With the 'Batman Begins' HD DVD hitting some retail outlets more than a week ahead of its street date, consumer reviews of the hotly anticipated title have begun streaming in.
We'll be posting our 'Batman Begins' review soon, but to whet your appetite, HD DVD enthusiast Travis Michael has sent in his critique of the disc's "In Movie Experience" (IME) supplements.
'Batman Begins' is the sixth title to be released with Warner's "In Movie Experience" (IME) feature, which is essentially a running video commentary, using a variety of supplements to provide color and context to a given movie.
Critiquing 'Batman Begins' - "In-Movie Experience"
by Travis Michael
While the running time of 'Batman Begins is approximately 140 minutes, the In-Movie features will only require about 50-60 minutes of your time. While you can certainly watch the entire movie with this feature turned on, it's quite easy to skip to each segment of the In-Movie feature by pressing the right arrow button on your remote.
The length of each segment varies but each can last up to a few minutes and is totally contextual to the part of the movie you are watching. Gaps between segments lasted between 0-5 minutes, with 5 being the maximum gap and an average gap of 2-3 minutes. The segments began from the outset of the movie and ended when the credits appeared.
The In-Movie segments also varied in content, ranging from commentary from the actors and filmmakers to presentations of special effects, comic strips, and storyboards. On a standard DVD, you can see a lot of this information by going to the Extras menu and watching the features from there. The HD DVD experience raises the bar because you can watch these features in the context of the movie. For example, you can watch a comic book strip sequence in the PIP window while the actual movie scene is taking place. And instead of just listening to audio commentary in the background while you watch the movie on SD-DVD, you can see a video PIP of the speaker while you watch it on HD-DVD. All of this proves to be much more engaging than watching it outside of the movie experience.
Technically, the In-Movie experience was flawless. On my Toshiba HD-A1 player, there were no glitches of any kind. The PIP windows appeared both on the left and right side of the screen. The PIP window on the right was used exclusively for video of the commentator who was speaking, whether it be the director of the movie or an actor, while the PIP window on the left was noticeably larger and contained the extra material, whether it be the comic book strip or behind-the-scenes video. The audio from the In-Movie experience was fed through the two front speakers in my 5.1 setup but between segments, the full 5.1 audio could be heard from the actual movie. The audio levels of the extras seemed well-balanced, though at times it was a bit jarring when the segment ended and a loud portion of the movie kicked in.
There are a few limitations of note for the In-Movie feature:
- You cannot create a bookmark while the In-Movie feature is running
- Turning the In-Movie feature on during normal playback will restart the movie
- You cannot adjust the PIP window size or positions
There are plenty of other extras on the disc, but the In-Movie experience is certainly the highlight - and it delivers. I hope to see continued use of this feature and further exploitation of the advanced features that HD-DVD offers. While Universal's "U-Control" feature on the 'Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' HD DVD offers some more interactive features that the IME this title does not, the material in 'Batman Begins' is very engaging.
Travis Michael is a home theater enthusiast based in Illinois. Over the last seven years, he has grown his SD-DVD collection to 500+ titles. He recently joined the HD DVD camp with the purchase of a Toshiba HD-A1.
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