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HTF HD-DVD Review: We Were Soldiers


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#1 of 25 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 03 2006 - 02:04 PM


We Were Soldiers (HD-DVD)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: R (sustained sequences of graphic war violence and language)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: VC-1
Audio: English 5.1 EX Dolby Digital Plus, English 6.1 DTS, French and Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH
Time: 138 minutes
Disc Format: 1 SS/DL HD-DVD
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2002
DVD Release Date: August 1, 2005

Movie Review Note: As I move into more HD-DVD reviews, I am cutting back on the length of my comments on the movie itself to deal more with the technical aspects of this new format. This will be done specifically on the catalog titles provided by Paramount. When they begin releasing titles day and date, I will spend more of the review on the merits (or lack thereof) of the title.

Lt. Col Harold “Hal” Moore is a good family man with five children who balances the needs of a wartime country with that of his family. When he is assigned to take a new platoon to Vietnam, he must get the relatively new troops trained quickly. Right before they are to move out, Moore’s platoon is cut by one third and it is renumbered the Seventh Cavalry-the same number as that of Custer’s at his last stand. Still, he takes his 400 husbands and fathers into a battle that, at its conclusion some three days later, will be considered one of the most brutal ever. Moore and his crew wind up fighting nearly 4000 North Vietnamese troops, but at a great cost to him and the platoon.

We Were Soldiers is a more personal account on how tough it is to leave your family behind to go off to war. The movie spends a good amount of its time in a subplot with the wives of the soldiers and how they react to the soldier’s deaths. Madeline Stowe, who plays Moore’s wife (and what the hell happened to her lips!) takes it upon herself to deliver the death notices instead of the poor cab driver whose has been assigned the grisly task. As I have said in my past reviews of some other war pictures, there is not a lot that interests me in the genre anymore, and this one just further reinforces it. While it is technically a very well done picture (great cinematography, stunts and battle scenes), it doesn’t offer anything new or interesting. We all know war is hell, but We Were Soldiers just shows us Mel Gibson knows it too.



Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 12-S4 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 720p. Thus, the HD-DVD discs are being displayed in 1080i for evaluation purposes. I am using a Toshiba HD-A1 for a player and utilizing the HDMI capabilities of both units.

The image is correctly framed at 2.35:1. Color fidelity is excellent (bordering on over saturation) with an accurate range of colors, especially showing differences in the flesh tones and environmental differences. The HD image shows off the individual color splashes in the company patches. Out of the HD DVD reviews I’ve done so far, this has been the least impressive picture, as it doesn’t look much better than an upconverted 720p image. While it shows good detail, it still seems to smudge the finer details that usually jump out at me, such as foliage, hair and clothing details. The picture also shows a higher level of graininess than some of the other HD releases, but it is free of film dirt. Black levels are good and show good shadow details. I did not notice any edge enhancement.

Audio:
The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is attained by a 5.1 analog connection

I watched this disc with the 5.1 EX Dolby Digital Plus (DD+) track engaged. While I don’t have a back center channel in my set up, this soundtrack did an excellent job of imaging the back channels to produce a convincing and immersive sound field even without the extra speaker. Coupled with the front channels, the result is an excellent surround presentation that plants you in the middle of the action. Helicopter and battle effects go flying above your head and at you; you may even find yourself ducking for cover at times. Sound fidelity is accurate and convincing, and bass effects are deep and powerful. Mortar rounds and missile blasts will rock your seats. There are very good spatial effects as the gunfire and missile rounds really seem to have a sense of depth. Helicopters feel like they are going to land right on you, so get the LZ cleared quickly.

I did some spot comparisons between the DD+ track and the DTS track to find the DD+ a much more satisfying and exciting experience. The DTS track is much quieter than its counterpart and it lack the depth and presence of the DD+. Panning effects are similar on both tracks, but bass is deeper and richer on the DD+. The DD+ track is exceptional and I highly recommend you watch the feature with this one.


Bonus Material:
With the advent of HD-DVD, we are faced with several different audio and video codecs being used on each disc. Due to this, I have begun adding the encoding details as part of the explanation of bonus features when applicable and relevant.

These are the same extras from the SD DVD.

Commentary by Director/ Writer Randall Wallace:Wallace gives a fair commentary commenting on the history of the story and characters and talking about on set happenings.

”Getting it Right” – Behind the Scenes of We Were Soldiers (28:00) (MPEG2, 4x3, DD+): The cast and crew discuss they’re real life counterparts and the production of the picture.

10 Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (21:22) (MPEG2, 16x9, DD+)

Theatrical Trailer (VC-1, 1.85:1, DD+)


Other notes on this HD-DVD edition:
- The A and B buttons that can be utilized on some HD-DVD titles do not appear to have any function on this title.
- I use the on-screen display function extensively when doing reviews for time markers and audio and video formatting. This disc would disable several remote functions until I turned off the on-screen display. I have not noticed this issue on the HD discs from Warner’s or Universal.


