My thoughts


Tenet 2020 – Spoiler Free Film Review 1

Tenet (2020)

Tenet (2020)

A word on public health. I viewed Tenet on August 26th. I was able to do so because I live in Canada and am in a province with less than 10 active COVID-19 cases, with no known community transmission. All precautions were taken including wearing of masks, hand washing and social distancing. The theatre I was in had two pairs of seats per row, with every other row vacant, and the filled seats staggered between rows. Seats were sanitized before and after screening. This review is not meant to encourage people to take risks, but since I am one of the first people in the world to actually be able to see a first run movie I thought it would be good to share my experience. If the film is available in your area please follow local public health guidelines if you chose to see it in the theatre.

Tenet (2020)
Warner Bros. Pictures presents a SYNCOPY production, written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh

August 27, 2020
By Jonathan Richards – thedigitaltheater.com

Tenet is unlike anything that I have seen before, and a film that could only come from Christopher Nolan. His films require multiple viewings because there are just so many little moments that don’t seem important at first but offer up a puzzle piece which falls into place later – so long as you remember. Thematically, Tenet is most like Inception (2010) than other Nolan films. However, Inception had a better connection to the motivations of the characters, at least in a way most viewers can relate. In Inception, you sensed Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) pain from planting the idea in his wife’s mind, and the dangerous solace he sought to ease it. And although Inception is a complex and mind-bending film, the concept is well explained early in the film, providing a foundation for the viewer. Cobb explains everything for our benefit to his new recruit, Ariadne (Ellen Paige). In Tenet, we are essentially learning alongside “The Protagonist” so the foundation for understanding is not as well laid out, at least not on the first pass; perhaps I just missed a key piece of the puzzle.

The concept behind Tenet is “inversion”. The word Tenet is a palindrome, which is a word spelled the same forward and backward. I wonder if “Madam I’m Adam” was also considered as a title. We learn that objects and people can be inverted, which means that they move backward through time. When you are inverted, intense heat is experienced as intense cold. An inverted bullet returns to the gun when the trigger is pulled. OK, that is fairly simple to follow. But then you are watching the movie and your mind starts working on things like…what happens when an inverted person gets into a car that is not inverted and drives forward? Are they moving backwards in time at the speed they are moving forward? Or are they not going anywhere? If you have someone from the past, and someone from the future, and one is inverted and the other is not, is time irrelevant? Can an inverted ball roll both up and down a hill? I guess it would depend upon where it started, maybe. Anyway, watching a movie like Tenet (and there are no others) will make you think about things like this, and that is what makes Nolan’s works all the better. A mind trip that keeps you thinking while being bombarded with elaborate action set pieces.

One thing I wasn’t sure about while watching was if there was any time travel involved, but I think I understand how that works now. It is not the time travel of pushing a button and ‘poof’ you are in 1952. It goes like this: if I go for a run in the park today and I see myself running down the path backwards, I’d say, ‘gee that is weird’. Then tomorrow I become inverted and stay inverted long enough that I would move backward in time to the point when I go for a run in the park backwards and I see myself running forward I’d say, ‘oh, I remember doing that yesterday’ (note: my forward moving self would still say ‘gee that is weird’). Now I just realized that if you invert and move backward in time, and then reinvert you will never get back to the point where you initially inverted because your experience of the flow of time would adjust from that point forward and you will always be that far back in time. In fact, you would be twice as far back as time keeps moving forward. See, if you spend a day moving backward, normal time moves ahead a day as well, so the difference between where you are and where you should be is two days. This is assuming time only moves forward, of course, and at the same rate as backwards. I’d have to re-watch to see if that is dealt with.

Let’s just say that there are lots of possibilities with this concept, and fans of Tenet will be debating them for years to come.

Robert Pattinson delivered a wonderful performance as Neil. We first meet him (I think) as someone who had a little too much Vodka and tonic, yet he seems to be ready for the task at hand. He also seems rather informed. John David Washington inherited a lot of skill from his father (Denzel) and delivered a great physical performance, but some of his one liners didn’t quite hit home. They just seemed out of character. I do think that the film could have been improved by giving him more of a personal motivation other than what appears to be a sense of duty. That is where DiCaprio’s Cobb in Inception benefited from having a fleshed-out backstory concerning the loss of his wife and exile from his children. That emotional connection gave weight to Inception. Washington’s character is just there. In fact, he isn’t even named. He refers to himself as “The Protagonist”. Perhaps some things are being held back for some point in the future (or past) as the possibility exists to explore the character further. Then again, he is a spy so perhaps that is why there is no back story. He is on a mission. That could be the thinking here, “The Protagonist” is just a man on a mission.

