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HTF REVIEW: LOST - Seaon Two - Unquestionably Recommended

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#1 of 66 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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Posted September 04 2006 - 03:18 PM

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LOST
the complete second season

Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Year:2006
Rating:TV-14
Aspect Ratio: 16x9 encoded 1.78:1 OAR (HD)
Audio: 5.1 DD English
SpecialFeatures: A whole heck of a lot… an entire disc full
ReleaseDate: September 5, 2006




Feature...


Allow me the luxury of quoting from my original Season One DVD set review… the review that actually acquainted me with the incredible world of LOST. Nothing's changed...

Quote:
The show is a unconventional series brought to life by many of the same folks who fashioned Alias. LOST intersects some effective devices, each of which would have been compelling enough to support a “normal” show all by itself: There is the adventure aspect of a surviving group of plane crash victims on a mysterious, uncharted island. There is the character development and relational intrigue of a drama. There is the mystery/suspense aura of a genuine thriller. All of these dissimilar lines coalesce together without abrasion and amplify the strength of the show; the whole of LOST is greater than the sum of its parts.

The show is so riveting at times that the cat happening to innocently jump up on the sofa is a catalyst for disaster. I confess that I cruelly helped fate out a little a few times when my roommates were spook-primed with a well-placed “boo” that literally tore them into shreds with fits of fear-for-their-life screaming. We *all* had to make good use of a “protection” blanket which, as anyone with experience watching good suspense/thriller will tell you, is necessary to protect your outer extremities from the invisible threats that roam the viewing room…lurking just out of view under the sofa and around the corner. The horror isn’t gratuitous or needlessly vulgar, it’s classy-suspense along the vein of The Village, The Others, and X-files.

Like all television series that have to be written-on-the-fly to accommodate a rigorous airing schedule, at times there are a few plot holes or rough spots, but the show never insults your intelligence. And don’t be too quick to judge, because more often than not, when you find yourself getting critical of the direction of the plot and assuming that you can “out think” the show and condescend to try to let it entertain you in spite of its deficiencies, its takes a quick turn, knocks you off balance, and demonstrates that the “faulty logic” you had so pridefully identified turned out to be a more complex storyline strategy that was simply waiting to unfold a new dimension to the story. What fun.


See all the good discussion about Season one on DVD here:

http://www.hometheat....d.php?t=220025




Packaging & Presentation...


As with Season one the set (seven discs!) comes in a card-board fold-out case that's stores nicely in a book-sized plastic sleeve. My only complaint is that the packaging uses the "overlapping" disc strategy which makes removing the top disc necessary to reach the disc below (I'd swap them as I watch them in order to simplify things). Good news is that the episode numbers are clearly silk-screened on each disc and there is a nicely printed booklet describing the contents of each disc with a description of each episode.



Picture...



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Perfection.

Ok, maybe it’s not “perfection” but it’s definitely really, really, really good.

I don’t think the image could look much better than this within the confines of the 720 x 480 MPEG2 DVD format. On my 720P projector the image looks so close to the subjective image quality of the HD broadcast that casual viewers would probably not be able to tell them apart. The image is lush and vivid. Colors (especially greens) are deeply saturated and subtlety varied. The bright day-light scenes look about as natural and easy-on-the-eyes as Standard-Definition has a right to look. I’m amazed how “unprocessed” the daylight scenes look simply spectacular, with what feels like nearly all the clarity and detail of the HD feed.

Now, with all the accolades let me qualify a few points. The first is that LOST is actually filmed on 35mm which is then flown in negative form to the production house in LA where the material is scanned to digital for post production editing. The relevance of this is that despite the vast amount of detail/picture information that can be stored on 35mm film, depending on film-style and production techniques, film-source HD material often looks softer than “live” HD capture. The producers of LOST chose 35 mm for capture because they like the look and know how to work with the medium artistically during filming. However, the film-origin of the show may be one reason why the difference between the DVD and HD doesn’t look more pronounced to my eyes. Also, keep in mind that my projector is only 1280 x 720 in resolution. It’s quite possible that a full 1920 x 1080 projector (viewed from the same viewing distance) would allow the HD original to communicate more detail than what I see now.

