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post #1 of 9 Old 05-31-2017, 09:19 AM - Thread Starter
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Ex Machina Ultra HD Blu-ray Review



Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray debut of this engaging sci-fi drama about a young computer programmer that is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breath-taking female A.I.



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

Film:

Extras:

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

87



Details:

Studio and Year: LionsGate - 2015
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 108 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): DTS:X, DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, DTS 5.1, DTS Headphone:X
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Issac
Written & Directed by: Alex Garland
Music by: Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow
Region Code: A

Blu-ray Disc release Date: June 6, 2017


"There is nothing more human than the will to survive"


My Take:

I Reviewed Ex Machina when it was originally released on Blu-ray and have included my comments from that review here. Ratings for film and bonus content will be the same as they are identical to the original release. New comments and ratings for the new Ultra HD video and DTS:X sound are below.


Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer at an internet-search giant, wins a competition to spend a week at the private mountain estate of the company's brilliant and reclusive CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Upon his arrival, Caleb learns that Nathan has chosen him to be the human component in a Turing Test-charging him with evaluating the capabilities, and ultimately the consciousness, of Nathan's latest experiment in artificial intelligence. That experiment is Ava (Alicia Vikander), a breathtaking A.I. whose emotional intelligence proves more sophisticated--and more deceptive--than the two men could have imagined.

Written and directed by Alex Garland Ex Machina (pronounced “Ex-mac-ina”) is an intelligently crafted and sneaky good sci-fi film that explores interesting and contemporary themes. Subtly mind bending, the plot doesn’t resort to trickery of the mind or eye, but engages throughout via an intriguing character study that asks more questions than it truly answers but in no way leaves you pondering them.

I absolutely loved the narrative framework and shifty interplay between the characters, three primary and one secondary, who I don’t believe ever utters a word. While it’s clear from the start that there is more to Nathan than meets the eye, there’s never any doubt that Ava is the film’s dark horse. The burning question that plays out over the course of the film is what is her role in all of this? You may or may not figure it out even right up to the final sequence but the interesting thing is that I found myself rooting for an improbable outcome.

The entire film takes place in primarily one location with only a few actors but it never felt small. The pacing is absolutely spot on and provides the necessary connection to not only the characters but the plot’s essential thematic components. I enjoyed the performances all around. I really like Alicia Vikander. This is the third film I have seen her in (Son of a gun and The seventh son are the others) and have found her to be quite engaging.

I found Ex Machina at its heart to be a fundamentally human and ultimately fateful story derived from a flavorful sci-fi premise that piques our fascination with its subject matter. As a sci-fi fan I appreciated its thought provoking ideas and execution. As a film fan I reveled in its rewarding dramatic interplay, excellent direction/cinematography and complimentary performances. I look forward to sitting down with it again.


Replay Value:


Parental Guide:

The rating is for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence.


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


  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color & WCG:
  • Resolution:
  • Visual Impact:



DTS:X Rating: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)


  • Level of immersion:
  • Soundstage integration:
  • Audio object placement:
  • Effectiveness:
  • Entertainment factor:




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


Ex Machina comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless DTS:X/DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 5 Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD Ex Machina (shot digitally) was finished at a 4K Digital Intermediate. 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.

From a cinematic perspective, this film was shot with a specific visual aesthetic in mind and that comes through in this presentation. The Ultra HD presentation bests the 1080p versions in most respects, but the margin isn’t a wide one. Ex Machina isn’t an especially colorful film. With the exception of well chosen moments, and the exterior shots/sequences that take place in the mountainous region around Nathan’s resident/research facility, the film doesn't make for especially eye-catching levels of color, but the palate of cooler chromatic hues, sepia tones and variants of blue/red benefited from UHD's wider color gamut, appearing warmer and pleasing to the eye. Resolution gets a minor boost as well. Close-ups tend to offer improved refinement and deeper resolvable texture on surfaces and physical features when compared to the Blu-ray.

