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The Transformers Season 1 DVD comparison

by Jeffrey M. Jacobson (2003 May 1). Updated 2003 May 5 (added index)

Transformers is ™ Hasbro and Takara. Transformers Program content: ©Sunbow Productions, Inc.

This page contains an analysis of The Transformers Season 1 sets from both Rhino (US Version) and Maverick (UK).

Index

  1. The Original Transformers (Season 1 Boxed Set), R1 NTSC (USA) by Rhino
    1. Video
    2. Audio
    3. Extra Features
    4. Summary
  2. Transformers Complete Original Series Deluxe Edition, R2 PAL (UK) by Maverick
    1. Video
    2. Audio
    3. Extra Features
    4. Misc
  3. US vs. UK version Summary
  4. Notes about The Transformers

The Original Transformers (Season 1 Boxed Set)

Video

Rhino has gone back to the film elements and made new masters for this DVD set. This results in better image quality and more vivid colors than if they would have simply used the old video masters made in the 1980's.

Unfortunately, the film elements that they used were incomplete. These versions of the episodes on this DVD are missing special effects and contain many mistakes that were fixed before the episodes aired. Based on some of the footage contained in the "extra features" section of the set, they actually did fix some mistakes that were on the film version. But there are many others that slipped by them.

I am aware that the final versions of the episodes that aired on TV did contain mistakes. I am not complaining about the mistakes that were present in the final versions of the episodes that aired on TV. The mistakes that I am referring to in the rest of this document are ones that were already fixed before the episodes aired on TV in the 1980's.

Since Rhino had access to the original broadcast master tapes, they had all the materials they needed to complete these incomplete scenes. The A/B comparisons in the extra features section of this DVD set clearly show scenes that are incomplete in their "restored" form on the DVD, but were completed on the broadcast master.

These problems are most evident in the last episode in the set, "Heavy Metal War". It really looks like they rushed through the remastering process to get the DVDs in the stores as soon as possible. I've taken some screenshots from this episode and displayed them in the table below along with screenshots from the UK version. (The UK version apparently just used the old broadcast master tapes, and do not contain the visual errors that plague Rhino's DVD set.) These screenshots clearly show some (but not all) of the errors that Rhino's DVD contains that were not in the episode when it aired on TV.

"Zobovor" compiled a list of visual errors based on other newsgroup posts that he read and posted it to the newsgroup alt.toys.transformers. According to this post, he has also sent the list to Rhino.

Overall Video Score: 1/5

And if anyone thinks that is too harsh, just think about this: What if when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out on DVD, Indy was running away from nothing but a blue screen instead of a giant boulder? Would you say, "Wow, they sure did a good job restoring this! The colors are so vivid! Look how blue that blue screen looks!"? Or would you say, "What the ****? Where's the boulder?!"

Screenshot comparisons illustrating (only a few of many) errors in Rhino's DVD set
Rhino (US) versionMaverick (UK) version
  • All screenshots in this table are taken from the episode "Heavy Metal War" (#700-13)
  • These screenshots are reduced to 50% of their original size.
  • NTSC (used in USA) resolution is 720x480, and PAL (used in UK) is 720x576. Because of the differences in resolutions between the two television systems NTSC and PAL, the screenshots from the UK version appear stretched.
  • Since the UK PAL version is about 4% faster than the US NTSC version (and since the bumpers are removed from the UK version), the time codes given for each image (in the alt attribute) do not match exactly.
  • The screenshots in this table do not represent all of the errors in Rhino's set or even in this episode. I just picked a few that were easiest to display in a single screenshot. (For example, there is an scene where there is a camera pan that is "choppy" in Rhino's version, and "smooth" in the final version. An choppy camera pan would not be visible in a single screen capture, so it would have been pointless to include a screen shot of it.)
Rhino version: 0:03:17.960

Apparently, the animators originally forgot to draw the piece of equipment in the back of Long Haul. This was fixed before the episode aired in the finished version of the episode.

For some reason, instead of using the version of the scene from the broadcast master, Rhino did a really bad job trying to fix it themselves. That piece of equipment with a purple outline around it just appears in the back of Long Haul after he transforms.

Maverick version: 0:03:17.920

This screenshot (taken from Maverick's version) is how the final version of the scene is supposed to look. This is how it aired on TV. Note that the piece of equipment can be seen in the back of Long Haul as he is transforming. It does not just magically appear there afterward with a big purple outline around it, as it does in Rhino's version.

