Pirates Go Blu

Come next Tuesday, two anxiously awaited titles will hit the video stores—Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

To give the launch an appropriate send off, Disney held a major event last night (Monday, May 14th) at a club in the Hollywood and Highland complex in Los Angeles. It was just a cannon-shot down Hollywood Boulevard from Grauman's Chinese Theater, and across the reef from the El Capitan, the LA flagship venue for most of Disney's premier releases.

Food and grog flowed freely (refresh the press and they will come) as strategically positioned Panasonic flat panel plasma displays showed scenes from the films and, in particular, the extra features and games on the discs that were trumpeted in the (surprisingly brief) formal presentation. That presentation featured a major plug for the Blu-ray format, including the statistic that over the past month or two Blu-ray titles have outsold HD DVD discs by 2:1 or more. Of course, that stat is likely heavily influenced by sales of Casino Royale, by far the biggest seller of all the high definition releases to date (in either format).

The games and special features on the discs looked like fun, but I found it interesting that all the players were Sony PlayStation3s. The PlayStation3 appears to be the only Blu-ray machine so far that's capable of fully supporting all Blu-ray interactive features. It will be interesting to see how the features on the Pirates Blu-ray discs function on dedicated Blu-ray players, all of which, so far, lack the processing power of the PlayStation3.

Of course the main attraction for us is the technical quality of the discs. I can't speak for the sound; the surround system was designed more for PA-level volume than the sort of audio qualities found in a good home audio rig, and the live acoustics of the club were typical of such a space. But the image, judging from the 10 minutes or so of Dead Man's Chest I saw, was outstanding. It was most impressive on Panasonic's 103" plasma, the featured display of the evening.

Many Panasonic reps were in attendance, but not primarily because Panasonic displays were being used. The releases had both been mastered at the Panasonic Hollywood Labs using AVC video compression.

As the photo reveals, this event was held less than two weeks before the theatrical opening of the third film in Disney's wildly successful Pirates franchise: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.. And the discs themselves are coming out just three days before the new film. Probably just a coincidence.