|V Inc. Bravo D2 DVD Player|
|Home Theater Video Players DVD Players|
|Written by Ben Shyman|
|Thursday, 01 July 2004|
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I began my review with Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece “Magnolia” (New Line Cinema). As the much-anticipated follow-up to his blockbuster “Boogie Nights,” Anderson in “Magnolia” uses a similar cast and cinematic style as its predecessor but with an entirely different storyline. To attempt to describe what this three-hour motion picture is about would require another dedicated review. What you need to know is that “Magnolia” has an all-star cast and totally original plot. With beautiful color and many unique camera angles, this DVD is fun to watch and ideal to use to audition the Bravo D2.
In Chapter 2, the color rendition was very good and details in the facial hair of Julianne Moore’s elderly and bedridden husband were clear. Even when the camera panned, his facial details remained as sharp as they should on a DVI-enabled player. I would have liked to see a somewhat sharper edge to the picture near the black bars, where there was some slight ghosting. In Chapter 5, the Bravo D2 struck a nice balance between good contrast and brightness, thus presenting the finer details of John C. Reilly’s black police uniform with precise clarity. Many DVD players in this situation would have washed out or overly saturated the black uniform, making the wrinkles and texture of the fabric less perceptible, but not the Bravo D2. The chapter revealed some graininess between the picture frames and on the walls of the apartment, which reflects how the disc was mastered.
Next I decided to watch the special extended DVD version of “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (New Line Home Entertainment). Much like the first DVD in the trilogy, “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring,” “The Two Towers” is a visual buffet of the grandest type and is undoubtedly among the best DVDs available today. The transfer from film to DVD is unquestionably a reference standard in my book.
The details in the costumes and the colors of landscapes are incredibly lifelike throughout “The Two Towers.” In Chapter 59, “The Flooding of Isengard,” the texture of the bark and beards of the Ents was clearly rendered. Furthermore, the mountainside and dam which floods Isengard below had an appearance that was detailed and visually pleasing. The Bravo D2 did not present a picture with the outstanding crispness and depth that grants a transparent, three-dimensional appearance, as with many high-end players costing thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, but it definitely put forth a picture well beyond many players its price range. In Scene 66, “Gollum’s Plan,” the Bravo D2 brought the CGI Gollum to life with confidence. The few filthy strands of hair left on the emaciated and deformed Gollum were clear and reasonably sharp. Details like the blood-filled veins in Gollum’s eyes and his decaying teeth were quite clear. The Bravo D2 brought out the creepy and sinister nature of Peter Jackson’s recreation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s amazing Gollum character. If I were to criticize, much as with “Magnolia,” there was some occasional graininess and edginess in the picture and the edges of the screen could have been sharper, but for the most part, the picture was free from many annoying motion artifacts and my movie-watching experience of “The Two Towers” was totally enjoyable.
What more can be said about the amazing series of animation films that have come out of Pixar Animation Studios? With movies like “Toy Story” and “Monsters Inc.,” Pixar is on a roll and has become the Hollywood studio that can seemingly do no wrong. Its most recent blockbuster, “Finding Nemo” (Disney/Pixar Animation Studios), said by many to be Pixar’s best film yet, is a humorous yet emotional feel-good, father-son adventure that is in my view a must-have for your DVD collection. The soundtrack is dynamic and the 16x9 video presentation is so sharp and contains such deeply saturated colors that it almost literally leaps off the screen.
In Chapter, 16, “Sea Turtles,” Nemo’s dad Marlin finds himself swimming in the East Australian Current off the Great Barrier Reef with a school of giant sea turtles. When Crush the sea turtle suggests that Marlin hold on during a rush in the current, the animation moves quickly with a series of rushing waves. The texture of the water with its bubbles and saturated blues and brilliant whites was satisfactorily rendered on the Bravo D2. Chapter 30, “Back on the Reef,” is among the most colorful chapters in the animation and the corals and vast collection of brightly-hued fish looked truly fantastic. The reef’s sandy bottom had excellent textural detail and sunlight reflections from the sky above cast over the reef gave the water a natural liquid feel. The clownfish Marlin and Nemo the Regal Tang Dory looked first-rate throughout “Finding Nemo.” The graininess I witnessed with “Magnolia” and “The Two Towers” was far less perceptible here, no doubt the result of “Finding Nemo” being digital animation rather than originally shot on film.
The 2002 Academy Award winner for Best Picture, “A Beautiful Mind” (Dreamworks SKG/Universal Pictures), was the final disc I watched on the Bravo D2. The movie is among director Ron Howard’s greatest achievements and stars Hollywood A-list actor Russell Crowe and the strikingly beautiful Jennifer Connelly.
In the beginning of Chapter 12, blacks were deeply rendered on my Plasmavision during the high-speed car chase. The scene is lit only by streetlamps, car headlights and the moon, yet I was never found the action difficult to follow, especially during quick camera pans where digital artifacts would have been present with component video on comparable DVD players. When Crowe meets Connelly at their home, reds in the furniture were well saturated, flesh tones were properly balanced and details such as the intricate wallpaper patterns were reasonably sharp and clear. In Chapter 14, the tiled walls of Crowe’s cell were somewhat grainy and soft, but the side walls which were angled on the screen were absent the digital artifacts which would no doubt have put many DVD players on the fritz as the camera panned backwards. I give the Bravo D2 very high marks in this area.
I used the Bravo D2 exclusively for listening to music during the weeks it was in my system. Listening to my usual diet of classic rock, jazz and hard rock, I quickly came to the conclusion that the Bravo D2 is a quality CD transport. The limiting factor to musical enjoyment will probably rest more in the quality of digital-to-analog converters (DAC) in your AV preamplifier than with the Bravo D2. This is true for most music disc transports in your average home theater system, where speakers, amplification, speaker cables and DAC conversion in the preamp are the bottlenecks to great sound. This is not to suggest that a player doesn’t make a huge difference, just to say that in systems where the Bravo D2 will most likely be found, it will not become the limiting factor to great sound. When listening to movie soundtracks, the Bravo D2 did an equally excellent job of sending encoded digital to my processor, which added greatly to my listening enjoyment and time spent with the Bravo D2. The D2 did specifically well on sending out the digital output of 5.1 albums, such as DTS CDs like Lyle Lovett’s Joshua Judges Ruth, as well as the default tracks on many of the better DVD-Audio titles out there, including Yes’ Fragile and Queen’s A Night At The Opera.