Here’s some real-world content, plus a couple of test discs:
Generally any Disney and/or Pixar release are great choices. Disney does a top-notch job with both the audio and video quality of its home video releases.
Examples I use are the opening scene of “Bolt.” This has lots of fast action with lots of companion sound effects that quickly envelop a home theater user.
Another chase scene from Disney/Pixar is in the Movie “The Incredibles.” This movie has a similar fast pace and companion soundtrack.
These movies can show you how good your image processing is. Any sort of judder in these images could indicate a processing related issue that includes 3:2 pulldown or if it’s an LCD product it could be a refresh rate problem.
Looking at other videos, The movie “The Matrix” has lots of low-level light scenes, including the opening chapter. If your display’s grayscale tracking isn’t right and/or if your display isn’t capable of producing deep blacks and good contrast levels this movie will show it.
The movie “Patton” is one of the best video transfers available to consumers and the Blu-ray version of this movie starring George C. Scott will show you just how capable your system is at producing detail. Look for things like color saturation in the beginning with Scott standing in front of the flag. Also look to see if you’re having interlacing issues by looking at the lines between the flag’s red and white bars.
Detail aspects to look for with this movie also include the detail in Scott’s pistol; the weave of Patton’s uniform and the worn look of the brown leather of the gun holster.
For audio if dynamics are your interest check the “Rush” R30 DVD. Neal Peart’s drum solo gives you lots of dynamic contrast as he goes from his various toms (drums) and percussion instruments. The rest of the disc is somewhat compressed, but the drum solo is dynamic.
Jeff Beck’s “Live at Ronnie Scott’s” Blu-ray is a great disc. The drums are mixed a little bit hot (there’s an emphasis on the kick drum), but Jeff Beck’s signature Stratocaster sound is transparent with a hint of digital reverb and/or delay and from a texture perspective, his tone is just a touch overdriven (not like the modern bands of today that use tons of distortion). You’ll also hear all of the timbral qualities of Vinnie Colaiuta’s drum kit, the punch of Tal Wilkenfeld’s bass line and all of the tonal qualities of Jason Robello’s keyboards and synthesizers.
Titles like “U-571’s” Depth Charge scene will provide lots of low frequency info to see just how low and loud your sub will play and “Batman: The Dark Knight” has lots of low frequency information along with rear surround content. In addition it also mixes aspect ratios from 16:9 to 2.35:1 so it gives your video system a workout.
Movies to look for in the near future include the release of the “Star Wars” movies on Blu-ray. These films will have lots of video and audio content to offer sc-fi and classic movie fans.
Lastly try some test discs such as Disney’s “WOW” disc and Joe Kane’s “Digital Video Essentials.” These discs give you a variety of test patterns to help you calibrate your system to basic tolerances and they include pristine clips to show you the results of your work.