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As synthetic as the Matrix itself

HD DVD

I got home from work today to find The Ultimate Matrix Collection on HD DVD waiting for me, direct from the good people at Movietyme. Given that I found The Matrix Reloaded so laughably bad that I didn’t even bother with The Matrix Revolutions (I’ve got that delight waiting for me one of those nights), you might wonder why I picked up the set at all. The answer is that I wanted the original The Matrix, and it’s not available separately (not yet, at any rate). I don’t think it’s the masterpiece some people claim it to be, but it’s enjoyable enough, and it holds some sentimental value for me, as it was the first standard definition DVD I ever owned.

First of all, I must point out that I really like what Warner has done with the packaging. A laminated cardboard slip case houses four individual standard HD DVD cases: one for each film and one for a double-sided standard definition DVD housing various extras, entitled The Matrix Experience. Each film disc is also double-sided, with the reverse side, a DVD-9, featuring bonus content specific to the film in question.

The Ultimate Matrix Collection

Now, on to the contents. I’ve only had a cursory glance at each disc, but I’m sorry to report that there are major problems with all three films. The original Matrix comes off looking the strongest, which is probably a good thing, as it’s the only one of the three films I genuinely wanted (although, once again, I must stress that I haven’t seen Revolutions yet, so that opinion may change). It shows noticeable edge enhancement, and has clearly been filtered, but it basically looks pleasant for the most part, and I’d put it on par with other Warner releases like Constantine and Million Dollar Baby. Unfortunately, the disc does, however, get a major black mark against it by virtue of the fact that the audio, on all the available tracks, is noticeably desynchronised from the video. Just watch the moment in the first sequence when the truck mashes the phone box Trinity was inside: the sound of the collision lags noticeably behind the visuals, and, whenever someone speaks quickly, you can see them mouthing words before you can actually hear them. Others have reported this fault, and some have suggested that it is unique to the Xbox 360 add-on, but this HD-A1 user can confirm that it is a problem on that particular stand-alone player as well.

The other two films look somewhat more underwhelming than the first one, losing some (although not all) of the edge enhancement but appearing noticeably softer and more noise reduced; no audio problems that I could discern from my brief inspection, though. Ultimately, I must say that I’m a little disappointed with this whole affair. Given that this was pretty much supposed to be the flagship title for Warner, and indeed the HD DVD format as a whole, I think it could have done with a little more quality control. Then again, maybe that’s just the problem: I can just imagine the technicians sitting around a workstation, rubbing their hands with glee as they cranked the edge enhancement dial up. “Guys, we need to make this title as detailed as possible!” Cripes!

By the way, I’m not making any promises, but you might be seeing a new audio commentary from me soon, albeit somewhat different to the ones I did for Suspiria and Profondo Rosso. This evening, on a whim, I decided to switch on my microphone and hit record while myself and Lyris were giving The Matrix the once-over. The result is half an hour of sarcasm, lewd jokes and immature jibes (we stopped at the 30-minute mark, because it’s hard to stay on a roll for any longer, but we’ll probably continue the exercise tomorrow evening). As such, it probably won’t appeal to those who consider The Matrix sacred, or indeed those who like their humour a little more high-brow, but we enjoyed recording our little commentating duet, and are of the opinion that this is a film that desperately needs the wind taken out of its sails a little. Stay tuned for further information.

 
Posted: Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 10:32 PM | Comments: 9
Categories: Cinema | DVD | HD DVD | Technology

 
Comments

1.

That sound problem seems unbelievable. You would think that for such a major release things like that would never get through quality control.
As for the edge enhancement it is hugely frustrating and something I hoped to see the back of with HD as there really is no excuse.
Then again it shouldn't have been there on countless SD DVDs either and I presume the same people who master SD discs now work on HD, so the seemingly widespread preference amongst DVD producers for 'enhanced detail', arbitrary changes of colours and obliteration of film grain will surely continue to blight numerous films.

Although they are easily my favourite of the major studios in terms of DVD releases Warner's quality control seems to have occasionally been a bit lax in the last year or so.

There were the problems with the Ultimate Superman collection boxset (which they did at least rectify and replace) and there have also been a few cases in their classic film box sets (Film Noir vol.3, Errol Flynn vol. 2, Literary classics collection) where they have failed to transfer films progressively.
Of course these are a very small number of mistakes amongst hundreds of other mistake-free releases but it still isn't quite what I've come to expect from them.

Posted by: , May 15, 2007 11:46 PM

2.

depressing. And I don't know what to make of the gushing comments on AV "Science" forums.

Posted by: aw, May 16, 2007 3:06 AM

3.

Revolutions is better than Reloaded, but not better than mediocre. It suffers from the idea that more is more, and to be honest I'm having trouble remembering which action scenes come up in which film.

Trying to work out the plot details will make your head explode, by the way, so don't.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, May 16, 2007 10:47 PM

4.

I almost forgot - Rev Jerry Falwell is dead. Care to say anything in this time of mourning?

Posted by: Baron Scarpia, May 16, 2007 10:49 PM

5.

I almost forgot - Rev Jerry Falwell is dead. Care to say anything in this time of mourning?

Yeah. He’ll be, um, missed, or something.

Posted by: Whiggles, May 16, 2007 10:54 PM

6.

So, I was thinking of picking this up. And I tend to agree w/ most of your video ratings on SD and HD DVD/BD. But how do you explain the perfect PQ AND AQ reviews its getting (like Bracke's). I sure don't want to blow $60 on something that is presented as 'definitive' but is actually substandard, as you have stated. The Constantine reference is most troubling (horrible filtering imo)

Posted by: aw, May 17, 2007 3:17 AM

7.

Peter Bracke can’t tell the difference between high definition and standard definition (see his involvement in the Traffic fiasco). That should tell you how much I consider the technical portions of his reviews to be worth. And just look at how gushing the reviews for the extremely mediocre Lord of the Rings DVDs are - the fact of the matter is that most reviewers, sadly, can’t be trusted.

I watched The Matrix all the way through last night, by the way, and have come to the conclusion that the transfer is slightly below that of Constantine. A little less filtering (still there, though), but much more edge enhanced. And the two sequels definitely look worse.

Posted by: Whiggles, May 17, 2007 7:33 AM

8.

>>This evening, on a whim, I decided to switch on my microphone and hit record while myself and Lyris were giving The Matrix the once-over. The result is half an hour of sarcasm, lewd jokes and immature jibes<<

I see you did some MST3K-ing on the it?

Posted by: Sam, May 18, 2007 6:20 PM

9.

>> But how do you explain the perfect PQ AND AQ reviews its getting (like Bracke's).

I think the answer involves the difference between people who analyse video transfers that have a good amount of experience in watching as well as creating digital video. And then there are the "technical journalists" who think that an HD disc being "an improvement on the SD version" and "being free of grain" warrants a perfect rating.

Posted by: David Mackenzie, May 19, 2007 2:11 PM

Comments on this entry and all entries up to and including June 30th 2009 have been closed. The discussion continues on the new Land of Whimsy blog:

https://www.landofwhimsy.com

 

 
 
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