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HTF Exclusive: First look at Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs and Coraline on 3D Blu-ray


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#1 of 51 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted May 17 2010 - 10:35 AM


The check discs are in and Home Theater Forum was there!  Earlier this week Kevin Koster, Todd Erwin and I had the chance to take an exclusive first look at the upcoming 3D Blu-ray releases of Coraline and Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs at Panasonic Hollywood Labs (PHL) where they were authored.  Kevin and Todd will be weighing in with their opinions over the next few days.  Kevin originally reviewed the 2D/Anaglyphic 3D version of the Coraline Blu-ray and Todd recently covered the 3-D: Behind The Hype industry panel, so I look forward to their thoughts.


Panasonic Hollywood Labs is a state of the art facility that was founded in 2002. They do on-site research into technologies like digital film conversion, MPEG-4/AVC codec development, digital cinema and DVD and Blu-ray authoring.  In 2009 they announced their Advanced Authoring Center which focuses on 3D Full HD Blu-ray, MVC (Multi-view Video Coding) encoder and authoring tool development.   Coraline and Ice Age 3 are the first feature film 3D Blu-ray titles they have authored.


Other than demo material, my experience with 3D Blu-ray has been Monsters Vs Aliens, the only feature film 3D Blu-ray title currently available (as part of the Samsung 3D starter kit).  Ron Epstein and I are both very familiar with the disc from our time at Samsung's 3D launch event.  At the time we both agreed that it was a good, not great 3D presentation especially (and ironically) on 3D LED/LCD displays.  To recap what we said then, there was a lot of ghosting during playback on the Samsung LED/LCD displays, less on the Samsung 3D plasma and far less on the Panasonic 3D plasma, but there was no escaping it on some scenes.  Because it’s so easy to pick and choose content that looks great for demo material I think that it’s better to use a full length feature like Monsters Vs Aliens to get a feel for the "real world" performance of 3D Blu-ray technology, and after seeing it I went on the record as saying "I saw some demos that leave me wondering why anyone would want to pay a steep premium for a 3D capable system."

This week isn't the first time HTF has been to Panasonic Hollywood Labs.  Several years ago on our last national meet we had the opportunity to visit and see a prototype 3D Blu-ray system that looked fantastic.  Unfortunately, all attendees were sworn to secrecy so we didn't make any public comments about it.  Talking with attending members throughout the week it was obvious that everyone was clearly impressed.  When I got back from the Samsung and Panasonic launch in New York this March I called PHL and asked why my recent 3D experience didn't live up to past demos.  I explained the minor eye fatigue problems I had with some of the demos and the amount of ghosting on Monsters Vs. Aliens.  Since PHL didn’t author the disc and didn’t see any of the demos I did all they were able to say was “wait”.


This week the wait was over as they showed us the first two full length films they have authored on 3D Blu-ray and to sum it up in a single word….WOW.  We watched them on currently available products; the Panasonic 50” Plasma (TC-P50VT25) hooked up to a Panasonic 3D Blu-ray player (DMP-BDT300).


We watched both movies back to back (3D marathon!) and took some time to fiddle around a bit with the menus and switching from 2D to 3D.  I saw no artifacts; no ghosting and had no eye fatigue during either film.  The original DTS-HD audio from the 2D Blu-ray release was re-used on both 3D Blu-rays.


First up was Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.  While I only saw this in 2D theatrically, the 3D Blu-ray presentation looked similar to other animated films I’ve seen theatrically in RealD 3D equipped theaters, except it was a brighter picture. There was nothing “gimmicky” about the presentation.  The 3D was put to good use convincingly expanding the depth of field for the entire film.  Even the menus and subtitles extended out from the screen for a fun effect.  While I didn’t have a light meter, overall color and brightness appeared to be the same watching the film in both 2D and 3D.  As I mentioned I saw no artifacting or ghosting.  There were no special features on the disc, but the disc menu had options for watching the film in either 2D or 3D.  We tested this and it presented a screen asking you to either put on or take off your 3D glassed and then resumed playing from where you left off.  It was just as good as the best 3D demos I have seen in the past.


