"Star Trek Beyond" Coming to UltraHD/BluRay 3D Combo Pack!

"Star Trek Beyond" has been announced for home media (already), but the big news is that not only is it getting a BluRay 3D release, but here is going to be one of those massive combo packs that contains both the 4K UltraHD disk as well as the BluRay 3D!  Who knew that one week after "The Angry Birds Movie" started this trend we'd get a second release from a movie that is a much bigger deal in both formats?!  That said, this one comes with a couple strings.  The first, is that you can only buy it in this massive set that comes with a replica of the U.S.S. Enterprise.  The second, is that it is going to be exclusive to Amazon.com.  Now, I know that a lot of people here have no issue purchasing something from Amazon, but I have essentially been buying from everywhere BUT Amazon for the past three years!  It's going to be interesting to see if I go through the gates of Hell this one time to get me a combo pack.

Yes, I still am nowhere near getting a 4K TV (and would prefer to watch this movie in 3D even if I did), but I do genuinely like the idea of packing both special disks into one pack rather than make consumers choose.  Heck, maybe manufacturer's can start moving TV's if they are selling people TWO picture upgrades on their sets as opposed to one or the other!  For that reason alone, until it becomes commonplace to get these sort of releases, I'm probably dedicated to buying these ultra combo packs every time one is announced.  Still man, I have to admit, having the double whacking of paying for a model I won't need AND buying the item from the closest thing we have to a Satan on Earth... that is a mighty tough pill to swallow!  I'm hoping there will be some sort of compromise before we get to the street date, but I am also aware of the fact that store exclusivity is the best bet most fans have to get these sort of releases in the near future.

I mean, just look at that thing; it doesn't hold the disks or anything.


Should You See "Star Trek Beyond" in Barco Escape?


I have now seen "Star Trek Beyond" twice in a week.  I enjoyed the movie so seeing it twice was not a chore by any stretch of the imagination, but my reasons for seeing it a second time so soon were more for research purposes.  I first saw the film with my family at the Esquire IMAX theater in Sacramento, CA, where it was presented in glorious 3D that took full advantage of the films settings and action sequences, making it one of the best 3D experiences I've had at the movies this year.  However, I heard shortly afterwards about this new theater format called Barco Escape, which was being developed as this new, immersive screen that would surround the audience.  It has been developed to compete with IMAX and Dolby Cinema, and with "Star Trek Beyond," about thirty minutes of the movie were made specifically with this format in mind.  Being someone who always wants to see a film the way its film makers intended it to be seen, I called a friend (let's call him Zach the Mac) to see if he wanted to see the movie in this new format with me.

So we drove to the Palladio 16 Cinemas in Folsom, CA, where we were surprised to find the ticket price was no more or less expensive than a standard 2D ticket price.  We arrived just in time for the pre-movie intro, where one of the producers explains how the Barco Escape worked.  Basically, there are three screens.  One in the center and two on the sides.  For the most part, only the center screen will be on, but for a few sequences (mainly ones involving the Enterprise fighting in space) the other two screens will turn on and show expanded images, thus immersing the audience more deeply into the action.  In way, this isn't much different from how certain IMAX movies have expanded images at the top and the bottom of the screen, only this time the images literally circle you.  Here's the thing about Barco Escape though: This isn't the first time this sort of cinematic experience has been attempted before.  In fact, this is pretty much an exact modern day replica of Cinerama.

The image you see above is what a Cinerama Theater looks like (seeing as how there is one still in operation in Hollywood, CA, you can still check it out for yourself if you so desire).  The screen was developed to be given a "curved" look, which would sort of wrap around a movie theater that was presented in a dome.  Dome theaters are pretty rare these days, so Barco Escape has taken a different approach...

...by just sitting three 2.35:1 aspect ratio scenes next to each other.  Now, I should probably mention that the photo you see above is likely how the screen was designed to be exhibited in theaters.  The screen me and Zach the Mac went to was previously a regular screen that was converted to this new technology.  I understand that sometimes theaters just have to make do with space that they already have, but - as IMAX learned the hard way - this sort of conversion can lead to many compromises in the actual experience.  For instead of the screens surrounding the audience, they were sort of parched up in the air.  To be on an even viewing field an audience member would have to sit in the back of the theater, at which point they would sort of be surrounded by the screens, but not really.  For that matter, the closer you are, the more you have to look up at the screens.