As you can see the piece of equipment in the back of the truck looks completely different in Rhino's version, as if Rhino never even looked at the final version when making their "fixed" version.

Rhino version: 0:04:27.920

In this scene the animators mistakenly colored Cliffjumper like Bumblebee.

Maverick version: 0:04:29.120

The scene was re-animated with the correct color scheme before it was broadcast. (If you look carefully at Cliffjumper's feet, you can see that the animation cel and the background and foreground elements are in slightly different positions in relationship to each other.)

Rhino version: 0:07:03.080

The version of this scene that Rhino used did not have the glowing effect added in. Because of this, Starscream's "power chip rectifier" is missing in this scene.

Maverick version: 0:07:06.080

The glowing "rectifier" was present in the version that aired.

Rhino version: 0:13:35.000

Everyone in this scene (especially Chip) is drawn off-model.

Maverick version: 0:13:35.760

In the final version, they look normal.

Audio

For all of the 5.1 audio tracks in the set, Rhino has taken it upon themselves to put in additional sound effects that weren't originally in the shows when they were originally broadcast. Nearly all of the scenes that contain lasers or explosions contain extra sound effects that were added in by Rhino. Quite frequently, these extra sounds drown out the original audio, including dialogue, making it very hard to hear.

If they would have included the original audio tracks in addition to these messed up ones for all of the episodes, then it really wouldn't have bothered me that much. I think that is what Rhino intended to do, because each episode also includes a 2.0 Audio track. (The series was originally broadcast in mono.) Unfortunately, the 2.0 audio tracks for seven of the 16 episodes also contain the same extra sound effects that were added to the 5.1 tracks! >:(

I've created a table below indicating which episodes have extra sound effects added to their 2.0 audio tracks. If you don't have this table handy when you are watching the episodes, it is pretty easy to tell which episodes have had their 2.0 tracks tampered with.

The first telltale sign common for each episode is the opening credits. When the camera zooms in on Optimus Prime's shoulder, there should not be a cheezy explosion sound effect there. On the tracks that Rhino has messed up, there is an added sound there, making it look as if Prime accidently ran into the camera or something. Also, about one second after that added sound, you hear a "click" noise. (Perhaps this click is from Rhino's sound guy pushing the stop button on his cheezy sound effects tape.)

Another way to tell if an audio track has been altered is to watch the bumpers. (The bumpers are the scenes between commercial breaks, telling you that the show will return, etc.) The only sounds that are supposed to be in the bumpers are the music and the narrator's voice. Any other sound effects (i.e., tires squeeling, whooshing, transforming noises) were added by Rhino. The transforming noises that Rhino has added don't even match the familiar noises actually used in the show!

5.1 Audio Score: 0 / 5

2.0 Audio Score: 2 / 5

2.0 Audio track analysis
Episode #Title2.0 Audio info

In making this table, I simply watched the opening credits for each episode with the 2.0 audio track. If the Rhino-added explosion sound when zooming into Optimus Prime's shoulder was present, I marked the episode as being incorrect due to containing extra sound effects. If that extra sound was not present, that episode's 2.0 track was assumed to be correct.

Note that the 5.1 audio tracks for all of the episodes contain extra sound effects, so they are all incorrect.

Disc 1
4023More Than Meets The Eye (part 1)
4024More Than Meets The Eye (part 2)
4025More Than Meets The Eye (part 3)
700-01Transport to OblivionExtra sound effects that aren't supposed to be there.
700-02Roll for itExtra sound effects that aren't supposed to be there.
Disc 2
700-03Divide and ConquerExtra sound effects that aren't supposed to be there.
700-04Fire in the SkyExtra sound effects that aren't supposed to be there.
700-05S.O.S. DinobotsExtra sound effects that aren't supposed to be there.
700-06Fire on the MountainExtra sound effects that aren't supposed to be there.
700-07War of the DinobotsExtra sound effects that aren't supposed to be there.
Disc 3
700-08The Ultimate Doom (part 1)
700-09The Ultimate Doom (part 2)
700-10The Ultimate Doom (part 3)
700-11Countdown to Extinction
700-12A Plague of InsecticonsThere are no extra sounds, but there might be missing ones. (Further investigation required.)
700-13Heavy Metal War

Extra Features

The most prevalent problem with the extra features in this set is that they are labeled incorrectly.

