Blu-ray Disc REVIEW SPEED Studio: 20th Century Fox Film Year: 1994 Film Length: 116 minutes Genre: Action/Thriller Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Theatrical Ratio Resolution: 1080p Video Codec: AVC @ 14MBPS Disc Size: 25GB Colour/B&W: Colour Audio: English DTS-HD MASTER LOSSLESS AUDIO 5.1 Surround French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Subtitles: English, Spanish Film Rating: R Release Date: November 14, 2006. Film Rating: / Starring: Keanu Reeves (Officer Jack Traven), Dennis Hopper (Howard Payne), Sandra Bullock (Annie Porter), Jeff Daniels (Det. Harold “Harry” Temple) Written by: Graham Yost Directed by: Jan de Bont Get ready for rush hour. Speed is in Fox’s November 14th line-up of Blu-ray releases. Reeves is the officer who is determined to save people from a terrorist: they ride on an explosive-strapped bus that must drive the highways and city streets no less than 50mph or else it will blow up. Adding charm was the then still-unknown Sandra Bullock, who in this film is the love interest of Reeves as they smash everything to hell with this city bus and the confused passengers it carries. As of this writing, a month has passed since this release. To keep up with current releases, I generally don’t review titles that are significantly past street date unless I find something unique about them. I find Speed unique not because of the film, but because the discs proved to have a “technical glitch” only with the Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player, a player that many early adopters own. When I used the Samsung player for all of my Blu-ray reviews here at Home Theater Forum, I too was affected by the glitch. The player would chug and chug and eventually spit the disc back out as unplayable. Fox has taken then appropriate step to satisfy its customers. They offer a full disc replacement. You must send your disc to Fox and they will arrange your free replacement disc that includes reimbursement of shipping charges. If you are affected by this glitch you can contact Fox at 1-888-223-2369. For the past two weeks I’ve been using a Sony Playstation 3 as my Blu-ray player. I was lucky to find one and whipped out my credit card to bring it home. I guess you can say my timing was right. One of the first discs I wanted to review was Speed since I was unable to do so in the past. The disc worked flawlessly so I was able to get to work. Many of you waiting for your replacement discs are probably wondering how it performs. Here it goes…! VIDEO QUALITY 3.5/5 This is a much better presentation over DVD. To some, a 3.5/5 picture quality score may seem low, but it’s a score I believe is fair. Many of you may have seen I’m becoming more rigid with HD scores and demanding more of them to achieve a score of 4 and above. I think that many of you will find this title to look more than acceptable, but to me, I think it’s ranked appropriately. Like all HD titles thus far, the image boasts better depth and detail. Image contrast is low on this title. I found it dim most of the time. The opening sequence in the elevator, the outdoors of L.A., interiors in the police station; all of it seemed dimmer that it could have been and didn’t have the dynamic punch I expected. Expected being the difference here… Colours all leaned on the warm side. The L.A. sun continually casts an orange tone on skin, city streets, and all grays in the picture. It wasn’t bothersome and I accepted it as an artistic decision. Black level is generally good with only a few scenes looking slightly higher in black level while the rest look good. There aren’t too many scenes that are dominantly dark, and detail is always appearing present. The 2.35:1 image is AVC encoded at 14MBPS, although it did hover and spike around 18MBPS many times. I didn’t see any artefacts I believed to be related to compression and edge enhancement was non-existent - that’s fabulous. There are a few print artefacts that arise regularly from the film. There also appears to be a few shots that look squeezed from the anamorphic process on film (unrelated to the transfer to Blu-ray). People's faces look squeezed in many shots on the bus. I remember seeing this on the laserdisc as well...and I'm not sure why this was never corrected...this could be the same film source used to make the NTSC master for laserdisc. Hmmm...I can’t help to think that a better film source must be available for this title. It looks too much a theatrical print. AUDIO QUALITY: 4/5 There are only two things about this soundtrack that prevents it from getting a top score of 5/5. The first is the dated sound of this soundtrack. I know the film isn’t that old, but it does sound dated as far as recording quality is concerned (not the sound effects, they