We sat in the center row of the theater, in seats that were more on the right.  This meant that whenever the Barco Escape scenes started, the image was a mixed bag.  The left screen and center screen looked fine, but the right screen always seem to have an image that never really connected with the center screen.  Had we been at a theater where the screen and seats were made from the ground up to compliment each other, maybe this wouldn't have been an issue, but in a converted theater, I sense there are a very select ground of seats where the full experience can even be felt.  For that matter, the fact that there was only 30 minutes of the movie that took advantage of the other two screens became a distraction.  Even when all three screens were in use, the only screen that really mattered was the center one.  This is obviously because the film makers knew not many theaters could screen the film in this way (only 24 if my research is correct), so they wanted to make sure the movie looked consistently good with only one screen.

When the other two screens weren't in use (which was often), the center screen was so small and distant, that I almost didn't feel like I was in a movie theater.  Again, had this been a native Barco Escape theater, maybe this wouldn't have been an issue, but in a converted theater, the center screen was just noticeably small.  A small screen is exactly the opposite of what I want when I go to a movie theater.  Now, in all fairness, its not like Barco Escape is the only specialty viewing experience that comes with handicaps.  With 3D films if you view the screen from too much of an angle the effect might be blurry, and sitting in the first three to five rows at an IMAX film makes the screen too big to really see anything.  The difference with those experiences is that only a small number of seats are affected by (what I'm going to call) their 'viewing handicap.' Barco Escape, on the other hand, seems to have a MAJOR viewing handicap for not just a few seats, but a vast majority of the theater!

There were only two times during "Star Trek Beyond" when the surrounding effect seemed to be working at 100% capacity, and they both involve the Enterprise flying in a curve, so there was no image distortion from the three screens.  To give the folks at Barco Escape some credit (as I'm sure I must seem like a villain to them at this point), when the effect did work, it was REALLY good!  If they can figure out how to make this more consistent and not as visually limiting, it could be a really fun experience for certain films.  As it stands though, if you want to watch this movie and feel immersed in everything, I have to suggest seeing a 3D screening of the film instead (probably not surprising coming from me).

Since this IS a 3D website I should mention that none of the Barco Escape theaters are showing "Star Trek Beyond" in 3D!  I'm not sure if they are capable of 3D projection, but it seems pretty obvious why they aren't doing this now.  Considering that 3D screens need to be centered perfectly to get the most out of the effect, putting 3D images on screens that will be viewed with side glances by the audience most likely won't work.  If it did, it would likely look terrible.  Maybe one day (should they care to) they will figure it out, but for the time being I wouldn't expect that to be a huge priority for the company.

To anyone at Barco Escape who might be reading this, I assure you that, despite how this must sound to you, I didn't completely hate my experience.  Sure, it didn't work very often and I think there are huge issues to work out.  But hey, 3D movies weren't that great at first, and look where they're at now.  Despite my miserable experience at this thing, the idea behind it intrigues me to no end.  Maybe if I attend one of the native theaters and have more than 30 minutes worth of footage to judge, I may like the experience more.  Like I said before: The concept intrigues me.  That said, because I am a film critic first, if readers want to see "Star Trek Beyond" in the best possible way and can only afford to do so once, then the IMAX 3D version is hands down the way to go.  It's immersive and consistent the entire two hours, where the Barco Escape version is a mixed bag.  I look forward to seeing where this format goes in the future though.


'Consumer Reports' Gets it Wrong About 3D...AGAIN!

I've long since come to an understanding that magazine Consumer Reports is more about the stock market then it is about giving out useful advice to their readers.  The idea behind the magazine is that they are supposed to let readers know about different technology, how it works, and whether it would be beneficial to the people reading the magazine to have it.  More often than not, however, most of their (so-called) "recommendations" have more to do with what is catching on in the marketplace, not whether or not people would have use for an item that may or may not be catching ground.  In their September, 2016 issue, CR did yet another guide on the different types of TV's out there, who is making them, and whether or not you'd want to buy one with said features in it.  Of course, the pros and cons really just boiled down to what is selling and what's not, and no where is that more evident than in their 'advice' on whether or not to buy a 3D TV.

