Helvetica Blu-ray Review
PicturePresented here with a 1.78:1 image, the transfer (encoded via MPEG-2) for Helvetica is everything that a full 1080p picture should be - detailed, crisp and extremely colourful.Close-ups look amazing, with pixel-perfected reproduction of pores, hairs, spots etc and purely realistic skin-tones. The vast array of city street scenes from around the world, though mainly New York, are absolutely spot-on, with depth, three-dimensionality and detail at a paramount. Long shots of the jam-packed Big Apple are incredibly vibrant and full of finite information - which really draws you into the feel of the piece, definitely proving a point that a documentary about graphic design should look its absolute best. Interiors are always well-lit and suffused with abundant detail. I wouldn't say that I was particularly tempted to let my eyes rove around the paraphernalia of the assorted offices on show, but I can say that titles on the book-spines on shelves, magazine covers and such-like were all very readable.
Although blacks really aren't being tested, they are solid and well presented. Contrast, though good for the most part, does allow whites to run a little hot. But colours are superb. Perhaps the primaries are a bit too saturated and vivid - reds especially seem to announce themselves with neon-lit pride - but this is possibly in-keeping with a documentary about graphic design.
Transfer-wise, Helvetica does have some slight edge enhancement but this does not hamper enjoyment of the image one little bit. There are no troublesome artefacts and for all the bright colours, I saw no banding taking place. Grain is completely absent and the image is extremely clean and crisp and rewarding.
SoundHelvetica has a very decent 2.0 Dolby Digital track that is firmly mixed with ultra-clear dialogue and a very warm, rich and flowing soundtrack that has depth and resonance far beyond that which I expected from a documentary. Hustwit places cues and tracks from bands that he is into throughout the often captivating montages of graphic design as seen in the everyday world at large, and these have a lot of ambient impact, making the documentary more involving and accomplished. The mix is well prioritised with voices never swamped and everything sounding crisp and pleasing.
Beyond this, there really isn't anything that I can say. It sounds great, folks.
ExtrasWith the main feature lasting for 80 minutes, fans of the topic and Hustwit's unorthodox approach to it will no doubt be pleased to discover that the package is embellished with 95 more minutes on the subject. All in the form of extensive interviews with those characters who moved and shaped this curious world, this section was, for me at least, overkill. I have to admit that I couldn't make it through all of this stuff as well. Basically, all of the graphic designers that we have met throughout the main documentary get to express their views of chosen topics such as how they, themselves, may have gotten started in the field, or how they see the impact of various aspects of design upon the modern, ever-changing world around us. I found their opinions witty, incisive and entertaining in the main body of the release, but I feel my own personal threshold had been breached with these extensive further insights. However, what I did see was of an equally intelligent and personal stance and, as such, will be very informative and engaging for those people who want to delve a little deeper into the subject.
So, Helvetica may not have much in the sphere of extra material - I mean what else could they add? - but it does contain more of what really matters to those who cherish such things as the opinions of graphic designers from around the world.
Oh, and there is a personalised introduction to the documentary and its theme from Gary Hustwit in the form of a small booklet, too.
VerdictWell, it's a cinch that Helvetica is hardly going to be a big seller - at least in terms of, say, Pirates Of The Caribbean or Spider-Man 3 on Blu-ray - but its very niche appeal is still going to float the boat of someone out there. I will admit that I had the severest of reservations going in to this, but strangely enough, Gary Hustwit's feature does weave a bizarre little spell, and one that was engaging enough to keep me watching and not in the least tempted to go skipping ahead. However, the subject matter's popularity and interest value are hard to gauge and it would really only be someone who is either studying graphic design or actively engaged in it to find anything of importance or relevance here.
The disc has a fine transfer, too. The image is extremely nice to look at and the relatively simple DD 2.0 track is warm and unafraid. Extras are exactly the kind of thing that suits this presentation - in that they add a lot more detail about the subject by the people involved in it. No EPK drivel here.
Those who are keen on Helvetica may be interested to know that there is a Limited Edition available as well - though I don't know what additions adorn it over this general release version. But, either way, I actually enjoyed this documentary. It hasn't changed my life, but it has given me a new appreciation of something that I see and work with every day ... and that can't be bad, can it?
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