I had yet to see an HD-DVD presentation of any kind. I wasn't really interested in the upgrade of software, mainly because I have a garage full of DVDs that will soon be obsolete. That didn't stop Jeff Radoyeis and Annie Kaprielien, the key architects behind the Transformers HD-DVD, from trying to push their wares on me. They recently invited a couple of us journalists over to Paramount studios to talk about their new, extraordinary disc. The pair was quick to point out that this was the "Most robust, fully realized version of an HD disc ever released."
Here's what else they had to say:
Jeff Radoyeis: We are very excited and very proud to show this disc in public for the first time today. It's got just about every bell and whistle that you can put on a next-gen disc, that shows of next-gen features. Everything in it is HD, except the picture-in-picture elements. It rocks. The first disc is the feature film. Along with all of the special features that go along with the playback of the film. The second disc contains more of the background information. I think we are going to show you the compression and the quality of that first. Michael Bay was very discerning about how it should look. And we worked extensively with him. We tested compression before we even had a finished master. In general, I think it turned out very wonderful. He is pleased, and so are we.
We are shown the first scene, which features the Scorponok coming out of the sand to fight a small platoon of marines in the desert. It is gorgeous. The colors are sharp, the infinite detail of the picture nearly sent me into a euphoric state. Best of all, you can see the extreme amount of detail that went into every single piece of that robot. They also showed us other scenes, and that's all I could focus on. How well each working part of these robots fit together. It was all accounted for in extreme authenticity. My AOD (attention overcompensation disorder) kicked in, and I had this horrible urge to crawl up into the screen and wipe the dust from Optimus Prime's helmet.
Jeff Radoyeis: The compression that we used on the disc was an ABC. I think it was a bit 4. Normally we test film material against the compressions. We do tests to see which will handle the over-all film the best. In this particular incident the ABC worked the best for us. We used the BC-1 as well. We use that extensively on a lot of films. It's mainly about the caricatures of the film itself that dictates what is going to be the best look for the film. I think what we are going to do now is walk you through this disc. We have a brief commentary from Michael Bay as well. He is very informative and candid. He does a great job with the commentary.
The disc contains a very intense, funny, and revealing commentary by Michael Bay, the director of the film. The scene we watched had Shai LaBeouf being chased by real trained police dogs. Bay goes into this exciting story about how the dogs got away from their trainer, and actually almost killed LaBeouf. His way with words boosts the intensity of this scene as it is being shown on screen. There's a function that allows a little box to appear in the far left corner, and it shows Shia doing his own stunts. Falling and hurting himself. Jumping on these two barrels to keep from getting mauled to death. The look of fear on Shia's face is authentic, were are told, "This was the first night of shooting, and we almost lost our lead. He almost died that night. No joke. We knew something bad was up when the dog trainer said, 'Uh-oh'. Luckily for us, Shia is a fast runner."
Jeff Radoyeis: The whole commentary is awesome. He really does a great job on that. Moving along into some of the other features that play back in conjunction with the film. In essence, we have three other things that will play back with the film in addition to the commentary. The Transformers HD-DVD has a heads-up motif. It will utilize both the text presentation and the PIP capabilities of the format to its fullest. We went more with that to illustrate some of the B-roll. Things like that. There are some animatics that will play in conjunction with the film. Everything has been edited and timed to play back in conjunction with the film as you watch it. It gives you a pretty enhanced playback. When you sit down with the disc, you will enjoy it.
The crazy thing about the two-disc set is the amount of DVD features it contains. This is a twenty-four hour ordeal wrapped in a shell of plastic. There are so many special and interactive features crammed into this HD-DVD, you won't be coming out of your room for a good week or two. The first disc alone has over eight hours of information on it. You have the entire movie itself. Which I wasn't a huge fan of. I thought it was all right. Fun. Exciting. But the second time I watched it, it just seemed like a lot of noise. Seeing it here, in HD-DVD, I'm going to have to rethink my critique of the film. It is a marvelous wonder of technology. And the High Definition really shows that off. I literally could sit and stare at this movie in complete amazement for a good seven days straight.
Jeff Radoyeis: This gives you a lot of information about the background production. Factoids. Basically behind the scenes type of stuff related to the movie itself. One of the reasons we got into HD-DVD full blown is because we are able to execute these types of features. Pretty seamlessly at this point. For us, it's about a next generation format, and getting the consumers excited about it. As opposed to just the notion of a contest. We are putting all of our energy into features like this. We are experimenting more and more with different ways to present those types of things in the specifications of the format. I think you are going to see that even more when we go into the web features, and the connectivity. All of the consoles that support HD-DVD also support Ethernet connections. I think this is going to be the next big area of development for everyone. Just to give you an idea of what you are seeing , this is a live download that you are seeing. It will go live on Tuesday. This is basically our web manager, where all of the content that is downloaded will be housed. The beauty of it is, in essence, we are able to extent the time period that you can deliver content to a consumer. In some ways, it will play into a long-range plan to promote the next Transformers movie. And many other types of things we will have. This is a feature exclusive to HD-DVD. We have a lot of plans for this particular title. This makes the disc future rich. We will be able to update the special features. We have a rollout plan that really freshens up Transformers at the beginning of every forth quarter. We developed something called the intelligence mode, which is another enhanced playback that plays in conjunction of the film. But everything you see will be coming from off the disc.
One of the coolest web-enabled features on the first disc is a grid function that has a GPS screen on it. It shows you were the characters are in terms of geographical location. It's this little map of the world, and we learn that the characters are in Los Angeles. Off to the side of this robotic looking piece of software is a character grid that has energy level bars for each Autobot or Deception being shown on screen. When they get hit or injured during the course of the film, the bar gets dimmer and dimmer. If they die, their character picture goes black. It's extinguished.
Jeff Radoyeis: This area shows a status bar as to whether the robots are receiving transmissions, and their weapons status. When the characters first appear on screen, a robot biography will pop out. Additionally, we have this GPS tracking, which is real to the film at all times. Every time a location is changed, this screen will actually expand and show the change of location. There is going to be longitude and latitude there as well. And you will also get a pop-up of facts as the film runs. This is very complicated stuff.
This application alone has over thirty thousand lines of computer code to build this application.
The second disc was your standard issue extra features disc, albeit with a High Def twist. The specials are split into three camps: Our World, Their War, and then a set of extras that are web based. We get an extensive look at the creators behind the film, the fandom that ensued, a look at Botcon, and an extensive biography on the Hasbro cartoon and toy line. Sadly, there are no bloopers. But if you are a true Transformers fan, you can't go wrong with this package. Everything you could possibly want to know about the franchise is accounted for here. And if its not, it will be downloaded to the disc soon enough.
You can register your disc and receive up-dates as to any new news on the Transformers 2 front. The cool thing about this is, even if you register your disc, they will not be able to tell that you stole it. So, seeing as how most of my readers don't have the cash to delve too deeply into this gorgeous looking Transformers package, they won't be able to track you down if you steal it and all of the expensive equipment that goes along with it. Trust me, I asked. With all of this web-enabled server equipment, I found it interesting that the government could possible track you with the use of this DVD. But Paramount assured me the disc wouldn't be used for individual profiling. And that all of the information is volunteered by the consumer.
The Transformers HD-DVD streets tomorrow, October 16th, 2007. You better be the first in line. These suckers are going to go quick.