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Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Monterey Park, CA
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Saw Tomorrowland at the El Capitan theatre Saturday morning with fellow AVS members Ivan Pino, Scott Simonian and Roger Dressler. The movie itself was enjoyable enough, though for me probably the weakest of Brad Bird's career. The best thing about this movie was Raffey Cassidy as Athena.
The Atmos mix was nice, with occasional height imaging and off-screen dialogue. The main problem with the sound was the reverberant auditorium; not like slap-echo reverberant, but enough extended decay to muddy the dialogue at times. Having experience the same problem watching Avengers and Mad Max across the street at the TCL IMAX, I chalked it up to both theatres being historical landmarks that can't have acoustic treatments covering their expensively-restored ornate interiors.
Speaking of the TCL IMAX, having just seen the aforementioned couple of movies at that theatre with dual laser projectors, I didn't know how much to attribute the picture quality at the El Cap to the laser projection and how much to attribute to HDR. It's not like there was a laser-projected non-HDR version of the movie playing alongside for comparison, like the dual monitor displays at trade shows, where the difference is down to a single variable (HDR). I didn't like the movie enough to see it again in a regular theatre, but even if I did, how would I know how much the dimmer image was due to a lack of laser projection or due to a lack of HDR?
Despite not knowing how much to attribute to which technology, I will say that the projected image was absolutely stunning. Bright, punchy, detailed; like looking at a 4K LCD display blown up to the size of a motion picture screen. A couple of shots appeared to have been shot with HDR in mind, like when Clooney is looking down at the girl and we can see the sun directly over his shoulder. There also seemed to be missed opportunities; scenes where the blacks appeared dark grey and not like the kind of blacks I've seen on plasma TVs.
The only downside, which is not the fault of the technology, is how quickly I got used to it. Early in the movie I leaned over to Ivan and whispered that the image didn't look spectacular, just normal (like how I see the world in real life). Don't know if that's good or bad, but it didn't take long to stop being impressed by the image and just taking it for granted. Maybe I've been spoiled because the last two movies I saw used dual laser-projectors.
On the drive home, we talked about movie technologies that were immediately noticeable. Scott mentioned seeing high frame rate for the first time with the most recent Hobbit movie. From the moment the Warner Bros. logo came on screen, he knew something was different. And the first time you see someone moving, within a second you know you're not watching 24fps. Ivan went all the way back to Toy Story 2, which was the first movie he saw projected digitally. Upon seeing the green band of the first trailer, he knew within seconds that this was something different: no grain, no gate weave, none of the tell-tale signs of film. For me it was the first few seconds of Transformers 3, during the Paramount logo, where the transformers signature sound effect goes around the room. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was listening to a 7.1 mix, and the movie itself hadn't even started yet.
By comparison, the benefits of HDR were less clear. We kinda had to go looking for shots in Tomorrowland that we thought might have benefited from HDR (again, lack of comparison kept us from knowing for sure). Like I said, having just seen two movies in laser made this presentation look like an incremental improvement at best, but not the immediately noticeable differences we talked about on the drive home.