The premise of Tenet is also straight forward: save the world from annihilation by having the flow of time stop (I think). The person who wants to end the world has his own reasons for doing so. This character, Andrei Sator played by Kenneth Branagh is the most intense character in the film. It is clear he made his billions by not being a nice guy. The other main character is Sator’s wife Kat played by Elizabeth Debicki. She is trapped in a bad marriage, held hostage between her freedom and being with her son by information that Sator has. There are twists and turns along the way involving the heist of plutonium from a convoy that ultimately reveals Sator’s plan. Eventually there is a large battle with some crazy scenes of destruction in forward and reverse time. Think of a 20-story building being hit with missiles where some are normal, and others are inverted in time. Really, think about it.

I had a few issues with the presentation of the film. The image bent upwards on the bottom left of the screen, and about 5% of the screen on the far right was darkened and a bit blurred. Also, there was a light from the booth that would illuminate the screen from time to time – a door being opened maybe. It is a shame that more care isn’t given to the presentation. That’s what happens when there is no projectionist and it is all programmed in a NOC a couple thousand miles away. I also had issues with the dialogue. I found it very difficult to hear over the music in the surrounds. I doubt that the movie was mixed that way, so I am blaming the theatre for that one too. I would have loved to have been able to see it in 70mm as projectionists were contracted for those screenings, and I am sure they would have ensured a flawless presentation.

Tenet delivered almost everything I expected. I would have loved to have more depth to “The Protagonist” but I will assume that there is a reason for that. I am looking forward to seeing it again, so that I can hopefully answer some of those questions I still have. Oh, and now I remember it being said that gravity works the same when inverted. Therefore, an inverted ball would go downhill, and it would also roll uphill if it had gone downhill. Solved! Now, does intense pain become intense pleasure?


Celebrating 5 Years and Dolby Cinema 12

Dolby Cinema logo is a trademark of Dolby Laboratories, Inc.

thedigitaltheater.com went online on July 22, 2015 and a lot has changed since then. In what really is a short period of time the landscape has completely changed. In 2015 we were eagerly awaiting the re-launch of Star Wars with The Force Awakens, Captain America: Civil War was due the following spring. There were a few other sites on the web where you could find quality movie trailers, but most have shut down, particularly missing is demo-world.eu which a favorite go to of mine for many many years. This week brought the news that ‘Tenet’ will not be released next month (not surprising) and is currently removed from the Warner Bros. release calendar. There is a lot of talk about theatre chains that are burdened by high debt levels, coupled with pandemic closures and lack of content being a deadly combination for the industry. I actually went to see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ a few weeks ago when our cinema reopened. It was in an auditorium that would normally hold about 200 people if it were packed. With the new set up with two pairs of seats in every other row the maximum capacity was only about 20. There were probably about 16 people there so it was almost sold out!

What will the next 5 years bring? I wish I knew. But I think that this site will either become more popular as people move from the traditional cinema to the home cinema, unless people are only going to watch new movies on their phones. Then there will be no need for multi channels and thunderous bass. The other option is that there is less and less content and this site quietly fades away. I hope it is the former option.

A few weeks ago, a kind reader sent along a new version of the Dolby Cinema Universe (Natures’s Fury) that was sourced from a 4K DCP with a Dolby TrueHD ATMOS track. The bit rate is very high at 92 Mbps and the file is over 2 GB. So if you are missing the theatrical experience, you can grab this file at the Dolby Trailers page. I also have some IMAX, and DTS trailers that I have been meaning to post, and I will be doing that over the next few days.

Stay safe out there.


Milestones 5

The Digital Theater has hit a new milestone as of late: exceeding server capacity. I have been working very hard to keep the costs down and so far, through generous donations and people making purchases through the Amazon links, I have covered the capital costs to keep the site going. As I mentioned, we exceeded server capacity, so we have upgraded. I hope you notice an improvement in site speed as a result as we are now on better equipment, with more dedicated resources. The costs associated with hosting, file transfer, etc have increased 600% over the past two years.