There is intermittent use of visual elements that utilize high dynamic range. I wasn't especially impressed with its application although some of that may be owed to the nature of the photography. There were instances where bright elements looked appreciably vibrant. The scene where Nathan and Caleb are sitting below the large glacier, or the camera pans of the rocky textures on the facia of the bluffs looked stunning. Alternatively, low level sequences, such as the one where Caleb enters Nathan’s private quarters to snoop, had excellent depth of field and emboldened contrast. All in all, I think that Ex Machina benefitted from the Ultra HD treatment. The improvement isn’t a consistently glaring one, however there are moments where it truly shines. This is something that those contemplating the upgrade will have to consider.

In listening to the DTS:X surround mix I found it to be of the less aggressive variety, but considering the source material that’s not a complete surprise. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of atmospherics, panning fills and occasional discrete effects. This is done to good effect when implemented and creates an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Examples can be found during the exterior scenes, such as at the glacier, the power cuts, and Nathan/Kyoko’s dance sequence. The music score is subtly mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements without drawing attention away from the thematic details of what is transpiring onscreen. While this mix doesn’t make constant use of attention grabbing audio object placement, I found myself completely involved when it mattered and found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.



Blu-ray Video:


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


  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:


[b]Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialogue Reproduction:
  • Low frequency extension * (non-rated element): NA
  • DSU Rating * (non-rated element):


Ex Machina comes to Blu-ray Disc from LionsGate Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 28 Mbps and lossless DTS:X sound (including the DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio core) that has an average bitrate of 4 Mbps.

This video presentation offers little in the way of high Gloss, razor sharp imagery but it seems to represent the film’s elements well. Primary colors appear satisfying while the film intentionally maintains a cooler overall palette that works well against the settings featured in the story. Complexions are texturally descriptive with lifelike tonality that varies among the cast. Resolution is very good although the film’s inherently softer elements leave some wide angle shots with smoother lines and average delineation. Close ups and mid-level shots are more revealing of the resolvable detail that draws out subtle textures in the people and objects within the frame. Contrast is on the money and blacks are stable but not overly dynamic in appearance. This wasn’t really a problem as there were few scenes that utilized low level material where this was consistently apparent. I saw no overt signs of video anomalies or compression related artifacts and thought this appeared to be a solid encoding.

The lossless mix handles this predominantly front oriented soundtrack with uncompromising competence. While the bulk of the audio is reproduced by the front three channels the surrounds are used effectively to produce a sound field rich in immersive ambience. This isn’t an active soundtrack as dialogue and music play more of a central role but there are moments that require use of the entire surround platform for effect. When things kick in this mix has no trouble flexing its dynamic muscle or creating a natural and immersive listening environment. Clarity and detail are exemplary which reveal lots of subtle nuance in the recording. Vocal reproduction is crystalline with discernible intonation and descriptive character. The beautifully crafted music fills the room and sounds incredibly smooth, airy and pleasing.



Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Ex Machina Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: Ex Machina Blu-ray
  • (HD) Through the looking glass: Creating Ex Machina – 40 minute featurette
  • (HD) March 15, 2015 SXSW Q&A with cast/crew – 60 minutes
  • (HD) Behind the scenes vignettes (8 segments totaling 26 minutes):
    1. Making Ava
    2. Nathan’s world
    3. New consciousness
    4. Becoming Ava
    5. Director
    6. Cast
    7. Meet Ava
    8. God complex
    9. Music
  • Digital HD Copy




Final Thoughts:

Written and directed by Alex Garland Ex Machina is an intelligently crafted and sneaky good film that explores interesting and contemporary themes derived from a flavorful sci-fi premise that piques our fascination with its subject matter. Ex Machina is making its Ultra HD Blu-ray debut in this Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack from Lionsgate Home Entertainment, featuring a faithful and complimentary video rendering that make the most of the source material, a solid DTS:X immersive sound mix, and legacy supplemental material. I have seen Ex Machina multiple times now and continue to enjoy it. It’s presentation on Ultra HD Blu-ray is a good one that makes it worth considering for fans.





Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews



Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
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Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
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Oppo UDP-203 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 Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
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
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post #2 of 9 Old 05-31-2017, 09:56 AM
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I didn't't realize this was coming to Ultra HD. Fortunately, the blu-ray variant already contains the DTS:X mix, so no need to double dip on my part. This isn't really a movie that comes to mind when I think of needing an HDR upgrade.
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post #3 of 9 Old 05-31-2017, 11:08 AM
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I was really hoping your review of the 4K UHD version was going to be much higher for image quality as I was disappointed with the original release on BD. It's too bad we still can't rely on a consistent image quality with these 4K UHD releases. However, I really like this film very much and will likely buy it anyway . . . who am I kidding, I pre-ordered it weeks ago.
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post #4 of 9 Old 05-31-2017, 12:43 PM
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The film transfer is likely very consistent with the original source. This film's stylized look does not lend itself to being the most visually stunning title. The tunnel-vision, out of focus edges and hazy lighting are prominent throughout the film. I heard elsewhere that they intentionally made this have a dream-looking image. I don't particularly like the filmmaker's intent for this movie, but it is what it is. Still didn't prevent me from thoroughly enjoying this film though.
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post #5 of 9 Old 06-01-2017, 05:50 AM
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I really liked this movie and now that I have a DTS:X decoder, will watch again.

Ralph said:
Quote:
The Ultra HD presentation bests the 1080p versions in most respects, but the margin isn’t a wide one.
Which is true of almost every 4K movie I have watched. We have similar systems (your screen is a bit smaller and has more gain), but I only now watch the very few 4K movies I have in SDR/WCG and that gets me almost as much of the improvement as does HDR with none of the downside. Until such time as the studios get some level of consistency in producing HDR content AND I ever decide to purchase (in the far future) some "light canon" projector, I am perfectly happy to live with just plain ol' 1080P.

For me, HDR, in my room, with my screen and with my projector, has provided the least improvement of any of my recent upgrades. The change from a Sony 600ES to the JVC RS500 and, more recently, the "blackening" of the front of my theater has provided far more substantive improvement (and I mean far more) than HDR has in even the best HDR film I have seen. And virtually any audio improvement I have made (e.g. the move to 3D audio) is in another league in envelopment from HDR.

I did see HDR done on the newest/most expensive Sony flat panels at the 2016 CEDIA, and if I could get that kind of improvement, I would be all over it. Even on my relatively new Sony 75" (bought this year) HDR is no big deal when compared to good 1080P.

But that's just me.
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post #6 of 9 Old 06-01-2017, 01:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audioguy View Post
I really liked this movie and now that I have a DTS:X decoder, will watch again.

Ralph said: Which is true of almost every 4K movie I have watched. We have similar systems (your screen is a bit smaller and has more gain), but I only now watch the very few 4K movies I have in SDR/WCG and that gets me almost as much of the improvement as does HDR with none of the downside. Until such time as the studios get some level of consistency in producing HDR content AND I ever decide to purchase (in the far future) some "light canon" projector, I am perfectly happy to live with just plain ol' 1080P.

For me, HDR, in my room, with my screen and with my projector, has provided the least improvement of any of my recent upgrades. The change from a Sony 600ES to the JVC RS500 and, more recently, the "blackening" of the front of my theater has provided far more substantive improvement (and I mean far more) than HDR has in even the best HDR film I have seen. And virtually any audio improvement I have made (e.g. the move to 3D audio) is in another league in envelopment from HDR.

I did see HDR done on the newest/most expensive Sony flat panels at the 2016 CEDIA, and if I could get that kind of improvement, I would be all over it. Even on my relatively new Sony 75" (bought this year) HDR is no big deal when compared to good 1080P.

