The 1080p/24 Blu-ray of Dolphin Tale includes both the 2D version of the film and the 3D version of the film on separate discs. The film was shot in native 3D at a resolution of 2K using dual Red One cameras and both versions are framed at the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and encoded using the AVC codec for the 2D version and MVC codec for the 3D version. The 2D transfer was taken from the 2K digital intermediate and is actually very good with a clean print that has been encoded with plenty of fine detail and no banding or compression artefacts. Since the majority of the film takes place outside in the summer, the photography is quite bright which accommodates the 3D cameras and results in an image that doesn’t appear too dark when wearing the glasses. The picture has solid and deep blacks and plenty of shadow detail and the dynamic range is also impressive with excellent contrast between the deep blacks and the peak whites. The colour palette is dominated by a lot of blues and the transfer includes a fine layer of grain that was presumably added in post to render the images with an attractive film-like quality.
The use of 3D doesn’t really enhance what is essentially a family drama but since Dolphin Tale was shot in native 3D this is the preferred viewing experience, especially as the 3D photography is excellent. There is a solidity to the images that you only get with native 3D and some of the underwater shots really benefit from the added dimensionality. The composition for 3D is superb with the stereographer and cinematographer making effective use of the added depth to frame their shots. The scenes are also brightly lit which really helps to give the 3D some pop and make the experience all the more immersive. The set designer has clearly been taking notes and makes sure that there are plenty of layers to the shots to really take advantage of the added dimension. This is a reasonably subtle use of 3D, with little in the way of objects going into negative parallax, except for a few effects sequences that look rather fake and some shots of dolphins jumping out of the water towards the cameras. Overall the transfer is excellent, with accurate colour timing, no obvious crosstalk artefacts and natural motion, delivering an immersive 3D experience that, despite initial doubts, ultimately does compliment the narrative.
The Blu-ray of Dolphin Tale includes the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack for both the 2D and 3D versions. Given the nature of the film, no one is expecting any audio pyrotechnics and that’s just as well because they won’t get any. Whilst this is a well produced soundtrack in terms of dialogue and score, the sound stage is very front heavy. The score itself is well recorded and has plenty of fidelity, which is just as well because aside from the dialogue, the score is doing all the heavy lifting on this soundtrack. The dialogue is always intelligible, remaining firmly anchored to the centre speaker and as is often the case, the dialogue is a combination of production sound and ADR but the two have been skillfully combined to give the dialogue a sense of spatial integration. The use of the LFE track and surrounds is minimal, in fact the LFE hardly seems to be there at all but in all fairness this isn’t a film with any explosions. The surrounds are only used sparingly to create atmosphere and for the most part you are largely unaware of any surround envelopment. This is a shame because a more enveloping soundtrack would compliment the three dimensional visuals. Ultimately the soundtrack to Dolphin Tale is a competent rather than inspired effort that could have been better.
The Blu-ray release of Dolphin Tale is a three disc set that includes the 3D version, the 2D version and a DVD. The special features are all on the 2D Blu-ray:
- The Hutash Rainbow Bridge (02:26, HD) - This is a brief animated feature that takes the scene from the film where Harry Connick Jr’s character tells the Native American legend of the Hutash Rainbow Bridge and then adds animation to it.
- At Home With Winter (13:22, HD) - This is a short behind the scenes look at the film that focuses on the real Winter playing herself and includes interviews with the principal cast, talking about what it was like working with her.
- Dolphin Tale: Spotlight On A Scene (07:17, HD) - This featurette covers the creation of the opening credit sequence which involves computer animated dolphins. To be honest the effects aren’t that good but it’s probably best we don’t tell the animators that.
- Winter's Inspiration (18:08, HD) - This is a great featurette that tells Winter’s real story, with actual footage of her rescue and recovery. There are interviews with the real people involved and it explains how the film differs from reality. It also shows Winter’s interaction with the disabled children and wounded veterans that come to see her.
- Ormie And The Cookie Jar (03:59, HD) - An animated short about a pig trying to get to a cookie jar, funny but its connection to the film remains a mystery.
- Additional Scene (02:21, HD) - Winter meets Panama: In this scene the heroes introduce Winter to another rescued dolphin called Panama. Initially Panama rejects Winter but ultimately they bond and the two still share a tank to this very day. However, the scene doesn’t really advance the narrative and it’s obvious why it was cut.
- Gag Reel (02:49, HD) - The usual collection of fluffed lines and mugging for the camera but without any swearing since this is a family film.
Based on a true story, Dolphin Tale is the kind of unashamedly old fashioned filmmaking that doesn’t seem to happen much these days. Whilst the filmmakers have changed parts of the story for dramatic effect, the underlying message of hope and courage that the story of Winter the dolphin offers will warm even the hardest heart.
The region free 1080p/24 Blu-ray of Dolphin Tale includes both the 2D version of the film and the 3D version of the film on separate discs. The film was shot in native 3D at a resolution of 2K using dual Red One cameras and both versions are framed at the film's theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and encoded using the AVC codec for the 2D version and MVC codec for the 3D version. The overall image quality is very good and it has a pleasingly film-like quality, despite its digital origins. Whilst the use of 3D is hardly vital to the story and does rather feel like a gimmick, the good news is that the native 3D is great and the film’s bright lighting scheme really lends itself to the format.
The Blu-ray of Dolphin Tale includes the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel soundtrack for both the 2D and 3D versions of the film. Given the nature of the film, no one is expecting any audio pyrotechnics and that’s just as well because they won’t get them. The soundtrack is very front heavy and mostly consists of dialogue and the score. There is very little in the way of LFE action and the surrounds are reserved the occasional atmospheric effect but that's just fine for a family drama about a dolphin with no tail.
Whilst the special features are modest and some seem to have absolutely no connection with the film, the short documentary about the real Winter and the people who saved her makes for a superb companion piece to the film itself. Ultimately, Dolphin Tale is a wonderful film for the whole family and if you aren’t shedding a tear by the end, you have no soul.
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