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Gravity: THE HTF 3D ADDICT REVIEW

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#1 of 40 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:31 AM

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What can I say?  I love 3D!  From the moment I began watching 3D content in my home I quickly discovered that I needed more content.  I suspect that those of you just purchasing your first 3D hardware will acquire the same ferocious appetite.  That's why I became the HTF 3D ADDICT.  I personally love images that pop off the screen and come inches away from your face without becoming overly gimmicky.  However, I certainly appreciate the nature documentaries that offer beautiful depth and separation.  These are not necessarily reviews of the film themselves.  I am not going to concentrate on story or supplements -- you can find the 2D reviews elsewhere on this forum.  My job is to let you know exactly what kind of 3D experience to expect from the titles that are being released.   As I will be receiving a handful of new product from the studios expect to see more title coverage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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GRAVITY

 

Studio: Warner Bros.

Product Release: February 25, 2014

Ratio: 2.4:1

Audio: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Running Time: 91 minutes

Rating: PG-13

 

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On A Scale 0-5

 

Overall 3D Presentation Rating: 5

3D Separation: 5

3D In Yo' Face Factor: 3

 

Life In Space Is Impossible

 

Note: Discussion of particular 3D sequences will most likely serve as spoilers for

those who have not yet seen this film.  Proceed with caution.

 

So many HTF members, many of which are probably reading this review right now,

had urged me to experience GRAVITY theatrically.  I am not the kind of person who

enjoys the theatrical experience, so unfortunately, that never happened. Oddly, I

was at the Dolby screening room in NYC yesterday for a press event where we were

shown a 2D clip of the film. The scene in question is where Houston alerts the mission

specialists of a pending emergency, and as satellite debris rushes in, one of the astronauts

is suddenly hit and hurtled into space.  Watching even a piece of this film for the first

time, with mounting intensity on the screen and the panning of panicked voices across

the theater in Dolby Atmos surround, I found my heart pace suddenly quickening.  When

the clip ended and the theater lights came up, most everyone in the audience let out an

audible gasp.  We had just seen something quite remarkable on that screen.  I could

not wait to get back home knowing that a screener copy had just arrived in my mailbox.

 

I am going to refer back to that Dolby Atmos presentation a little later in my review.

 

post-269895-0-03733700-1392300148.jpg

 

First, let's talk a little about the film itself.  On the surface, Gravity is a simple, yet

electrifying human adventure about survival in space.  However, as a whole, the

film is no doubt a Hollywood game changer and technological achievement for Director

Alfonso Cuarón and his team of visual and audio artists who have created not just a

film, but a very intimate and emotional experience.  

 

As the film opens, we find mission specialists Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt

Kowalski (George Clooney) hovering above the earth, as they make repairs to the Hubble

space telescope.  There's some initial amusement to be had about Kowalski wisecracking

over the radio with Houston, as he effortlessly drifts in empty space.  However, things

suddenly go terribly wrong when Houston suddenly issues a warning that field of debris from

a blown Russian satellite are hurtling towards them at the speed of a bullet.  The onrush of

debris destroys the shuttle and crew onboard, leaving Stone and Kowalski on their own, fighting

to survive in an environment unsuitable for survival.

 

post-269895-0-35845500-1392300167.jpg

 

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki expertly uses the camera both traditionally and digitally

to convey the sudden calamity of the stranded astronauts within the emptiness of space as they

scramble to grab on to whatever wreckage they can.  With amazing attention given to visual detail,

supported with a heart-wrenching score from composer Steven Price, Gravity becomes a survival

story like none other you have ever experienced...

 

...and for the very first time ever, this becomes a survival story that the audience endures as

much as the characters on-screen, thanks to its 3D visuals and placement of sound that makes

everything seem completely real.

 

Fortunately, this very personal experience seems to have translated quite well to the home

viewing environment, though I am a little perplexed as to why Warner stopped short of pulling

out all the stops on this Blu-ray release.  I'll explain more in a bit.