Conclusions:
While the feature itself leaves something to be desired, this HD-DVD has one of the best DD+ soundtracks I’ve heard yet.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#2 of 25 OFFLINE   Harminder

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Posted August 03 2006 - 02:47 PM

Quote:
this HD-DVD has one of the best DD+ soundtracks I’ve heard yet.

That's exactly what I wanted to read Posted Image.

With the improvement in PQ, this is going to be a great watch once I get this movie.

Thanks for the review!

#3 of 25 OFFLINE   Hayes Preston

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Posted August 03 2006 - 04:02 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by PatWahlquist
Out of the HD DVD reviews I’ve done so far, this has been the least impressive picture, as it doesn’t look much better than an upconverted 720p image.

Can you explain exactly what you mean. Your projector is 720p, you have the HD A1 set to 1080i. What do you mean by "it doesn’t look much better than an upconverted 720p image."?

#4 of 25 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 03 2006 - 05:17 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayes Preston
Can you explain exactly what you mean. Your projector is 720p, you have the HD A1 set to 1080i. What do you mean by "it doesn’t look much better than an upconverted 720p image."?

Sure.
The HD A1 does a very good job upconverting SD DVD's to 720p and in each of the other HD DVD releases I've reviewed, there is a very noticeable difference between upconverted SD and HD at 1080i. The 1080i images have better detail, enhanced colors, and a smoother, more film like appearance. The upconverted SD images, while they can look quite good, still look like video, and they are subject to smearing of colors, lack of detail and compression noise. The HD-DVD of "We Were Soldiers" looks better than most upconverted SD pictures, but not by much; or, at least not as much as some of the other HD titles I've seen.
Hope this helps!
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All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#5 of 25 OFFLINE   Jordan_E

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Posted August 04 2006 - 02:47 AM

On my 1080i set, this movie looks impressive. No, not Riddick good, but still dang good. Moving toward the French soldiers at the opening scene looked almost 3D in quality, at least to me.
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#6 of 25 OFFLINE   Robert Crawford

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Posted August 04 2006 - 03:03 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jordan_E
On my 1080i set, this movie looks impressive. No, not Riddick good, but still dang good. Moving toward the French soldiers at the opening scene looked almost 3D in quality, at least to me.
Yes, I disagree with this review too which isn't surprising, since, I usually disagree with more than a few reviews posted here and other sites.Posted Image The film looks great on my 1080p display and is very close to the theatrical presentations (twice) I viewed of this film.




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#7 of 25 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted August 04 2006 - 03:37 AM

That's all I need to know. I'm ordering it.


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#8 of 25 OFFLINE   Hayes Preston

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Posted August 04 2006 - 05:10 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by PatWahlquist
Sure.
The HD A1 does a very good job upconverting SD DVD's to 720p and in each of the other HD DVD releases I've reviewed, there is a very noticeable difference between upconverted SD and HD at 1080i. The 1080i images have better detail, enhanced colors, and a smoother, more film like appearance. The upconverted SD images, while they can look quite good, still look like video, and they are subject to smearing of colors, lack of detail and compression noise. The HD-DVD of "We Were Soldiers" looks better than most upconverted SD pictures, but not by much; or, at least not as much as some of the other HD titles I've seen.
Hope this helps!

Thanks for the explanation, but I have another question. When you upconvert SD DVD's using the HD-A1, do you set the A1 to 720p or 1080i?

When referring to an upconverted image, many reviewers use the convention of saying SD DVD upconverted to 720p (or 1080i) or 480i upconverted to 720p (or 1080i)

#9 of 25 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 04 2006 - 06:17 AM

For upconverting SD-DVD's, I set the A1 to 720p. When you try to upconvert SD to 1080i on the A1, it looks lousy; conversely, if you take an HD-DVD and set the A1 to 720p it looks reeeallllyyy bad. The upconversion of the A1 blows away my Bravo D1.
I agree with you on the second statement.

Crawdaddy, keep in mind I'm viewing these titles in 1080i, whereas I'm assuming you're having the HP upconvert to 1080p, right? I have yet to see a side by side 1080i vs. 1080p comparison of the same source material.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#10 of 25 OFFLINE   Dave Vaughn

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Posted August 04 2006 - 07:07 AM

Quote:
The picture also shows a higher level of graininess than some of the other HD releases, but it is free of film dirt. Black levels are good and show good shadow details. I did not notice any edge enhancement.

Pat, this is in the original print and is how it is supposed to look IMO.
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#11 of 25 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 07 2006 - 09:16 AM

Pat,

Great review... thanks for taking the time to review some HD!

Question,

when you say the DD+ sounds better than the DTS soundtrack... does the HD DVD have an actual, separate DTS track or do you mean the DTS "downconverted" version of the DD+ track (when you listen over coax digital the A1 takes the DD+ and downconverts it to "normal" DTS at 1500 kbps)?

thanks!
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#12 of 25 OFFLINE   AlexBC

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Posted August 07 2006 - 01:12 PM

David,

all Paramount titles have a separate full-bitrate DTS track, as it's now called DTS HD or something to this extent. ; )
Support the use of seamless branching on Sony BDs to always present the original theatrical cut along with the extended/alternate versions

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#13 of 25 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 07 2006 - 01:14 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaViD Boulet
Pat,

Great review... thanks for taking the time to review some HD!

