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: Poor DVD authoring has also created other problems. The episodes "Prince of Wails," "Fever," "Last Days," "Eggheads" and "Luck of the Draw" 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); these five episodes have had the even-and-odd interlaced video fields reversed, creating the distortions. The other four episodes suffer from a low level of aliasing that is unavoidable for most interlaced video formats.
However, fan video enthusiasts have been able to fix the aliasing issues by running the copied DVD files through a detelecine process followed by a deinterlacing process for removing interlacing artifacts. For the problem episodes, detelecine followed by deinterlace reduces the jagged edges and flickering lines by about 90 per cent. For the correctly interlaced episodes, these two processes will remove the aliasing almost completely.
DVD Upscaling Season 1: Anecdotally, some fans playing these Season 1 episode DVDs on upscaling blu-ray players or upscaling HDTVs have achieved passable results where the video is at least an adequate DVD image. Some video players also have deinterlacing functions that alleviate the aliasing.
Season 2 Video Quality: Season 2 achieves average 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. While DVD compression diminishes some of this with blur and compression & interlacing artifacts, the image is clear and well-defined.
Season 3 Video Quality: Season 3 boasts above average 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 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 PdAL 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. Turbine has used the PAL masters which are 720 x 576 pixels and a 20 per cent higher resolution than the NTSC masters. But for Season 1, the PAL masters were produced by Universal taking the NTSC versions and stretching them from 640x480 to 720x576 through what appears to be a lossy analog videotape duplication process. With copying and stretching, there is a corresponding loss of contrast and sharpness.
Turbine's "Summer of Love" is, for some reason, blurrier and also missing half the colour of the Universal version. Turbine's "Prince of Wails," "Fever," "Eggheads" and "The King is Back" seem to be missing about one-quarter of the colour. "Last Days" and "Luck of the Draw" are not desaturated but suffer from a lost of contrast and sharpness like the rest.
However, thanks to modern video compression techniques, the image is not obscured with artifacts and blockiness like the Universal and Mill Creek DVD releases. In addition, the PAL files do not seem to suffer from the severe aliasing issues that affect five Season 1 episodes in the Universal set; the files have been run through a detelecine process to reduce if not wholly remove interlacing artifacts.
Disc Player Upscaling Season 1: Anecdotally, some fans report that the Universal DVD and Turbine blu-ray versions of Season 1 look about the same when played on some modern blu-ray players with upscaling functions.
This is because many blu-ray players will diminish compression artifacts on DVD playback, adding a small amount of blur that make the sharper DVD file look closer to the blurrier Turbine version. Blu-ray players will often increase colour saturation on blu-ray playback which offsets the desaturation of the Turbine episodes. Such players can also modestly sharpen standard definition video; this might negate the blurriness of artifact removal on the Universal DVD and reduce the fuzziness on the Turbine blu-ray, potentially taking two videos with different flaws and making them look the same.
No two disc players will have precisely the same upscaling methods. Therefore, results will vary with each player and television.
Season 2 - 5 Video Quality: Pleasingly, Seasons 2 - 5 on the Turbine blu-ray feature high quality standard definition video files that exceed the Universal DVD quality. Seasons 2 - 5 were edited on digital videotape which could be duplicated and converted from NTSC to PAL losslessly and the PAL masters have been digitized for blu-ray at maximum fidelity. Film grain is prominent through Seasons 2 - 3 and even heavier in Seasons 4 - 5, and when viewed at living room distance, the grain manifests as texture and detail. Season 2 has a modest level of sharpness, Season 3 is sharp and Seasons 4 - 5 are crisply defined with detail and clarity.
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 the Turbine blu-ray release had video quality for Seasons 2 - 5 that were equal to the AI upscales, making further work unnecessary. Fans are advised to purchase the Universal DVDs for the best version of Season 1 and the Turbine blu-ray for the best versions of Seasons 2 - 5, and to use upscaling and PAL-capable players.
To perform an AI upscale SLIDERS:
Hardware: One fan upscaler used a Lenovo Legion Y520 laptop with a 256GB SSD for the OS and software, a 1TB SSD for file encoding and storage, and an external USB blu-ray drive for the SLIDERS discs. The Y520 laptop had a low-end Intel i7-7700HQ CPU, an nVidia 1050 Ti graphics processing unit, and 32GB of RAM.
Copy Episode Files: First, the files should be copied from the discs. This can be done using MakeMKV. However, the files are in an interlaced format (odd and even lines forming the full image). The files will need to be either deinterlaced or detelecined so that AI upscaling can be more effective in removing artifacts and increasing sharpness as opposed to processing an interlaced video.
Deinterlace or Detelecine in Handbrake: Deinterlacing combines the even and odd fields single frames. Detelecining, however, is a slower process that seeks to reduce aliasing (jagged edges and flickering lines) caused by film to video transfer and incorrect field arrangements. Detelecining will also leave some portions of the video interlaced. While a detelecined file can still be upscaled well, the upscaled file will need to be played on hardware and/or software that deinterlaces the file or horizontal lines will flash across the screen in isolated sections.
Season 1 of SLIDERS, including the pilot, is best detelecined to remove the jagged and flickering edges. Seasons 2 - 5 can simply be deinterlaced. The files are best encoded at the Production Standard preset in Handbrake to prevent quality loss due to compression; they should also be kept at the same frame rate as original file.
Colour Enhancement: After deinterlacing or detelecining, the Season 1 episodes, including the Pilot, may also benefit from a 15 - 30 per cent increase in colour saturation for modern HDTVs, depending on personal preference and video source. This can be achieved using AVIDemux.
AI Upscaling: After this, the pilot episode and Seasons 2 - 5 can be upscaled to 1080p in Topaz Video Enhance AI using Artemis High Quality preset for removing High Compression which identifies film grain and uses that as a guide to rebuild the image in HD. The upscaling should also reapply film grain to avoid an overly smoothed look to textures.
Results for Seasons 2 - 5: While not looking like genuine HD, the upscaled Season 2 - 3 episodes (drawn from the Universal DVDs) went from looking somewhat blurry and hazily detailed to becoming crisp, clear and sharp, although lacking in the fine detail and edge contrast of a genuine HD presentation. Seasons 4 - 5 also had an increased level of texture detail thanks to the larger film grains of 16mm film offering the AI more data to mine for pixel rebuilding.
However, the Turbine blu-ray quality is equal to or superior to these upscaled video files.
The remaining episodes, however (the last eight episodes of Season 1) lack adequate film grain for AI enhancement to HD. The process for these episodes is more involved and has to settle for a lower resolution:
Denoise at 480p: Without film grain, the Season 1 episodes come out of AI upscaling looking like watercolour paintings. However, if Topaz is set to deblur the episodes but not increase the resolution (keeping it at only 100 per cent of the original), the result is cleaner and sharper standard definition files. Topaz also has the option of applying film grain and with the amount set to "1" and the grain size set to "0.5," the new graininess can serve as filler to offset the blurriness of the Season 1 episodes.
Season 1, outside of the Pilot, unfortunately doesn't benefit from upscaling beyond 480p due to the poor quality videotape storage.
Future upscaling may be done with the Turbine video files to determine if the high quality PAL video can be improved via AI upscaling or if it would be a lateral move.
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.