 

post-269895-0-38567700-1392300196.jpg

 

Visually, Gravity is stunning to watch. This is a flawless, razor-sharp, 1080p transfer with

unprecedented levels of detail. You'll marvel alongside Clooney as he gazes at the gorgeous

blue earth set against the deep blackness of space. The level of 3D doesn't quite live up to

what I had initially hoped for, but then again, I'm starting to accept the fact that there aren't as

many 3D purists out there as myself and perhaps my expectations these days have been set

unrealistically high.  In all, the level of depth and separation is quite good.  It's not as

exaggerated as I would have liked, but it does look completely natural. What viewers will notice

most when donning eyewear is the layering of effects that range from rays of sunlight and

sunspots to gauge notifications and smudges from within Sandra Bullock's helmet.  The most

important aspect of watching this film in 3D is how it conveys the size of objects within the vastness

of space.  There's a scene early on where Bullock, appearing as a mere speck, is spinning endlessly

within infinity.  Later, there are two memorable 3D moments aboard separate space capsules where

objects float in and out of frame.  I personally prefer the level of 3D during the sequence aboard the

abandoned Russian capsule, which we see later in the film, as Bullock frantically races through its

narrow passages in hopes of escaping a fiery disaster.

 

What personally disappointed me about the 3D experience of Gravity was the near absence of

forward projection.  I had really hoped that the visual artists would have allowed more objects

to move outside of the viewing area.  Within the entire film, I can only remember two moments

where projection is evident.  One involves a loose bolt and wrench that float slightly outward.
Another, much more prominent at the 1-hour mark, involves a water molecule (perhaps a

teardrop) that floats slowly forward and quietly hovers within the space that lies between display

and viewer.  

 

Crosstalk/Ghosting?  Not a hint of it to be seen anywhere -- even in objects being rushed 

towards the viewer.

 

In all, I can't be disappointed by the level of 3D.  It is only but a part of the sum of the total 

presentation (which I will talk more about next).  Let's just say that some posted comments 

by HTF members led me to believe that that there would be many exaggerated levels of

pop-out (which there isn't), while other comments suggested there was absolutely no forward

projection (which there indeed is).

 

post-269895-0-87095800-1392300215.jpg

 

So, let's move on to the audio presentation of Gravity which deserves just as much merit as

the visual.  Yesterday, while at a Dolby presentation, I was reminded of a quote that George 

Lucas made after completing his Star Wars saga.  He said, "Sound is only half the picture."

After having just watched this film partly in Dolby Atmos and completely in 5.1 DTS-HD, I can

confidently say that this presentation exceeds that ratio.  

 

I don't think I have ever been so moved by film audio as much as I have with this mix created

by sound editor Glenn Freemantle and sound recording mixer Skip Lievsay and the manner 

in which it is spread across the entire soundscape theatrically and (much lesser so) in the home.

This is something that you not only hear....but feel.  Every mood is related through the use of

music and elaborate sound effects across every single channel.  At times, such as in the film's

opening moments when Houston is relaying warnings of pending disaster, the audio channels are

completely crammed with chatter.  Voices move from one speaker to another in a single instant,

and then back again. Then, there are moments of terrifying, complete silence with the exception

of the sound of a single heartbeat, pounded out in the LFE channel.  The soundtrack conveys an

often eerie feeling that I have never experienced in film before.  Even at its noisiest levels,

dialogue manages to come across with complete clarity.  While I feel spoiled by having heard

some of this in a Dolby Atmos setting, I am not  disappointed with the down mix on my 5.1 system.

 

....but this is the kind of film that would have compelled anyone (including myself) to upgrade

their system to 7.1, and yet, Warner has totally botched this Blu-ray release with just a 5.1 mix.    

This is something that totally makes no sense to me whatsoever.  You take one of the best film

mixes of all time, give it the Atmos treatment theatrically, then strip it down to its barest essentials

with just a 5.1 mix.  Not the way I would treat a film that will probably walk away with Oscars for

its sound mix.  

