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Blu-ray Reviews: Carmen in 3D

Originally published in Australian HI-FI, July/August 2012, v.43#4
Last updated 2 September 2012

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Carmen in 3D
2011 - Select Audio-Visual Distribution Company Pty Ltd
Director: Julian Napier
Starring: Christine Rice, Bryan Hymel, Aris Argiris, Maija Kovalevska, Dawid Kimberg, Nicolas Courjal, Elena Xanthoudakis and Paula Murrihy

Movie: Picture: Sound: Extras:

I must say that I'm astonished from time to time about the very strange decisions made by media producers.

Imagine that you're preparing a new Blu-ray version of Bizet's wonderful, and wonderfully popular, opera Carmen. You've got a strong cast, a beautiful venue (the Royal Opera House, aka Covent Garden) and its fine orchestra and chorus.

Now would you present it? It would depend largely on who you are.

If you're RealD, which holds the copyright for this disc and so must be thought of as the main decision maker, then presentation would be all about 3D.

Of course, Blu-ray 3D is by far the best format -- the only effective one, really -- for 3D presentation at home. Amongst its many wonderful qualities is its full support for backwards compatibility. The 3D is stored as a standard 2D file with the content for one of your eyes, with additional files providing the content for the other eye stored in such a way that they are ignored by 2D players. In other words, you pop most Blu-ray 3D discs into a 2D system and you can watch them, except without any 3D.

There are exceptions, which seem to be where the originating company has optimised the 2D version differently to the 3D version. In those cases the disc examines the player and system and announces it will not play in a 2D system, instructing you to insert the other disc.

But this one is 3D only, and comes with no 2D disc. You cannot play it in a 2D system. You cannot even buy a 2D version.

As I said, it was produced by a company whose main interest is in 3D. Think of it somewhat like a promotional tool for 3D. Why else would you prohibit its use on 90% of systems out there?

That may also explain the sound.

Well, not the sound so much, because it sounded luscious and rich, with lots of depth and ambience. The recording was top notch.

But it is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 only (albeit at the highest possible bitrate of 640kbps). Note: there is no lossless audio. There is no stereo audio.

As to the video, the staging is attractive and several 3D cameras were used, including one on-stage for close work. It is very effective and, to me, actually enhanced my sense of engagement. But the high contrasts and heavy use of red will challenge the crosstalk rejection on many 3D display systems. This disc demands the best of 3D displays.

Running time: 155 minutes
Picture: 1.78:1, 1080p24, MPEG4 AVC/MVC @ 19.62/9.84Mbps
Sound: English: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps
Subtitles: English, French, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish
Extras: 3 Featurettes (1080p24 - 8 mins)
Restrictions: Rated 'Exempt' (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graphs were generated by BDInfo 0.5.8. This is for the main video stream:

And this is for the MVC 3D stream:

© 2002-2012, Stephen Dawson