But that's just me.
Greetings,

Thanks audioguy. I can certainly see where you're coming from, although, HDR has been more hit or miss for me. I have found some titles that really shine with HDR, but many others where its impact is much less substantial.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by audioguy View Post
I really liked this movie and now that I have a DTS:X decoder, will watch again.

Ralph said: Which is true of almost every 4K movie I have watched. We have similar systems (your screen is a bit smaller and has more gain), but I only now watch the very few 4K movies I have in SDR/WCG and that gets me almost as much of the improvement as does HDR with none of the downside. Until such time as the studios get some level of consistency in producing HDR content AND I ever decide to purchase (in the far future) some "light canon" projector, I am perfectly happy to live with just plain ol' 1080P.

For me, HDR, in my room, with my screen and with my projector, has provided the least improvement of any of my recent upgrades. The change from a Sony 600ES to the JVC RS500 and, more recently, the "blackening" of the front of my theater has provided far more substantive improvement (and I mean far more) than HDR has in even the best HDR film I have seen. And virtually any audio improvement I have made (e.g. the move to 3D audio) is in another league in envelopment from HDR.

I did see HDR done on the newest/most expensive Sony flat panels at the 2016 CEDIA, and if I could get that kind of improvement, I would be all over it. Even on my relatively new Sony 75" (bought this year) HDR is no big deal when compared to good 1080P.

But that's just me.
2 years on from your original comment I was wondering how you now feel about 4K and HDR...?

(this 4K movie is currently selling at Target and Amz for only $6.50 which is what brought me here)

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post #8 of 9 Old 06-03-2019, 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by hsinnott View Post
2 years on from your original comment I was wondering how you now feel about 4K and HDR...?

(this 4K movie is currently selling at Target and Amz for only $6.50 which is what brought me here)
Wow. Things change.

Sometime after that post, another AVSer helped me install some new gamut curves on my projector and as a result, I changed my mind on what HDR can provide. So like with most things I do in this hobby, I jumped in with both feet. I upgraded my projector from the JVC RS500 to a JVC RS4500, added a new Panamorph Lens to increase the brightness and also added a Lumagen Radiance Pro for Dynamic Tone Mapping and improved upscaling of 1080P material.

Now, I ONLY buy HDR movies assuming they are available. In some cases, the HDR improvement over SDR may be small (while the price difference over the SDR may be less small) but as long as I have now invested what I have in my video chain, I want the best image possible.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by audioguy View Post
Wow. Things change.

Sometime after that post, another AVSer helped me install some new gamut curves on my projector and as a result, I changed my mind on what HDR can provide. So like with most things I do in this hobby, I jumped in with both feet. I upgraded my projector from the JVC RS500 to a JVC RS4500, added a new Panamorph Lens to increase the brightness and also added a Lumagen Radiance Pro for Dynamic Tone Mapping and improved upscaling of 1080P material.

Now, I ONLY buy HDR movies assuming they are available. In some cases, the HDR improvement over SDR may be small (while the price difference over the SDR may be less small) but as long as I have now invested what I have in my video chain, I want the best image possible.
Thank you for the interesting and very informative feedback!
Glad you are now enjoying (the sometimes subtle- as in the 4K of Ex Machina) benefits of 4K and HDR. Your new set up sounds very impressive I only have a 65" FALD Sony but still enjoy the better 4K transfers. Some I barely noticed any difference (Arrival) and others a huge improvement over the standard 1080p bluray. I still enjoy good quality 1080p blurays and am hoping the selection of 4K titles improves moving forward...
I have Schindler's List and The Big Lebowski on 4K on their way to me right now which have glowing reviews and also ordered the animated 'The Secret Life Of Pets' 1080p bluray in the same order as that one I have read, is not worth the upgrade...plus it was only $1.50!
Have just watched Ex Machina on 4K and thought the outdoors scenes in particular looked superb in 4K.

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