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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D Blu-ray Review

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by Simon Crust Mar 30, 2012

  • Movies review


    The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £29.99


    The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p 3D transfer and is Region Free.

    Shot digitally and in native 3D the picture for Tintin is quite immaculate.  The attention to detail is astonishing and Spielberg’s eye picks out some stunning looking images with the 3D making the most of the positive parallax rather than stray too far ‘in your face’, giving even more realism to the proceedings – but as an overall 3D experience it doesn’t quite have that ‘wow’ factor to make it stand out.  What it does have is incredible dimensionality to characters and objects in 3D space; just take a look at how ‘round’ the characters are, how far Captain Haddock’s nose protrudes out from his face; how high Tintin’s hair sticks up, how the bowler hats of the two Thompson’s sit on their heads or how Sakharine’s facial hair sticks out from his mouth – in essence these characters are solid entities with ‘real’ features.  And when placed solidly in 3D environments there is clear and tangible distance between them and their surroundings - look at how Tintin moves around his apartment, or how he and Haddock vie for space in the Captain’s cabin.  Out in the wider world the environments are just as spectacular, look how Tintin negotiates through the market town before buying the model ship, or his flight over Bagghar on the gradually disintegrating motorcycle, or he and Haddock’s escape through the narrow corridors of the ship.  Seldom does a 3D film encapsulate such real ‘space’ as is being demonstrated with this picture and while that is a positive boon, it is also to the picture’s slight detriment.  Let me explain what I mean, 3D needs to be a immersive experience, you need to be in the picture to fully appreciate how good the effects can be; very few films actually achieve this mythical status, Avatar, Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 are probably the best examples. Then there is Resident Evil: Afterlife that uses ‘hyper-real’ or exaggerated 3D to terrific effect.  But perhaps best of them all is Hugo, a film that uses 3D to draw the audience into the picture and as such it becomes part of the story telling mechanism – all these examples are ‘wow 3D’ and typify how amazing the format can be and what it can achieve.  Tintin, on the other hand, is concerned with realism; its 3D is all about depth into the frame, laudable as that is, and incredible as the effect looks, it doesn’t quite have that ‘wow 3D’ immersion.  Negative parallax is kept to a minimum with the likes of the Thompson’s canes or water and glass coming out of the screen, but one could argue that Tintin is exactly the type of film that deserves some in your face effects.  Framing was clearly considered with 3D in mind; with some nice extreme foreground reference points enabling plenty of middle to background distance giving plenty of depth.  The action scenes are all well constructed and not so fast that the brain is unable to cope with the depth perception; i.e. even when frantic the 3D effect was still good.

    The rest of the picture is absolutely first class with an attention to detail that no other digital animated film has yet achieved, there were isolated scenes which looked like live action.  Finite detail is exquisite, take a look at how skin is rendered, pores, hairs, freckles and other marks are all clear and precise, clothing is given clear weaves, Snowy’s fur contains individual strands, eyes are watery and clean and, unlike other motion capture films, because of the stylised nature of the cartoons, do not have that ‘ghoul’ look that is so often the case.  Metal has a sheen, wood has grain, leather has texture and water, water looks absolutely real and wet.  Incredible.

    Colours are bold and bright and, at times, leap off the screen.  Reds are vivid, greens are lush and blues are moody with no hint of wash or bleed.  Gradation was extremely good with nigh on any banding visible.  The ‘lighting’ of the animation is simply the best I have ever seen.

    Contrast and brightness are set to give very decent blacks (with the usual 3D caveat) that help promote the depth, contain shadow detail when needed, but crucially still allow the 3D effect to work without ruining the effect.

    Digitally there were neither compression problems nor any edge enhancement and, being digital, no grain either.  Using passive technology there was no crosstalk and only the faintest aliasing to contend with.  The 2D image is clearly reference, but the 3D does have me in a quandary, it is extremely good with plenty of depth, and, I guess, had I not seen Hugo I would award a nine, however, with that clear reference point I have to award an eight.