When this site went live in 2015, there was no advertising. You may have noticed that the level of advertising has increased recently. It is just economics. As the site becomes more popular, it requires more resources, and more resources require more money. I love providing the things that I do on this site. It takes a lot of my time, but I have been able to interact with people all over the world. I think it is great, especially considering all the negativity that is out there, that this site has regular users from all parts of the world who share a common interest.

I plan to keep this site going for the long term, offering what is not readily available elsewhere. I have decided to add trailers for films from 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, and Universal with PCM , DTS, and AC3 stereo audio. I recognize that the original aim of this site was to provide 5.1 channel audio, and that remains my primary focus. In recent times I have refrained from featuring films from those aforementioned studios as they only provided stereo masters. I am now thinking that excluding them from this site is not helping the cause. By excluding them, thedigitaltheater.com would not be included in their statistics, which decreases our leverage in requesting more than stereo encodes for their trailers. At any rate, the increased bitrate of the video, along with a higher quality stereo encode is still better than what is available on youtube.

I am also working on providing unique and exclusive content for fans of thedigitaltheater.com. In the coming days, a new feature will be added to the site. I have been working on our first pre-show trailer that will allow you to highlight the capabilities of your personal home theater. This trailer will be available in several formats (5.1, 7.1, 1080p, 4K UHD) and for a reasonable price. It is my hope that this will generate revenue to allow this site to continue to provide the quality content that you expect.

Thank you for your continued support of this site. I look forward to providing you with the content you want now and in the future.

Jonathan Richards
Editor and content provider – thedigitaltheater.com


Star Trek Beyond (2016) Trailer 3 – 1080p HD FLAC 7.1 and AC3 5.1 3

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond

Trailer 3 for Star Trek Beyond is now available as a .mp4 with AC3 5.1 audio, or an .mkv with lossless FLAC 7.1 and AC3 5.1. This is my second trailer to feature 7.1 and I hope you enjoy the result. This is not the official mix, it was mixed by me using the individual dialogue, music and effects tracks. I find that playback of the FLAC track using my Onkyo TX-NR747 175-Watt 7.2-Channel Network A/V Receiver  to be a bit lower in volume than the AC3 track, and I am not sure why. I never noticed a difference in volume levels with my Denon receiver, so I hesitate to modify anything in the audio track. It may be a setting on the Onkyo or in MPC-HC, which I have been using for playback lately instead of Plex. I need to look into it. Trailer 3 can be found at the Star Trek Beyond page.

I also want to take a moment to recognize the recent death of Anton Yelchin, who played Checkov in the Star Trek reboot, including Star Trek Beyond. He was perfect in the role, and at just 27 he is a talent lost all too soon.


BenQ HT1075 First Thoughts and The Digital Theater vs YouTube 3

BenQ HT1075

BenQ HT1075

BenQ HT1075 First Thoughts

I mentioned last week that I was upgrading my system to go from a 50 inch Samsung LCD to the BenQ HT1075. What got this ball rolling was moving from our current house, to a location that would allow for a dedicated home theater space. I am happy to say that it looks like we have found the right location, and we have a buyer for our current home. So at the end of May, I will be setting up the BenQ in the new theater space (provided there are no unforeseen complications).

The projector arrived on Monday, just in time for the release of The Force Awakens on Tuesday. I didn’t have a screen, but I really wanted to try the projector out. I did some research on-line and I decided to try blackout fabric for a screen. It comes in a width of 55 inches, so a 98 inch long piece would produce a 16X9 screen with a diagonal width of 112 inches. The fabric has a nice white finish, is quite smooth, and is totally opaque. In a pinch and for $30 it did quite well. I am sure it is not as good as a quality screen but it sure beats a wall, or some of the other alternatives.

Like virtually all reviews of this projector indicated, the setup was ridiculously easy. I placed it behind the couch on a small table that was about 3.5 feet tall. I did not need to use the keystone adjustment (which is good because it reduces resolution) and with just making a few adjustments I was good to go.

To mark the occasion of the release of The Force Awakens, we decided to watch the original Star Wars Trilogy on blu-ray. On Monday night we screened A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I was just using the Cinema mode for those films, and we thought they looked fantastic. A New Hope obviously has some issues relating to its age, but it has never looked better viewed at my home. It really is amazing how much of a difference you get from going from 50 inches to 110. The whole experience is that much more cinematic. You can see all the details in the background because they are so much bigger. The other benefit is that the picture just draws you in. It is totally immersive. It is comparable to seeing it in a movie theater.