Negatives? Some of the darker night scenes (and there are a lot in LOST) look a little MPEGY in some of the shifting backgrounds. However, it’s difficult for me to tell where film-grain and “natural” noise stops and where digital noise begins. I also see some noise in some of the daylight scenes but even when closely scrutinizing the image it seems a toss-up whether I’m just seeing natural film-grain. The image never takes on that “harsh” character of over-compressed MPEG that I’m used to seeing when film-grain swamps the codec or too much EE enters into the picture to “digitize” the natural detail. Oh… let me state that I see absolutely no edge-ringing anywhere at all.

Can it be real?

Of course… like any good HT enthusiast I’m looking forward to a future 1920 x 1080p delivery on HD disc (HD DVD/BD/whatever). But in the meantime this SD DVD set is no slouch. I think you’ll be impressed.

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Picture Quality: 5 / 5

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Rating Rationale...


Rating Key:

SCORE Description
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.
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.




Viewing Equipment:
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.






Sound...



Ya-know. I can’t help but feel a little under whelmed by the 5.1 presentation on this disc. The mix feels decidedly front-heavy. More specifically, it feels a little too much center-focused. I know that the show is primarily dialogue-driven and there are instances of sounds making their way to the front L/R channels and on occasion the rears… but the mix doesn’t sound like it really takes advantage of the acoustic opportunity that it’s afforded via the discrete 5.1 Dolby Digital codec. Too many times I find myself saying “self… I can’t help but feel that the acoustic atmosphere in the mix is just not taking the best advantage of the 5.1 array.” Hey, don’t pretend that you don’t have conversations with yourself just like that all the time… you just keep them to yourself and hope that nobody is watching when you mouth the words. I’m putting myself out there and being vulnerable. I’m going to give myself a hug.

(pause)

So in summary the audio is “ok” but it just seems that overall it’s not going for the gold. In fairness to the mixing crew they’ve got to crank these shows out without much time for contemplating convoluted presentation strategies… but it just seems like even something as simple as cranking up the rear channels and adding some out-of-phase reverb to the back L/R speakers would throw a more satisfying sound field. I’ll shut up now.


Sound Quality: 3.5 / 5

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Listening Equipment:
B&K AVR 212 processor/receiver driving my Onix-Rocket Loudspeaker system.



Special Features...


As you may have expected, this seven-disc DVD edition of Season Two has some outstanding bonus material… in fact… the entire seventh disc is devoted entirely to bonus material. My roommate and I spent hours going through every single feature and were particularly rewarded to find that there’s an Easter Egg on virtually every menu (which you can find by pressing one of the directional arrow keys repeatedly until the cursor lands somewhere you didn’t expect… experiment to with the keys to figure out which one works for each menu). The DHARMA cookies was my personal favorite.

What’s wrong with the bonus features is that all but one of them are exclusively 4x3 encoded. This is a real bummer, especially for a show shot in 16x9 native for HD.

The bonus disc menu system derives inspiration from the DHARMA training films seen in the program and it’s a hoot. I think fans will get a kick out of just accessing the bonus features let alone watching them…

WARNING: Spoilers around every corner in the special features of disc seven. If you haven’t already seen the entire second season DO NOT watch any of the bonus material until you do so - otherwise you take a great risk for missing out on much of the fun of the emotion of suspense during the show by seeing stuff you shouldn't see ahead of time in the bonus material.



  • Fire & Water – Anatomy of an Episode: I know it masquerades by the title as a typical episode-making-of feature but this documentary goes much deeper. It touches on all aspect of film production, special effects, colorizing, filming, transferring, editing, writing, you name it. This was one of the key bonus features on the disc and it really goes in-depth into the production of the series. A must-see.


  • LOST on Location: A sort of behind-the-scenes tour which follows cast and crew and many of the drudgeries behind the few minutes of finished film we take for granted on ABC.


  • The World According to Sawyer: This is fun. It plays something like a “reel” of Sawyers best one-liners and nick-naming mockeries. If you’re a Sawyer fan or if you always get a kick out of hearing him roll off those great jibes at his fellow mates then don’t miss this entertaining short.


  • LOST Flashbacks: These are basically “deleted scenes” of flashback (non-island) material. There are several and many of them just flesh out already-included flashbacks in a little more detail. Sadly, picture quality is terrible and appears VHS in origin. The play-all feature is handy.


  • Delete Scenes: Sporting the same abysmal 4x3 VHS-ish picture quality of the Flashbacks, what you’ll see through the scan-line aliasing and chroma noise are some deleted scenes that will definitely pick your interest. Use the play-all feature and just watch them in series.


  • LOST Bloopers: Didn’t do a thing for me. I’d rewatch “The World According to Sawyer” again instead.


