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Great film, but a disappointing Blu-Ray
on 8 January 2010
The film is wonderful, for me clearly the better of the two Christopher Columbus 'family films', and in many ways my favourite before the obsession started with making Harry Potter increasingly 'darker'. Extras are not bad including around nine minutes of deleted scenes and numerous behind the scenes features. But the main issue here is the Blu-Ray quality and that is why this great film gets only three stars.
The video quality is not very good. Contrasts are surprisingly poor, with many scenes too bright (Harry and his owl during the Xmas holidays) and the children's faces often looking vampirically pale due to excessive contrast. There is also far too much soft focus and too little sharpness for the film to ever really shine let alone 'pop' as the jargon has it. Scenes which are just made for HD, lingering close-ups, for example, often appear surprisingly soft and lacking definition. There are moments of HD magic - like the moving bricks in the wall before Diagon Alley - but they are far too rare and are never of reference character. Faces, particularly the children, often lack detail almost as though some form of digital noise reduction (DNR) had been applied! I say "almost" because the film is not short of grain/noise.
Audio quality is pretty good but well short of what it could have been. The PCM track is only 48khz and sometimes lacks the extra detail and spaciousness associated with HD audio. Surround sound is very well used though, particularly in the Quidditch match.
All in all a disappointing BD. The new audio-mix on the "Ultimate Editions" available in the US and continental Europe seems to be an open admission that the soundtrack wasn't good enough. But I wouldn't hold your breath for a new transfer. On the internet I read that some of the video problems are to be blamed on the limited budget for Part 1 and the not sufficiently careful integration of CGI. Although I hope, at the least, a new transfer one day could sort out the contrasts, and remove DNR if that is what is making the kids' faces look so lacking in detail and smoothed over at times.
Not really recommended. The only good news is that a better sound-mix is out there and that general feedback from BD-loving Potter fans is that the series gets much better on BD from Part II on. I'll be sure to post on "Chamber of Secrets" when I've seen it!