Downton Abbey: Season Three (Blu-ray) Official AVSForum Review - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 01-24-2013, 11:06 AM - Thread Starter
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The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )

Film: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

Extras: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373699

Audio/Video total rating:

( Max score: 100 )
88





Studio and Year: PBS - 2012
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 525 minutes
Genre: Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24


Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jim Carter, Brendan Coyle, Dan Stevens, Penelope Wilton, Joanne Froggatt, Maggie Smith, Rob James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera, Shirley MacLaine, Lesley Nichol, Siobhan Finneran, Michelle Dockery
Directed by: Brian Percival, Andy Goddard, Jeremy Webb, David Evans
Music by:
Written by: Julian Fellows
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: January 29, 2013







"Nothing is assured…"


Film Synopsis:
Downton Abbey has weathered the war, and the prospect of an impending wedding for Mary and Matthew brings great anticipation, as well as Cora’s mother from America, Martha Levinson. Martha “differing” perspectives tests tradition at Downton, and the patience of the formidable Lady Violet. Aside from the sparks upstairs, a very real crisis threatens the foundation and future of Downton.

My Take:

Spring, 1920. The Great War is over and a long-awaited engagement is on, but all is not tranquil at
Downton Abbey as wrenching social changes, romantic intrigues, and personal crises grip the majestic English country estate during Season Three. The returning cast is joined by Shirley MacLaine, who plays Martha Levinson, the very American mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham (McGovern). Years earlier, Cora rescued Downton Abbey with her riches by marrying Robert, Earl of Grantham (Bonneville). Now, new world and old world are about to clash as Cora’s mother locks horns with Robert’s redoubtable mother, Lady Violet (Maggie Smith).

Last season closed with the reluctant heir to Downton, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), recovered from his war wounds and ready to tie the knot with the eldest of Lord and Lady Grantham’s daughters, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery). Meanwhile, Mary’s youngest sister, Sybil (Jessica Brown-Findlay), eloped to Ireland with the political-minded chauffeur, Branson (Allen Leech), and is expecting a child.

This season lovebird servants Anna (Joanne Froggat) and Bates (Brendan Coyle) face new ordeals in their star-crossed marriage. Downton’s impeccable butler, Carson (Jim Carter), breaks in a new footman, who happens to be the nephew of the scheming lady’s maid O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran). Following Matthew and Mary’s engagement, Robert sticks to his duty to maintain Downton more firmly than ever – even as other great houses are crippled psychologically and financially in the wake of World War I.

Prior to receiving Season Three for review I hadn’t seen Downton Abbey but have heard nothing but positive things about it from those that have. I have to admit that going in I had some reservations based solely on the subject matter and genre as it just sounded like it would be slow melodrama set in a location/period specific setting that might be difficult to connect with. Not seeing the first two seasons left me a bit in the dark but a little research and being a quick study helped me catch the gist. I have to say that I can understand why Downton Abbey is touted by its fans. It is a well written serial set in early 1900’s England that follows the familial drama surrounding an aristocratic family that resides/owns a palatial estate known as Downton Abbey. Along with the family comes the intertwined subtext associated with their live in servants who reside in the downstairs or on the grounds of Downton.

Writer/creator Julian Fellows paints a vivid picture of the snobbery, traditional devotion, elitist ways and compromising interpersonal relationships that thematically underscore the show. The plethora of characters aren’t all complex but are superbly drawn with a distinctive role that ebbs and flows with the melodramatic proceedings. This allows them to be likeable at times unlikable at others but always definably pertinent to the show’s shifting axis. I watched the entire Season with my wife. We were pretty much all in right from the start as we quickly found ourselves involved in the goings on both upstairs and down. There is a bit of a soap opera feel however it never descends to that level of ostentatious envelope pushing. Instead it humanizes them all, exposing their strengths, weaknesses but above all the implicitness found in their devotion to their way of life, one another and their genuine and shared struggle to co-exist amidst the ever changing world around them.

There is much going on this season as the continuing variety of subplots engagingly plays out. The cast is simply marvelous and all equally worthy of praise. I know that Maggie Smith has been recognized with Golden Globe/Emmy nominations/wins but as an ensemble the group is excellent. Those that follow the series should prepare themselves as this season has several surprises in store. Dare I say that some you probably won’t see coming.

