Harry Potter Gift Set: Blu-ray/HD DVD Review
Whether it's HD DVD or Blu-ray, the powerful special effects of this boy wizard translate well to the home theater.
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January 16, 2008 by Marshal Rosenthal

Since I have a 1080p front projector with a large screen, watching Harry Potter in the comfort of my home theater should be ideal. Unfortunately the DVDs suffer when viewed at home: the resolution doesn’t have the oomph to handle the CG laden special effects. Believe me, there’s no enjoyment in scenes such as when Harry takes on Voldemort and the sizzle and smoke of wands firing off in the dark get filled with blockiness and jagged lines that at times look like little blocks being combined to form the images. And as the CG has become more complex with each film, the low-rez only becomes more pervasive as does the disappointment in not being able to see the richness of the scenes that I know is there.

To me, the real reason for buying this gift set - physical goodies and the trunk like-box holding them aside - is for getting every film to date (that’s through Phoenix) in high-resolution. Which makes quite a difference - going back to the first reveals a much stronger visual that recaptures that as seen in the theater - although it does show its age a bit with some visual distractions on occasion such as in dark scenes. And as the films turn from sweetness and light to the dark side, the quality of the visuals and the depth of the detail improve But overall it’s true to say that the colors stand out in all of the films and that you are now being provided with the kind of view that a big-budgeted movie should have.

This definitely includes audio too. Dolby TrueHD does mighty work here and will demonstrate a definite big brother’s betterment over standard Dolby 5.1. There’s such a splendid use of surrounds that you might find yourself cheering with the crowd as Harry wins the game or groaning as he falls flat on his face.

The box is big enough to hold the last two films when they emerge, although you’ll need to remove the trading cards and the bookmarks. Extras come as additional discs, such as an interactive DVD game and another with bonus featurettes, documentaries, etc. - many in high-resolution as well. There’s also web-enabled features on Phoenix that include socializing: you can pick your favorite scenes, share it with friends who also have the HD DVD disc and see what they think. Even more interesting is the ability to gather others for a “screening” and control playback of their machines concurrently with yours - along with doing live chat. This does require registering with Warner but it’s fairly painless, as is the overall process of going online. A bit more passive is the In-Movie Experience which provides inserts on details and behind the scenes and commentaries as the movie run.  And of course there’s a chance to spend even more of your cash by buying downloadable wallpaper and ringtones.

You won’t find much difference with the Blu-ray collection. The box and goodies within are identical, and the same goes for the quality of the picture. Audio doesn’t step up to the plate with a newer format, but instead treads along with good old PCM. Not that it sounds bad at all, but certainly Warner could have pumped up the sound like they did with the HD DVD set (but I guess they wanted simple compatibility with the BD players now out there). Also, as expected, none of the web-enabled functions make their way over to here: extras for Phoenix being similar to that of the stand-alone BD disc for sale and being featurettes and other video additions.

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Disc Specs and Credits

Format reviewed: HD DVD & Blu-ray
Video: N/A
Disc Size: HD-25/BD-50
Aspect Ratio: 1080p, 2.40:1 (same)
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, PCM 5.1
Director: various
Screenwriter:  various
Starring: (main) Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint.
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Video
Rating: PG/PG-13
Retail: $149

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