Summary: Alan takes a look at the HD DVD and DVD versions of Transformers. How do the two compare to each other in image quality? See head-to-head image comparisons in this article!
It’s tempting to dismiss Transformers as a “simple popcorn flick” without any sophisticated dialogue, characters or narrative structure, relying solely on visual wizardry. Study it a bit closer and the narrative structure of Transformers is revealed to be nearly flawless. When moviegoers feel the adrenaline rush of Barricade chasing after Bumblebee, it’s not just the visual effects and editing that makes the energy flow. It’s the result of the previous battles in Qatar, and tracking simultaneous stories in Los Angeles and Washington D.C. The movie is entertainment, and a wonderfully engineered guilty pleasure.
And that is where Transformers and Michael Bay get maligned. Critics feel guilty saying anything positive about a movie like this. You won’t leave the movie a changed person, or even inspired, but you’ll leave with a smile. If you actually look at some of the negative reviews of Transformers complaining about a poor emotional connection with the characters, you’ll see that the same critics were complaining about Titanic’s love story being unbelievable and unmoving. Tell that to the millions of teenage girls for whom Titanic’s love story was written. Ask a commercially successful screenwriter what he thinks about Titanic, and he’ll say that the love story is as good as or better than Casablanca’s.
Transformers may have a lower rating on Rotten Tomatoes than Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, but there’s a reason why Transformers grossed $700M worldwide. There’s a reason why Spielberg hand-picked Bay to helm the movie. We give it FiringSquad’s Editor’s Choice.
Transformers is distributed by Paramount. This means that the movie is only offered in HD DVD and conventional DVD. The HD DVD is encoded using AVC which provides a superb image. There are no glaring artifacts or encoding errors that I could appreciate on my first viewing. As a film shot on Super35 with Kodak VISION2 500T 5218 stock, some of the evening shots have considerable grain (think ISO 500 film). Still, the HD DVD encoding captures essentially all of the detail of the 2K digital intermediate and we applaud Paramount for bringing a HD DVD digital transfer that is as authentic to the original master as is possible. The warm hues and crisp image come across beautifully on a 1080p display.
Display: Sony VPL-VW50 Projector (1080p24@96Hz 3-chip SXRD front projector)
What comparison? The HD DVD is significantly better than the conventional DVD. If there was a reason to make the transition to high-def, this is it.
In the brightly lit desert, the difference between HD DVD and DVD is staggering. The soldier’s face is pristine on the HD DVD print, with all of the stubble and texture on his clothing intact. The DVD version is noticeably blurrier.
The color difference is the first thing I noticed, but again the HD DVD edition is significantly sharper. With DVD, it just looks you’re watching a home video, but with HD DVD it’s as if you have an original 35mm print in hand.
With Transformers, there’s no reason to get the DVD when the HD DVD edition is this good.
The video quality on Transformers is reference quality and the significance of this deserves some additional attention, especially in today’s world of HDCP, AACS, and even BD+ on Blu-ray. Both HD DVD and Blu-ray represent the last of the physical formats. Futurists are already predicting that we’ll be retiring our physical media for “on-demand” HD movies in the next couple of years. This sounds great until your network connection goes down, or a studio decides to lock-out the video-on-demand service for a theatrical re-release. With HD DVD and Blu-ray, we have one last chance to own our own copy of the movie, with the freedom to watch it in the privacy of our own home anytime we want.
Unlike DVD, however, HD DVD and Blu-ray offer a near flawless archive of the original master print. Most of today’s movies are made with a 2K digital intermediate, which means that a high quality AVC encoded HD DVD/Blu-ray offers over 90% of the quality available to the Director himself, and therefore a leap in quality over what the typical moviegoer sees in a standard movie theater. Even without lossless audio, Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus at 640 kbps offers quality superior to what the typical moviegoer experiences in the theater. When you consider that 1080p front projection is nearly at the limit of human visual perception at THX-standard viewing angles, HD DVD and Blu-ray represent the ultimate home video format. The “Look and Sound of Perfect” and “Beyond High Definition” are marketing slogans that actually have meaning and substance. Unlike the transition from VHS to Laserdisc to DVD to HD DVD/Blu-ray, we’ve reached our destination.
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