Surf's Up Blu-ray Review
PictureWell, this section could provoke some debate - so before I start presenting my opinion let me get the salient facts out of the way. The transfer on this disc is presented in a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode. There we go, no-one can argue with that. Now, it's time to get my flack jacket on.
This film is really quite unusual for an animation. Considering it is shot in a documentary style, the filmmakers have gone out of their way to make the animation look like a documentary. Therefore they had gone all “300” on us, and presented a film with deliberate imperfections (see still number six in the gallery for an example).
This means, for example, grain - and lots of it. Not in every scene, admittedly, but it is there in quite a few of them. They also present some “archive” scenes that are deliberately discoloured and scratchy, and some scenes that looked washed out or tinted.
Let me make it quite clear, though. All this is as the Director intended. And I will not mark a transfer down for representing the true artistic intentions. Therefore, this transfer gets top marks from me on every level.
The animation is beautifully rendered in this transfer, and the sense of depth is realistic. The water looks photorealistic (I hate that word, but what else can I say here?), and colours are vibrant and punchy. Some of the scenes, particularly the ones at sunset, look beautiful - almost like a painting.
Yes, imperfections appear - but they are deliberate and add to the charm of the whole endeavour. Even when these appear, the film always manages to be a notable hi def experience.
I do not believe in a perfect ten mark, but this transfer comes awfully close to that. Very impressive indeed.
SoundWe are provided here with an uncompressed PCM 5.1 track, and a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. For the purposes of this review I listened to the latter.
The first problem I noticed with this track was the imbalance between the quiet dialogue scenes and the louder action and music scenes. It quite upset the five year old. One moment, she complained that she couldn't hear what they were saying, the next she had her hands over her ears crying that it was too loud. Whilst I wasn't quite at her extreme - I did feel that there was something slightly wrong with the balance here.
Perhaps some of this is to do with the ever-active surround speakers. Being an animated movie, full use of the whole sound field is made, leaving me to adjust individual channels in order to achieve a better balance.
Once this was done, however, the full majesty of this soundtrack began to reveal itself. The rears are used very well throughout the whole film, whether it be crowd scenes, the swell of the ocean, or the pounding of the waves.
I did feel however that both the front and the back channels did lack stereo separation. There seemed to be very little left and right action on either. This meant that whilst you get a nice sense of front and rear, the sound field never really seems to open up and give a truly room filling experience. The sub also did not get the work out that I expected.
However, the surrounds are always active, and do prevent a certain sense of immersion. Maybe I had been spoilt with the quality of the soundtracks that I have recently been presented with. This is not a bad soundtrack, and is certainly active. I just felt it could have been a lot better.
ExtrasOnce you have got to grips with one of the worst designed Blu-ray menus I have yet seen - a nice mixture of kid friendly and more adult material presents itself here.
I started off with two shorts, one of which was Oscar nominated. The ChubbChubbs was absolutely hysterical. Running only a few minutes long, this manages to contain more laughs than many full length comedies. Managing to take swipes at Star Wars, ET, and Alien along the way, this is a film geek's wet dream. I loved it. The sequel which was made especially for this disc The ChubbChubbs save Christmas is rather less successful - although it does have a lot to live up to. The problem with the second one is that it tries to shoehorn too much into its short running time.
Once I had watched these a second time, I then moved on to the meat of the extras - the documentary All Together Now: The Surf's Up Voice Sessions. This is a very interesting look at how the voice tracks were laid down, and is quite an eye opener. It is particularly enjoyable seeing Bridges in the studio, and all the actor's are also filmed in separate interviews as well. Lasting 17 minutes, this is very interesting indeed.
Not a Single Drop Of Real Water is a 28 minute behind the scenes documentary which offers a genuinely interesting look at how the film was constructed. Notable for a lack of flannel and self congratulation - this is a worthy documentary that proves to be very enjoyable.
Then we come to the more disappointing areas. Arnold's Zurfinary features arguably the film's cutest character talking us through surfing terms. Meet the Penguins shows us the real animals used to help the animators and is far too short at only four minutes.
Then we get two Photo Galleries that can be operated manually or watched as a slideshow, and some deleted scenes that are presented in hand drawn form.
Finally we have two commentaries. The first is a Director's Commentary which talks a lot about the technical side of the film - but I found it rather dull and uninspiring. This disc gets an exclusive Visual Effects commentary which is a little more interesting, but is VERY technical.
Finally we get a Lauryn Hill Music Video
VerdictIt's another Penguin animated movie. But coming out of the blue with very little hype - this one is actually very good. Probably skewing to the older demographic, the film takes a reality documentary approach to covering a young penguin who is leaving his home to take part in an international surf competition.
The film is presented with an excellent transfer, reasonable sound, and an extensive pack of extras. If your household has toddlers, they will not appreciate this - but older children and adults will have an absolute blast.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.16
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