Posted Image


After Ice Age 3 we went right into Coraline.  As soon as we inserted a disc there was a popup message from the Panasonic player asking if we wanted to watch in 2D or 3D.  After selecting 3D a 3D version of the standard Universal Blu-ray menu appeared.  As with Ice Age there were only language options on the disc and no special features.  Unlike Ice Age 3 there was no option on the disc menu to switch from 2D to 3D.  Coraline has an interesting color palette with a combination of darker tones and very bright colors.  The plasma’s ability to produce deep blacks and lots of shadow detail were put to good use on the night scenes in the “other” world.  The 3D added an amazing amount of depth and dimension to the viewing experience.  It’s something that is really hard to describe.  Panasonic’s Advanced Authoring Center proved up to the task with Coraline too.  I saw no artifacting or ghosting.  It looked fantastic and was a night and day improvement over the anaglyphic 3D presentation included with the original Blu-ray release.


A few other things to note.  Since we were in a small viewing room I was pretty far off axis for a lot of my viewing I left the sweet spot to Kevin and Todd.   Thanks to the benefits of plasma, the 3D effect was rock solid even when viewing off axis.  I would occasionally move around the screen and the image stayed in 3D but would change based on my viewing angle.  Todd and Kevin described it as almost like watching a hologram.  That’s how real the 3D was.  While the bridge of my nose was a bit sore at the end of the movie marathon since my 3D glasses were missing the rubber padding I had no eye fatigue at all.  I wear glasses and Panasonic’s 3D glasses fit comfortably over mine.  The Ice Age 3 and Coraline 3D Blu-rays will initially only be available by mail with the purchase of a Panasonic 3D capable display.


Now that I have seen three full length movies in 3D Blu-ray I have to revisit my earlier comment about wondering why anyone would pay a steep premium with some new qualifiers.  3D Blu-ray done right is fantastic and worth a premium.  I am convinced that to do 3D right you need to have good source material, have it authored correctly like PHL appears to have figured out how to do,  and if you are going to be using a flat panel make it a plasma.  The greater viewing angle, higher contrast and faster refresh plasma offers are all things that are essential to a better 3D experience.  Based on the high quality MVC encoding and authoring that Panasonic Hollywood Labs did on Coraline and Ice Age 3, I can’t wait until I’m invited back to check out other 3D Blu-ray movies that they may be working on. 


#2 of 51 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 17 2010 - 10:47 AM

Adam,


Great coverage.  Looking forward to hearing from

Todd and Kevin who were both there and for the

most part who were seeing 3D for the home for the

very first time.


Though I was not at this particular event, I have

recently seen 3D demos on both Panasonic plasma

and Samsung LCD displays.  It does not surprise
me that Adam found the Panasonic plasma to have

the edge on overall 3D quality presentation as that

was exactly my findings when looking at both. Between

the ghosting and picture quality degradation when looking

from the sides I was not as impressed with Samsung

as I was with Panasonic.


I finally would like to say that both Adam and I have

been looking at 3D prototypes for the past two years.

A select group of HTF members also had the opportunity

to be amongst the first to see the technology.  There is

much speculation that 3D TV is going to be a "fad."
Well, don't take that advice from anyone who hasn't

seen it properly done.  There is no question in my mind

that (pardon the pun) 3D adds an entirely new dimension

to television viewing enveloping its audience in ways

that current 2D HD displays cannot.  It's quality 3D and

I think many people will be racing to buy these displays

once they have seen the technology in action.


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#3 of 51 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted May 17 2010 - 01:17 PM

Having seen Coraline theatrically in RealD 3-D, the 3-D Blu-ray we were shown at Panasonic was a very good representation. The depth and clarity was just as I remembered it being when I saw the Oscar-nominated film at the Cinemark/Century Bella Terra Cinemas in Huntington Beach.