 

Damn you, Warner!  I would have gladly gone out this weekend and purchased two additional

speakers just to hear this film in 7.1.  Why did you botch up this disc's audio presentation?

 

Gravity arrives as a 3-Disc Blu-ray Combo (Blu-ray 3D+Blu-ray 2D+DVD and Digital HD

Ultraviolet).  The two Blu-ray discs are grouped together on a single spindle.  The package

is housed with an attractive 3D lenticular cardboard cover.

 

Gravity Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and 2-Disc Standard Definition DVD

Special Edition contain the following special features (not reviewed):

* Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space (Narrated by Ed Harris)
* Aningaa1 - A Short Film buy Jonás Cuarón

* Gravity Mission Control

* Shot Breakdowns

* Sandra's Surprise!

 

There are no trailers at the start of the 3D disc.  This is preferable to viewers like myself

who would rather get to the main feature as quickly as possible.

 

 

CONCLUSION

 

post-269895-0-04185800-1392300236.jpg

 

Having watched GRAVITY on 3D Blu-ray, I have had to take a step back and re-examine

my expectations when it comes to the kind of elaborate over-the-top 3D that I prefer and

rate these films upon.  I have come to realize that the 3D aspect is only half the sum of the 

total presentation itself.  When you marry it with one of the most complex sound mixes ever

created for film, you can't help but marvel at its completeness.  This a film filled with visual

and sonic layers, brilliantly crafted together, to make this a sensory experience like none

other you have had before.

 

Ignore my breakdown scores.  The total sum of the presentation ranks this as the best

3D title currently available.  If you own a 3D display, this belongs in your collection.

 

 

Images are for illustrative purpose only not representative of the picture quality of this disc. 

 

Equipment

 

Samsung PN64F8500 display professionally calibrated by Gregg Loewen, Lion AV
Oppo BDP-93 3D Blu-ray Player

Denon 3311CI Receiver

Atlantic Technology H-PAS AT-1 fronts, 4400 center; 4200 rear speakers

SV Sound Subwoofer


Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 40 Jari K

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:38 AM

Thanks for the review, but isn't this a bit overkill?

"Warner has totally botched this Blu-ray release with just a 5.1 mix."

I mean most people probably have a 5.1 set up anyway.

#3 of 40 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:40 AM

If I'm not mistaken, this film wasn't filmed in 3-D, but was converted later on.  When I watched it in an IMAX theater earlier this year, it ranks as one of my favorite big screen experiences in my lifetime.


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#4 of 40 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:41 AM

I mean most people probably have a 5.1 set up anyway. 

 

Jari,

 

I think most people do have a 5.1 setup.

 

However, the Blu-ray industry has been pushing itself towards releasing more 

7.1 content.  In fact, 7.1 has been pretty much standard on most major Blu-ray releases.

 

Those with 5.1 systems have something to eventually move up to.  I know that I 

plan on upgrading to 7.1 in the near future.  Would have done it this weekend having

this remarkable sound mix in my hands.


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#5 of 40 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:43 AM

...and to those that chimed in early...thanks for putting up with errors in the review.

I was in the middle of editing some spelling and grammatical mistakes moments after

publishing.   :)


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#6 of 40 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:43 AM

Jari,

 

I think most people do have a 5.1 setup.

 

However, the Blu-ray industry has been pushing itself towards releasing more 

7.1 content.  In fact, 7.1 has been pretty much standard on many Blu-ray releases.

 

Those with 5.1 systems have something to eventually move up to.  I know that I 

plan on upgrading to 7.1 in the near future.  Would have done it this weekend having

this remarkable sound mix in my hands.

I've been 7.2 for years and you should do it.


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#7 of 40 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:44 AM

If I'm not mistaken, this film wasn't filmed in 3-D, but was converted later on.

