PictureThe disc presents a broadcast correct widescreen 1.78:1 1080p transfer using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. Shot with high definition cameras the picture is immaculate, boasting colour definition and detail that looks breathtaking on this Blu-ray format. If only all Blu-ray discs were presented like this.
There is a vibrancy and urgency to the colour pallet, the screen is filled with rich, bright primaries and lush, vivid secondaries. It is the costumes where these colours really shine, with beautiful gradation without a hint of bleed or wash. The sheen of black cloth and the delicate patterns of the material are shown up with an elegance that I have rarely seen before, even on the first season of this show. Truly a joy to see the colours on show, each definite against its neighbour but sweeping within itself. There are simply too many instances to list here, but some notable examples must be the black against black of any of the costumes. Forests and grasslands have a rich green to them, the skies are a deep transcended blue with the stark ruggedness of the grey stone walled buildings set against them.
The detail of the image, too, is quite astonishing, right from the digital aerial shots Hampton Court, or Rome, which I must emphasise are picture card perfect, right down to individual people and flags in pristine clarity, right up to skin defects and clothing weaves. Each whisker on Meyers' chinny chin chin is stark and sharp, the glint of tears in characters eyes, the fur of Thomas More's costume are absolutely pin sharp. Look too at the detail carved into the furniture, or the ornate silver/gold ware that adorns the palaces and the King and Queen themselves. The very intricate nature of the jewels they wear is precisely seen. Middle distance also fairs excellently with the decorated walls and tapestries showing off just how detailed the set designs are for this show.
Brightness is set to give some excellent black levels, with plenty of action happening inside the courts, or the bedrooms, there is plenty of shadow detail with much going on. Again I will bring up the black against black of the clothing, but imagine this in a near pitch room, still there is detail to be seen. Utterly absorbing. Contrast too it set to give some strong bright whites with no hint whatsoever of boosting, check out trees or flagpoles against the cloud lines, as clear as, well, day.
There are no digital problems whatsoever with this print, save the tiniest amount of posterization seen on the red cloth that undulates behind the closing credits - but I'm not marking it down because of that, nor is there any edge enhancement. Being digital there is no grain to report (excepting where it was added intentionally in Anne's flashbacks) nor is there any print damage of any kind. In short this is a fabulous picture that I simply cannot fault and therefore is deserving of a reference score.
SoundOnly one sound track to choose from, an English Doby TrueHD 5.1 surround. What first struck me was how wide the front separation is with the track, this is particularly true of the opening and closing scores. The surround channels provide the ambiance from crowded rooms or galloping horses and thunder, but this is not a full on assault. Instead a rather subtle, gradual, introduction that gives an open feel sound experience and feels far more natural. Tonally the range is wide though the LFE is pretty much reduced to filling out the score, excepting the odd rumble from thunder or, even rarer, gun fire.
Dialogue comes through very natural sounding with some nice reverb when called for and a little directionality too, however this is all steered towards the front left and right, as are most of the effects, discreet or otherwise. But I must stress that this is by no means a dull track, it is expansive and manages to make good use of the three speakers; there is always something going on, be it ambiance (crackle of house fires, street noise, general bustle of the courtiers or, notably, choir singing) or the score and when aided by the surrounds helps to fill out the stage. It won't set your speakers alight, but it will give them plenty to do.
- To Capture a King - 0.07.43
A very short feature in which three university professors discuss the merits of Jonathan Rhys Meyers' portrayal of Henry. Their conclusions are despite the fact that he is physically very different, he manages to capture the mannerisms and presence and was a terrific choice for the part. But we knew that from watching the show didn't we?
- To Play a Pope - 0.08.49
Another short feature, this time an interview with Peter O'Toole, discussing the part of playing Pope Paul III. He comes across as a very learned man, both about his subject and the approach to his craft. A bit too short to gain any real insights, but of the three features this one is the most entertaining.
- Love and Passion in Tudor Times - 0.08.25
The same three university professors discuss the in and outs (literally) of a Tudor court with emphasis on love, marriage, advancement, homosexuality and lust accompanied to many clips for the show. All rather tame and nothing said is of much interest.
For Blu-ray, 21 and Vantage Point
- BD Live
As yet, not working
And that's it I'm afraid, a rather sorry bunch of extras if ever I saw. At least they're all in 1080 HD, but apart from that there is nothing good here; in a show that is covering such tumultuous times surely a fact vs fiction feature is not too much to ask? However it was not to be. Curiously after all the USA licence warning there is a commentary disclaimer, yet there are no commentaries on the discs?
VerdictCreator/writer Michael Hirst has brought history to life like no one before him with a thoroughly engaging and entertaining series. This is far more than the Henry VIII of the history books, the very nature of the man and the time in which he reigned is examined and whilst some is no doubt fanciful the mixing of fact and fiction has never before been so accomplished. The cast is universally excellent as is the set design and overall look is beyond reproach, making for a series that is eminently watchable and appealing. The series works on many levels be it historical drama, intrigue, political or just plane sexual with such strong story lines bringing you back for more. And if it inspires you to look further into the characters and history itself then so much the better.
As a Blu-ray set Sony have really delivered the goods with the stunning picture, this is how the format should always look, sound is very good, if not exceptional, but the extras department is rather lacking. However the series is of a calibre that this can be overlooked and enjoyed for what it is.
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- To Capture a King - 0.07.43