Originally Posted by Robert George/Obi @ Hometheaterforum.com
Okay, here's my comments on the new Studio Canal HD DVD edition of Terminator 2...
The background is this. Lionsgate has US distribution for this film. T2 was a fairly early Blu-ray release for them. Lionsgate's BD is a BD25 with MPEG-2 encoding. For whatever reason, Lionsgate has elected to release only the 137 min. theatrical version of the film in the US. Studio Canal, a French company, was one of the co-production companies of the film, and holds international distribution rights.
Studio Canal also supports the HD DVD format. For the French HD DVD release, Studio Canal has released T2 as a 2-disc set using the VC-1 codec. Disc 1 is the theatrical version of the film intended solely for the French market which means the disc has been authored with French subtitles that cannot be turned off if English language audio is selected. That's Studio Canal's policy for France-only releases. The second disc is the 152 min. "Director's Cut" version of the film that was previously released on the "Ultimate Edition" DVD in the US. Note this is not the 156 min. "extended" version also available on the "Ultimate Edition" DVD which has the tacked on Coda ending with an aged Sarah Connor in a park with a voiceover. This is what I consider the best version of the film as it includes several scenes and extensions of scenes that I find enhances the story yet it leaves off the "Coda" ending which becomes illogical with the release of Terminator 3.
It is this Director's Cut disc that is of interest so me, and I expect, quite a few other fans of the film. While the theatrical version has the "forced" subtitles, the Director's Cut disc will be released by Studio Canal in the UK. Because of this, there are no forced subtitles, and indeed, the default playback of the disc is English audio (the only track available) with no subtitles. This disc also contains what is to my eye, the finest video presentation of this film to date.
Having been a fan of this film since its original theatrical run in 1991, I have seen what I believe to be every video release except VHS. This of course includes the several laserdisc and DVD incarnations. I even had the D-Theater hi-def digital VHS edition of this film. It is this background that I base my observations of this new HD DVD edition on. Compared to all that came before, this new HD DVD edition is clearly the finest presentation of Terminator 2 to date (no pun intended).
The most immediate comparison is to Lionsgate's Blu-ray edition, as well as the theatrical version included in the HD DVD set. beginning with the theatrical edition, it appears that the HD DVD and Blu-ray came from the same master, a master that looks to have ben "pushed" to increase the visible contrast. This leads to blown out whites and some crushing of detail in blacks, as well as what some would describe as "edge enhancement". Colors are a bit overstaurated compared to the Director's Cut disc.
Although both these discs appear to be sourced from the same master, the MPEG-2 and VC-1 encodes show some fairly noticeable differences. The MPEG encode on Blu-ray is visibly softer with a bit less fine detail. There is also visible blocking where film grain is present. The VC-1 encode is both smoother and sharper with greater detail and less artifacting associated with the film grain. Even so, the master that was struck for the Director's Cut is quite obviously superior to the master used for the theatrical version.
The transfer for the Director's Cut has a more natural appearance with greater detail in both very dark and very bright areas and a more even color balance. The image is also a bit sharper than even the VC-1 encode of the theatrical version. This encoding also preserves the grain structure of the film element without overt compression artifacts.
With the somewhat limited time I have had to compare these discs I cannot comment on a comparison of audio tracks except to say I found the DTS-HD audio track on the Director's Cut version to convey all the impact and subtlety that I remember from any other version with, perhaps, a bit more authority in the lower octave and a bit more smoothness in the upper frequencies. Certainly nothing lacking in the sound department.
Rarely do the planets line up perfectly in the universe, but for fans of the Director's Cut version of Terminator 2, it seems we have a gift in the form of this French HD DVD release. Combine what I consider the best version of the film with a HD DVD authored without hindrances of any sort, and mastered and encoded as the finest visual quality this film has seen since release day 16 years ago, and you get a true treat for the film enthusiast. Although it feels more like an accident that everything worked out as it has for this disc, it is a very happy accident indeed.