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HTF Blu-Ray Review: Transformers (Highly Recommended)

Blu-ray Reviews

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#1 of 80 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 14 2008 - 12:39 PM

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Transformers (Blu-Ray)

Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (intense scenes of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor and language)
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English Dolby TrueHD 5.1; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; English SDH+
Time: 143 minutes
Disc Format: 2 SS/DL BD’s
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2007
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 2, 2008

Note: Portions of this review were originally featured in my HD-DVD review of the same title. Both releases were two discs.


Usually when I do reviews I spend some time going over the story, comment on the themes then critique the rest. This being Transformers as directed by Michael Bay, I’m going to do it a little different:

Good and bad robots come to Earth. They fight. Stuff blows up. Puny humans run for cover while trying to help. And there are a couple hot girls.

See, wasn’t that easy. Now, let’s get to why we’re really here!


Paramount took some extra time with the packaging for this disc, enclosing the standard jewel case in an opaque outer sheath where all of the disc information is printed. Nice touch!


Video:
Note: I am watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.

Transformers is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. When I saw this picture in the movie theater last summer I was disappointed at the presentation as the print looked to be worn already and a little dim. It was my hope when it came time to review the HD-DVD, and now the BD, that we would get a better image, and I was very happy to say we had. This BD edition is the exact same as the HD-DVD. The HD image is bright and punchy showing a boosted contrast level making the picture look hot, which is a trademark to Bay’s pictures. This picture, however, brings the heat even more with numerous shots set against sun drenched backdrops to cast a beautiful golden glow on everything. Colors are warm and rich and even though there is higher contrast levels, the colors still maintain accuracy. Black levels are exceptional showing great depth and detail in even the darkest of scenes. They maintain good delineation between the light and dark parts of the picture and I did not notice any black or color bleeds. Flesh tones are accurate for the most part, but the actors are always at the mercy of the numerous colors in the shot, radiating from computer monitors, environmental effects or robot’s rushing by. Sharpness and detail are excellent and better than what I remembered in the theater presentation. Normally, I’d want the home environment to match the theater environment as close as possible, but Transformers is a movie for a digital age and it’s translation to home theater reflects that idea. Video noise is very minor and some film grain is noticed, but nowhere near as bad as in the theatrical presentation. Edge enhancement is not noticed nor was there any print dirt. Not surprising, this is reference material.


Audio:
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.

Paramount made a huge misstep on the HD-DVD by not giving us a TrueHD soundtrack, but they have corrected that on the Blu-Ray. The main thing I have to say is never discount the improved quality over a lossy track ever again. I watched a good part of the movie over since it was like watching it again for the first time with improved clarity in the highs, the more developed mids and more expansive bass. While the Dolby Digital Plus track was no slouch by any means, doing A/B comparisons of this material shows how much is different between lossless and lossy. The highs were much sharper without being shrill, making you wince once the glass was blown out of the command center at the beginning of the movie. LFE’s rumble with even more impact across the floor out towards you. There is greater warmth to the sound providing us with a more enveloping surround field. Directional effects blend even better in the TrueHD track giving you a better sense of height, of all things, and a more seamless blend of action. There was also a 6-10db difference in volume, the TrueHD track being the louder of the two, but that alone does not define why this is the better of the two tracks.

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track is, not to sound too repetitive, reference material. I don’t recall hearing a more active soundtrack for a very long time, where all 5.1 channels are used almost equally. There were a couple points in the movie where I noticed the fronts were barely engaged and the two surround channels were doing all of the work. Transitions between each of the channels are seamless and I found myself looking up to see if the planes were flying over me. Fidelity is excellent producing a clean and clear presentation that is free from any distortion. Bass effects come alive in the action scenes, obviously, but they do not overshadow the rest of the soundtrack. As the robots set off various explosives aimed at the viewer, the low bass rumbles your way, increasing in intensity as it washes over you. Voices are natural sounding but ADR is noticed in a couple scenes. Again, this is reference material.


Bonus Material: all of this material is in HD.

Disc One
Feature Length Commentary by Director Michael Bay: Bay sounds a little congested in this commentary, but he is informative and a little bit cocky about his place in Hollywood. He loves to drop names, but at the same time, he seems to have a real love for this property. He talks about the initial fan reaction to him directing, and the lengths people will go to get information about movies. The usual stuff applies here, where he comments about the production, cast, and film making process. Bay still seems like a bit of a fanboy when it comes to his films and genre stuff in general.