I have posted a picture of the (brief) article above, but the basic gist of it is that you should only buy 3D if you already like it, and that the cons are that most television manufacturers aren't making them anymore.  This is so not helpful to a consumer for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which is that some people reading this magazine may genuinely not know WHY they would or wouldn't want a 3D TV!  For me, I can name some good reasons right now for owning a 3D TV:

  • Avatar
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness
  • How to Train Your Dragon 1 & 2
  • Kung fu Panda Trilogy
  • Gravity
  • Dolphin Tale
  • Anything from DreamWorks Animation
  • Disney's A Christmas Carol
  • The Polar Express
  • The Hobbit Trilogy
  • Oz the Great and Powerful
  • Coraline
  • The Adventures of Tinting
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Walk
  • Inside Out
  • Life of Pi
  • Hugo
  • Pina
  • Frozen
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • The Amazing Spider-Man
And that's just what's out.  Reasons to get it soon include:
  • The Jungle Book
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Finding Dory
CR, let me clue you in on why someone would want a 3D TV: Because 3D makes certain movies better.  It just does.  Therefor, when people ask why they would want a 3D TV, you don't discuss that it makes the TV more expensive, the glasses can be a pain, or that TV manufacturer's completely overestimated how much people would want the format in the first place.  You discuss these movies.  You discuss how, even though they may be few and far between, you want the 3D TV so that should you ever watch movies like these, you will have the option to watch them not only in the way they were meant to be seen, but the best possible way PERIOD!  What you wrote was a stock holder fluff piece on how the format hasn't taken off.  If this was truly supposed to be helpful to consumers, you failed in a massive way.  The average consumer doesn't care about whether or not 3D is a technical success or not.  They do, however, care if having that option will make their favorite movies look better.  In the cases of the movies listed above (and some not mentioned) the answer is yes, and you should be ashamed that you didn't explain this.


"The Angry Birds Movie" is First 4K/3D Combo Pack

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4K TV's are here.  They are currently in stores, studios are pushing them hard, and I think it's safe to say they aren't going away anytime soon.  Hollywood is so serious about 4K content that they launched a whole new video format to maximize the home experience, called 4K Ultra HD.  I myself have already bought a few of these disks despite not owning the TV yet ("Sicario," "Concussion," and "The Revenant," in case you're interested).  I can do this because, like BluRay 3D before it, each 4K Ultra HD copy (or, most of them, I should say) come with a standard BluRay disk, as well as an Ultraviolet code to watch the movie digitally.  It's a win-win situation as I can still watch my movie, and I have content for whenever I get my 4K TV (not planning for that anytime soon, but if I've learned one thing in life, it's that "anytime soon" sneaks up on you).

The struggle 3D fans have been facing is when it comes to the new format is a lack 3D content.  Now, in the studios defense, there is no 4K content that is in 3D yet.  Chances are it will come at some point, but for the time being, we're stuck with it in 720p.  That said, so far, when a movie has been released on the 4K Ultra HD format that was seen in 3D in theaters, fans of the movie have had to choose which combo pack to buy.  They can either watch the movie in 4K, or they can watch it in 3D.  I know that 3D never quite took off in the way studios wanted it to, but the frustrating thing about this is that combo packs were made specifically to give people options.  They were made so that, in essence, people wouldn't HAVE to make a choice which version of the movie they wanted to buy; they would simply have every version!  This doesn't work when "The Peanuts Movie" forces you to choose between two viewing formats.

Thankfully, it looks like at least one movie is going to cut that problem out by making the very first combo pack that included a 4K Ultra HD, BluRay 3D, BluRay, and Digital HD versions... and it's the stinking "Angry Birds Movie."

Yep, a studio finally releases a movie to test whether or not people would buy one of these elaborate combo packs, and it's for "The Angry Birds Movie." I know I'm repeating myself there, but I almost need to keep reminding myself this is how it's working.  I mean, this option couldn't be made available for "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" this week?  It's pretty confusing.  I'm not sure why this is the first movie (to my knowledge) where viewers don't have to choose between 4K and 3D, but part of it may be that the movie was designed around 3D, and the effect is so important to the film makers that they decided to make it available for whatever version you buy (except for the DVD version of course).  I have to say, they also unwittingly may have sold me a copy of this movie.  I wasn't exactly a huge fan of this film and I certainly had no plans to buy it, but this is a great idea.

Considering how expensive these combo packs are, it's strange that I have to choose between one of two ways to future proof my collection.  There is no reason for it.  If someone is spending $44 for a 4K Ultra HD combo pack, what is an extra $5 to include the BluRay 3D disk?  So, despite my better judgment, it looks like I will be buying a copy of "The Angry Birds Movie" in this big combo pack to support this idea in the future.  When I buy it, I will also send an e-mail to the studio letting them know this is the main reason I bought this version.  Because I've been a big supporter of the "one combo pack fits all" concept, and it's frustrating to see Hollywood still dance around this concept.  Oh, and for the record, no, this does NOT include a DVD copy!  But really, if you are buying a set that comes with a 4K Ultra HD disk, then chances are you are about as far away from using a DVD to watch a movie as you can possibly get now.