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." After about a 20 second download, you are given the option to play the movie and it starts. The movie image retains it's 2.35:1 mats, but shrinks a little bit to fit in the computer graphics. You will get pop ups of the given robot on screen, a character, vehicle, etc., and all the locales are tracked via GPS. You don't seem to be able to choose which widget you want to access at any given time. 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!