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This review was written by TheForce.Net's Roderick Vonh?gen
Published on November 26, 2000



Review by Roderick Vonhögen

The VCDs for this review were supplied by AllVCD.com. Exactly two days after the official release, they arrived by mail -in perfect condition, thanks to the special protective box in which they were packaged. The presentation of the discs is very well done: a rectangular box with artwork similar to the VHS version holds three double VCD Jewel Cases. The VCDs themselves are quite beautiful too: you can check the scans . The whole package looks very slick and expensive.

Placing the first disc in my DVD player was a special moment: at last my DVD player would get to play the original Trilogy! Of course, we're all still waiting for the moment that we'll be able to play the DVD version of the movies, but these VCDs already have some of the advantages of the digital format: no more tracking problems, no more wear and tear of the tape due to repeated viewing: six silver picture discs that will deliver the same image quality over and over again.

I was very curious about the actual quality of the VCDs. I already had the VCD of the Phantom Menace, and I was quite happy with it. So how would the original Trilogy look and sound? About six hours later, after having watched the three movies in one long Star Wars marathon, I started writing this review to share some of my experiences with you...

You're all familiar with the storyline of the Star Wars Trilogy, so I'll skip right to my review of the image quality, the sound and the other features of the VCDs.


Star Wars IV
A New Hope

Star Wars V
The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars VI
The Return of the Jedi
The image quality: how does it look?

The Trilogy is presented in full frame (1.33:1) pan and scan format on these VCDs. One could regret the lack of a widescreen edition, but since the resolution of Video CD is quite low, a letterbox version would loose too much detail to be acceptable.

The image quality of the VCD of A New Hope is surprisingly good. Of course, it's not a DVD and the image suffers from the limitations of the MPEG1 format: when there's a lot of action on the screen, the image can get blocky for a second or two, and throughout the movie you can see quite a bit of artifacting. However, when there's less movement, the image is pretty good, about the same as VHS (-though in a few scenes the VHS looks just a little bit sharper).

The colors are true to the original; they're just as good as the colors of the VHS version. In scenes where there's a lot of red or blue, the image is even better than the VHS version, in which those colors tend to 'bleed'.

After a couple of hours, I put the second set of VCDs in my DVD player. I expected The Empire Strikes Back to have the same image quality as the ANH VCDs, but what a surprise! The transfer was MUCH better. It just blew me away!! It's without a doubt the best looking VCD I've ever seen!

Sometimes the movie looks so sharp that it's almost like you're watching a DVD! The artifacting on this VCD is also much less than on ANH. Even in the action-filled sequence of the attack on the Imperial Walkers, the image remains sharp and almost never gets blocky.

Colors are vibrant. Contrast is very good. An amazing transfer considering the limitations of the Video CD format.

So what about the third movie of the Trilogy, The Return of the Jedi? The image quality of ROTJ is quite good, though not as good as the amazing transfer of The Empire Strikes Back. The image is a bit more grainy and not as sharp, and in the action scenes the artifacting is more apparent. The quality is more 'standard' for the VCD format.

The colors are natural, not overly saturated. The reds and blues are very vivid. The colors in the scenes on Endor look a bit more washed out; in some scenes the trees and plants look more grey than green. One sequence that looks very good is the final space battle. The Speeder Bike chase on the contrary is a bit disappointing: lots of artifacts and washed out colors.

In some scenes, the image looks just as sharp as in the ESB transfer, but the overal impression is that the movie looks a bit 'softer' and less defined.

The sound quality: how does it sound?

This is where the VCDs really shine. The sound is encoded in Dolby Surround and the quality is very good. The original sound has been upgraded for the release of the Special Editions in 1997, and in some scenes the surround channel is well used, even though in A New Hope SE the added surround effects are limited to a few scenes. The opening battle sounds great: Ben Burtt added some low frequency rumble to the engine sound of the Star Destroyer, and the surround channel is very active during this first sequence.

John Williams' Oscar winning soundtrack sounds great and is always clearly audible, even behind dialogue and loud sound effects.

The dialogue is clear, and the sound doesn't get distorted in the louder sequences (something that bugged some VCD releases of The Phantom Menace). Of course the quality of the sound is limited by the quality of the original tapes, and the sound of ESB and ROTJ is notably better, but nevertheless, it's very good for a VCD.

There's a faint hiss throughout the movie, but you hardly notice it, and there are some soft clicks in the title sequence at the end of the movie.

What about the sound quality of the Empire Strikes Back VCDs? In one word: fantastic.

The quality of the original recording was better than the original tapes of ANH, and you can hear the difference: very clear dialogues, extensive use of the surround channel.

John William's score is beautifully rendered. Deep bass and very clear in the upper frequencies. Excellent!

In terms of sound quality, the Return of the Jedi VCDs are just as good as the other VCDs.

Very clear, good stereo and excellent surround sound in some scenes.

Especially the Speeder Bike chase and the final space battle sound fantastic!

 
The extras:
Although this is not a DVD we're talking about, this release actually has a few extras:
A short promotional clip for Fox Studios Australia
(1min. 31 sec.)