  • Channel 4 UK Promo: Proudly bearing the badge of being the only 16x9 bonus feature, this is that artsy-fartsy promo with the cast on the beach dancing in slow-mo dressed like they’re in some Bob Fosse stage musical. It’s actually kind of cool. This circulated on the internet a while back too.


  • LOST Connections: Ok, this was the feature that I had to call it quits after about 10 minutes, but die-hard fans will probably map it all out and have a field day over this one. This ingenious feature “links” all the characters together showing how they’ve intersected in each other’s pasts… basically the six degrees of separation theory. Very cool, and if you ever wondered what connections existed and spent time freeze-framing or surfing the web boards to chat about it here’s a chance to get some of the linkages spelled out.


  • Mysteries, Theories, and Conspiracies: The cast and production team talk about the many fan-fabricated theories about what the heck is going on. This feature is a lot of fun and shows just how much reflexivity there is between today’s on-line fan communities and the artistic direction behind the actual show. In one example here, one of the creative team painted a mural inside the hatch (painted by the shipwrecked sailor in the show) and included iconography based on many of the fan-circulated conspiracy theories he’d read on the web. How cool is that? And you thought that Snakes on a Plane was the only time this sort of thing happened.


  • Secrets From the Hatch: This is cool. The details behind the design and construction of the underground hatch are explicated in great detail. Definitely worth the watch!






    All Together...



    LOST needs no justification but allow me to say for the sake of completeness how uncommonly rewarding watching this series can be. The show establishes its own parameters and creates its own genre. If you haven’t seen LOST and want to get into the action be sure to watch Season One completely (and in order) before moving on with this latest DVD set.

    Well folks. Fans have no choice... other than deciding which retailer is going to earn their LOST Season Two purchase dollars. As expected, a stellar image transfer awaits you on this fantastic seven-disc set. An entire disc devoted exclusively to bonus material adds hours of indulgent bliss for casual fans and LOST die-hards alike. I hope you enjoyed the review… now go forth and buy!


    Unquestionably Recommended
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    #2 of 66 OFFLINE   Jonny P

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    Posted September 04 2006 - 03:32 PM

    Excellent review!

    David...I am assuming this set uses the "overlapping" disc trays that the first season had???

    #3 of 66 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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    Posted September 04 2006 - 03:34 PM

    Yes... I'll add that to the review (good question).
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    #4 of 66 OFFLINE   JohnS

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    Posted September 04 2006 - 05:51 PM

    Excellent review.

    Do I have your permission to link this to my Lost website???

    all-banner.jpg


    #5 of 66 OFFLINE   Joe Reinwald

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 12:09 AM

    There was never a doubt in my mind that I would be owning this. In fact, I'm heading to the local b&m after work this morning to pick it up. You review has made me more eager to catch up before the new season starts up.

    #6 of 66 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 12:13 AM

    Quote:
    Do I have your permission to link this to my Lost website???

    You can always link to any web url (not just at HTF) with no problem. If you want to quote text you just need to make sure to mention the author and also provide a url link so folks can see the original/complete review if they so choose.

    On word of caution... after reviews at HTF get archived the url changes. So bear this in mind if you link... once the review falls off the active board (usually after a month or so) you'll just want to double check to update the url to reflect the new url pointing to the archived thread (and people can still post there just as before).

    glad you like the review!

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    #7 of 66 OFFLINE   Sean Laughter

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 01:17 AM

    Glad to hear the image quality is good in this season set as well. I thought the first season looked spectacular, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good and "hi-def" it looked on the 720p projector.

    I'd thought about waiting on buying this season until we heard about what possible hi-def optical format releases we may see for this show - but can't pass it up I'm afraid since I love this show to death - and the general quality of the transfers doesn't make me feel as if I'm missing a whole lot since I have seen some of the hi-def broadcasts to compare (though admittedly, not an A-B comparison).

    The box art does look pretty horrendous though, if what's pictured is the actual box art. The first season box looks rather nice and classy - this however, looks just garish and like something some ten year old would throw together in photoshop.

    #8 of 66 ONLINE   TravisR

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 01:21 AM

    Good review! I'll be going out in about 20 minutes to pick up my copy. Posted Image

    For those interested, Best Buy has a bonus disc (with the third recap show from last year and some featurettes).

    #9 of 66 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 01:45 AM

    Excellent. I have to wait until tonight to actually get my set, but I'll be there regardless.

