The random tangents we tend to stray down here in the blog aside, High-Def Digest is primarily a Blu-ray focused site. As Blu-ray reviewers (most of us), and more importantly as home theater junkies like most of you, we have a battery of favorite demo scenes we like to bring out to show off our Blu-ray and home theater gear to family and friends. In this week’s Roundtable, we offer up some of our suggestions.
This week, our Blu-ray reviewer M. Enois Duarte (we call him “E.”) joins us for the Roundtable.
You’re going to see a lot of science fiction on this list. That’s only natural. Demo scenes aren’t about story, dialogue or performances. They’re all about eye and ear candy, and it stands to reason that big budget sci-fi flicks often make the best use of sparkly high-definition video and slamming multi-channel audio. My favorite demo is perhaps a touch obvious. It’s a classic chestnut, but one that never fails to please. Of course, it’s the Leeloo-jumps-off-a-building scene in ‘The Fifth Element‘. The scene’s candy-colored photography, elaborate CGI cityscapes, and whizzing surround sound make for a fantastic Blu-ray demo every time. And Milla Jovovich in a dress made out of Ace bandages isn’t too hard on the eyes either. Just be sure you get the remastered edition, which is an order of magnitude better than the disastrous first Blu-ray released as one the format’s earliest titles.
This one is easy. I use the opening sequence to J.J. Abrams’ 2009 ‘Star Trek‘. Everything about it resonates the reason why we love high definition. The extraordinary detail of the special effects in that sequence is exquisite in HD. You can see light reflect off the tiniest, insignificant pieces of debris – and there are thousands of them, each uniquely textured and detailed. The perfectly mixed sound (and sometimes lack of sound) is well used. It starts off loud and chaotic, but slowly fades out until all we hear is Michael Giacchino’s iconic score while intense images flash on screen. The score-induced silence draws a strong emotional response during a wildly intense action scene. Every HD pessimist has been silenced upon seeing that sequence in high definition. Cutting back and forth between two simultaneously running video inputs on Blu-ray and DVD truly shows off vast difference between standard and high definition.
M. Enois Duarte
I’m a little hard-pressed deciding on only one demo disc, and have been mulling over the question for a while. If there’s one thing HT hobbyists with projectors love to do, it’s show off their equipment to any willing participant. Personally, I use a large variety of scenes from many different movies. Being really big on audio, I tend to stick with sequences that have the best surround sound and bass. My immediate choices are arguably obvious. ‘War of the Worlds‘ takes top spot because without question, there’s nothing out there on Blu-ray with such authoritative and frightening low-frequency effects. But in the end, I’m going to have to go with ‘Pearl Harbor‘.
That’s right, the infamously horrible blockbuster disaster from Michael Bay is the one movie I find myself using over and over again to demo my system. With the awful Ben Affleck and a mawkishly whiny Josh Hartnett as two feuding brothers embarrassingly pining over a gorgeous “Why is she in this mess?” Kate Beckinsale, the historical romance drama has one – and only one as far as I’m concern – redeeming quality. That would be the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While the visuals are also nice for viewers, the real show is the audio, starting with the Japanese planes flying low through the Hawaiian mountains and ending, of course, with the amazing (much of it CGI) fire display. The whole thing lasts close to 20 minutes of ear-bleeding fun. From rear activity to a deep, powerful low-end, the entire spectacle is incredibly immersive and exhilarating. I despise the movie, but love the BD as a demo disc that leaves guests wanting an HD system of their own.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Not that I need an excuse to put on ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘, but my current demo scene of choice is the lead-in to the climax, as Scott storms into a underground nightclub where he’s quickly swarmed by legions of kung-fu hipsters. Everything about that sequence looks and sounds perfect: the waves of thugs bursting into change from every direction as Scott attacks, the blip-punk soundtrack blaring behind it all, such remarkable visual clarity that I feel as if I can make out the writing on those loony coins that are spilling all over, and just the hyperkinetic energy to it all that makes it such an infectious blast to watch.
One of my favorite demo scenes comes from Pixar’s ‘WALL-E‘. It isn’t the scene that you’re probably thinking of, though, even though the flight in space with WALL-E and EVE is definitely demo-worthy. My favorite scene comes at the beginning of the movie as we zoom in from space to see the world covered in piles of trash. There’s something beautiful about all those piles of trash. Tiny, intricate spaces in the trash can be seen perfectly. I remember pointing out to my dad (before he knew exactly what Blu-ray was capable of) the tiny papers and other particles floating in the wind. So much detail went into this scene, but it’s easy to just dismiss it as garbage. On the contrary, if you really watch the scene, soak it in. It has some of the most detailed visuals you will ever see in high definition.
While I’m not a fan of demoing scenes out of context, there is one scene on Blu-ray 3D that stands out above the rest: a 3D prison shower scene with two gals in it. No, it’s not softcore porn; it’s ‘Resident Evil: Afterlife‘, and I swear there’s a difference! Anyways, the film was designed to maximize the 3D cameras employed for the entire shoot, and shots were based around the technology, to add a wow factor, even if it comes at the expense of coherency. The battle featuring the Executioner zombie and two of the survivor gals in the shower right as they exit the prison is sheer 3D brilliance. Broken pipes spew water throughout the room while characters run through layers at each other. A few gimmick shots (the thrown axe, the shotgunned quarters) are thrown in for good effect. It’s in-your-face while at the same time amazingly deep, and the cascades of water make an otherwise ridiculous scene amazingly cool.
We know that you must have some favorite Blu-ray demo scenes of your own. Tell us about them in the Comments.