This clip is included in all three movies. You get some (very loud!) music and some flashy shots of all the entertainment the studios have to offer. Since the volume level of the sound on the VCDs is much higher than on a regular DVD, make sure to adjust your equipment before playing these discs -you wouldn't want to blow up your speakers!

The Episode II Behind the Scenes Featurette
(11 min. 20 sec.)


This featurette is presented in 16:9 format (except for the movieclips from the trilogy that are shown in 2:35:1). The featurette is actually much cooler than I expected (I loved the interview with Anthony Daniels and it's very exciting to see him in his Episode II outfit), and it really inspires me with a lot of respect for what Lucas is doing in the prequels: giving a huge background to the story you already thought you knew. The Featurette helps to look at the original Trilogy with new eyes. The image quality of the featurette is good, and the sound is good as well (it's mainly dialogue, so it's nothing special)

A division in chapters:

Though standard on DVDs, chapters are not always present on VCDs. They allow you to quickly skip to the various parts of the movie. The division could have been done better though: sometimes a chapter starts in the middle of a scene or a conversation!

Same criticism as for the ANH VCDs: the start of the chapters could have been choosen much better.

Same criticism as for the ANH and ESB VCDs: the start of the chapters could have been choosen much better.

Disc 1:
Disc 1:
Disc 1:
1. The start of the movie.
2. Artoo and C3PO split up on Tatooine.
3. C3PO tells Luke that he's not very good at telling stories.
4. Ben telling Luke that Obi-Wan is a name he hasn't heard for a long time.
5. Luke returning to the destroyed Sandcrawler after the murder on uncle Owen and aunt Beru by the Imperial Troops.
6. R2 and Threepio hiding behind a door while the stormtroopers are searching the streets of Mos Eisley.
1. Start of the movie.
2. Han looking for Luke outside the Rebel Base on Hoth.
3. Vader: "that's it! The Rebels are there".
4. Just before the AT-AT crushes Luke's Snowspeeder.
5. Luke opening the cockpit of his X-Wing fighter just after landing on Dagobah.
6. Right after the first kiss of Han and Leia.
1. The start of the movie.
2. Right after Jabba says that there won't be a bargain.
3. Just before Jabba orders Leia, who's been captured, to be brought before him.
4. The start of the execution of Luke and the others at the Sarlacc pit.
5. When Yoda tells Luke that he has to confront his father.
6. Han lets Lando use the Falcon and reminds Lando of his promise: "not a scratch!".
Disc 2:
Disc 2:
Disc 2:
1. Leia is brought before Tarkin. 2. Luke, Obi-Wan, Han Solo and Chewbacca emerge from the smuggling compartments in the Falcon.
3. Right after C-3PO informs Luke -who's under attack on the Prison Level- that all information about that level is restricted.
4. Just before Luke and Leia's jump over the chasm.
5. When Leia has arrived at the Rebel Base and R2 is uploading the plans of the Death Star to the Rebels' computer.
6. Just before Wedge blasts the Tie Fighter out of the sky that was chasing Luke.
1. Han lowers the ramp of the Millenium falcon inside the asteroid to examine the 'cave' they're in.
2. Yoda: "always with you it can not be done" - just before Luke tries to lift his X-Wing fighter from the swamp.
3. The arrival of the Millenium Falcon in Cloud City.
4. Chewbacca trying to repair C-3PO in his prison cell on Cloud City.
5. Luke entering the Carbon Freezing chamber right before his confrontation with Darth Vader.
6. Vader: "we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy!".
7. Lando and Chewbacca flying away with the Falcon in search of Han. End credits.
1. The start of the Speeder Bike chase.
2. Luke, Han, Chewie and the others captured by the Ewoks in a net.
3. Just after Luke has told Leia that Darth Vader is his father.
4. Just before Darth Vader brings Luke to the Emperor.
5. In the middle of the space battle. Lando: "watch yourself, Wedge!".
6. Later in the space battle. Lando "come on Han, old buddy, don't let me down".
7. Anakin (dying): "tell your sister you were right".
Overall verdict

So what's my overal opinion about this Trilogy Box Set? I must say that I'm very happy with it, especially since my old VHS tapes are slowly degrading due to repeated viewing of the movies. These VCDs look and sound just as good, and in case of the Empire Strikes Back, even better than their VHS counterparts, but they will deliver the same quality over and over again.

What's more, not only can I play these movies on my DVD player, but also on my computer, which is an extra advantage of the Video CD format. Since your PC monitor is usually smaller than your television, the image will look even sharper when you play these VCDs on your computer. Make sure you have a good sound system though: the sound quality is amazing, and a good sound setup will enhance your enjoyment of the movies a great deal.

Finally, It's up to you to decide whether or not you want to spend your money on yet another version of the movies you love, but if you can't wait to play the Star Wars Trilogy on your DVD player, these VCDs are a must-have!

You can order this "Star Wars Trilogy" VCD Set at AllVCD.com.


Have you purchased the Star Wars Trilogy VCDs? Tempted after reading the review? Email us at tfnrebel@theforce.net.

You can also tell us what you think and read comments from other fans in this Jedi Council Forum Thread.

Feedback welcome

 

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