation of the original sharpness, although a portion of the detail is lost. Thanks to the high video quality, any image degradation from DVD compression or player deinterlacing methods is minor.
Season 3 Video Quality: Season 3 boasts very good video quality. It would appear that with the third season, SLIDERS started using another digital videotape format that could maintain even more of the original film's sharpness as well as a modest amount of the fine detail of the image.
Season 4 - 5 Video Quality: These episodes have excellent DVD quality with impressive levels of sharpness, detail and clarity that exceeds Season 3. Seasons 4 - 5 were filmed on what appears to be 16mm film, a smaller sized stock with the image composed of film grains larger than the 35mm film used in Seasons 1 - 3. Despite DVD compression, the larger image grains have kept the video quality extremely sharp for these final seasons.
Packaging: The Season 1 & 2 box set were presented in foam sleeves while the individual seasons were granted card and plastic packaging. The Season 3 discs are double-sided discs that require flipping them to see additional episodes.
Availability: Some of these sets are available online, previously used and priced from $8 - $45 USD. The complete series set is entirely sold out.
Mill Creek DVD
In 2016, bargain home video distributor Mill Creek released a complete SLIDERS DVD set with all 88 episodes on 15 discs at a $40 USD price. This set remains in print and available online. The episodes are in the intended production order instead of broadcast order.
Video Quality: Mill Creek used the same digital files as the Universal set, but further compressed them to fit more episodes onto fewer discs. As a result, the already blurry and aliased post-Pilot Season 1 episodes retain the same flaws of the Universal set but are further blurred and are covered in an even greater degree compression artifacts.
The colour is also severely desaturated, missing almost half of the vibrance in the Universal DVD release. The pilot and Seasons 2 - 3 are not as fuzzy as Season 1, but compression has marred them in noise and reduced the colour although less significantly as those episodes had higher saturation levels than Season 1. Seasons 4 - 5, due to the larger film grains that form the image, have survived the compression and retained the image data and most of the colour.
DVD Upscaling Season 1: While upscaling disc players can reduce the compression distortions, this simply adds more blurriness as there is little detail beneath the blockiness of the blurry videotape image that's been further compressed and blurred for DVD.
DVD Upscaling Seasons 2 - 3: An upscaling disc player can reduce the compression artifacts and upscale the videotape stored film image effectively, although it will be a little blurrier than upscaling results with the Universal DVDs.
DVD Upscaling Seasons 4 - 5: Most upscaling disc players will present the final two seasons well as the larger film grains can survive the compression with most of its quality intact.
Packaging: The Mill Creek set is presented in a cardstock box containing glossy paper envelopes, each of which contains one disc.
In 2016, Turbine, a German home video company, released a standard definition blu-ray with all 88 episodes of SLIDERS on four region free blu-ray discs in cardboard boxing with plastic trays. The high capacity blu-ray format and updated authoring techniques allowed Turbine to release episodes without the excessive compression of DVDs. (The box claims to be "Region B, PAL," but is actually playable on on North American blu-ray players and blu-ray disc drives.)
Playback Issues: The blu-ray, despite being region free, is based on PAL video masters and encoded as PAL video on the discs. Some fans have been unable to play PAL discs on North American NTSC blu-ray players that lack PAL decoding function.
Others have been able to play the discs on NTSC blu-ray players but have had playback issues where the video is 20 per cent too fast as PAL is 25 frames per second while NTSC is 30 frames per second.
Some have been able to play the discs without issue due to their blu-ray players being able to accommodate PAL playback appropriately; some have used PC blu-ray drives to copy the video files into a format like MKV or MP4 for playback.
Season 1 Video Quality: Unfortunately, Season 1 episodes, including the Pilot, have even poorer image quality than the Universal DVDs (while being better than the Mill Creek discs).
Turbine's "Summer of Love" is, for some reason, blurrier and also missing half the colour of the Universal version. Turbine's Pilot, "Prince of Wails," "Fever," "Eggheads" and "The King is Back" seem desaturated and lacking in contrast. "Last Days" and "Luck of the Draw" are not desaturated but suffer from a lost of contrast and sharpness like the rest.