Downton Abbey Season Three comes to Blu-ray in this three disc original UK Edition with the series 8 episodes and season finale spread over three BD-50 dual layered discs with the bulk of the bonus content located on Disc 3. We really enjoyed the show and at the conclusion of the final episode were both reaching for the iPad to see when Season Four would be airing here in the U.S. This set will be available on January 29th just prior to the airing of the season three finale on PBS.


Parental Guide:

The series contains thematic material and brief sensuality that would be inappropriate for young viewers.



AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**


Audio: 80

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Dynamics: attachment.php?attachmentid=109946&d=1210373692

  • Low frequency extension: attachment.php?attachmentid=109945&d=1210373692

  • Surround Sound presentation: attachment.php?attachmentid=109943&d=1210373692

  • Clarity/Detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692

  • Dialogue Reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373692



Video: 96

(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Resolution/Clarity: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

  • Black level/Shadow detail: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Color reproduction: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699

  • Fleshtones: attachment.php?attachmentid=109947&d=1210373699

  • Compression: attachment.php?attachmentid=109948&d=1210373699


Downton Abbey Season Three comes to Blu-ray Disc from PBS Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 25 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD Stereo sound that has an average bitrate of 1.7 Mbps.

This is a reference quality high definition transfer that looks spectacular. Images are crisp with subtle refinement, resolute sharpness and exquisite dimensional perspective. Contrast is well balanced and dynamic which energizes colors and empowers whites/grays. Blacks are rich, noise free and gradational. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveals discerning shapes and structure in backgrounds/objects. Colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among those within the varied range used. Fleshtones are natural with subtle description and where appropriate warm complexional highlights. I found this to be an impressive and pristine quality high definition video presentation from PBS.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio stereo sound is quite good. Dynamics are robust and defining without being strident or edgy. Dialogue is rendered with appreciable tonal expression and excellent room penetration through the center channel speaker. The front soundstage is diffused with notable separation and articulated detail. The series is dialogue driven and as such doesn’t necessarily require use of the surround platform although a broader mix would have been acceptable. Regardless I never felt this presentation was lacking in any way and sounded excellent.

Bonus Features:

  • (HD) Downton Abbey: Behind the drama – 48 minute featurette

  • (HD) Downton in 1920 – 17 minute featurette

  • (HD) The wedding of Lady Mary – 13 minute featutette

  • (HD) The wedding of Lady Edith – 16 minute featurette

  • (HD) The men of Downton Abbey – Hugh Bonneville, Dan Stevens, and Alan Leech discuss the differing classes of men featured in the series

  • (HD) Shirley MacLaine at Downton – 9 minute featurette

  • (HD) Behind the scenes: The Cricket Match – 6 minute featurette

  • (HD) Behind the scenes: A journey to the Highlands – 12 minute featurette




Final Thoughts:

Downton Abbey Season Three represents my first foray into the popular English TV series and I must say, better late than never. This is an engaging and wonderfully written show that might just surprise genre fans that have never bothered to give it a look. For those that never miss it I guarantee that Season Three has lots to offer including several interesting twists, a few turns and one or eye openers that reinforce why it is one of top rated shows on the air. Downton Abbey Season Three comes to Blu-ray in this three Disc release from PBS Home Entertainment featuring sparkling reference quality high definition video, crystal clear lossless sound and a strong supplemental package that fans will appreciate. I’m hooked and eagerly await Season Four. For those that enjoy the show and like to own it on home video this Blu-ray release comes highly recommended.





attachment.php?attachmentid=109949&d=1210373731






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post #2 of 24 Old 01-24-2013, 11:16 AM
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How are you reviewing Season 3 when Season 3 is currently broadcasting??? I must be missing something because Episode of Season 3 just aired last sunday...
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post #3 of 24 Old 01-24-2013, 11:19 AM
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I've been enjoying the UK release of season 3 (which comes out in the fall each year). Doesn't look like there's any reason to update to this release.
The UK release is 1080/50i and Region B.

It's always interested me that the USA releases are 24p, I wonder how they get from 25FPS to 24FPS? You do notice a different pitch to the music on the menus compared to the main title with the USA release, but not on the UK.
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post #4 of 24 Old 01-24-2013, 11:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bimmerfreak0 View Post

How are you reviewing Season 3 when Season 3 is currently broadcasting??? I must be missing something because Episode of Season 3 just aired last sunday...

