Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary Apollo 11 is a visually stunning look at the United States’ legendary and historic trip to the moon.
The Production: 4.5/5
Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary Apollo 11 is a visually stunning look at the United States’ legendary and historic trip to the moon. Told through the use of archival footage (in 65mm, 35mm, 16mm, color and black & white video and sill photos) and archival audio from the actual NASA mission recordings and news broadcasts from the likes of Walter Cronkite and others (only Cronkite is credited). And that is part of the beauty and poetry of the film – it is comprised of no newly created footage and no real narrator. The most breathtaking images come early on, utilizing recently discovered 65mm footage (in both 5-perf and experimental 10-perf) that was scanned at 16K before it was edited into the film, documenting the days leading up to and including the launch of the Saturn rockets that propelled Apollo 11 into space. Most have never seen the Apollo 11 mission like this before, and is a must-see for any classroom or anyone interested in space travel or exploration.
3D Rating: NA
As mentioned above, Apollo 11 is comprised of several different formats of video source material, ranging from 10-perf and 5-perf 65mm to 16mm handheld newsreel to black and white 1960s era security video, and pretty much everything in between. Director/Editor Todd Douglas Miller then composited it all into a 2.20:1 aspect ratio, sometimes cropping to full screen, often window boxing or combining multiple images into a split screen. Footage was cleaned up in the best possible quality, and the finished film was completed as a 4K digital intermediate. Universal’s Blu-ray release consists of an excellent 1080p AVC-encoded transfer that replicates the film’s traditional theatrical exhibitions. Colors are bold and vivid, especially in the 65mm footage, but also in the lesser quality 16mm and 1960s color video (hooray for videotape!) without appearing overly smeared. Cropping of this footage was done so with care, and although grain is often very noticeable in much of the 16mm footage, there is still a great deal of detail visible. The only real disappointment is the fact that Universal has not yet released the film on 4K UHD Blu-ray.
Apollo 11 arrives on Blu-ray with one and only one audio option – an earth-shattering DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The launch of the Saturn rockets will definitely cause your floorboards to rattle thanks to a deep LFE presence, but those floorboards will also rattle a bit as the rockets are moved to the launch pad by the giant crawler-transporter at the start of the film. Dialogue is clear and mostly understandable throughout (there are a few instances where the cleanup of the archival tapes still could not clear up some of the dialogue spoken). Surrounds are used to fill out the listening area with music and atmospheric effects.
Special Features: 1.5/5
Theatrical Trailer (1080p; 1:53)
Apollo 11: Discovering the 65mm Featurette (1080p; 2:54): This all-too-brief featurette looks at the prototype scanner used to scan the 65mm footage at up to 16K resolution, the pouring through of archival audio recordings, and how much data storage was required once everything was compiled. Although very detailed, I really wish it had been much longer.
Digital Copy: An insert contains a code to redeem a digital copy on Movies Anywhere.
Apollo 11 is a documentary that deserves to be experienced in the best way possible, and Universal’s Blu-ray comes very close.