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Kung Fu Panda Blu-ray impressions

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I don’t like to tar an entire studio with the same brush, but broadly speaking I haven’t thought much of DreamWorks’ animated output. Barring their collaborations with Aardman, most of their stuff leaves me cold, with unattractive character designs, stiff animation, bland celebrity voices, irritating pop culture references and a lack of actual story development. Tonight, though, we watched the UK Blu-ray Disc of Kung Fu Panda, a rental copy of which has been sitting on my desk for some time, and I have to say it entertained me. It still suffered from some of the same problems that have plagued other DreamWorks films, most notably the overuse of celebrity actors who no-one remembers for their voices, as well as some truly hideous-looking character designs, but it was, overall, an enjoyable 92 minutes and certainly a whole heap better than, say, Shrek. Overall, I’d say it clocks in a couple of pegs below Pixar’s worst, which would be (in my opinion) A Bug’s Life.

Transfer-wise… well, this one has been praised in virtually every circle as “perfect”, “reference quality”, etc. Some viewers do seem to be under the impression that digitally-sourced animation is inherently flawless and couldn’t possibly look bad on BD. Unfortunately, in the wrong hands, it can. Discs like Ratatouille and Open Season are basically perceptually perfect (at least to my eyes), but, at the other end of the spectrum, The Simpsons Movie and Asterix and the Vikings, both of which are traditionally animated but were composited entirely on computers, suffer from needless low pass filtering, which removes the finest level of detail and adds unsightly ringing to edges with his contrasts.

Unfortunately, Kung Fu Panda is in this latter category, again thanks to filtering. The overall effect is actually far from awful, and indeed I can even understand why many people have failed to notice this problem, but it’s definitely there, and it’s consistent throughout. If you look at any of the screen captures below, you’ll see that the letterbox bars at the top and bottom of the image suffer from a mild amount of ringing. This sort of thing is almost always indicative of filtering of some sort, and indeed if you look at, for example, the branches in Example 13 or the rope bridge in Example 14, you can see clearly the extent to which it affects the image as a whole. In the end, it’s definitely a very watchable transfer, but it’s a shame it looks like this, because it didn’t have to. Digital animation may not automatically look perfect, but it could and should. 8/10

Kung Fu Panda
studio: Paramount; country: UK; region code: ABC; codec: AVC;
file size: 22.8 GB; average bit rate (including audio): 35.44 Mbit/sec

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Posted: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 9:48 PM | Comments: 6
Categories: Animation | BD Impressions | Blu-ray | Cinema | Technology

 
Comments

1.

This is better than every Pixar movie i have seen as far as entertainment goes.

I think i go the other way with animation and actually prefer Dreamworks animated titles and enjoy most of them but find Pixar ones to leave me feeling cold. That may be because many feature Randy Newman singing on them and i just puke when he starts singing.

Posted by: FoxyMulder, January 24, 2009 3:28 PM

2.

I was surprised how enjoyable this film was. Is it better than Ratatouille, Wall-E, or Toy Story 2? It's not even close. It is, though, Dreamworks finest effort to date in the animation field. I still find Dreamworks' choice of choosing big name actors as character voices particularly annoying. They have to remember the main demographic that views this type of films don't really care about whose voice it is. Although I did enjoy James Hong as Po's father. He was a hoot.

Posted by: Sound Designer Dan, January 24, 2009 11:05 PM

3.

Disappointing to hear there is some filtering to the image. Some people tend to lose their critical faculties when viewing brightly lit CGI animation, which is why I would expect this BD to get unqualified rave reviews for picture quality.

Posted by: Phantom Stranger, January 30, 2009 2:47 PM

4.

I too am disappointed that you cite edge enhancement in this film's BD transfer. However, unfortunately one can't really assess that fairly, since you've compressed the screen grabs on your site with JPEG. Obviously putting PNGs all over your site would be asking for trouble, but maybe it's worth it for just examples 13+14? I would be interested to see just what the BD transfer has done to those shots without JPEG interference.

Posted by: DJ Mike, January 30, 2009 4:32 PM

5.

Are you sure the ringing is a result of actual filtering, or could be a result of the 4K->1080p downconversion?

Posted by: Eric, February 1, 2009 2:40 AM

6.

I have to echo DJ Mike's sentiments. You can't accurately assess the PQ without using lossless compression. Using JPEG compression only adds DCT compression artifacts.

Posted by: ChuckZ, March 4, 2009 9:57 AM

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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