It airs in the UK in the fall. It airs on PBS in the winter, and several episodes are edited for time. The BD release is the unedited version as it aired on BBC.
Edited to add: the UK BD release is also in the fall right after the show has aired.
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post #5 of 24 Old 01-24-2013, 12:59 PM
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Are seasons 1 and 2 available in 1080P?

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post #6 of 24 Old 01-24-2013, 04:06 PM
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I have to say this series caught me by surprise as well. I've never been one to watch much in the way of serial dramas such as The Sopranos, Dallas, etc.

However, my wife started watching it on Amazon Prime and I happened to be in the room. I couldn't help but get sucked into the story and intricacies. It's a really well written and very very well acted series.

I'm sure it looks better on BD than on Amazon (would certainly sound better. Don't get me started on the horrible audio quality of AP) but I have to admit, it's a good show.
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post #7 of 24 Old 01-24-2013, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jh901 View Post

Are seasons 1 and 2 available in 1080P?

The UK releases of Seasons 1 (and I think 2) were 24p slow downs from the 25p masters and didn't have regional restriction. (These may have been global releases - not sure)
The UK release of Season 3 was a 50i (as broadcast) from 25p (as shot) (Blu-ray doesn't allow for 25p mastering...)
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post #8 of 24 Old 01-25-2013, 06:03 PM
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This is one of our favorite shows in years and is a must-watch in our home. Season 3 is extremely entertaining, funny, and sometimes will make a tear come to your eye.

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post #9 of 24 Old 01-28-2013, 01:27 PM
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Last night's episode brought tears to my eyes. Even though I watch it religiously this episode was particularly gripping. Masterpiece Theater and PBS in general is hard to beat. One of the reasons I think I could live without the cable channels.
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post #10 of 24 Old 01-29-2013, 09:20 AM
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FWIW, Netflix is finally carrying this series on BD. Season 3 available this week, seasons 1 and 2 next week.
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post #11 of 24 Old 01-29-2013, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post

FWIW, Netflix is finally carrying this series on BD. Season 3 available this week, seasons 1 and 2 next week.

Greetings,

Thanks rdgrimes. cool.gif


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post #12 of 24 Old 02-05-2013, 11:31 AM
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I'm surprised that the Blu-ray sound is just 2.0. I'm torn between watching my DVR HD recording which has Dolby Digital sound and the Blu-ray with the 2.0. The downside of the DVR version is that PBS logo! I've changed the output of my blu-ray player to PCM so that I can use my receiver to "fake" a 5.1 sound but it just doesn't sound as good as the broadcast 5.1.

What are others doing? I'm also not sure which version is more complete. I noticed that the Blu-ray first episode was over a minute longer than the broadcast version. Others have posted elsewhere that the US broadcast version was longer. ???

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post #13 of 24 Old 02-05-2013, 03:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by artseattle View Post

I'm surprised that the Blu-ray sound is just 2.0. I'm torn between watching my DVR HD recording which has Dolby Digital sound and the Blu-ray with the 2.0. The downside of the DVR version is that PBS logo! I've changed the output of my blu-ray player to PCM so that I can use my receiver to "fake" a 5.1 sound but it just doesn't sound as good as the broadcast 5.1.

What are others doing? I'm also not sure which version is more complete. I noticed that the Blu-ray first episode was over a minute longer than the broadcast version. Others have posted elsewhere that the US broadcast version was longer. ???

Art

The broadcast via PBS version is edited for time on several episodes. Also important to note that simply because it has a DD 5.1 audio track doesn't mean it's anything other than stereo. Broadcasters frequently wrap 2-ch audio in a 5-ch stream. Lastly, it was originally produced in stereo.
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post #14 of 24 Old 02-05-2013, 03:53 PM
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Use your ProLogin II processing in your AVR and the audio will sound just fine.

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post #15 of 24 Old 02-06-2013, 11:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Vaughn View Post

Use your ProLogin II processing in your AVR and the audio will sound just fine.

This is true. I discovered the series back in early December of 2012. CBS SUNDAY MORNING did a featurette on it and it sounded like something the wife and I would like. I ordered the Seasons 1 & 2 Blu-Ray and we watched all of the episodes hoping we could catch up to PBS' broadcasts at the start of the year, and we were successful.