    I agree with Sean about the box, though. Ever since the art was released, I kept hoping it would change. The cast looks horribly photoshopped and the rust color...I'm not sure about it. Really, though, they could have put this in a paper bag and I would have picked it up.

    #10 of 66 OFFLINE   Jonny P

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 02:07 AM

    Here's the cover art...

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    #11 of 66 OFFLINE   Jeff Cooper

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 03:15 AM

    David, did you watch this season on TV? I'm curious about 'The Extended Experience' tagline. Is there actually stuff in the episodes that wasn't included in the broadcasts?
    -Jeff Cooper

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    #12 of 66 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 03:21 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jeff Cooper
    David, did you watch this season on TV? I'm curious about 'The Extended Experience' tagline. Is there actually stuff in the episodes that wasn't included in the broadcasts?

    I'll wait for confirmation from David, but I'm guessing "Extended Experience" refers to the extras having lots of deleted stuff. They tagged Desperate Housewives with something similar...Jucier Edition, or something...

    #13 of 66 OFFLINE   Jonny P

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 03:28 AM

    I think the "Extended Experience" is sort of a reference to the online "world" that has been created for this TV show, but as Jason says, basically about the extras on the disc.

    The eps themselves aren't extended.

    #14 of 66 OFFLINE   DaViD Boulet

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 03:51 AM

    I think that's correct. The run-times seemed identical to the aired show and I didn't notice anything "new" in the shows themselves.

    By the way,

    in that Fire and Rain making-of doc on the bonus disc, they talk about how first LOST gets edited in what they call a "director's cut" which then gets taken by another team of editors for finally trimming to fit into the TV time-slot. They really made it sound like the considerations for the additiona trimming were all about necessities of fitting into the TV schedule and not artistic in nature.

    Are you guys with me that DVD would be a perfect opportunity to see this show in its original, full-length "director's cut" version prior to TV editing?

    Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image
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    #15 of 66 OFFLINE   Arild

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 04:00 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jonny P
    The eps themselves aren't extended.
    Though in a sense, some of them were already "extended" when they first aired as their running time exceeded the ~42 minute standard. Posted Image

    #16 of 66 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 04:03 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DaViD Boulet
    Are you guys with me that DVD would be a perfect opportunity to see this show in its original, full-length "director's cut" version prior to TV editing?

    If they included both cuts, yes. Posted Image Because, obviously, what is aired is the official canon version of the show.

    However, I don't think this is anything new since there are multiple references to this "director's cut" in the Deep Space Nine Companion. David Carson tells of a very long opening sequence in OPS in "Emissary"; the effects guys tell of more stuff that was cut in editing in "Way of the Warrior"; the director of "The Circle" (forget who it was) had the meeting in Kira's quarters filmed in one take...then added coverage.

    #17 of 66 OFFLINE   Jonny P

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 04:10 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DaViD Boulet
    ]Are you guys with me that DVD would be a perfect opportunity to see this show in its original, full-length "director's cut" version prior to TV editing?

    Posted Image Posted Image Posted Image

    Absolutely. It'd be great to see longer versions.

    I am glad to hear that the picture quality is on par with Season 1.

    I don't have the hi-tech equipment that many of you have, but I found the PQ on Season 1 to be absolutely stunning. It was one of the few shows I have watched that truly feels like a motion picture.

    #18 of 66 OFFLINE   Robert Ringwald

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 04:33 AM

    Buena Vista certainly made a mistake with the ads for this and the 2nd season of Desperate Housewives.

    Both boxes depicted in ads all over the country and on all of the online stores shows the "concept" art for each release. With the horrible font used for "Extended Experience" and "Extra Juicy Edition." The actual boxes and revised art released look much more professional... but somewhere down the line someone forgot to include the revised art for the press part of the releases... cause EVERY store weekly saver has the old art, and at Barnes & Noble has this HUGE display on their door for Desperate Housewives, with this ugly old cover art. oops.

    #19 of 66 OFFLINE   Lou Sytsma

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 05:29 AM

    Woohoo! Can't wait to revisit this before Season 3 starts.
    Every man is my superior, in that I may learn from him.

    #20 of 66 OFFLINE   Arild

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    Posted September 05 2006 - 05:44 AM

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Jason_V
    However, I don't think this is anything new since there are multiple references to this "director's cut" in the Deep Space Nine Companion.
    It's probably fairly standard. I've heard it referred to in audio commentaries on Stargate SG-1 as well.


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