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Comparison © Alex Apple, 2004.
Please be warned: there are HUGE spoilers on this page. Also be aware that it is very much work in progress, so if you have any comments or suggestions, mail us! This page is also by nature very image heavy, with slow loading times for dial-up users. Please be patient.

There are now three distinct versions of Hideo Nakata's Ring available with English subtitles: the Tartan Region 0 PAL release from 2001 (referred to on the screen shots as "old Tartan"); the Region 1 Dreamworks NTSC transfer released in 2003 ("Dreamworks"); and the digitally remastered R2 PAL Tartan disc in the 2004 Ring collector's edition boxset ("new Tartan"). This page sets out to compare the picture quality of each - we'd do the sound except Apple Towers is not yet equipped with surround sound.

What we haven't included are the Australian and Japanese releases. The Australian disc is, we think, the same as the 2001 R0 Tartan disc; and the Japanese disc doesn't have subtitles.

Please note: all these images are uncropped and not manipulated in any way. All we've done is shrink down the size a bit. They are all exported at the same jpg compression rate.

A characteristic of the old Tartan release was a murky, blue-tinted picture quality and burned in subtitles. The Dreamworks transfer is better, but can be a little washed-out in comparison.
The winner here is perhaps the new Tartan version in terms of lighting and colour tone, though perhaps the brightness is a little high.
Yoichi at the bottom of the stairs. The contrast on this particular shot singles out, again, the new Tartan transfer as the better-looking of the three on this page.
Dreamworks looks a little dark here, but it is a night-time exterior shot! Again, I think the brightness is a little too much on the new Tartan. As for the old one, note burned in sub and murky blue cast. Ugh.
Note here the blue-ness of the old Tartan has returned in the new one. The Dreamworks is superior, I feel.
It's a close-run thing here, but I prefer the Dreamworks version here. But perhaps the old Tartan blue adds to the mysteriousness of the shot.
Bearing in mind the Sadako video is meant to be an n-th generation copy, I reckon the murkiness of the old Tartan wins hands down here. The others just look too... clean.
It took us ages to spot Sadako in the telly on the old Tartan disc. Here, it's the new Tartan which is the lighter, as seems to be emerging as a pattern here, but the Dreamworks does seem nice and crisp. What it loses in brightness, it gains in sharpness and contrast.
The blue cast has returned again in the new Tartan. The Dreamworks is crisper and, to my mind, has better colouring.
A crucial exterior shot. The new Tartan has a blue cast again, and you can see shadowing from what I think is a PAL copy of an NTSC source, though I can't be certain (but it does run throughout the movie). Dreamworks is by far the most natural of the three.
Some of the encoding on the new Tartan is quite suspect and you can see a lot of grain and pixellation when watched on our site laptop. Here the Dreamworks version is much, much clearer.
It's amazing how Ryuji's brown shirt looks purple in the old Tartan print. Again, there's a fair amount of grain in the new Tartan version, with the Dreamworks version proving superior again.
The brown-ness of the Dreamworks version shows through here more, though marginally it's the new Tartan that wins through, though it's still really quite grainy.

Snowblood Apple Verdict

It's a bit of a tough call in places, but overall I'd plump for the Dreamworks disc every time. While it can be a little brown in places, the quality of the transfer and (presumably) better bitrate wins over. However, it doesn't have a DTS track, just a Dolby 5.1, while the new Tartan transfer has both. The old Tartan transfer is now just not worth the money. I'm guessing as well on this, but the new Tartan version has a definite NTSC-to-PAL conversion ghosting effect, which suggests it comes from an NTSC transfer.

Looking at the original Tartan disc, it appears to have been cropped at the edges a little. The new Tartan version suffers from this less, though the Dreamworks version has the most complete picture of the three.

Each has a slightly different translation - though the best translation we've seen is the one broadcast on Film Four in the UK a while back. If you're a fan of "frolic in brine, goblins be thine" on the original Tartan disc, be warned: it's not there on the new Tartan disc, replaced with the rather impenetrable and a lot less prosaic "if you keep on doing Shomon, Bokon will come". Heresy! (And rather inexplicable heresy at that... ¿Que, Meester Fawlty?)

One advantage of the new Tartan set is that it comes with all three movies in the trilogy remastered, as well as Nakata's 2000 movie Sleeping Bride. It remains to be seen if Dreamworks will turn their attentions to the other movies in the series.

Old Tartan: 4/10
Dreamworks: 9/10 (less one for no DTS track)
New Tartan: 8/10 (quite grainy in places, and the blue cast returns sometimes)

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