Because this is no standard Blu-ray, this will not be a standard Blu-ray review. Video and audio ratings will be for the video and audio calibration sections of the disc. The bonus features rating will be for the bonus demo materials provided on the second disc, and the main feature rating will be for the overall presentation, quality and usefulness of the materials and features on the main disc.
Don’t be fooled by Goofy badge on the cover, this is certainly not a kids’ version of home theater optimization. It’s far from that.
One thing that needs to be said right off the bat is that this is a beautifully constructed interface. It’s very well organized and designed elegantly and will prove to be very user-friendly and accessible to anyone who spends a few minutes with it. With a subject like A/V calibration, this is important, and this disc succeeds quite well as such.
Now let’s get into some of the details.
Video & Audio
Once you hit the main menu of the disc, you’re provided with 3 options, indicating the primary structure of the disc: Discover, Optimize and Experience.
“Discover” is the educative part of the disc, and is split into 3 sections. Starting with…
- Home Theater Basics With Goofy
- Easy As 1-2-3
- Lost University
- Split Screen Showdown
“Discover > Beginner” provides the viewer with a introduction to some home theatre basics (with help from Goofy, or maybe you’re helping him?), a 1-2-3 HD setup guide for your TV, a quick split-screen comparison of the benefits of high definition vs standard definition, and a short spot for LOST University, a Disney BD-Live feature available in the show’s 5th season box set.
- What makes up a picture?
- What is sound?
- What is compression?
- What are interlaced/progressive images?
- What is 24-frame playback?
“Discover > Advanced” will get into the nitty gritty of the technological definitions you’ll need to know to understand some important concepts about Blu-ray. This will definitely help those who are genuinely interested in knowing about how video and digital technology and basic elemental concepts work, as well as what to look in quality equipment and video, and how to properly display them in their original and pristine state.
- Creating New Memories
- Digital Copy
- Disney Movie Rewards
- Disney BD-Live
This section simply takes you through all of Disney’s reasons why Blu-ray is better, and what features they as a studio offer, that you may want to take advantage of.
“Optimize” is the second primary section of the disc, and provides you all the tools you need to properly calibrate your video and audio settings.
There are 35 A/V calibration and evaluation tools for Beginners, Advanced and Expert Home Theater Enthusiasts. A/V Tools in the Beginner section are designed for ease of use in the proper alignment of home theater equipment.
The Advanced section contains A/V Tools that address individual professional evaluation and calibration tasks for several popular types of display devices. Illustrations and video provide examples of properly and improperly calibrated results for these A/V test patterns.
Beginner Video Tools
- Aspect ratio
- Viewing angle diagnostic
Beginner Audio Tools
- Speaker ID
- Polarity test
- Noise floor
- Buzz & rattle test
If, for whatever reason, you want to fly through a very simple calibration, this little section will get you through that in a jiffy. These tests give you little more than “here’s an image”, make it look about as good as you can with what you have” for instruction. But I, and I’m sure the disc’s creators, would definitely not recommend only using this section. It’ll give you a good idea of what each evaluation will do, but to really get into it perfecting your A/V quality, head on over to…
Advanced Video Calibration Tools
- Advanced brightness & contrast
- Aspect ratio
- Chroma & hue
- Overscan test
- A/V Sync
Advanced Video Calibration Tools will give you several professional video calibration and monitor evaluations, specifically designed for optimizing and testing all displays including LCDs, plasmas, DLPs, OLEDs, CRTs and projectors. It is recommended you turn off all artificial enhancements on your display (such as “ClearMotion/TruMotion/MotionFlow/120Hz/240Hz” frame interpolation) and select any picture presets that might resemble “Film/Movie” or “Calibration” mode to start off with, and fine-tune.
You first select which display type mentioned you have, and it will give you the choices listed above. Going through each test, you’re given another 3 options. A description of what the test is about, instructions on how to go about adjusting your display for the test, and then a button to launch the test.
The “brightness” and “contrast” tests will present you with some unique test patterns that display on screen several objects of differing opacity. It will then instruct you to adjust your respective settings so that only a certain few of these objects should remain visible. Usually these types of tests, on other discs, have me running back and forth between patterns, trying to fine tune one setting so the other one doesn’t break, but with WOW, after a few checks, everything was pretty perfect and didn’t need much further tinkering.
The “aspect ratio” and “overscan” tests will make sure you have your display properly configured for 16×9, and without any overscan (artificial zoom). Convergence checks projectors and other similar devices for proper alignment of the red green and blue color emitters. “A/V Sync” makes sure your audio and video are in sync, using a clever animated loop. “Sharpness and focus” displays an image with very fine detail to help you get the clearest image without any unnecessary artificial sharpening, which can cause unsightly picture artifacts.
