Superbit was a brand of premium DVD-Video versions of motion pictures from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Superbit DVDs aimed to improve picture quality over a standard DVD edition of a feature by increasing the bit rate of the encoded video. Audio quality was also improved by the mandatory inclusion of both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround audio tracks.
Superbit discs can be read by all regular DVD video players, but their film files were encoded at a bit rate that is, according to Sony, approximately 1.5 times as high (6-7 Mbit/s vs 4-5 Mbit/s) as that of standard DVDs, which helps minimize artifacts caused by video compression and allow the image to be pre-filtered less prior to compression, which results in more detail. Superbit should not be confused with either Blu-ray or HD DVD discs, both of which are different media formats of much higher bit rate and resolution, and are incompatible with standard DVD video players.
To maximize space for the main feature, static menus are used and commentary tracks are removed. To further improve the size and therefore quality of the film on the disc, Superbit discs contained a reduced amount (and usually are completely devoid) of bonus material, such as documentaries or interviews, which can be found on regular DVDs. All Superbit releases present a film in its theatrical aspect ratio.
In addition to maximizing the bitrate for improved audio and video, the Superbit line introduced seamless layer changes. Prior to this line of Sony DVDs, all dual layer DVDs caused a slight pause during playback when the layer change occurred. Some standard DVDs had their layer changes placed better than others making some almost imperceptible. Superbit DVD were the only DVDs produced that truly had seamless layer changes. When Blu-ray was introduced seamless layer changes were standard on the improved disc format.
The Superbit line launched in October 2001 with five titles: The Fifth Element, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Air Force One, Desperado and Johnny Mnemonic. Following the initial release of the Superbit line, Superbit Deluxe was introduced, which bundled a Superbit-quality feature with a second disc containing the special features. In January 2007, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment discontinued its Superbit line in order to promote its Blu-ray Disc format.
Some of the most popular Superbit releases were the Sam Raimi films Spider-man and Spider-man 2. The only multi-disc Superbit title (meaning the film spanning more than one disc) released was David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia but in order to maximize the bitrate for AV-quality the title was not split where enthusiasts were expecting, the Intermission interlude. This led many fans of the film to ignore the release. Lawrence of Arabia was also limited to a single movie disc in many regions when the Blu-ray debuted with Sony’s Blu-ray version of Superbit ‘Mastered in 4K’ line. Only Japan got a ‘Mastered in 4K’ where the film spanned multiple disc with the disc split finally occurring at the more appropriate intermission interlude. Thankfully the UHD Blu-ray of Lawrence was split across two triple layer BD100s at the appropriate spot again when debuting on that format with the Columbia Classics VoI. 1 UHD Blu-ray box set.
David Fincher’s Panic Room was released exclusively on Superbit DVD and as of November 2021 the title has not been released on any of the newer HD/UHD formats.