Transformers Heads-Up Display (H.U.D): Choose this option and you will see a pop-up video type trivia track and occasional pop-up video windows to highlight animatics, stunts, actor and crew comments, what have you. This is a fun way to watch the picture and it gives you a primer for the more extensive and detailed docs on Disc Two.

BD-Live Features:
When you first pop in Disc One, a screen comes up saying “Loading” which is presumably to access the BD-Live features. They are as follows:

Intelligence Mode: "An enhanced playback mode for the movie featuring widgets to track the action of the film. Widgets include: GPS Tracker, Robot Status Alerts and Data Panel.
Transformers Profiler: "The Transformer Profiler serves as an in-movie guide for learning more about the production including cast, crew, locations, etc. Once downloaded, access the Profiler from the extras menu while watching the movie."

Menubots: "Transform your in-movie menubar to one featuring a Transformer. Select from multiple looks including Bumblebee, Optimus Prime and Megatron."


Disc Two
The extra features on this disc are split up into three parts: Our World, Their War, and More Than Meets the Eye and then each of those parts have multiple chapters.

Our World (49:14) consists of four parts: The Story Sparks, Human Allies, I Fight Giant Robots and Battleground. It starts out with Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay explaining how the project started and Bay’s visit to Hasbro. Bay talks about how the script changed and what goes into making “Bayhem”. The second part goes into the actors and their characters and some of the training they went through. The third part shows some of the training the actors went through to make them on-screen soldiers as well as some behind the scenes material of the stunts. The fourth part deals with the locations and how the vehicles interact with them.

Their War (1:05:10) consists of five parts: Rise of the Robots, Autobots Roll Out, Decepticons Strike, Inside the Allspark, and Transformers Tech Inspector. The first part has a Hasbro guy and the screenwriters explaining the history of the show and how they had to sell the fans on this new, big screen version. This part also shows the conception and design of the Transformers. The second part shows us the actual vehicles they used, including the new Camaro, the Solstice, the Hummer, and the stunts with them. Part three focuses on the wickedness of the Decepticons and the fighter jets they are based on. Part four and five shows the CG modeling of the Transformers and ILM and Digital Domain’s work on the picture.

More Than Meets the Eye consists of three parts: From Script to Sand: The Skorponok Desert Attack, Concepts and the trailers. The first part (8:52) goes in depth into the Skorponok attack in the desert with the stunts, CG, visual effects and explosions. The next part (2:09) is a slideshow of the concept art for the production set to the score. Finally, the teaser trailer and two theatrical trailers are available.



Conclusions:
Pure entertainment value for the kid in us is about the best description of Transformers I can give. The Blu-Ray, much like its HD-DVD counterpart, is reference quality. The set also has some great extras that cover most of the film making process. This type of material allows us enthusiasts to be that much closer to hi-def nirvana in our theaters. Is it any surprise this Blu-Ray comes…

Highly Recommended!
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 80 OFFLINE   Brent M

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Posted August 14 2008 - 12:51 PM

Looks like I'll be dumping my HD-DVD version for this so I can have that TrueHD track.
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#3 of 80 OFFLINE   Ed St. Clair

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Posted August 14 2008 - 12:53 PM

WoW
"Transformers" is out on Blu!
That was fast; well it could have been even longer! ;-)
W/a True HD soundtrack like the 1st HD Disc release should have had! :-0
(no need too comment)
However...
NO "Iron Man" trailer*!!! :-(
(the only reason I'm keeping the "other" HD Disc "T" right now)

*I wanted too ask this over two weeks ago; butt found it frivolous too start a thread just on:
Any BD's w/"IM" trailer(s)?
Thanks.
(the "IM" trailer on "T" on HD Disc sounded GREAT, by the way)
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#4 of 80 OFFLINE   Joe_G

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Posted August 14 2008 - 01:02 PM

Thanks for the review Pat.Posted Image There was word that Michael Bay supervised a "new, BD-optimized transfer" for this, at least reported by the bits when Transformers on BD was announced. Any insight as to what/if any changes were made A/V - wise, over the theatrical/DVD/HD-DVD release - besides the inclusion of a lossless audio track? From reading around the web, the main issues everyone seems to bring up are 1.) the lack of sound /LFE when Blackout unleashes the shockwave at the beginning of the film at the military base. 2.) the grain in the night scenes / interior of Witwickies' home. Is there any difference in these, compared from HD-DVD release to the BD release?

#5 of 80 ONLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted August 14 2008 - 01:41 PM

Quote:
The main thing I have to say is never discount the improved quality over a lossy track ever again.

