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My Favorite Demo Clips

Thursday, February 18, 2010

By Jeremy Sternhagen

Whenever I finish the process of setting up any Runco display, I always have my favorite demo clips with me to test out my work. Some people like to grab a disc that is full of bright shiny imagery to guarantee an eye popping demo. I prefer something a little more challenging.

Some of the best Blu-Ray discs available are made with such meticulous care, that preserving every aspect of the original film quality is the number-one thing a film nut, like me, looks for.

Seeing things like film grain are all just part of the experience and make the video authentic. Poor video equipment masks some of these finer details, creating a very un-film-like experience.

In chapter 4 (28:09) of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, the scene opens in outer space and a Romulan ship passes in front of the audience. If the projector is not set up correctly, the ship appears as a dark mess of nothing, silhouetted against some space clouds, with little or no detail. If the projector has been properly calibrated, you can see every detail in the dark shadows of the ship. The scene continues with many other dark scenes that demonstrate proper black levels.

Later, in chapter 7 (52:21) there is an action sequence with Kirk and Sulu dropping through the atmosphere in space suits, then engaging in hand-to-hand combat. It is a great demo from both an audio and video perspective. The scene starts off dark, so you can point out black level details, but then it transitions to the bright outdoor fight sequence. There is a slow build to the sound, so audiophiles will appreciate the dynamic presentation much more technical than simply loud explosions with no breaks.

I love to point out the cinematography in this film, as JJ Abrams specifically uses lens flare in almost every shot. He is basically using an optical artifact to enhance his film. Star Trek is trying to look like a movie, not reality.

Another favorite demo is Baraka. This movie was filmed almost 20 years ago, and was shot in 70mm, so the detail is amazing. Beginning at chapter 4 (12:00) There is a sequence that shows some colorful outdoor gardens and locals, all enjoying their surroundings. The shots are all slowly and smoothly executed, allowing you to soak in every detail. Following the shots of local ceremony, the movie pans to images of volcanoes and clouds, all shot using amazing fly-overs and time lapse. The imagery is accompanied by an ominous drum beat. The result forces the viewer to appreciate the amazing views. If the projector is set correctly, every large and small detail in the clouds will be visible. The next sequence features some large lizards basking in the sun while waves break on rocks around them. The shots are close up, and highly detailed. If you want to see more of the same types of images and detail, skip to chapter 21.

Baraka is great because there is no artificial imagery here. No boosted colors or special effects. A lot of popular demos used today are bright and colorful, such as Transformers or an animated movie, such as UP, look great on just about any display, because the colors are all bright and oversaturated. I prefer these demos, because I feel like it’s not cheating. And if your projector is properly calibrated and can display these challenging scenes well, then any subsequent image will look spectacular.

Jeremy has background in film and tv, and works as a field product specialist for Runco, training dealers how to setup, demo and sell Runco products.

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