The Secret Life of Pets Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews this entertaining family comedy about the lives our pets lead when we leave for work or school.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

83

Details:

Studio and Year: Universal – 2016
MPAA Rating: PG
Feature running time: 87 minutes
Genre: Family

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.85:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Louis C.K., Eric Stonestreet, Kevin Hart, Ellie Kemper, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress, Jenny Slate, Bobby Moynihan, Steve Coogan, Albert Brooks
Directed by: Chris Renaud
Music by: Alexandre Desplat
Written by:Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio, Brian Lynch
Region Code: A,B,C

Blu-ray Disc release Date: December 6, 2016

“Wonder What They Do All Day?”

My Take:

Max, voiced by Louis C.K., is a loyal terrier living a perfectly happy existence until his owner, Katie (Ellie Kemper) brings home Duke (Eric Stonestreet) a big, boisterous mutt she finds at the shelter. When Max and his unruly new “roommate” slip away from their dog-walker, they find themselves lost in the urban jungle of New York City. In an attempt to stay ahead of animal control and a rebel band of abandoned pets led by an unhinged bunny named Snowball (Kevin Hart), they put aside their differences to survive the epic journey back home.

The humans behind the Despicable Me franchise present America’s top-grossing original film of the year, the animated comedy is a worldwide hit with over $834 million in global ticket sales. The 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, DVD and Digital HD versions feature nearly an hour of bonus content, including three hilarious mini-movies: the all-new Norman Television and Weenie PLUS Mower Minions which debuted in theaters.

I never did get around to seeing The Secret Life of Pets in the theater but heard positive things about it from those that did. I opted in for the chance to review it and I’m glad that I did. The Secret Life of Pets is a wonderfully spun, animated family adventure that teems with clever expression, light, rib tickling social commentary and a heartwarming message that hits home with pitch perfect subtly. I like the infusion of family pet based humor/banter set to the theme of a sort of road trip, buddy adventure. Yes, it can be a bit trite, and perhaps corny, but doesn’t attempt to be anything more than an enjoyable family romp. I found its slapstick, topical humor and endearing sentiment to be delightful. I watched The Secret Life of Petswith my wife, and we both had a good time with it.

Parental Guide:

The rating is for action and some rude humor.

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.**

UHD Presentation: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 76
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

For those not willing to refer to the article linked above, I have included some comments here. The implementation of high dynamic range as it stands currently, doesn’t appear to have exacting standards and no calibration tools to allow for a foundational threshold for setting up a visual system. This leaves us to do the best we can to determine what appears to be accurate, at least for the time being. With that in mind, my approach to reviewing Ultra HD Blu-ray will be to assess the elements observed which I find to generate the most significant visual impact when compared to standard high definition Blu-ray.

For me, Ultra HD’s high dynamic range/wide color gamut, with its broader spectrum of colors and emboldened highlights in the areas of contrast and brightness, is where the potential lies in the format. The increase in resolution, while an important component, isn’t going to be definitive in every case, especially given that currently many of the Ultra HD Blu-ray releases are derived from 2K Digital Intermediates that are up-converted to 4K. This shouldn’t be strictly construed to mean that such up-converted images won’t look noticeably better than their 1080p counterparts. Conversely, a release finished on a 4K Digital Intermediate isn’t a guarantee that it will be heads and shoulders above the rest. So, what can you expect to hear from me when discussing what I observed from Ultra HD Blu-ray? I will hit upon the things that struck me, the impact, or lack of impact, of HDR and the improvement, if any, in resolution when compared to 1080p Blu-ray. The outcome will be a rating as seen above.

Front projection for home theater is just stepping through the door with respect to the reproduction of HDR. My goal is to present readers with a reasonable expectation of what they can expect when viewing the same content that I have. There may be variables that differ slightly however I believe that in general the outcome will be close. As we are exposed to more and more content and calibration tools come onboard we will have better perspectives from which to gauge. Thanks for reading!

The Secret Life of Pets comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 4.6 Mbps.

Having just viewed The Secret Life of Pets on Blu-ray it’s video quality was still fresh in my mind. Digital animation tends to look quite good in high definition so I couldn’t help but have preconceived notions regarding a positive viewing experience of this film in Ultra HD. The Secret Life of Pets in Ultra HD is rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K. With the limited exposure to Ultra HD either sourced from 2K or 4K Digital Intermediates we are left to judge based upon what we have seen thus far.