I'm picking this up tomorrow, and only because I told everyone whining about not having a lossless track on the first one to give it a rest because the lossy track on the HD DVD was better than a lot of lossless tracks I have heard. If it is nearly as good as you say I won;t ever repeat that again, but until then consider me still a huge skeptic. The internet is depending on you here Pat!

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#6 of 80 OFFLINE   PatWahlquist

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Posted August 14 2008 - 02:08 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe_G
Thanks for the review Pat.Posted Image There was word that Michael Bay supervised a "new, BD-optimized transfer" for this, at least reported by the bits when Transformers on BD was announced. Any insight as to what/if any changes were made A/V - wise, over the theatrical/DVD/HD-DVD release - besides the inclusion of a lossless audio track? From reading around the web, the main issues everyone seems to bring up are 1.) the lack of sound /LFE when Blackout unleashes the shockwave at the beginning of the film at the military base. 2.) the grain in the night scenes / interior of Witwickies' home. Is there any difference in these, compared from HD-DVD release to the BD release?

The rumour about Bay supervising a BD master of this, I thought, was a topic when Paramount announced the HD-DVD. Bay was saying he was not happy the movie was only on HD-DVD. I spent a lot of time in A/B comparisons on the video only to see the exact same thing on both versions. The only thing I can think of is that he wanted the transfer to have enough room to shine, and the HD-DVD would not provide the space. Now that the film is on a BD-50, the audio is given the chance to shine. People will nitpick the BD to death in the coming weeks seeing alleged differences. I did not, and I look forward to seeing what anyone comes up with.

As for your questions...
1. There's been some discussion that people had the audio options on the HD-DVD players set wrong, specifically the bass management. Some reported the problem solved once they made the changes. Mine is set correctly (both for the HD-DVD review and for the BD review). Comparing the two, the HD-DVD was good, but the BD is spectacular, and this sequence in the movie (among many others) only exemplifies this point. I can see where people noticed a lack of bass on the HD-DVD, but it is very obvious on the BD. As I said in the review, there is a difference in sound levels and the louder the HD-DVD, the more you could hear. That is not to say that is the only way to get these LFE's, but it helped.

2. Again, as I said, the video was identical to me. There is grain in the picture, without a doubt, but it is a movie. It is not obtrusive unless you're 1-2 feet from the screen or you have a poorly calibrated display. This was not an issue for me on the HD-DVD and it is not an issue on the BD.
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.

#7 of 80 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 14 2008 - 04:47 PM

Nice review Pat. I'll be getting it for the improved audio but I must confess a bit of HA! over the image being the same as the HD-DVD. Especially since Bay pouted and carried on and on about the merits of Blu-ray.

But hey I'm glad the space DID allow for a better audio mix so for that, I'm thankful. I can only imagine how the TrueHD sounds as the DD PLus track on HD-DVD was voted the best audio mix of last year for HD & Blu releases.

#8 of 80 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted August 14 2008 - 07:09 PM

Nice to see this film being done right, this time, with a TrueHD track. I sold off my HD-DVD long ago and welcome this to Blu.
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#9 of 80 OFFLINE   Edwin-S

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Posted August 14 2008 - 10:26 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Glover
I can only imagine how the TrueHD sounds as the DD PLus track on HD-DVD was voted the best audio mix of last year for HD & Blu releases.

I have to wonder why. The track on HD DVD sounded weak to me. It never had any presence. Totally anemic.
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#10 of 80 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted August 15 2008 - 01:27 AM

Excellent review Pat....I've already got it pre-ordered on Amazon. Can't wait to get it. I'll still be holding on to the DVD though as it's the one in the 'transforming' case (Target exclusive in the states, HMV exclusive in Canada)-can't bring myself to get rid of it......however the Blu-ray will be the new go-to disc for watching and making the subwoofer go boom. Posted Image
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#11 of 80 OFFLINE   Michael Reuben

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Posted August 15 2008 - 02:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Edwin-S
I have to wonder why. The track on HD DVD sounded weak to me. It never had any presence. Totally anemic.
Given the fact that -- as is made evident in your DTS-HD MA thread -- you're using an S/PDIF connection, which means you were getting a transcoded version of the HD DVD soundtrack, you're really not in a good position to evaluate it.

Many of the people who had problems with this soundtrack on HD DVD were listening through an S/PDIF connection, which, for technical reasons, had a much bigger impact on audio with HD DVD than it does with Blu-ray.