This was also the first time I have viewed 3-D with active shutter glasses since the early days of IMAX 3D. While I have not had to deal with eye fatigue or headaches from RealD, the old IMAX 3D (which used glasses that looked similar to a welding helmet) used to give me a headache after about 30 minutes. Like Adam, after our double feature, I felt no eye strain or headache.


Posted Image

Original IMAX 3D Goggles


Also, like Adam, I did view some content in the QC room off-axis, and the image was still solid. One effect I think we all really enjoyed (since we discussed this together near the end of our visit) was how the pop-up menus and subtitles were seperated from the on-screen action, particularly in Ice Age 3. The menu was about 6 inches out from the screen, and subtitles, when activated, were about 2 inches out. Not all discs are authored in this manner, though.


As was stressed at the 3D Behind The Hype panel, for the format to succeed, we need content. If I had the cash to go out and purchase a 3D display, the main thing holding me back today would be the lack of content. If I want Monsters Vs. Aliens, I have to purchase the starter kit from Samsung. If I want Coraline and Ice Age 3, I have to buy Panasonic. But that is all that is currently available.



#4 of 51 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted May 17 2010 - 02:18 PM

Thanks for these progress reports, guys. They're most interesting. I would hope they'll work on some live action films for testing soon since it appears animation has passed with flying colors.



#5 of 51 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted May 17 2010 - 03:11 PM

I'll take a moment to first completely agree with Adam and Todd's comments.  And also to say thank you to HTF and to Panasonic for having me participate in this demonstration.


I have not actually seen any films in 3D with the newer technology, so this was my first exposure to it.  As Adam pointed out, my review of the Coraline 3D Blu-ray from last year used the old anaglyph system.


Regarding Ice Age 3, I was struck both by the richness of the color palette and by the occasionally startling 3D effects.  One shimmering body of water near the opening of the film simply amazed me.  The pop-up menu literally stood out from the screen, just as Todd is saying, at roughly 6 inches in front of the screen.  The subtitles came forward about 2 inches, and then the picture itself had several layers of depth.  When I shifted my own position, the foreground layers appeared to me to shift as well, revealing a tiny amount of additional information on the background layers.


Regarding Coraline, the difference between this presentation and the Blu-ray I saw last year was literally night and day.  The Blu-ray I saw last year had a deep color range only on the 2D version.  The earlier 3D version was extremely limited in its color palette, due to the colored lenses used by that version.  The extreme yellow of Coraline's outfit, and the extreme blue of her hair came through, but much of the rest of the spectrum was significantly reduced.  With the newer 3D process, the film had both a convincing 3D depth and a deep color range.  I was also able to see a lot of fine detail I could not see in the earlier 3D version.  One example is the praying mantis the Other Father rides while working in the garden.  The 3D effects themselves were far more impressive with the new disc, especially the tunnel connection between the two worlds of the film.  And the pop-up menu adapted the familiar Universal Blu-ray menu to a 3D mode.


I also agree that I did not suffer from any eyestrain or headache after watching both of these films back to back (and to looking at even more material, including footage of the Olympics in 3D to boot.  One shot of a downhill ski run had the powder literally flying into the screen.)  Like Adam, I admit I longed for a nose brace of some kind, as wearing the 3D glasses over my regular glasses punished the bridge of my nose after a while.  This is easily addressed, and not really a function of the technology, but my nose will appreciate having the padding the next time out.


Given that both titles we were watching were animated films, I will be curious to see what live action films look like with the added dimensionality.


There is one reservation that I have about the technology, which we discussed while at the demo.  I am concerned both about the constant need to provide new batteries for the IR glasses, and about the expense of purchasing additional glasses.  Since each manufacturer makes their glasses to go with their individual HDTVs, this can turn into a real problem, or a real expensive one, if the viewer wants to have a movie night with several guests.  Two solutions that may solve this would involve having rechargeable glasses, where you just leave them in a cradle when not using them, and having a "Universal" set of glasses that can bridge the various manufacturers, like a Universal Remote.  I do not believe either of these solutions exist in a practiceable manner right now, but I hope they may be coming within a reasonable amount of time.