For the second night, I made a few tweaks to the settings based upon some other reviews on the net – those types who have all the measurement equipment needed to properly calibrate the projector. What I used was based upon the Cinema Mode. Brightness was increased from 50 to 51, and contrast was decreased from 50 to 49. I also changed the color temperature to Warm, which I was surprised to find was more appealing and realistic to me as I usually prefer the Cool setting on past displays. Warm seemed to provide the best skin tone. I also set the lamp power to the Smart Eco mode, which should provide the longest bulb life possible. I was watching the films in total darkness, and even in Smart Eco mode the screen was plenty bright – perhaps too bright in some cases where there are shots that have both dark and bright components (such as the shot of Starkiller Base against the blackness of space). In scenes like that, I found that the brightness of the planet, was washing out the darkness of space. This may be helped by the addition of some dark masking materials that would provide more contrast for on screen vs off screen. I have also been doing some reading about neutral filters, which would make the picture a little darker. And yes, I know, I did increase the brightness by 1 in the settings, but when I tried decreasing the brightness it had other undesired effects. But at the end of the day, this is a sub $1000 projector, and so far I am more than happy with the quality of the projected image. Actually, it is even better than I was expecting it to be.

The blu-ray release of The Force Awakens was nothing short of spectacular. The only real issues I noticed where like the ones mentioned above. But then again, I was not using a proper screen and there may be some configuration changes that could improve on that.

The Digital Theater vs YouTube

It appears that there has been a bit of a debate that sprung up across the internet over the past couple of weeks with regards to the latest Warcraft Trailer, where there has been a lot of passionate talk on Reddit and more recently Forbes.com where they are comparing the quality of the video of the YouTube trailer vs the version I have. I do want to mention that there are some who are suggesting that the lossless version I have here has uncompressed video, which looks much better than the YouTube version which is compressed to hell, pardon the expression. In the case of “lossless” trailers on this site, the term applies only to the audio – which will be either Dolby TrueHD, Dolby ATMOS, DTS-HD Master Audio, PCM, or FLAC. The video is compressed, but in the case of the ‘lossless’ mkv files, the bitrate is comparable to blu-ray, which is much better than YouTube. The HD Master of a trailer runs at 220 Mbps and is usually about 3GB in size. I am compressing trailers down to an average bitrate of 24 Mbps and usually in the 300 MB range.  By comparison, the 1080p version of the 1 minute Warcraft trailer on YouTube is 18 MB in size, while the one featured here is 176 MB. Ours has 5.1 surround sound at a much higher bitrate of 6912 Kbps, instead of a highly compressed 2 channel AAC track at 144 Kbps.

Trailers on YouTube are substandard. A director should be angry to have the trailer for their film presented in such a way. But I am heartened that there are a lot of people out there that think that the promotional efforts I am doing are a better representation of the film than what is available at YouTube. After all, that is why I started this site. I wanted trailers that sounded better than the 2 channel versions readily available and I thought that there had to be more people out there who were interested in the same thing. Video and audio quality matter – maybe not on a phone or tablet, but certainly on anything in the home theater realm. One day YouTube may have multi channel audio and better compression, but until that day comes I am going to keep pushing for better quality.

 


Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Experimental – Pass 2

Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence

Here is an update from my audio experiment on Sunday. I have been doing some research and along with the feedback provided by readers, I remixed the track from scratch. The source is 2.0 PCM 24 bit, and the goal is to create a track that sounds better than what a pro-logic decoder can produce.

I received a few different and conflicting remarks, so I thought it would be best to create each track at the same peak level, and to leave enough headroom for any dynamic adjustments. Even though I used the same processors, my overall approach on the new mix was totally different.

 

Below are some graphs that show the sound levels between the old mix, and the new.  Continue reading “Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Experimental – Pass 2” »


Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) Film Review (Spoiler Free)

The Force Awakens One Sheet

The Force Awakens One Sheet

I just watched The Force Awakens, and I must say that it lived up to my expectations in every way. Truly a return to the classic style from the original trilogy. It introduced some great new characters in Rey and Finn – who have a wonderful chemistry. I really liked Finn, he was a little goofy, fun, unsure of himself, and ultimately quite brave. John Boyega was wonderful in the role, as was Daisy Ridley as Rey. BB-8 was a fun addition to the droid lineup in the saga and it was an absolute delight to see Han and Chewie back in the Millennium Falcon. The film had quite a few genuinely funny moments, I know I spent a great deal of the time grinning like an excited kid. The movie introduces some new questions, mainly the origin of the new enemy who takes the place of Emperor Palpatine, and where did Luke’s lightsaber come from – because as you know it was hacked off of Luke’s arm along with his hand by Vader in The Empire Strikes Back, to eventually fall from Cloud City…to Bespin I guess. 