Question,

when you say the DD+ sounds better than the DTS soundtrack... does the HD DVD have an actual, separate DTS track or do you mean the DTS "downconverted" version of the DD+ track (when you listen over coax digital the A1 takes the DD+ and downconverts it to "normal" DTS at 1500 kbps)?

thanks!

Thanks, Dave. I happy to review the HD product. Hopefully we will have more from Paramount soon.
Yes, there is a separate DTS track in the menu, so that one was selected in that way. Now that I have the analog hooked up, I review the DD+ track via the analog connections and the EXT-IN on the Denon 5803, and the DTS track via the optical connection into the digital input on the Denon.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#14 of 25 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 07 2006 - 03:43 PM

Thanks for the info!

I remember how on the WB titles (with only DD+) there was lots of confusion when users saw the DTS logo light up on their recievers when running coax. Interesting that Paramount is encoding native DTS-HD tracks along side the DD+. I assume that the DTS over coax is a transcoded-version of that since actual DTS-HD can't work over coax? Does the A1 convert DTS-HD to analog as well or just DD+?

Sorry for all the questions!

dave Posted Image
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#15 of 25 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 08 2006 - 01:33 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by DaViD Boulet
Thanks for the info!

I remember how on the WB titles (with only DD+) there was lots of confusion when users saw the DTS logo light up on their recievers when running coax. Interesting that Paramount is encoding native DTS-HD tracks along side the DD+. I assume that the DTS over coax is a transcoded-version of that since actual DTS-HD can't work over coax? Does the A1 convert DTS-HD to analog as well or just DD+?

Sorry for all the questions!

dave Posted Image

No problem, I'm still on my learning curve with the new audio formats and I'm still settling in on how to evaluate these sharp new pictures.
I question whether or not Paramount is encoding in native DTS HD. The menu in the disc itself and the back of the packaging only lists it as DTS 6.1 (or what have you), not DTS HD. If it truly were HD, I would think they'd be sure to label it correctly everywhere.
As for your final two questions, your guess is as good as mine.
ISO "Lost" ARG prints from Kevin Tong, Olly Moss, Eric Tan and Methane Studios.  PM me if you want to sell!

All reviews done on a Marantz VP11S1 1080p DLP projector.

Displays professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen of Lion AV.

#16 of 25 OFFLINE   Jordan_E

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Posted August 08 2006 - 03:33 AM

So, I watched all of WWS over the weekend, and the AQ was tremendous! I heard amazing side wall imaging I really haven't heard too often in my bedroom setup (that's where my HDTV is). Especially during the night scenes, I could hear small explosions and bullets from the sides, not coming from the front and surrounds, but in the space in between. Nice. And while the DTS is 6.1, my analogs only have 5.1 inputs, so it wouldn't reproduce the rear channel; I first listened to the DTS version through the analogs and it wasn't half as impressive as the DD+ version.
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#17 of 25 OFFLINE   AndreGB

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Posted August 08 2006 - 01:55 PM

Humm, guys I was looking at the DTS-HD specs the other day and I found this information interesting.

I really don't know whether this is the case with these HD-DVDs, so I am just guessing. You see, DTS-HD doesn't necessarily mean lossless. I guess you figured that out already. But DTS-HD can add an enhanced lossy information to the normal DTS "core" track.

So when you guys see DTS-HD on the disc but identifiy it as DTS fullbitrate I think that's the DTS backward compatibility working on. You see, the DTS track could be really a DTS-HD track with more than 1536 kbps. The problem is that only the legacy track can be sent through S/PDIF. Moreover, the player might know how to read only the legacy track from the disc, not the added information. This is perfect scenario to DTS. Actually this is one of the advantages mentioned by DTS, the full seamless backward compatibility.

So I guess maybe we should wait for any receiver with DTS-HD compatible processing to know for certain, right?

#18 of 25 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 08 2006 - 05:42 PM

Andre,

you're right on all points.

(edited text in next post...)
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#19 of 25 OFFLINE   Cees Alons

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Posted August 08 2006 - 07:42 PM

But if we did that, we wouldn't be able to play the DVD we're talking about here, in this thread: the HD DVD We Were Soldiers.


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#20 of 25 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted August 09 2006 - 02:20 AM

Doh!

Allow me to correct myself and comment on HD DVD DTS-HD playback (embarrased):

Future HD DVD players will also have decoders for DTS-HD just like the current A1 has a decoder for DD+... so the next-gen of HD DVD players should send out extracted DTS-HD over HDMI just like they do now with DD+ tracks.

Ok... sorry for my brain-fart!

Posted Image
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