sound good). It’s a bit hollow and thin…it lacks the roundness in the midrange to make it sound real and impact of modern recordings just isn’t there. The mix on the other hand is superb. This title used to be used as a reference soundtrack back in the day for its surround aggressiveness. Placement of sounds in all channels is exemplary for a film of this age and holds up well in this respect today. This film was also released at the time Dolby Digital, DTS, and SDDS released discrete audio channels in theatrical exhibitions, so the audio engineers pushed the use of this discrete audio to the limits. The front soundstage is a strange one though. It offers excellent depth between the speakers but very little seems to be recorded on the outsides of them. This gives a very restricted dispersion of sound and the soundtrack relies heavily on the surround speakers to “open things up” a bit. Thankfully the use of surrounds is excellent and provides better depth front-to-back, but the sides of the soundtrack are often ignored leaving a bit of a hole in the soundtrack. There is plenty of bass in this soundtrack. Many of you will notice that this soundtrack has graduated to a 5.1 soundtrack from 5.0. Previous releases (beginning with the Dolby Digital and DTS laserdiscs) were all 5.0. With bass management one could easily send bass into the subwoofer so this won’t be a problem, but for those of us who don’t use bass management may have been a bit disappointed with the lack of LFE. This time, LFE is added to the film in small spurts. There isn’t a lot and it appears mostly in the film’s subway finale, but the bass in the front and surround channels appear untouched and just as punchy as in previous releases. …oh…and that second thing I mentioned that I wasn’t crazy about…it’s the EQ of this soundtrack. I’m sure the X-curve is still in place here…it’s quite bright on the top end. Loud sounds can be a bit fatiguing and lack the best dynamic range. I know the roundness that I found lacking will probably be retrieved when we’re able to decode the lossless portion of this DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, but for now the core soundtrack will do. I’m not sure what the bit-depth of this recording is, but its sampling frequency is 48kHz. TACTILE FUN!! / TRANSDUCER ON/OFF?: ON SPECIAL FEATURES / The same commentaries from the DVD appear on this disc. One is an isolated track with director Jan De Bont. The second is a writer and producer commentary with Graham Yost and Mark Gordon. Neither of them is great and I personally found the Yost/Gordon commentary a bit messy in delivery; they seem to talk and interrupt each other about everything never always being able to finish a point. There seems to be little focus. A neat feature that utilizes Blu-ray’s capability is the search content menu. I haven’t seen this on any DVD so I’m assuming this feature is unique to Blu-ray. The alphabet appears at the top of the screen and with each letter you can search the entire film based on the “subject” you wish to research. Want to look at every scene with Sandra Bullock? Go right ahead – a list appears with time and all, single play or play all. How about scenes with kisses in it? Activate it and it will take you to the kissing scene. Pretty cool stuff. Another neat feature that seems unique to Blu-ray is the personal scene selections. With this feature, you can select specific scenes from the movie and watch them in your sequence. I also enjoyed playing the two video games on this disc. Speed: Take Down Game gives you two choices: you can be Jack Traven and dismantle bombs or be Howard Payne and explode them – all for points to advance to a next level. The game happens over scenes in the movie. I used my PS3 joystick to move around on screen and I found it fun. It’s not an advanced game but still entertaining. Lastly, a trivia track and trailers complete the special features on this disc. You’ll find trailers for mostly films in the first wave of Fox BD that includeSpeed, Behind Enemy Lines, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Phone Booth, Planet of the Apes and The Transporter. IN THE END... I’ve always liked Speed mostly because the film connects me with a time in my life that I’ve always liked. It was the action film for my time. It still has its laughs and excitement I remembered, although I’ll be honest, if I hear the theme music again I’ll probably go insane…the main theme repeats itself way too much for my liking. While the high def transfer is not as sparkling clean on a big screen as I would like it to be, it fares well throughout the film. The audio is an excellent performer given its age so I believe most Speed fans will be happy with this release. Michael Osadciw December 17, 2006.