One of my Christmas presents was an updated Sony amplivier as the heart of the home theater sound sound system. My older one was having problems with some of the controls (whole right panel) being inactive. As a result, we watched all of Season 1 & 2 with the stereo audio emanating from the two main stereo speakers. This was OK, but I was used to this type of sound being "pro-logic-ed" to combine the dialog to the center. So it all sounded unfocused to me. Nonetheless, the series was riveting and we could wait for each next episode.

After Christmas, I hooked up the new receiver and took awhile to familiarize myself with the controls and to get everything set just right. During the first of the three or four PBS broadcasts that we watched in January, I was still using the stereo 2.0 setting and having the dialog spit between the two main stereo speakers. By the time the S3 Blu-Ray arrived, I'd gotten the sound setting just the way I wanted them, and have used the ProLogic II sound setting to decode the stereo into what I really wanted it to be.

My system is currently set up as a 3.0 system. I have no use for a subwoofer as my wife hates boomy bass. In our old house we did a 5.0 setup, but in the current house, running wires to surround speakers would be problematic, so really, 3.0 works perfectly for us.

Now that we've finished S3, at some point in the future, we'll go back and revisit the series, probably closer to when S4 is ready, and I'll have the proper sound setting this time.

Harry
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post #16 of 24 Old 02-06-2013, 07:18 PM
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It's amazing to me how my expectations of the a/v quality change when I'm watching something I truly enjoy. Such is the case here.

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post #17 of 24 Old 02-06-2013, 08:02 PM
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D.A. is beautifully filmed, and IMHO the PQ is top notch to boot. I also don't find anything objectionable in the 2-ch audio.
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post #18 of 24 Old 03-15-2013, 02:17 PM
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Thanks for the review, Ralph! cool.gif

I really didn't think this series would be my cup of tea, but I took a chance with the season one blu-ray package and after watching only a few episodes, I was totally hooked. I've since purchased seasons two and three on blu-ray and will be starting on the season three episodes before the upcoming weekend is out. What a great TV show this turned out to be - I'm extremely happy to have it in my blu-ray collection...

Very highly recommended!

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post #19 of 24 Old 03-15-2013, 02:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by ozar View Post

Thanks for the review, Ralph! cool.gif

I really didn't think this series would be my cup of tea, but I took a chance with the season one blu-ray package and after watching only a few episodes, I was totally hooked. I've since purchased seasons two and three on blu-ray and will be starting on the season three episodes before the upcoming weekend is out. What a great TV show this turned out to be - I'm extremely happy to have it in my blu-ray collection...

Very highly recommended!

Greetings,

Great to hear it oz! cool.gif


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post #20 of 24 Old 03-16-2013, 03:22 PM
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I was in the same boat as many of you, thinking that this is some stuffy old English drama, like those Merchant/Ivory films from the '90s. Couldn't be more wrong. Watched all three seasons already,and recommend the same to you Ralph.

sent via Morse code...........

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post #21 of 24 Old 04-21-2013, 10:30 AM
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Finally got my wife to watch it and now all she wants to do is watch Downton Abbey! That's okay though, because I'm willing to see it all again since this might be the best TV series I've ever encountered. It's certainly in the top three.

Like the poster above, I highly recommend everyone begin with Season 1 and watch all episodes in their proper order.

oz
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post #22 of 24 Old 04-21-2013, 01:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ozar View Post

Finally got my wife to watch it and now all she wants to do is watch Downton Abbey! That's okay though, because I'm willing to see it all again since this might be the best TV series I've ever encountered. It's certainly in the top three.

Like the poster above, I highly recommend everyone begin with Season 1 and watch all episodes in their proper order.

Greetings,

It can be addiciting oz... smile.gif


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post #23 of 24 Old 05-01-2013, 12:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ralph Potts View Post

Greetings,

It can be addiciting oz... smile.gif


Regards,

Yeah, apparently so... we just finished seasons 1, 2, and 3 over the weekend, and already she's wanting to start it over from the beginning to see it all once again, but I've seen it all the way through twice already! eek.gif

I'm trying to convince her to wait a while, like maybe a few weeks before season 4 is to be released so that we'll have better retention of what we've already seen. TV with no violence, sex, nudity, or filth is a rarity these days, but this show proves without a doubt that those things are not necessary to provide quality television viewing.

Thanks again!

oz
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post #24 of 24 Old 05-01-2013, 01:34 PM
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^^^
Season 4 will air in the UK in the fall, and release on region-B BD shortly after.
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