DVD Review HTF REVIEW: IMAX - Deep Sea

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Ken_McAlinden, Mar 13, 2007.

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  1. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    IMAX - Deep Sea

    Directed By: Howard Hall

    Starring: Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet


    Studio: Warner Brothers

    Year: 2006

    Rated: G

    Film Length: 41 minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1/1.78:1

    Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Korean

    Release Date: March 27, 2006

    Released theatrically as "IMAX - Deep Sea 3D", Warner Brothers Home Video compresses the spectacle into a form that can be enjoyed from the comfort of your own sofa.

    The Film

    "IMAX - Deep Sea" is a documentary that catalogs some of the most unusual creatures to be found in the ocean's depths. As with most IMAX documentaries, the emphasis is on beautifully photographed spectacle, and "Deep Sea" does not disappoint on that account. Narration is handled, in a novel fashion, by both Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. Their comments are scripted in a style that occasionally becomes conversational, with one narrator asking a question, and the other answering it. The film also comes with a very engaging score composed by Danny Elfman along with Deborah Lurie.

    Thematically, the film focuses on the interdependence of plants and creatures in each of the various oceanic environments featured, with a cautionary message about the effects of tipping this balance by overfishing. It is a fascinating viewing experience, even in 2D at video resolution, with one shot after another that look like windows into alien worlds. My personal favorite sequence features humboldt squids swimming, fighting, and even attacking the camera.

    The Video

    I hope the fish are biting because I am about to crack open a can of worms. The film is presented in both a 4:3 full frame transfer and a 16:9 enhanced widescreen transfer, both of which are technically well rendered, with no ringing around high contrast edges, and occasional light compression artifacts, especially when a lot of motion is occuring on the screen at once, such as a large group of scattering minnows. The back of the box indicates that the 4:3 transfer represents the film's original theatrical aspect ratio and the 16:9 transfer is matted for home theater presentations. This is probably close to the truth (native aspect ratio for IMAX is around 1.44:1). Watching them both, it was clear to me that the 4:3 had overall better compositions. At this point, it seems a pretty cut and dried decision that the one closest to the original aspect ratio is the way to go.

    The only problem with that is a problem you generally run into with film on standard definition video, and especially run into with IMAX films on video - lack of detail. IMAX films are shot in ultra-large format by filmmakers who know that fine details will be able to be "read" by audiences watching in theaters. When transferring the same images to standard definition video, details that filmmakers are counting on audiences to be able to read from the image can be completely lost. For a specific example, there is a shot early in this film of a frogfish that blends in with coral. The narration tells us how it uses its antenna-like protuberance as a fishing pole. Unfortunately, the antenna is almost impossible to see in the 4:3 transfer at standard definition. It is, however, noticeable, if a little faint, in the matted, zoomed-in, 16:9 enhanced transfer.

    On balance, I still believe the 4:3 transfer provides a superior viewing experience since cropping causes more issues than the resolution limits during the course of the film. Hopefully, the film will be released in a high definition format in the near future that can provide enough resolution at the film's original aspect ratio to better approximate the filmmakers' intentions in a home environment. Heck, maybe after that we can tackle that whole 3D issue.

    The Audio

    The DVD presents a very good Dolby Digital 5.1 re-purposing of a typically great IMAX surround sound mix. Music and foley effects are highly dimensional with a wide frequency response and large dynamic range. This is an aggressive, immersive (submersive!) mix. Alternate DD5.1 tracks are provided in French, Spanish, and Korean.

    The Extras

    When the disc is first played, viewers are treated to skippable trailers for "Happy Feet" (4:3 video letterboxed to 2.35:1), "Hoot" (16:9 enhanced), "Toot and Puddle: I'll Be Home for Christmas" (16:9 enhanced), and "Saving Shiloh" (4:3 video letterboxed to 1.85:1). Other than that, the only extra is the theatrical trailer for "IMAX - Deep Sea 3D".

    Packaging

    The film is packaged in a standard Amaray-style hard case. The hard case comes inside a cardboard slipcover with a nifty 3D lenticular front that includes a motion effect when you change your viewing angle. The only insert in the packaging is a tri-fold "Seafood Watch" quick reference card that categorizes various seafood types as "Best Choices", "Good Alternatives", or "Avoid" based on the sustainability of the way they are harvested.

    The DVD's menu is a little bit awkward in that it does not easily let you move back and forth between the two different aspect ratio presentations. Once you have chosen one, you are locked out by the menu from choosing the other until you have either watched the feature to the end or "re-booted" the disc. This is mildly annoying if you accidentally select the wrong one. You can select your preferred version manually by choosing "Title 1" for the 16:9 version and "Title 8" for the 4:3 version.

    Summary

    Anyone with an interest in ocean creatures will certainly want to see this beautifully photographed documentary, although I would also recommend catching it in an IMAX 3D presentation if it is playing anywhere near you.

    Regards,

    Edited by Ken_McAlinden - 7/5/2009 at 12:31 pm GMT
     
  2. Jason_V

    Jason_V Producer

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    Sounds like a pretty good companion piece of sorts to Ghosts of the Abyss.

    Ken, were you able to see this in IMAX at the Henry Ford?
     
  3. Craig Beam

    Craig Beam Screenwriter

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    My wife and I caught this in Las Vegas last year, and it was breathtaking. A new IMAX theater is opening fairly nearby (in McMinnville, Oregon) later this year, so we're hoping to see it again.
     
  4. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Not yet, but I'm hoping to catch it there with my kids either this weekend or next.

    Regards,
     
  5. Matthew Clayton

    Matthew Clayton Stunt Coordinator

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    Are the four DD 5.1 tracks all encoded at 448 kps or 384 kps? Also, does this documentary have chapter selections? The WB has a tiresome record for not putting chapter stops in any of their IMAX film releases and I'm wondering if the WB finally did for this movie.
     
  6. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    I will double check the bitrates this evening, but if memory serves, they are all 448kbps. There are chapter stops, but no chapter selections from the menu. The chapter placement seems kind of random, too. Despite only having 82 mintes of content and 10 minutes or so of trailers, the disc is a DVD-9.

    Regards,
     
  7. Ken_McAlinden

    Ken_McAlinden Producer
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    Confirmed. All four language tracks are at the 448kbps bitrate.

    Regards,
     
  8. Matthew Clayton

    Matthew Clayton Stunt Coordinator

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    I'm also extremely curious that Warner actually included a Korean DD 5.1 dub (probably the first movie they did) and subtitles... are they releasing this same edition in R3? If they're going to cater a wider audience, why not include a Portuguese 5.1 dub and subs for release in South America while they're at it?

    Also, I think that since the DVD has both the original aspect ratio and the cropped 16:9 version, I think the compression and the individual titles with their separate DD 5.1 tracks necessitated the DVD-9 treatment (one version on each layer, perhaps?). If it was single-layered the disc would probably be riddled with compression artifacts and other digital flaws.
     

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