Bottom line – this is the Star Wars film you have been waiting for since you heard that Episode I was coming. In all the ways that episodes I-III are missing that element that makes episodes IV-VI fantastic, episode VII has them all and then some. It is a simpler story of good vs. evil instead of taxation of trade routes and senate procedures. I am fairly certain that it will challenge Avatar for that number 1 spot. If it doesn’t break the record, it will come close.

I can’t wait to see it again!


3D Side by Side (SBS) and other news 2

3D VideoI have converted the .iso files to 3D SBS .mkv files. Goosebumps is still encoding so it will be uploaded later today when I get home from my day job. The completed ones are Angry BirdsThe Finest Hours, The Martian and Teasers 1 and 2 of The Force Awakens.

I will also have 2D files for The Revenant with PCM and AC3 5.1 available later today. The next film to add to the site will be Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I normally hate zombie films – but this one looks quite different. Coming later in the week will be Trailer 2 of Daddy’s Home. I am going to be completing some research and compiling a 4K buying guide to help those who may be thinking about getting a new 4K set this before year end. I will also be reviewing Terminator Genysis and adding other trailers as they are available.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank everyone who visited and interacted here over the last week. I have received a lot of positive feedback, which is just wonderful to receive. And some critical feedback as well, which has helped me to make improvements to the site. I also saw a lot of people who were quick to help others with technical problems. It was a very rewarding week. Thank you.

Jonathan


Die Another Day Teaser 1 Restoration (2K AC3 5.1)

Die Another Day

Die Another Day

With SPECTRE being released in a few weeks, I started to think about some of the older 007 trailers. Notably, the teaser for Die Another Day had a really impressive soundtrack back in 2002. I recall seeing it in the theatre for the first time before a screening of Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones. I loved that thunderous bass when the gun fires and that slamming sound when the icy 007 logo appears. Arguably, that teaser was better than the movie. When the DVD was released, it featured the usual 2.0 stereo track which did not hold up to the 6 channel theatrical presentation. Luckily for me, I did find it on the Windtalkers DVD, albeit with non-anamorphic 16:9 widescreen that would leave the picture as a tiny box on an HDTV.

Not. Any. More.

Last night I found a version of this teaser over at the 007 dossier where they have scanned a 2K version of this trailer (and many others) from a 35mm film print. The audio on it was only AAC 44 khz, 158 kbps stereo, so I took the liberty of adding the 6 channel Dolby AC3 5.1 48 khz, 448 kbps track from the non-anamorphic dvd to give us the teaser in 2K (2048 x 856) with 5.1 audio. I also increased the overall volume level from the dvd version as it was never quite as loud as it should be. If you are a 007 fan, and a fan of this teaser, you can download it below.

TRAILER NAME Video Audio Size
Teaser 1 MP4 2K (2048 x 856) Dolby AC3 5.1 448 Kbps 59 Mb

I would love to do a restoration of the Goldeneye teaser (“you were expecting someone else?”). If anyone has the audio for it please get in touch!


Plex Media Server (Review)

Plex Home Theater

Plex Home Theater

Plex Media Server and Plex Home Theater

Last night, I installed Plex Media Server (PMS) and Plex Home Theater (PHT) on my dedicated home theater PC. In the simplest of terms, the PMS turns your PC into a media server that you can access on your home network using a variety of devices with
the corresponding Plex application for those devices. In my case, since I was using a dedicated PC connected to my receiver I installed the Plex Home Theater app on my PC.

What are the benefits of using Plex over a media player?

First and foremost, it allows for the full output of Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio. Oh, and it is free, which is always a great thing in my books. You can however, purchase a “Plex Pass” which will give you some additional features, such as sharing and automatic inclusion of theatrical trailers before movies. I am opting to not have a Plex Pass at this time, so I cannot comment on those features.  Continue reading “Plex Media Server (Review)” »