#6 of 51 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted May 17 2010 - 07:45 PM


 I am concerned both about the constant need to provide new batteries for the IR glasses

 According to some of the people in Panasonic's quality control department that we spoke with, real world battery life on the glasses is about 50 hours.  While I don't have the exact model handy they take a flat watch battery.



#7 of 51 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted May 18 2010 - 12:43 AM

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#8 of 51 OFFLINE   Jason Charlton

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Posted May 18 2010 - 01:27 AM

Thanks for the reviews.  It's great to finally have some real-world reports of full-feature length viewing sessions.  The enthusiasm is encouraging, though I still don't see myself even considering getting this technology for a while.


The off-axis performance, in particular, was a welcome surprise.


Do any of you know when/if there have been any reviews of 3D front projection systems in use?  Considering the trend towards "better black levels = less ghosting" it will be interesting to see if FP systems indeed fall somewhere between plasma and LCD direct view.


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#9 of 51 OFFLINE   Shane D

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Posted May 18 2010 - 01:48 AM

i was at best buy this weekend and they had some 3d demo set up, not sure what type of tv. but it was a beach vollyball demo and i stopped and watched it for a second and it did look pretty cool.

My only issue is wearing glasses to watch a movie. i can't stand it on the 2 movies i saw in the theater and know i'll really hate it at home. Whenever i read stuff about 3D i dont see a lot mentioned about glasses except battery life or quality. What about wearing them? doesn't it bother anyone else?



#10 of 51 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted May 18 2010 - 05:58 AM



Originally Posted by Shane D 

i was at best buy this weekend and they had some 3d demo set up, not sure what type of tv. but it was a beach vollyball demo and i stopped and watched it for a second and it did look pretty cool.

My only issue is wearing glasses to watch a movie. i can't stand it on the 2 movies i saw in the theater and know i'll really hate it at home. Whenever i read stuff about 3D i dont see a lot mentioned about glasses except battery life or quality. What about wearing them? doesn't it bother anyone else?

I was in Best Buy last week and demoed the two brands Samsung and Panasonic?  Both glasses were comfortable and fit over my normal glasses.  I had no problem with them.  I only have two problems with adopting 3D: 1) I don't like to be on the cutting edge where things are more likely to go wrong or be unsatisfactory and 2) The cost.


I was really impressed with the few minutes of Aliens vs Monsters that I watched.  Look very good.


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#11 of 51 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted May 18 2010 - 05:59 AM

Shane, the main thing with the 3D glasses is that you'll want to have rubber padding for the bridge of your nose.  I wear glasses (as do both Adam and Todd), so I was wearing the 3D glasses over my regular lenses, and after 3 hours, that was a bit heavy.  But with something for the bridge of your nose, it should be fine.


Adam, thanks for the clarification about the 50 hours.  I remember our discussion about the ease of getting a pack of those batteries, but I also remember the mention of making the glasses rechargeable - which will be a big plus for me in terms of convenience.


#12 of 51 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted May 18 2010 - 06:15 AM

Thumbs up for PHL, 3 years later all the demos I've seen in stores pale in comparison to what we saw there.  Only the theater experience for Avatar and HTTYDragon have been better.


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#13 of 51 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted May 18 2010 - 08:31 AM

Sam-

Both of these movies looked just as good as the demo material we have seen their in the past.  PHL has their act together when it comes to 3D.



#14 of 51 OFFLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted May 18 2010 - 08:57 AM



Originally Posted by Shane D 

Whenever i read stuff about 3D i dont see a lot mentioned about glasses except battery life or quality. What about wearing them? doesn't it bother anyone else?


