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HTF Blu Ray Review: Digital Video Essentials - HD Basics (Recommended)


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#1 of 17 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 10 2008 - 04:23 PM

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Blu Ray Title: Digital Video Essentials – HD Basics
Rated: Not Rated
Screen format: Contains a variety of clips at multiple resolutions for test purposes, including 1080p24, 720p24 and 720p60
Studio: DVD International / Joe Kane Productions
First theatrical release: N/A
Previously released on DVD/BluRay: Multiple releases on DVD and HD DVD, first BD format release
Director: Joe Kane
Starring: Joe Kane, Sam Dalton, Christopher DeLisle (if IMDB is correct, all are uncredited)
Sound Formats: Dolby TrueHD
Length: N/A, contains a 97 minute overview of HD though
Subtitles: N/A



Plot: NA/5

Continuing his trend of releasing a reference level calibration tool for each major disk format, Joe Kane Productions latest version of the venerable Digital Video Essentials is retitled HD Basics and is finally available on Blu Ray. While this series is acclaimed for its technical brilliance and exacting quality, prior versions have been plagued with obtuse command structures and difficult to use menus and a general lack of overall user friendliness. While much of this has been cleared up through a much improved menu system, The menus themselves are a bit problematic too, as they refused to scale back to the correct screen ratio on my projector, tho this could be local to my PS3/PJ setup and not any fault of the disk, however it has never happened on any other title, tho this is my first HD calibration disk. Especially notable is the jettisoning the use of title buttons and other esoteric choices.

For HD newbies though there is a new bunch of material outside of the actual calibration tools, including a 97 minute overview of what HD is all about and how it should be ideally set up. There’s also a ‘quick start’ option that runs them through an exhaustive set up. For those wishing to get down to the absolute nittii-grittiest of settings there are calibration tools used to evaluate every conceivable video specification, and enough audio checks to enable those equipped with a sound pressure level meter able to dial in to perfection. While all available tests are menu selectable at will, it just seemed like that there still remains a bit of a gap in where moderately experienced users can go to quickly run through the most critical of calibration checks all at once, but this is a minor gripe. If I have one real complaint it is that there are no options for selecting among any other audio tracks than the one Dolby True HD track that is used for everything. There are no DTS or stereo tracks to check how those formats are handled, and this is a big miss for the format that can support them all.

This version also adds a few new commentary tracks by both Joe and cinematographer Allen Daviau, however I chose to skip those and would suspect that they might be of interest only to those who are truly hardcore about their setup.

Also included is the requisite Tri-color optical filter, which is necessary for many of the video calibration tests. As I noted when first using the original version these may be a bit difficult for those of us to use who are color blind (I’m both red-green and blue-brown afflicted), but still quite useful and I was able to get results I was happy with and none of my guests have ever noted any faults, even when asked repeatedly, so I personally must have done a pretty good job with it.

Ultimately, while you might be able to eyeball (and earball?) some of these settings and get to a moderately pleasing state, there is no substitute for a truly objective reference, and you might just be surprised at how big a difference one really makes. In my opinion, nobody who is serious about their home theater should be without some form of calibration tool, and at an MSRP of under $30 and available online for almost half of that, DV Essentials – HD Basics is a no brainer. The bottom line is that HD Basics makes having audio-visual near-perfection easily affordable and easily attainable.

Sound Quality: 3.5/5

As excellent as the video qualities of the disk are, somehow it seems that attention to sound just doesn’t reach their lofty level. The enclosed demo material’s sound tracks are a bit bland, though the original compositions by Nick Lane are fine. There’s not a whole lot of low end to be found on this disk, not a single explosion or gunshot that I can recall, tho there are a few plane flybys and a virtual roller coaster are featured. Perhaps the most interesting demo material is footage from a US Space Shuttle liftoff, and while the view is magnificent it’s quite boring aurally, although again the musical accompaniment is ok.

One complaint I really have to mention is that one demo clip is used to show the accuracy of surround sound, which works great, but the video content is focused on a couple talking in the middle of a restaurant. However, the conversation from the couple is completely not there! I found this quite confusing and was scratching my head trying to figure out if I had my system miss-configured (which I did have when trying to listen to Ratatouille! And thanks to HTFers for having helped me get that fixed!) or if this was simply a bizarre clip.