In terms of resolution the differences are apparent as there is a noticeably finer texture in the minutia especially in the characteristics/physical makeup of the characters. To a lesser degree this also applied to backgrounds which emphasized depth of field. The image has lots of pop as the expanded color gamut and emboldened dynamic range draw out the broad, oversaturated chromatic palate, and use of contrast. Whites are gradational and bright and the monochromatic grays, blues and black featured in the sequences with limited lighting, such as those that take place in the bowels of the city, are multi-staged and dimensional in appearance. As good as The Secret Life of Pets looks in 1080p, the Ultra HD rendering, while not heads and shoulders above it, enhances its attributes, making for a visually engaging and pleasing video presentation.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos mix I found it to be of the less aggressive variety, which considering the source material, was a bit disappointing. To be honest, I felt that this soundtrack had the potential for abundant use of elements that would allow for a busier object based mix, especially with respect to atmospherics. In general, its use of audio objects placed above, and in the rear surrounds, is limited to occasional panning fills. I would say that where applied it’s done to good effect, and created a fair level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events. As an enthusiast, I appreciate a well-crafted sound mix that draws me into the onscreen elements, regardless of where the sounds are emanating from. This Atmos mix is fair but leans toward being frontal more than I would have liked. I think that this Atmos mix would have benefitted from more active use of audio objects. Overall it got the job done but failed to thoroughly engage me.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Audio: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): [img] [/img]

 

The Secret Life of Pets comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 27 Mbps and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 4.6 Mbps.

This is a reference quality video presentation that boasts vivacious colors that are rich in saturation and bold in depth. Detail is superlative as the video has definitive three-dimensional quality with crisp texture and excellent fine articulation. Contrast is strong and well balanced so that whites are crisp and colors pop without distortion or loss of detail. Blacks are deep with excellent dynamic and enriching gradational highlights. This is a beautiful and pristine quality digital transfer that sparkles on Blu-ray.

The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD (Atmos core) soundtrack makes effective use of the surround platform and offers detail rich sonic clarity, and crystalline dialog reproduction. This mix doesn’t bombard you with aggressive surround sound. It applies it when appropriate and combines discretely placed directional cues with supporting ambience that fills the listening area nicely. The front and rear sound field never collide but work in unison to render the soundtrack’s elements. Dynamic range and bass response is appropriate, adding thematic emphasis and resonating punch when called upon. This is a solid audio presentation that mates well with the source material.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: The Secret Life of Pets Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: The Secret Life of Pets Blu-ray
  • (HD)*Exclusive* How to Make an Animated Film – A behind-the-scenes look at how to make an animated film from the various departments that make up Illumination – 4 minutes
  • (HD)*Exclusive* Anatomy of a Scene – Filmmakers and animators take us through the multi-step process it takes to create a specific scene in the Secret Life of Pets – 4 minutes
  • (HD) Mini-Movies:
    1. Norman Television
    2. Weenie
    3. Mower Minions
  • (HD) All About The Pets – Kevin Hart and Eric Stonestreet, with the help of animal trainer Molly Mignon O’Neill take you on an educational journey to learn more about your average and not-so average, household pets – 6 minutes
  • (HD) Animals Can Talk: Meet The Actors – The comedy superstars who give voice to the film’s menagerie of characters talk about their roles and the process of bringing them to life – 3 minutes
  • (HD) Hairstylist To The Dogs – Inspired by “Hairspray Live!,” Eric Stonestreet, with the help of a professional dog groomer Jess Rona, will take you through the basic steps to help your pups look as awesome as possible when they’re hanging out with their pet pals – 3 minutes
  • (HD) The Best Of Snowball – A rapid-fire, fun and oddly musical mash-up of all the best Snowball one-liners – 1 minute
  • (HD) Hot Dog Sing-Along – Join Max and Duke as they perform for their dinner in the sausage factory. This straightforward sing along is fun for the whole family to enjoy.
  • (HD) Sing Trailer
  • (HD) “Lovely Day” Lyric Video
  • (HD) The Humans that Brought You Pets (5 Segments) – Producers Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney, and writer Brian Lynch discuss what went into creating The Secret Life of Pet’s compelling characters and non-stop action.
  • (HD) GoPro®: The Secret Life of Pets – 2 minutes
  • (HD) The Making of the Mini-Movies – A fun and interesting take on the Making of the Mini-Movies – we’ll explore the themes of each of the mini-movies through the eyes of the artists who made them – 7 minutes
  • (HD) Brian The Minion of Pets (3 Segments)
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

The Secret Life of Pets is a well-executed and fun family film that can be enjoyed both kids and their parents. It comes to Blu-ray in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring excellent Ultra HD quality, sparkling high definition video, gratifying lossless surround sound, including a fair Dolby Atmos mix, and a fan friendly assortment of extras that are worth exploring if you enjoyed the film. The Secret Life of Pets is pitch perfect family entertainment that comes recommended on Blu-ray.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo BDP-103D Universal Disc/3D capable Blu-ray Player
Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and In-Ceiling series speakers
Axiom Audio QS8 Quadpolar speakers
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package