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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince cover

Blu-ray Reviews: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Originally published in Sound and Image, January 2010, v.23#03
Last updated 25 February 2013

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
2009 - Warner Bros Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd
Director: David Yates
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Jim Broadbent, Robbie Coltrane, Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Bonnie Wright

Movie: 4 Picture: 4.5 Sound: 4.5 Extras: 4.5

The impressive thing about the Harry Potter series of movies is the consistency they have maintained. After six movies, all the main characters are played by the same actors as at the start (excepting Dumbledore: Richard Harris died after the first two). Four different directors have been employed, and a range of screenwriters, yet the tone has been remarkably consistent. Even the Internet Movie Database rating is even, with a range of 7.2/10 to 7.7/10.

This one, the second for director David Yates (who is also leading the two final instalments, to be released in 2010 and 2011) scores 7.5. If you like the fantasy world of 'Harry Potter', you won't be disappointed.

The earlier instalments either preceded or coincided with the introduction of high definition home video, so they were released quite early in both HD formats. I've watched the first five on HD DVD. All the movies are long (the shortest is 138 minutes and the longest 161) and all have been rendered onto Blu-ray at fairly low average video bitrates. The lowest has been a HDTV-like 12.87Mbps for 'Goblet of Fire'. This one gets a bit under 18Mbps and I don't think it suffers as a result. With an aspect ratio of 2.4:1, only about three quarters of the screen area is being used, so it's equivalent to a 24Mbps video bitrate on a full screen 1.78:1 movie. Much of the movie is set in the gloomy halls of Hogwarts, which I suspect reduces the amount of visible detail. And Warner Bros titles routinely have wide bitrate swings from second to second, suggesting an aggressive application of the variable bitrate to cope with action. With this movie for example, the graph shows one peak nearing (very briefly) 50Mbps and a lot of peaks above 30Mbps.

The result was that to my eye it looked fine. Excellent, in fact, given the gloom. There were no visible compression artefacts. Instead it just looked nicely film-like. Another point of consistency in the series has been that despite the heavy use of CGI and the consequent need to digitise the image, the temptation to sharpen it up has been resisted, causing the traditional film look to be retained.

The CGI has been matched in look, and so has always been impressive for the seamless integration into the series of movies.

The sound is delivered in Warner's usual Dolby TrueHD 5.1 at 16 bits. It sounds nicely immersive and with an occasionally foreboding bass underpinning, and good ambient surround as required.

This release comes as a two disc edition with 54 minutes of 1080p24 featurettes and a 50 minute 1080p24 documentary about Ms Rowling. The first section of this last is marred by some poor mastering, leaving some early interlaced combing and a skip or two, but that soon passes.

The movie itself has a Maximum Movie Mode version, which uses graphical overlays, BonusView PIP elements and the option to jump to 14 additional 1080p24 featurettes while watching the movie. You can watch those featurettes separately as well.

Running time: 154 minutes
Picture: 2.4:1, 1080p24, VC1 @ 17.93Mbps
Sound: English: Dolby TrueHD 16/48 3/2.1 @ 1523kbps (core: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 640kbps); French, German, Italian, Spanish (Castellano), Dutch, Spanish (Espanol), Portuguese, Catalan, Flemish: Dolby Digital 3/2.1 @ 448kbps; English Descriptive Narration: Dolby Digital 2/0.0 @ 192kbps
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired, French, German, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian, Italian for the Hearing Impaired, Spanish (Castellano), Dutch, Spanish (Espanol), Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Extras: Maximum Movie Mode employing BonusView PIP, graphical overlays and 'Focus Point's jumping to featurette footage; 14 Focus Points (1080p24, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 38 mins); 8 sections of additional footage (1080p24, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 7 mins); Documentary: 'J.K.Rowling: A Year in the Life' (1080p24, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 50 mins); 11 Featurettes (1080p24, VC1, DPL2.0 @ 192kbps - 54 mins)
Restrictions: Rated M (Australian rating); Region Free

The following video bitrate graph was generated by BDInfo 0.5.3:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince video bitrate graph

The following video bitrate graph is for shows the 'Maximum Movie Mode' PIP video stream:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince PIP video bitrate graph

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