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#12 of 80 OFFLINE   Tim Glover

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Posted August 15 2008 - 03:12 AM

I'm glad for the Blu-ray audio improvement but in no way the HD-DVD was anemic! Wow...that track made my hanging wall art move and nearby cats & dogs ran for cover. I will say that at times the LFE track was a tad muddy in spots but that's just being picky. Posted Image

#13 of 80 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted August 15 2008 - 03:42 AM

It's a good DD+ track (one of the better ones I've heard) but, it's nothing great. I had an HD-A1 wired up via the analog outs to an Outlaw 950 with an Adcom amp for every channel. I played the SD-DVD of this as well and honestly, between the standard DD and the DD+ track, the differences are minor. Here's hoping the TrueHD track picks up where the DD+ track left off. Far from anemic, but far from the impressiveness of lossless.
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#14 of 80 OFFLINE   Dave H

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Posted August 15 2008 - 03:59 AM

Just make sure volume levels are identical when comparing the BD TrueHD track to the HD DVD DD+ track.

#15 of 80 OFFLINE   Ron-P

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Posted August 15 2008 - 05:31 AM

I'd love to do a comparison but once HD-DVD died I sold it all off, I'm not one to keep dead things around. But, hopefully someone will be able to do a fair, apples to apples comparison.
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#16 of 80 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted August 15 2008 - 05:48 AM

Quote:
NO "Iron Man" trailer*!!! :-(

Could always be added via BD Live...

#17 of 80 OFFLINE   Jari K

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Posted August 15 2008 - 06:06 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tim Glover
I'm glad for the Blu-ray audio improvement but in no way the HD-DVD was anemic!

Just admit it Tim. BD delivers more bang for the buck. Posted Image

#18 of 80 OFFLINE   Jesse Blacklow

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Posted August 15 2008 - 06:17 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed St. Clair
However...
NO "Iron Man" trailer*!!! :-(
(the only reason I'm keeping the "other" HD Disc "T" right now)
Why would they put it on the BD? The only reason it was on the HD DVD was to promote the theatrical release. If that's the only thing keeping the disc for you, the see below...
Quote:
*I wanted too ask this over two weeks ago; butt found it frivolous too start a thread just on:
Any BD's w/"IM" trailer(s)?
Thanks.
(the "IM" trailer on "T" on HD Disc sounded GREAT, by the way)
DVD Times - Iron Man (US BD) in September

Disc 2: Extra Features

* I Am Iron Man (HD):
o The Journey Begins
o The Suit that makes the Iron Man
o Walk of Destruction
o Grounded in Reality
o Beneath the Armour
o It’s all in the Details
o A Good Story, Well Told
* Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man (HD)
* The Actor’s Process (scene rehearsal with cast) (HD)
* Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test (HD)
* Still Galleries (175 images)
* The Onion “Wildly Popular Iron Man Trailer to be Adapted into Full Length Film” (HD)
* Iron Man Theatrical Teaser & Trailers (HD)
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#19 of 80 OFFLINE   Joe_G

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Posted August 15 2008 - 08:02 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by PatWahlquist
As for your questions...
1. There's been some discussion that people had the audio options on the HD-DVD players set wrong, specifically the bass management. Some reported the problem solved once they made the changes. Mine is set correctly (both for the HD-DVD review and for the BD review). Comparing the two, the HD-DVD was good, but the BD is spectacular, and this sequence in the movie (among many others) only exemplifies this point. I can see where people noticed a lack of bass on the HD-DVD, but it is very obvious on the BD. As I said in the review, there is a difference in sound levels and the louder the HD-DVD, the more you could hear. That is not to say that is the only way to get these LFE's, but it helped.

2. Again, as I said, the video was identical to me. There is grain in the picture, without a doubt, but it is a movie. It is not obtrusive unless you're 1-2 feet from the screen or you have a poorly calibrated display. This was not an issue for me on the HD-DVD and it is not an issue on the BD.

On the HD-DVD, my experience is mixed. On the audio, I've had no LFE problems whatsoever. In fact, I can feel it in some scenes.Posted Image But Blackout's shockwave never sounded right to me. Maybe I'm just getting old and experiencing memory loss.

On the grain issue, the scenes everyone brings up are pretty horrendous on my display (Samsung HLS-6187W) and at times, almost unwatchable. I probably need a professional calibration because I tried changing settings to no avail. Unfortunately, I don't have $300-$400+ to get my display calibrated.Posted Image

#20 of 80 OFFLINE   Jeff Robertson

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Posted August 15 2008 - 09:14 AM

No mention of jaggies on this. Transformers is the only HD-DVD in my small collection that exhibits clearly visible jaggies in several scenes...on two different display devices and players I used for testing.

I want to get the BD for the TrueHD track. I hope the jaggies are gone too.


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