I didn’t want to raise anyone’s expectations before it was official, but now that I’ve got my prototype Blu-ray player (Pioneer) and what appears to be a production copy of Sony’s Fifth Element on Blu-ray, it’s time to share the news. You can imagine my elation when Sony Reps contacted me and asked me to write a review of the Fifth Element...Blu-ray Edition. I didn't believe it until the disc arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon.
When I first learned that I might have a chance to get a hold of this Blu-ray screener I contacted Pioneer reps and was able to get ahold of one of their proto-type decks. I’ve been cautioned that the features and performance of the BD player are NOT representative of the final product…the Pioneer folks expect to make many improvements and add a few features (like 24 fps output for film-based 1080P content) but I’m thrilled that they agreed to loan me this beta-unit for the purpose of this review. A separate review of the pioneer deck will follow shortly so don’t worry…I’ll give you the full scoop on that once I’ve had a chance to test it out for a few days and take it over to my friend’s house to try out on his 1080P JVC projector.
Now, without wasting ANY time I want to get to the meat of what you’re interested in…what the hell does the Fifth Element look like on Blu-ray?!?!
Jaw-dropping. ASTOUNDING. Utterly reference setting.
I’ve never seen anything like this. And I’ve spent a lot of time with HD on my 720P DLP projector. But, just as I had hoped, getting a “full maximized” and mastered version of a movie encoded at full 1080P is nothing short of a revelation.
Put your fears to rest about MPEG2 on Blu-ray. If this is a “compromised” picture then you have nothing to worry about. Now, I’ll state right up front that I’ve only been able to view the movie in 720P since that is the native resolution of my projector (and if you’re wondering both 720P and 1080I output via HDMI look identical on my 720P screen with a *slight* edge in favor of 720P which makes sense)…my projector can’t accept full 1080P input but it wouldn’t matter anyway since it’s only 1280 x 720 resolution. Later tonight I’m hauling the player over to my friend’s house who’s JVC 1080P projector can accept a direct 1080P 60Hz input via HDMI and I’ll update the report ASAP.
Color is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Detail is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Resolution is so “infinite” it’s like I can’t see where it stops. This is the best image I’ve ever seen on my projector ever, under any circumstances, from any source. The image makes D-VHS look “soft” by comparison which is probably because D-VHS is typically vertically filtered for 1080I playback…but not so with Blu-ray (and HD DVD) which is mastered for full 1080P 24 playback.
I’m still speechless. I plan to add MUCH MORE here by tomorrow evening but I wanted to get this up right now before I have a chance to see this title in full 1080P.
Now I’m *very* interested to get to compare to VC1 in the future to see if VC1 really does produce a better picture…I can’t imagine how but I’m prepared to believe anything after seeing what’s coming off of Blu-ray with just MPEG2.
Note, I’m not going to give a numeric score because there’s nothing to compare…you can’t judge it against a DVD (obviously) but it’s also better than any other HD source you’ve ever seen. Blu-ray is in a new class all its own.
|1-2||An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch even on a 32” 4x3 480I TV. Think Outland or Jean De Flourette (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl, PAL-NTSC conversion artifacts etc.)-- truly horrid.|
|2-3||Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Kill Bill Vol 1.|
|3-4||Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos.|
|[b]4-5||A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements limited only by DVD’s 720 x 480 resolution. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW" and ask you if they are watching HD. Think The Empire Strikes Back, the Fifth Element Superbit or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition.|
Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws.
The legacy DTS and DD are at “full bit rate” which I think is 640 kbps for DD and over 1000 for DTS. The “legacy” audio on this disc, played through my DD/DTS decoder in my surround processor, again is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It’s better than laserdisc…it’s better than anything….except maybe D-VHS which is also about the best-sounding audio for movie playback that I’ve heard before.
Now, my decoder can’t accept the full 5.1 24/96 PCM signal since it lacks an HDMI input…BUT the Pioneer player will *downmix* that to 2.0 24/96 which I can feed to my processor via standard SPDIF. The results are mind-blowing. The must subtle detail and naturalness I’ve ever heard…it’s like an audiophile mobile-fidelity LP…each breath and nuance of speech sends chills up the spine.
I have to stop typing…
Coming soon (the same as what’s in the ultimate DVD edition I think—all in standard def)
Folks. The war is won. The ONLY problem, the ONLY down-side, is that of course this is April First.