However, the PAL files (576 pixels high and interlaced) do not seem to suffer from the severe aliasing issues that affect five Season 1 episodes in the Universal set; the files seem to have had the fields aligned for transfer to the MPEG-2 format.
Disc Player Upscaling Season 1: Some fans report Turbine blu-ray version of Season 1 upscales well to their HD televisions and is superior to the Universal DVDs. This is because the PAL format is the 25 frames per second which is more easily weave-deinterlaced by most DVD and blu-ray players, resulting in the full 576i image being rendered onscreen. In addition, most mid-range blu-ray players will increase colour saturation for playing SD video.
However, fans with players capable of reverse telecine processing will find that Turbine is poorer than Universal.
Season 2 - 5 Video Quality and Upscaling: Seasons 2 - 5 feature mildly blurrier video quality than the Universal versions. The image degradation is minor and not glaring. However, due to the 25fps format of the video files, most blu-ray players will make again the files look sharper than the Universal versions via weave deinterlacing for full resolution rendering.
Topaz AI Upscale Process
A SLIDERS fan was making AI upscaled to 720p and 1080p versions of SLIDERS using the Universal and Mill Creek DVD sets. This was a private video project for a single fan's home viewing. This project has largely been abandoned as inverse telecine and frame repair methods have proven better suited to Season 1 than AI and AI upscales of Seasons 2 - 5 have proven to yield only minor improvements on simpler scaling.
The process for the upscale was to copy the disc files to a hard drive using MakeMKV. The MKVs would then detelecine the disc files into MP4s. This was originally done using Handbrake to produce 640x480 MP4s. The detelecined MP4 was then run through Topaz AI's Artemis (Low Quality) algorithm with a moderate level of AI film grain added for a 720p file. This process proved effective with the Pilot and Season 2 - 5 but ineffective for episodes 1.02 to 1.09 which lack the SD detail and film grain needed for sharp AI upscaling results. The resulting files were pleasing but often had oversmoothed details and texturesin wide and medium shots, and dependent on added AI film grain to offset the smoothing.
These techniques are also outdated as the MKV files are better detelecined via Avisynth+ scripts and processes like TFM, TDecimate and QTGMC. Also, SLIDERS on NTSC discs is actually a 720x540 video pillarboxed in a 720x404 container. Neural net scalers like nnedi3 have proven to preserve more of the fine detail than Topaz AI Artemis. Also, newer algorithms like Topaz AI Gaia have yielded stronger results with upscaling standard definition video.
Original 2016 Mill Creek DVD Announcement by Jim Hall
TV Shows on DVD:
We're pleased to have the scoop that in the not-too-distant future Mill Creek will be releasing (or re-releasing) six other TV shows which they've licensed from Universal Studios, and all will get some form of DVD version from MCE. Some of them will also make their debut on high-def Blu-ray Disc format, too...but Mill Creek hasn't finalized which ones, and in what configurations. Here are the six other shows to look for: Quantum Leap, Sliders, The Rockford Files, Coach, Friday Night Lights, Necessary Roughness.
EDITED TO ADD: DVD pushed back till October 11th 2016. http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Slider … ries/22692
EDITED TO ADD: DVD announcement, no blu-ray possible: http://www.tvshowsondvd.com/news/Slider … ries/22442
Mill Creek Entertainment is excited to announce that on October 4th they will re-release Sliders - The Complete Series on DVD. Mill Creek knows that a lot of fans have REALLY been pushing for a Blu-ray release of Sliders, and so they have asked us to pass along that high definition masters of the episodes have NOT been made available to MCE, therefore no Blu-ray release plans have been made at this time. Unfortunately they just do not have the ability to make it happen; they are only able to use what materials are provided by the studio they've licensed the property from. But they are excited to give fans a new way to get the show on DVD, at a great price, and for the first time in the proper order.