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What Is Your Favorite Blu-ray To Demo Video?

As far as I know, UAV's Ultimate Demos blog is unique among A/V resources. Author David Vaughn identifies specific scenes and shots—down to the time-code second—that offer exemplary video and/or audio content, scenes you can use to demonstrate your home theater's "wow factor" to friends and family.

David has featured nearly 60 titles in Ultimate Demos, and he will continue to add to the list. But there are many more movies available on Blu-ray than he can possibly cover, so I'm asking for your help in identifying more demo-worthy discs.

This week, I'd like to know which 2D Blu-ray you think has the best video qualities—detail, color, black, shadow detail, etc.—with which to demonstrate the capabilities of a display system. (Next week, I'll ask the same question about audio.) Simply select "Here it is" below and leave a comment with your favorite title(s) and which qualities of the video are particularly outstanding; you might even identify specific scenes to help the rest of us find the best moments.

Vote to see the results and leave a comment with your favorite title(s); thanks for your input!

What Is Your Favorite Blu-ray To Demo Video?
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Leonard's picture
Scott Wilkinson's picture
Yes, I would choose Avatar and Baraka as well.
timosmith's picture

I usually show someone "Kingdom of Heaven" the directors cut. It's got a great variety of rich vivid colors in darker scenes that really pop. And the audio is excellent also!

master films's picture

"Your favorite blu-ray demo" is subjective and varies with the physiological and psychological conditions of each person. What one person may perceive as being toned-down in color may be another person's rainbow. I have many favorites. Criterion has been really doing some great restoration work with some of the classics. You must try Jacques Tati's "Playtime". Not counting the opening credits, the rest of the movie is very film-like, and that to me is one of the finest points for blu-ray demo material status; experiencing the cinema at home. Of course ideally a good front projection set-up is of the essence in a properly controlled and calibrated home theater.

javanp's picture

Thank you for reminding me about that film! That is one of the most visual astounding and beautiful films I've ever seen and blu-ray showcases it perfectly. I also thought it rather touching, not to mention highly original in terms of story and, more importantly, story-telling. Another plus is that it seems to have finally dropped into the price range I like to see... another one for the collection!

Scott S.'s picture

Natural colours, good blacks and lots of outdoor scenes make this a good demo disc. I use this and Shooter as my post-calibration demo discs depending on the TV.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I had forgotten about this one, which looks fantastic. Thanks for the reminder!
jakeumms's picture

The Star Trek reboot has been cited a few times so I list it simply to reiterate that it's a great go-to disc. How to Train Your Dragon has the kind of sharp transfer that we've come to expect from modern CG animated films but what I find unique and useful about it is how, in the scenes near the end of the film, it handles the myriad particle effects that can be seen during the climax. Those effects are particularly hard to fully resolve and must have been a headache during the mastering process. It's a very good test to see how well your display resolves fine picture detail.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Thanks for the kind words about HTG! By "post LCD-plasma transition," do you mean you've transitioned from LCD to plasma? That's what I surmise from your comment. And I agree that the Red camera produces gorgeous footage (if one can still call digital files "footage"!). I can't wait to see The Hobbit, which is being shot with the new Red Epic.
rubenc's picture

TERMINATOR SALVATION! an early scene where you see a computer guided missile hitting the skynet antenas. Great surround actions and lots of lfe

Mister Leadfoot's picture

I don't have a "favorite" but usually like to show off whatever is the big blockbuster at the time for my family and friends. So the highlights were Gladiator, Matrix, Batman Begins, Iron Man, Transformers, and now Tron Legacy.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
New good-looking Blu-rays will continue to be released, so this approach keeps things fresh. I like it!
uavmtnbiker's picture

I am really surprised no one has said this movie. The opening scene until they get into the fog is amazing. Water splashing, creaking of the ship, footsteps. Then when the other ship opens up on them all the creaking plus shattering wood etc. I always use this as a demo. House of flying daggers the bean scene is also great. Dark Knight when the plane sweeps down to pick him up from China, great show for the bass. I don't know why but I love Rambo (2008) when he opens up with with the 50 cal.

There are so many hard to nail just one or even a couple.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
The opening of M&C, as the guard is making his below-deck rounds, is my go-to scene for shadow detail. And the bean scene from House of Flying Daggers is also great. Good choices!
loop7's picture

Correct. From LCD to plasma. A while back I heard you remark that efforts in LCD/LED development are focused, in part, on solving problems plasmas never had. My next to top model Panasonic plasma uses less power than my late 2008 LCD. It's sounds silly but, in my eyes, everything has changed for me after the transition.

I think we should hold onto terms like "footage" and "rolling" as long as we can when shooting digital cinema.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
What is special about this one? I haven't seen it.
aopu.mohsin's picture

"Baraka" is definitely my first choice. It has outstanding video and audio quality. Other than that, I prefer "The Incredibles", "The Dark Knight", and "Inception" - all of which are my all time favorites in Bluray.

Seth G.'s picture

Scott - the fall is a great film
It's one of my top 5 Favorite films
Endearing characters with some of the best cinematography and art direction you'll find on film anywhere - you'll be surprised to learn how little CGI was used in the film
If you haven't seen it yet you should!

uavK.Reid's picture

The Dark Knight with those IMAX shots look great. The blacks and shadow detail are also jaw dropping. The Ten Commandments for its 6K transfer and outstanding colors.