Visual Quality: 5/5

Outside of the calibration tools, there are a number of reference quality video clips enclosed that are simply gorgeous, featuring lush and detailed scenes including the aforementioned shuttle launch, restaurant scene, a local main street and other vignettes. All will push your system to show what it is capable of, and as a bonus they are selectable from a number of different encoding schemes which allows you to see your systems up and down rezzing capabilities quite nicely.

Extra Features: 0.5/5

There’s nothing that I can find outside of two ‘commentaries’ by Kane and Daviau which have already been mentioned.

Overall: 4/5 (not an average) - (Recommended)

Overall this disk remains the industry standard and while many might wish for even more refinement to the menus or even broader selection of audio tracks and included demo material, it gets the job done better than any other disk I’ve tried and there is no denying its technical accuracy or the qualifications of its creators. I definitely consider this a ‘Recommended’ disk but note that it is far from perfection, there are many facets that can bear improvement. Two things I truly hope are included in the next version include multiple compressed and uncompressed audio choices and something a bit more exciting on the low frequency effects end of the spectrum, as gunfire and explosions and such should surely be included among the demo material as these are among the best uses of this technology outside of their musical capabilities.

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#2 of 17 OFFLINE   Hartwig Hanser

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Posted April 10 2008 - 07:56 PM

Thanks for the review!

I have a question: Since I have already the standard DVE version on DVD and have already calibrated my display with the DVD running in the BD player, is there any reason to buy it on BD again? Is there a reason to assume, that the DVD version will not work for calibration for BD?

I am speaking mainly of contrast and brightness. I have no need for the HD intro etc.

Thanks in advance for the help.

#3 of 17 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 11 2008 - 01:56 AM

Good question and I meant to address this in my review! I found that having done an initial calibration on my PS3 first using the original DVD Essentials and then double checking those settings using the THX optimizer on Ratatouille there weren't MAJOR differences, but I did dial in a bit more exactingly, and the shuttle launch and other demo materials looked much cleaner for example.

Sam

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#4 of 17 OFFLINE   Neil Joseph

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Posted April 11 2008 - 09:23 AM

Thanks for the review.

I have a question. For people like me that want to pop the disk in and jump STRAIGHT to the audio and video calibrations test signals, how do you do it? Is it easy to do. I hate to navigate around and around looking for audio tests when I want to do them quickly. DVE for DVD was bad like this. I can never remember where to go on the disk for this.
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#5 of 17 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 11 2008 - 12:50 PM

You can indeed jump to any test you want if you know exactly what you need. I would have preferred a streamlined 'short course' through the critical ones, but it seemed like you were either stuck with the whole enchilada or picking and choosing.

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#6 of 17 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted April 11 2008 - 12:59 PM

Dagnabit! If this review had been a few days earlier I would have bought it with my free-shipping batch from Amazon. I wasn't willing to blind buy because the Amazon reviews were mediocre (though clearly they aren't the enthusiasts we are here) until I saw a review from somewhere I trusted.

Oh well, next Amazon order, this one goes in! Posted Image

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#7 of 17 OFFLINE   ManW_TheUncool

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Posted April 11 2008 - 01:09 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten
You can indeed jump to any test you want if you know exactly what you need. I would have preferred a streamlined 'short course' through the critical ones, but it seemed like you were either stuck with the whole enchilada or picking and choosing.

Hmmm... I had been waiting for a solid review of this myself. And unfortunately, it sounds like it doesn't quite offer what I'd prefer either. I too would prefer something like an optional "short course" on top of the long version *and* an option to pick and choose. Question remains though whether it's quick-and-easy (and intuitive enough) to go the "picking and choosing" route (for subsequent uses of the disc after the initial run-through)?

OTOH, what other good alternative(s) do we really have? For SD, there was AVIA, which is what I used. But for HD, is there something else besides this DVE offering?

And thanks, Sam, for the solid review (and follow-up)! Posted Image

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#8 of 17 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted April 12 2008 - 12:59 AM

Well, Amazons got it for $17, so give it a shot and I guarantee you can resell it for near that if it doesnt live up to your needs =) After all we spend on our theaters it's nice to have this inexpensive methot to make sure we are getting the most from them.

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#9 of 17 OFFLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted April 12 2008 - 04:44 AM

Price wasn't the issue for me, but I like to get my Amazon shipments free, which requires $25 minimum. Which is why if I had seen a good review earlier I would have batched it in with my last purchase from Amazon.

