XenForo Template 300 Release Date: Available now (released July 31, 2007) Studio: Warner Brothers Packaging/Materials: Standard single-disc HD DVD case Year: 2007 Rating: R Running Time: 1h50m Video (Feature): 1080p high definition 16x9 2.40:1 Audio (Feature): Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 5.1 Video (Special Features): Partially 1080i high definition, partially 480i or 480p standard definition Audio (Special Features): Stereo Subtitles: Feature only: English, French, Spanish MSRP: $39.99 The Feature: 4.5/5 "300," alt=" " /> Video Quality: 5/5 The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1, is VC-1 encoded and free of dust, dirt, damage and edge haloes. The highly stylized, high contrast look of the film is perfectly rendered in high definition, the deep swaths of black and white never getting out of control or unstable. Of course the high contrast manipulation - called "The Crush" by the filmmakers - precludes the usual evaluation of shadow and highlight detail. But overall image detail is remarkable - perhaps more than usual because of the high contrast. Flying embers, kicked up sand and dirt, and the added-in-post grain all have an incredible clarity. At times the extent of the image manipulation gives the picture an artificiality resembling full CGI productions like the upcoming "Beowulf," in particular the first scene with Dilios (David Wenham) by the fire. But this of course is merely an observation laced with a curiosity about where digital manipulation will take us in the next several years. If we continue to get eye poppingly beautiful works like "300" let's hope we also get the same caliber of high definition transfers. Audio Quality: 5/5 The film's Dolby Digital Plus option will certainly please listeners, but if one has the capability the Dolby TrueHD track is preferable for its wider soundstage and greater overall sonic depth. The audio mix on both tracks have surround channels in an almost constant state of activity, whether providing soundtrack support, atmospheric sound effects or directional effects in battle scenes. Though LFE is present and healthy, don't expect profoundly heavy moments that rattle the foundation (think the Balrog scene in "Lord of the Rings") - to my recollection there aren't any. And while dialogue is generally clear and intelligible, I did at times have to turn on the subtitles to catch certain names or to get past the accents or emphatic deliveries. Special Features: 5/5 Bluescreen Picture-In-Picture Version: Easily the highlight of the special features, viewers are able to watch the feature and unmanipulated version at the same time. With Snyder providing audio commentary, one can see the full extent of "The Crush," which pieces were set and which were added in post and really how much blue and green screen was used to make the film. Here's hoping other HD releases will include this special feature. My only criticism is the constant "300" bug in the top right corner, which seems like a potential display burn-in problem for those with CRT sets. Currently exclusive to the HD DVD release. "Vengeance and Valor" strategy game: A "Risk" style game that continues the battle between the Greeks and Persians. Being a horrible strategist in games as simple as checkers, I didn't do very well, but I'd be interested to know if the game is any good for those "Risk" aficionados. Currently exclusive to the HD DVD release. Pick Your Favorite Scene: Compile your favorite moments from the movie and store them for a quick revisit and/or share them with fellow fans via the online component. As expected inputting letters is a bit tedious with just a remote and there doesn't seem to be a way to record a scene as you're watching it in the standard viewing mode, but the feature works all around and could prove popular especially with action oriented fare. Currently exclusive to the HD DVD release. "300: Fact or Fiction" (24m34s): Snyder, Miller and historians share some of the actual history of the battle and the Spartan culture and society. "Who Were the Spartans?" (4m32s): A brief look at the Spartan warrior society and its values. "Preparing for Battle" (6m42s): How the graphic novel came to be adapted for film, with selections from the original animated storyboards and film test footage used to persuade the studio to bankroll the production. "Frank Miller Tapes" (14m42s): Miller talks about how he came to create "300." Friends and colleagues also chime in on what makes Miller so great. "Making of 300" (5m50s): Standard promotional featurette, in 4:3. "Making of 300 in Images" (3m39s): Production stills set to music and presented in rapid succession, in 4:3. Webisodes (38m21s): Twelve featurettes covering everything from production design to the actors' physical training, in 4:3. Deleted Scenes (3m23s): Three scenes, introduced by Snyder. The first two deal with Ephialtes' attempted suicide; the third is of a giant-little-person-archer pairing that was deemed too over-the-top. Good decisions all around. Web Enabled Downloads: Download up to 13 ring tones and/or up to 25 wallpapers for your mobile phone. No pricing is stated, so caveat emptor. Currently exclusive to the HD DVD release. Recap The Feature: 4.5/5 Video Quality: 5/5 Audio Quality: 5/5 Special Features: 5/5 Overall Score (not an average): 4.5/5 A pulpy but exhilarating film gets first class treatment, with excellent audio and video transfers and a great set of special features. A recommended addition to one's HD library.