I've never tried these...but I always find the traditional cardboard 3-D glasses make things too dark.  I really thought that was the case with the Coraline Blu-ray release. And I agree with what Kevin said that the colors were awfully muted on that attempt at a 3-D release.


Quote:Originally Posted by Kevin EK ../../..

 But with something for the bridge of your nose, it should be fine.


Something like this?  The Opti-Grab?  /img/vbsmilies/htf/confused.gif


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#15 of 51 OFFLINE   jplepage

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Posted May 18 2010 - 10:57 PM

With the current prices and only one or two movies, price / performance still doesn`t add up. But everytime I see a report highlighting the improvement of 3D at home, I have to restrain myself from buying a set...



#16 of 51 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted May 19 2010 - 07:18 AM



Originally Posted by jplepage 

With the current prices and only one or two movies, price / performance still doesn`t add up. But everytime I see a report highlighting the improvement of 3D at home, I have to restrain myself from buying a set...



You are right about a lack of content.  If you just bought a new set and are happy with it wait.  If you are planning on buying a new set I would seriously consider making it a 3D capable plasma, even if it means that you put off your purchase for a bit waiting for prices to come down a bit.  Avatar 3D BD will be the killer application when it comes out.



#17 of 51 OFFLINE   Adam Gregorich

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Posted May 19 2010 - 07:21 AM


 I've never tried these...but I always find the traditional cardboard 3-D glasses make things too dark.  I really thought that was the case with the Coraline Blu-ray release. And I agree with what Kevin said that the colors were awfully muted on that attempt at a 3-D release.
 

 The brightness and color levels appeard to be the same between 2D and 3D.


 Shane, the main thing with the 3D glasses is that you'll want to have rubber padding for the bridge of your nose.  I wear glasses (as do both Adam and Todd), so I was wearing the 3D glasses over my regular lenses, and after 3 hours, that was a bit heavy.  But with something for the bridge of your nose, it should be fine.

 The glasses actually come with removable padding but it was not on the glasses we used.  Ft is was I'm confident I wouldn't have noticed.



#18 of 51 OFFLINE   Finn

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Posted May 19 2010 - 04:51 PM

Thanks for the feedback guys, this is great - glad you had a chance to view it.


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#19 of 51 OFFLINE   Ryan-G

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Posted May 19 2010 - 07:42 PM



Quote:
Originally Posted by Shane D 

i was at best buy this weekend and they had some 3d demo set up, not sure what type of tv. but it was a beach vollyball demo and i stopped and watched it for a second and it did look pretty cool.

My only issue is wearing glasses to watch a movie. i can't stand it on the 2 movies i saw in the theater and know i'll really hate it at home. Whenever i read stuff about 3D i dont see a lot mentioned about glasses except battery life or quality. What about wearing them? doesn't it bother anyone else?


I'm with you on this,  I'm not wearing glasses at home to watch movies.


I saw Avatar in 3D,  it was an interesting experience.  It was well done,  certainly.  Definite improvement from the 80's attempt to mainstream 3D.


But it's got the same problem that it did in decades prior,  the Glasses.  IMO,  as long as they have these,  3D will remain a novelty that pops up once every 10-15 years and wears off quickly.  I mean honestly,  we can't get people to wear these things when they need them to see what's 2 feet in front of them,  there's no way everyone's suddenly going to start wearing glasses to watch movies.


So while interesting,  IMO it's the regularly scheduled "3D is the future" movement seen many times before.  Because while the presentation improves,  the technology for viewing has been at a very long standstill.



#20 of 51 OFFLINE   Aaron Silverman

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Posted May 20 2010 - 06:18 AM

I agree about the glasses.  I can deal with them for occasional use, but I wouldn't want to have to wear them for everything (and I'd be irritated by selecting 2D instead of 3D when both are available -- irrational, maybe, but there it is).


I haven't been following TV hardware technology recently, but I seem to recall hearing within the past few years that plasma was on the way out and would soon be replaced entirely with LCD/ LED.  Is that the case?


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