No worries, it won't be long until I find another movie or book that I want from them and will batch DVE-BD along with it.

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#10 of 17 OFFLINE   Michael_Waters

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Posted April 22 2008 - 07:42 AM

Not sure that this is an issue or not, but I didn't see any kind of tests for tint...only color. Wouldn't I need to adjust both to get an accurate picture?

#11 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted April 26 2008 - 02:22 PM

This is now $18.95 @ amazon.

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#12 of 17 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted June 28 2008 - 01:15 AM

Great review! As someone who is also a firm believer that no one who takes their system seriously even a little bit shouldn't be without a calibration tool of some sort, I picked this up without question.

I must say, however, that coming off of AVIA (an invaluable disc that has served me well for years) to this was a tad intimidating because i'm so used to the test patterns and ease of use with AVIA.

This, by comparison, has much more in-depth menus and tests that i'll need time to study and learn before I attempt to use them with any degree of accuracy.

BTW, regarding some of the audio tests, some of them were quite startling...literally lol. There's a test where all you hear is someone drop a tray of dishes in the rear speakers only and it scared the crap out of me and my cat lol.
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#13 of 17 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted June 28 2008 - 06:46 AM

For just one more day (thru 6-29-08) you can pick this up on the DeepDiscount 20% off sale for just $15.xx! Posted Image

There's Jessie the yodeling cowgirl. Bullseye, he's Woody's horse. Pete the old prospector. And, Woody, the man himself.Of course, it's time for Woody's RoundUp. He's the very best! He's the rootinest, tootinest cowboy in the wild, wild west!


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#14 of 17 OFFLINE   CraigF

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Posted June 28 2008 - 12:38 PM

I suppose I'll pick this up.

But I'm really really looking for something with tests for ALL the current BD audio formats. Is there anything like this? IMO all the previous test/setup discs for general HT were a bit lacking in the audio dept., but I can see how this aspect could become a can'o'worms. It's just that there's no other format to get all these audio schemes AFAIK except on a BD. Or will this be another product, there's no doubt it easily could be.

#15 of 17 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted June 28 2008 - 02:26 PM

I don't know if this is the right thread to ask but I could use a little clearing up on something i'm unsure of, my player has picture settings of it's own, so when I go to calibrate my TV do I leave the player picture control settings as they are or do they need calibrating as a seperate entity before calibrating the TV?

I plan on diving into this disc tonight and studying the instructions and patterns but the above issue is hanging over my head and I need some advice before I attempt a calibration.

Thanks. Posted Image
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#16 of 17 OFFLINE   Paul.S

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Posted August 16 2008 - 11:24 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inspector Hammer!
BTW, regarding some of the audio tests, some of them were quite startling...literally lol. There's a test where all you hear is someone drop a tray of dishes in the rear speakers only and it scared the crap out of me and my cat lol.
LOL.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inspector Hammer!
I don't know if this is the right thread to ask but I could use a little clearing up on something i'm unsure of, my player has picture settings of it's own, so when I go to calibrate my TV do I leave the player picture control settings as they are or do they need calibrating as a seperate entity before calibrating the TV?

I plan on diving into this disc tonight and studying the instructions and patterns but the above issue is hanging over my head and I need some advice before I attempt a calibration.
I second the query, but generally of course try to turn off or set to baseline any player processing or adjustments. The HD-XA2 has "Picture" settings for contrast, brightness, sharpness and color that can thankfully be set to "0," and other settings for things like "Mosquito NR" that can be set to "off." The BD10 has settings for contrast, brightness, color and tint which also can be set to "0."

Also, can someone who has watched/listened to the commentary/commentaries relay word on what exactly it is/they are. I'm curious about what Spielberg's dp on Empire Of the Sun has contributed to an ht calibration disc.

#17 of 17 OFFLINE   pitchman

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Posted August 17 2008 - 01:41 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul.S
The HD-XA2 has "Picture" settings for contrast, brightness, sharpness and color that can thankfully be set to "0," and other settings for things like "Mosquito NR" that can be set to "off." The BD10 has settings for contrast, brightness, color and tint which also can be set to "0."
Here's what may be a dumb question, but since we're on the subject... does the PS3 have a similar set of picture control options (brightness, contrast, color, etc.) and if so, how the heck do you access them?
Gary





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