BTW, I went to the AXPONA show last week in Atlanta and enjoyed myself. It was fantastic. I was able to chat with former HT editor Shane Buettner and had a brief chat with Michael Fremer.

abentrod's picture

Star Trek is great eye candy and I prefer it to Avatar how ever great the transfer of Avatar is because Star Trek looks real not CG and the sound is incredible. for technicolor restoration you can't beat Wizard of Oz cause everyone has seen it for many years on crappy 480i NTSC which gives them something to compare to. Only wish more people would speak-out against all these streaming services including netflix which is the biggest problem we face. people see streaming and find it looking fine...rubbish! we all need to educate people on why blu-ray is the only way to watch a feature film streaming is great for talking head shows like your great show "home theater geeks", but should not be used for movies.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I haven't seen The Ten Commandments Blu-ray yet; can't wait! I'm glad you had a good time at AXPONA, and that you got to chat with Shane and Michael.
Scott Wilkinson's picture
I totally agree with both picks. As for streaming, as you say, it has its place, but nothing beats Blu-ray for quality. Thanks for the kind words about Home Theater Geeks!
loop7's picture

I'm currently looking for one or two demo BRDs because I'm 3 months post LCD-plasma transition which has really set the bar high for evaluating blacks and highlight/shadow detail. Lately, I've been using 2001 as there are very light and very dark scenes even though it's from 1960's film stock.

I predict many of us will eventually find our demo disks to be those photographed on Red cameras.

HTG and watching Robert Heron on Rev3 are the best AV shows.

cbono's picture

It wasn't until the blu-ray that I realized this may be the most beautiful technicolor film ever made. Glorious to behold!

Jarod's picture

I think my most go to demo for new visitors in my home theater is the opening 15 minutes or so of The Dark Knight. As said those Imax shots are amazing and the blacks are so inky that it really shows off the capability of my Pioneer Kuro. Also love to use Avatar as well. As of lately I have been using episodes of The Pacific on Bluray for demos. That series has some excellent cinamatography especially out in the field during war scenes and the audio is incredible! I also love to use Wall-E or Cars or any Pixar title for that matter. I really need to pick up a copy of Baraka as I would love to finally view this beautifull bluray.

uavmatthewweflen's picture

Not hard to believe at all. I own all three seasons, and am consistently dazzled by them. Facial detail on men (women were usually shot in soft focus) can be very impressive. The bright primary colors on the uniforms and the sets are deep and rich in HD. The glittery rocks on the planet sets, and the glittery threads in alien costumes, are nifty to look at.

Best episodes in HD:
The Cage (and, by extension, The Menagerie)
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Journey to Babel
Amok Time
Spectre of the Gun
The Cloud Minders

uavmatthewweflen's picture

Are we demonstrating the display's abilities, or the capabilities of the format?
If it's the display:

"Fight Club" is great for shadow detail. "Watchman" is also good for this. Dark movies with loads of detail, as long as the display is calibrated properly.

For eye-searing color, you can't beat "Speed Racer." It always impresses those in search of eye candy.

For naturalistic color and fine detail, something like "The Reader" or "Frost/Nixon" are great. The dust motes in the latter are particularly impressive.
If, however, you are demonstrating the capabilities of the format:

"The Ten Commandments" is an utterly magnificent argument for the benefits of the format for mid-century widescreen film formats. Detail is wondrous, and color is superb.

"2001: A Space Odyssey" for similar reasons. The detail level on knobs and dials is great, and the contrast on space shots and moon scenes is superb.

For new movies that demonstrate the format well, I'd choose these:

JJ Abrams' "Star Trek," for all its egregious story logic problems, is one heck of a tech demo. The glittering detritus of space battles is very impressive.

"The Dark Knight" is of course great for its IMAX footage. Very punchy and detailed scenes.

OK, so now instead of wussing out and picking a dozen, I'll narrow it down to one pick apiece (display and format).

For the display, I'd go with "Watchmen." It has the widest range of dark to light, fine detail to splashy color, to really show you what a display can do.

For the format, I'd go with "Ten Commandments. Every time I pop it in, I get sucked in and watch the whole thing, or at least all of one disc. It's that engrossing a visual experience, and is just so impressive given its age.


Now, I looked again at the initial post, and it implied that impressing relatives is a factor. In which case TDK or Speed Racer are probably your best bets.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
As always, your comments are thoughtful and well-stated. With my original question, I was thinking more about demonstrating what the display can do rather than what the format can do, although to do the former, you need discs that embody the latter. In other words, you need the best-looking Blu-rays to show off your display to its best advantage. But all your picks are excellent!
Scott Wilkinson's picture
Thanks for the recommendation!
Scott Wilkinson's picture
Believe it or not, one of my favorite Blu-rays for video is Star Trek: The Original Series. The transfer from film is outstanding in its detail and color, though some of the props are clearly revealed as items from the NBC commissary. Also, I never noticed before that one of the dead crewmembers found at the Psi 2000 outpost in "The Naked Time" is a store-window mannequin! And I much prefer the new special effects that you can choose instead of the original opticals of planets and ships.

Another fave is The Dark Knight; the opening shots of the city skyline exhibit exquisite detail, and there are plenty of dark scenes that test a display's capability to reproduce shadow detail.


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