 

I neglected to look that up for the review.  That could be.  It could also explain

my slight disappointment in depth and forward projection.


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#8 of 40 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:45 AM

I think too much pop out would take me out of the film.  I thought the 3-D conversion was done just right for Gravity.


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#9 of 40 Jari K

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:51 AM

I have no problem with 7.1 mixes - far from it. But the word "botched" just didn't felt right if the 5.1 mix sounds great etc.

#10 of 40 Charles Smith

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:52 AM

Just saw it last week (finally!) in IMAX 3D.  Sadly, there's no Atmos around here, but the sound design was pretty damned thrilling anyway.

 

I will certainly buy the disc based on Ron's review, but I also agree with wishing for more, more, more.

 

Now this is making me want to pull out the IMAX Space Station 3D  Blu-ray.



#11 of 40 schan1269

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:53 AM

I ran into promo copy. DSX was killer.

#12 of 40 Robert Crawford

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Posted February 13 2014 - 06:54 AM

I have no problem with 7.1 mixes - far from it. But the word "botched" just didn't felt right if the 5.1 mix sounds great etc.

It's his opinion.  You differ, so that's what we have here.


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#13 of 40 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2014 - 12:10 PM

I've been 7.2 for years and you should do it.

 

Crawdaddy,

 

You will be proud of me.  Just made an inquiry to Atlantic Technology about 

obtaining two additional 2400-SR speakers for the rears directly behind me

which would upgrade me to 7.1.

 

Seems like the right thing to do now that most every new Blu-ray release

has a 7.1 encode.  

 

Not sure about 7.2.  I still have the monstrous SVS prototype subwoofer 

from about 14 years ago.  That beast, by itself, shakes the entire room.

 

DSC_0025.jpg


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#14 of 40 Aaron Silverman

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Posted February 13 2014 - 12:18 PM

I actually agree with Jari on that -- "totally botched" is a real exaggeration if the intended meaning is "great but not what it could have been." It doesn't really fit Ron's opinion.

 

"Missed opportunity" would be a better choice of words, IMO.

 

(As long as I'm on the subject. . .Ron, you wrote "hurdling" when you meant "hurtling." Twice. :) )


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#15 of 40 Aaron Silverman

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Posted February 13 2014 - 12:20 PM

Not sure about 7.2.  I still have the monstrous SVS prototype subwoofer 

from about 14 years ago.  That beast, by itself, shakes the entire room.

 

 

I am so out of the hardware loop. . .does 7.2 offer stereo LFE channels, or just a double mono output? If the former, are there many releases encoded with stereo subs?


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#16 of 40 Ronald Epstein

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Posted February 13 2014 - 12:21 PM

Correct, I used the wrong adjective (instead of hurtling).  I have since fixed the review.


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#17 of 40 schan1269

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Posted February 13 2014 - 12:34 PM

I am so out of the hardware loop. . .does 7.2 offer stereo LFE channels, or just a double mono output?
Under $1800-ish(msrp) it is double mono.


If the former, are there many releases encoded with stereo subs?
No.


Some top tier AVR/ pre-pro have a true .2 where you can tailor the sub for where they each sit in the room.

The source content is .1 regardless.
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#18 of 40 schan1269

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Posted February 13 2014 - 12:38 PM

I'm waiting on the day AVR/ pre-pro come to market with...

7.1-2

That would be control over 1 sub and two MBM.

#19 of 40 Dave Upton

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Posted February 13 2014 - 01:07 PM

I will second the .2 conversation. A second sub makes a world of difference. My single SubMersive HP+ wallops most other subs, but I still plan to get a second for the improvement in overall bass response!



#20 of 40 DavidJ

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Posted February 13 2014 - 02:17 PM

I am so looking forward to owning this and I'm glad the presentation on disc doesn't disappoint other than the bizarre decision not to release it with a 7.1 mix. I am currently only 5.1, but I have been exploring the options to make my AT 4200e system 7.1.







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