    The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D Picture


    The track I worked with was the English dts-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround.  Much like the picture the surround track tries to emulate real life to the detriment of total immersion, however there is plenty to admire in a track that is clearly absorbing and dynamic.  Stereo effects come thick and fast throughout the runtime, be it traffic in the busy European streets, the waves lapping at the sides of the dingy or wind, thunder and rain whipping the monoplane into a frenzy.  Indeed the surround speakers are seldom at rest providing, as they do, plenty of ambience to the proceedings.  Bass, unfortunately, is a little bit light, with LF effects being very few and far between, but the track has superior directionality with the rear and surround speakers which pipe up plenty of times in its goal for reality.  The score utilises all the speakers and does place you in the centre of the action.  Dialogue is clear and precise, sounds very natural and has plenty of directionality, front and rear.  In all this is a superior surround track that will give your system a good workout, even if the bass is slightly lacking.

    The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D Sound


    All the extras are to be found on the 2D Blu-ray using the play all function run to an impressive feature length (1.36.20, HD) making of documentary; each chapter is titled and can be watched individually if so desired, the details of which are below.

    • Toasting Tintin: Part 1 – Spielberg toasts the beginning of principal photography, i.e. the performance capture aspect, and wishes everyone well; date is 23 January 2009.
    • The Journey to Tintin – A look at how the story came about with reference to the original comic books, both Jackson and Spielberg’s fascination with them, the extensive (twenty year!) gestation period and how all the elements needed (i.e. development of the performance capture rigs and enhanced computer animation) to bring the film together took place.
    • The World of Tintin – Delves into the background of Tintin’s origins, Hergé's original drawings and stories, and a looks at all the main cast and crews memory (or not) of them, and how the film’s story developed with close attention to detail of the original artwork and ethics.  Plenty of interviews with cast, crew, screen writers and a Hergé biographer.
    • The Who’s Who of Tintin – An examination of the main characters of the original Tintin books, their place in the Tintin universe, and how the cast was chosen to portray them in the film.
    • Tintin: Conceptual Design – Details the design of the film, how to keep Hergé's original ideas and look but transpose it to the cinematic form; clearly the printed page had a huge influence as can be seen by certain scenes being lifted wholesale!
    • Tintin: In the Volume – The name given to the 3D space in which all the performance capture was filmed.  Here we examine how the motion capture was filmed, the suites needed, the special facial cameras, the wire frame sets and props, the cameras, the virtual camera and all the new techniques developed bring the film to life.  Plenty of behind the scenes filming and interviews with all concerned.
    • Snowy: From Beginning to End – A discussion of Tintin’s faithful companion and how his design was influenced and finally decided upon, including the different models used in the performance capture suite through to final computerised from.
    • Animating Tintin – A detailed look at turning the performance capture into the final animated film, including the practical models built upon which the final computer images are rendered.
    • Tintin: The Score – Interview with stalwart John Williams, who is definitely getting on a bit now, as he discussed his influences and how he achieved his final score, including how much of it was written before the film was complete.
    • Collecting Tintin – Looks at the various bits of merchandise associated with the film concentrated on the figurines.
    • Toasting Tintin Part 2 – Very similar to Part 1, only in this case it’s for the close of principal photography completed on 15th September 2009.
    • 2D Blu-ray
    • DVD and Digital Copy

    The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn 3D Extras


    The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn is Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s imaging of Hergé' original comic book adventurer, which retells three of the original texts as a ‘boy’s own’ action adventure.  All the main characters are well realised and the performance capture really adds to the overall look and feel since it enabled the original character designs to remain, more or less, intact.  And being in the digital realm only imagination was the limiting factor to the scope, luckily both Spielberg and Jackson were able to transfer their imaginations to the screen in what is a superior looking film that is well paced and simply bursting at the seams with action.  Unfortunately a distinct lack of character development means that we, the audience, are reduced to mere spectators of the, admittedly stunning looking, action and seldom a part of it, despite the engaging use of 3D.  It just goes to show that two master directors who have collaborated to produce an incredible looking piece of cinematic wonder can still fall at the simple fact that we need characters to care about if a simple story is to succeed – relying on the audiences knowledge of said characters due to a huge amount of character history simply won’t work.  And I for one not really knowing the character inside out, came away distinctly underwhelmed with what should have been a delightful film.

    As a Region free 3D Blu-ray set, Paramount as put together a reasonable package, the 3D disc is bright, clean and shows a magnitude of depth as it strives for realism and is so near to reference as to be indistinguishable.  The dts-HD MA 5.1 surround track may lack a little bass but its incredible directionality and sense of scale easily give it a reference score.  The 2D Blu-ray, also included, contains a small if very comprehensive set of extras as well as a blistering picture with the same surround track.  For completists there is also a DVD and digital copy making this a clear future proof buy.

    The Rundown



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    Sound Quality






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