Summary

The remastered video showed a lot of promise. It looked very sharp and had good color detail. But the errors that were introduced by Rhino (that weren't in the final versions of the episodes that aired on TV) were very disappointing.

The sound was also a major disappointment due to the extra sound effects that Rhino added in that weren't there originally. The few episodes that had unaltered 2.0 tracks sounded fine.

Rhino, here are some things you can do to improve future releases.

Transformers Complete Original Series Deluxe Edition

Video

The video seems to be from a different source than that used by Rhino. My guess is that they just used an old video transfer for the source instead of the unfinished film version that Rhino used. This means that the picture doesn't look quite as good as Rhino's set, but the episodes are as they were shown on TV originally, with no missing special effects.

However, many of the episodes on this set have the video for the Season 2 opening (instead of the correct Season 1 opening). For most of the episodes that have the correct Season 1 opening, the text for the end credits is missing. (So, the opening and/or closing credits for almost all of the episodes in this set is wrong in some way.)

Since this error with the credits was not in the Rhino version, this further leads me to believe that an older video transfer was used.

Also note that the bumpers (the scenes between the commercial breaks) are missing.

James Reader (of the UK) offers an explanation for the missing bumpers:

"None of the 'bumpers' were included in the original UK showings (or to my knowledge any UK showing). Sometimes the episodes were shown without any adverts in the middle, and when they were shown with adverts it would only be one set halfway through the running time (with the TV station creating it's own (semi)'Branded' bumper. There would never be multiple advertising breaks in an episode. There is strict control over the amount of advertising time that can be shown per hour in the UK (although this has been relaxed in the last couple of years)."

EpisodeOpeningEnding

Note: I did not check the content of the text in the credits to see if it was correct.

A green background indicates correct, and red is incorrect.

Disc 1
More Than Meets The Eye! (part 1)Season 2 videoCredit text missing
More Than Meets The Eye! (part 2)Season 2 videoCredit text missing
More Than Meets The Eye! (part 3)Season 1 videoCredit text missing
Transport to OblivionSeason 2 videoCredit text missing
Roll For ItSeason 2 videoSeason 2
Disc 2
Divide and ConquerSeason 1 videoCredit text missing
Fire in the SkySeason 1 videoCredit text missing
S.O.S. DinobotsSeason 1 videoCredit text missing
Fire on the MountainSeason 1 videoCredit text missing
War of the DinobotsSeason 1 videoCredit text missing
Disc 3
The Ultimate Doom (part 1)Season 1 videoSeason 1 with text!
The Ultimate Doom (part 2)Season 1 videoCredit text missing
The Ultimate Doom (part 3)Season 1 videoCredit text missing
Coutdown to ExtinctionSeason 1 videoCredit text missing
A Plague of InsecticonsSeason 1 videoCredit text missing
Heavy Metal WarSeason 2 videoSeason 2 credits

Score: 3/5

Audio

This DVD set uses the same 5.1 audio tracks that were created for Rhox, followed by my own comments.

Misc. notes

The Transformers and all related elements ©Takara / Hasbro.

US (Rhino) vs. UK (Maverick) Version Summary

Video

It is difficult to decide which version (US or UK) is superior in the video category. Both versions have their strengths and weaknesses.

While Rhino's attempted restoration has better colors and a sharper image, many scenes have missing or incomplete animation or special effects, which is unacceptable.

Maverick's image quality may not be quite as good, but the episodes are complete, with no missing animation or effects. However, the opening sequence and/or end credits on nearly all of the episodes is incorrect in some way. Also, there are interlacing artifacts, probably due to the conversion from NTSC to PAL.

Audio

Since both the US and UK DVDs use Rhino's butchered 5.1 soundtrack, and only Rhino's set includes the original sound in the 2.0 tracks of some (but not all) of the episodes, Rhino wins in the audio department.

Notes about The Transformers

This section contains some notes about the series in general based on various sources. (Some familiarity with the events and characters of the series is assumed.) Much more detailed information can be found elsewhere on the internet.

Although the toys originated in Japan as different toy lines called "Diaclone" and "Microman", The Transformers TV series originated in America. The scripts were written and dialogue recorded in America, and then animation was done in Japan by Toei. (A few episodes of Season 2 and most of Season 3 were animated in Korea by AKOM.) The animation was done after the dialogue was recorded, so that the characters' mouth movements match the dialogue.

