Hugo Review

For this review I'll be concentrating on the disc aspects of the release. For a thorough appraisal of the film I would instead point you to Gavin's earlier review of the cinema release.

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Onto the disc...

EIV's UK Blu-ray release is coded for Region B only and includes both 2D and stereoscopic 3D presentations of the main feature on a single disc. You will of course need a compatible 3D setup (a 3D compatible TV and Blu-ray player) to enjoy the latter option. Sadly I do not, so my thoughts below are strictly based on the 2D presentation.

A dual-layer disc with just 30.71GB used (of an available 50GB), the film uses 21.2GB of that total. This is a MVC 3D encoded disc meaning it contains the two video streams required to present stereoscopic 3D, but when you select the 2D playback mode it ignores the additional information of the second video stream (used to create the 3D effect). This effectively gives you a 2-for-1 presentation and negates the need to release multiple editions, but how does it stack up in terms of quality?

This is my first 3D disc, and while viewing the film in 2D, there was an immediate quirk to the transfer which a little research has identified as 'floating windows'. Apparently these are a method used when projecting 3D movies to enhance the experience. They are probably best described as moving borders on the sides of the image and appear similar to window-boxing you might see on some DVD transfers, only the size of the black borders on the sides of the screen adjusts according to the scene and 3D effect the filmmaker is aiming for. In Hugo's case this effect has transferred over to the home, and for us simple 2D folk, is an unnecessary quirk present due to the hybrid 2D/3D disc option selected here by EIV.

In the grand scheme of things it's not that troublesome, the majority will probably barely notice it after a few short minutes as the changes in border size are minor and not that frequent. For those it really annoys you could (but obviously shouldn't have to) turn overscan back on (as you'll likely only see this issue if you've selected 1:1 / Screen Fit / Full Pixel mode on your display in the first place). Personally speaking the window-boxing jumped out immediately (the film is roughly 1.80:1 aspect ratio, so should fill the screen with only minor borders top and bottom) and I soon noticed the roving side borders during the opening minutes, but once I started focussing on the film I never took any notice of these 'floating windows', nor did they distract me.

Onto the quality of transfer, Hugo is a visually sumptuous film thanks to beautiful production design and frequently adventurous and eye-catching use of the camera. This, combined with the use of 3D cameras to capture the action, leads to a very crisp and detailed image where you can literally pick out specks of dust in scenes. Also worth noting is how warm the colours are in Hugo, with the interiors of the train station often basked in a temperate sunlight which makes this a very inviting film. The transfer copes very well with all of these aspects, maintaining a high level of detail and boasting some incredible depth even in the 2D version, all of which leads to a very striking home rendition of the film. There is no edge enhancement or other digital tampering on display, but on occasion there are (if you really look for them) some minor hints of artefacting within lighting gradients and also within some of the deeper blacks that occasionally make up the picture.

One final note on the transfer is the presence of some blurring on either side of the frame within some of the flashback sequences. This is potentially another side-effect of the 3D, as the effect draws focus to the centre of the screen so could very well be intentional. It's literally present for maybe 2-3 minutes of the total runtime (if that) but for the more detail attentive viewers it will likely jump out at you.

In terms of audio we get a sole English 7.1 DTS-HD MA lossless offering with a 5.1 DTS Surround core. The soundtrack fills the surrounds while dialogue and effects are well balanced and positioned to create a real sense of environment throughout the film. As you would expect from such a recent production the recording is crystal clear and much like the visual temperature this is a very warm soundtrack. Beyond the lovely use of clock mechanisms turning and a few key sequences however there isn't much here to really give your system a workout, but that's down to the film rather than a slight against the audio track.

Thankfully the audio requires just the one note regarding potential issues - and it's a minor one - just that whenever I started the film or paused/resumed I would get a pop from my speakers so just in case, make sure your amp isn't set too loud.

Finally there are English SDH subtitles for the main feature.

In terms of extras there are 5 featurettes on the disc which combined run just short of an hour. They are all presented in 1080/24 and look great, on the downside however there are no subtitles provided. The opening featurette didn't exactly fill me with hope, a fairly standard making-of piece with lots of film clips and very positive talking-heads. The main cast and crew are all present, and although somewhat perfunctory in nature it's not all that bad on the whole, it just has no real meat. Fortunately the next featurette - The Mechanical Man At the Heart of Hugo - is quite fascinating as it provides a potted history of automatons - ones similar to the little robot man in the film which draws amazing pictures. It's staggering to learn that intricate and inspired machinery such as that seen in the film was brought to life not just in the here and now for a film production, but that it was also around over a century ago. Similarly one of the other featurettes - The Cinemagician, Georges Melies - provides insight to Georges Melies complete with lots of surviving footage from his films. It's another wonderful piece but is somewhat overshadowed by the disc's main feature given Hugo is essentially one big history lesson on the origin of modern films and in particular Georges Melies. Rounding out the disc are two shorter pieces, one which looks at the production of the special effects for a key sequence in the film and another which focuses on Sacha Baron Cohen and is basically a comedy piece suggesting Cohen didn't pay any attention to Scorsese and did what he pleased on the set. It's not that funny, but it's also not that long.

There are no trailers for Hugo present on the disc, but there is a trailer for The Artist which plays when you pop the disc in your player.

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