The “Chroma & Hue” display pattern test will utilize the blue gel filter included in the Blu-ray package to help view and adjust color and tonal accuracy.
An interesting feature for the image test patterns is the acknowledgment of eye fatigue. Your eyes can tend to get used to what you’re looking at for a long time, which tends to invalidate and blur important changes and errors in the pattern. To counteract this, a lot of the patterns will move and shimmer every once in a while so that your eyes don’t “settle.”
Display Evaluation Tools
- Scaling test
- Advanced scaling 1 & 2
- Hyperbolic zone plate
- White-black clipping
- Viewing angle test
- Gamma response
- Compound test chart
The display evaluation tools tests will take you even deeper into the rabbit hole of video perfection, offering more advanced evaluations. Some of these are things you might not be able to do much about, other than to call up your display’s manufacturer and ask what’s up. They show you certain impurities and processing errors that might be evident in your set, so that in itself is a valuable tool to have. The compound test chart at the end of this category lumps many of these patterns and tests into one on-screen image that might serve as a go-to reference for subsequent quality checks.
Advanced Audio Tools
- Speaker ID
- Polarity Test
- Noise Floor
- Buzz & Rattle Test
- A/V Sync
- Speaker Level Adjustment
- Subwoofer Level Adjustment
Once you hit the Advanced Audio Tools section, you’re asked to select which type of audio configuration you have in your home theatre, be it Stereo 2.1 or Surround Sound 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1. It will then take you to customized versions of the tests listed above. Most of these are fairly straight forward, and are much better explained on the disc. When you get to speaker and subwoofer level adjustment settings, you can choose to move forward either as someone who owns an SPL meter, or not. It’s highly recommended to get one, as getting each speaker’s volume (or SPL) to be equal at reference levels is arguably the most important aspect of audio calibration.
Expert professional tools
- HD Shootout – standard DVD vs. HD/Blu-ray
- Provides both video and audio comparisons between DVD and Blu-ray, including stereo and 5.1 lossless vs DVD compressed music tracks
- Direct Access
This part was quite interesting and had one spectacular audio comparison involving a very cool, exotic Middle Eastern music track entitled “Arabian Nights.” I highly recommend choosing the 5.1 version off the bat, if you have the capabilities. Even without doing a comparison, it’s very fun to listen to.
Direct Access allows you to bypass all of the menus and navigation to provide you all of the AV Tools on the disc in one easy location.
That ends the “Optimize” calibration section of the disc. Overall this section might take you about an hour or two, less if you don’t need much hand-holding, or more if you need to watch all the instruction and intro videos. The flexibility of the content will let you choose what your need is.
Now on to showing off your hard-work!
This final section is where you go once you’ve set your audio and video components to optimal reference quality, and you just want to enjoy the fruits of your labor. WOW provides several fantastic demonstration clips from a variety of Disney Blu-ray titles, all featuring high bit-rate video and lossless 5.1 audio, like the majority of all the content on the rest of the disc.
Thankfully lots of Disney movies push A/V quality, and most if not all feature really stand-out audio moments. I would have liked some of the scenes to go on for longer, but that’s likely to be because of legal or copyright reasons, but overall these are some very well-chosen demo scenes. One nitpick on an abnormality: the Pirates of the Caribbean clip is cropped to 1.78:1 from its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. And consider me pleasantly surprised at how good G-Force looked and sounded.
- Toy Story
- Toy Story 2
- Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
- Monsters, Inc.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
- The Nightmare Before Christmas
- The Prestige
- Nature’s Journey
A second disc, which is available in one of the editions of this title, is another show-off piece filled with images and sounds of nature, both natural and digitally enhanced. Frankly the video quality here doesn’t match up to the material in the first disc and could have used less digital manipulation, but the audio quality is very good and most scenes are well shot. It could be something nice to play in the background when you have guests over (who aren’t as picky as this reviewer), to provide a zen atmosphere.
Visions: Inspired by Nature (Bonus Disc)
- Flower Fields
- Cumulous Day
- Forest Waterfalls
- Big Sur Fireplace
- Ocean Sunset Spring
- Desert Vistas
- Mountain Skies
Obviously any DIY calibration will never compare to a professional one. But not everyone can attain that, and I was extremely surprised and impressed by the quality and depth of the content in this AV Tools suite, and I believe even the most hardcore of connoisseurs could admit to that. It’s intuitive and thorough for both newbies, enthusiasts, and everyone in between. Disney needs to be commended for having initiative to publish such a disc for the mass market, and producers R&B Films need to be praised for creating a thorough and well-designed toolset that will appeal to a wide audience, while refraining from dumbing anything down in the process.
Highly recommended for almost all Blu-ray and HDTV owners that care about getting the best out of their systems and media. It’s a great resource to have on hand.