After the first two seasons of The Transformers came The Transformers: The Movie, which was set in the year 2005 and killed off many of the classic characters, including Optimus Prime. The third season continues where the movie left off in the year 2006.

After the episode "The Return of Optimus Prime", came a very short fourth season, which contained one multi-part episode called "The Rebirth". This episode dealt with characters teaming up with an alien race called the "Nebulons" to become Headmasters and Targetmasters, and also introduced various other characters.

The series was also imported into Japan (in a Japanese dubbed version) and became popular. In Japan, the third season was shown under the title Transformers: 2010, long before the movie had come out there. The year the third season takes place in was changed from 2006 to 2010 for some reason in Japan. (Some of the characters that were killed in the movie show up again breifly in some of the Japanese spin-off series, probably due to the fact that Transformers: The Movie had not come out there yet.)

After the third season was shown in Japan, they did not show "The Rebirth" there. Instead they started creating their own spin-off series, the first of which was called トランスフォーマー ザ☆ヘッドマースターズ (Transformers: The Headmasters). Unlike the American storyline, there were no "Nebulons", and none of the previous characters (e.g., Hot Rod, Arcee) become Head- or Targetmasters. The Headmasters are little robots from the planet Master, who build themselves larger bodies that transform into vehicles. The little robots then transform into the heads of the larger robots. This series also briefly features characters called "Beast Formers", the toys of which are known in America as "Battle Beasts".

After Headmasters came トランスフォーマー 超神マスターフォース (Transformers: Choujin <Super-god> Masterforce). This series featured the Pretenders, Seacons, Headmaster Jrs., and Godmasters (Powermasters). This series is strange because most of the characters are humans who control robots (Headmaster Jrs., Godmasters), and some are robots pretending to be humans (Pretenders). The character based on the toy known in America as "Powermaster Optimus Prime" is not Optimus Prime at all in Masterforce, but is named Jinrai.

Next came トランスフォーマービクトリー (Transformers Victory). In this series, the Autobots are commanded by Starsaber who, along with a lot of the other characters, were never released in America as toys.

Finally came トランスフォーマーゾーン (Transformers Zone). There is only one episode of this series, which (I think) was made for video (instead of being broadcast on TV). This show featured a lot of Micromasters (who are all Autobots, unlike in America). Some of the old giant Decepticon villains (including Devastator, Trypticon, Predaking, and others) return (dressed in strange armor and capes) and work for some evil entity.

Much later (in America again) came Transformers: Generation 2, which was just the old series with annoying computer-generated transitions and effects added in.

Then came the Canadian computer-animated Beast Wars: Transformers. This series was about a group of Transformers that crash their ships on a planet, and are forced to take on the forms of animals to protect themselves from energon surges or something. The decendants of the Autobots are called Maximals, and those of the Decepticons are called Predacons. The Maximals are led by Optimus Primal, and the Predacons by Megatron. Although some of characters share the same names as classic characters (such as Megatron), they are not intended to be the same characters; they are merely named after them.

Then in Japan they started making more (2D) spin-offs. First was 超生命体トランスフォーマー ビーストウォーズ(セカンド) (Super Lifeform Transformers: Beast Wars IISecond). This was made in between the first and second seasons of the North American Beast Wars series. There was also a BWII movie that was shown in theaters along with (for some reason) an episode of (the Canadian CG) Beast Wars. Then came another series called 超生命体トランスフォーマー ビーストウォーズ ネオ (Beast Wars Neo).

Back in North America, another series called Beast Machines picked up where Beast Wars left off, with the Maximals and Predacons returning to Cybertron. As far as I know, this series was never aired in Japan.

Another Japanese Transformers series called カーロボット (Car Robot) was then released in Japan. An heavily-edited, English-dubbed version of this series called Robots in Disguise was released in America. In this version, most of the characters were renamed and given the names of classic G1 Transformers. The people doing the translation weren't very accurate. They tried to make it seem as if these were the same characters as in the original series, when they weren't intended to be in the original Japanese version. The music and sound effects are also completely different from the Japanese version.

The latest Transformers series is called 超ロボット生命体トランスフォーマー マイクロン伝説 (Super Robot Lifeform Transformers: Micron Legend) in Japan, and Transformers: Armada in America. From what I have heard, this series was created in Japan, but came out in America slightly before it did in Japan.