L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Lost: The Complete First Season (The High Definition Collection) [Blu-ray]

 

(J.J. Abrams, Jack Bender, et al, 2004)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: ABC Studios

Blu-ray: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: approx.

Chapters: 24

Size: 50 GB

Case: Expanded Blu-ray case w/double-sided flippages & slipcover

Release date: June 16, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 30 Mbps

 

Audio:

English 5.1 Uncompressed (48kHz/16-bit)

 

Subtitles:

English & French Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentaries by the series producers and cast.

• Lost Flashbacks – in SD (4:35)

• Welcome to Oahu – in SD (33:20)

• The Genesis of Lost – in SD (8:40)

• Lost on Location – in SD (44:10)

• Designing a Disaster – in SD (8:00)

• Before They Were Lost – in SD (22:55)

• Audition Tapes – in SD (22:34)

• The Art of Matthew Fox – in SD (6:07)

• Deleted Scenes – in SD (14:41)

• Bloopers – SD (4:16)

• Backstage with Drive Shaft – in SD (6:40)

• Live from the Museum of Television & Radio – in SD (10:56)

• On Set with Jimmy Kimmel – in SD (7:15)

• Flashbacks & Mythology – in SD (7:28)

 

 

The Film:

Lost: Season 1 ~ Comment
The short review is: Lost Season One in Blu-ray is like the DVD, only more so –much more so for the audio, not so much for the image. The extra features are pretty much the same, and they're still in standard definition. So if you were waiting for the ultimate HD experience, this is not it. On the other hand, whether you've seen this series only on TV broadcast, or TIVO or on DVD, nothing compares to the Blu-ray experience in terms of picture or sound.

We can understand, if not forgive Disney's decision to kick-off their Lost series on high-def in the middle of things with Season 3, timed for release as the writers' strike was delaying the airing of season four. That season followed on Blu-ray a year later. And now that Disney has made available the missing first two seasons (plus an announcement of season five on Blu-ray by the end of this year), there is really no excuse not to scoop up all four on HD.

Lost: Season One ~ The Score Card

The Season : 10
For those three or four of you who have been lost in television's wasteland for the past five years rather than lost on the island, here's the deal: Oceanic Airlines flight 815 has just come apart in the sky above a remote and, as we come to find out, uncharted island in the South Pacific. A few dozen survivors try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives as they hold out hope for a rescue. A few days into their stay (which, by the way, is weeks, not years, by the end of the fourth season), they learn two very important things: they are not alone on this island, and the island itself has strange, even miraculous properties that affect both their health and their perception of time.

It is this last feature that becomes the structure for the series, as each episode fleshes out one or more of the survivors in flashback while, at the same time, advancing their adventures on the island. It isn't letting any cats out of bags to divulge that beginning with season four, there are both flash-forwards and backs as the idea is made clear (especially through Desmond) that time is of the essence.

 

 


The remarkable thing about Lost is how it takes its time to reveal itself and its characters. (The "Others," who share the island with the Survivors, don't even reveal themselves until the end of the second season.) On the one hand, we get to know our adventurers only in fragments that, save a familiar music cue, appear without warning throughout every episode. These fragments might take us and them back to the day before the crash, or years. We see what shaped their character and, in many cases, how they rubbed up against each other, often unremarkably, before the flight. The adventure on the island, on the other hand, is told in frantic arcs of only a day or so per episode. The pacing, like its time shifting, is all part of what makes the series work the way it does.

Then there are the characters themselves, and the actors who inhabit them. As with any good disaster movie, every character is a reflection of a part of ourselves, and we identify with this one or that, regardless of gender, often changing our feeling about them as we see how their history leads them to face the island's challenges. If the writers are doing their job, we are given the opportunity to ask relevant ethical questions about ourselves through our surrogates on the island. The situation may be fantastical, but the emotional and behavioral interplay is not. There are no Kim Bauers here, and no couple of seasons treading water while the writers and producers try to find out what this series is about.


 

Image: 7/8
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

I don't know why there is such a dramatic improvement of image from season two on, but whatever the reason, blacks are a little crushed and contrast is more out of control in season one, especially for the pilot episode. There's an unfilmlike medium grain and a fuzziness that pervades. We might not take notice much because the action is so intense, but compared to the second season, the difference isn't very subtle.

The DVD was pretty good to start with - not much in the way of distracting artifacts, fuzzy and a little dark, but, alas, the Blu-ray is not astonishingly better. The fuzziness and grain is still there. The blacks are still crushed and mid-tones seem a little leeched. I might go so far as to say that there is a greater difference between the high def presentation of seasons one and two than between the DVD and Blu-ray of season one. A crushing disappointment! But, wait. Once in motion, we see something not apparent in our caps: the high def picture has an extraordinary density that makes even the sand on the beach come to life. Every surface and texture has a tangibility to it that is surprising, especially considering the basic faults of the image. It's not only all those rugged close-ups of the guys and the smooth skin of the gals, but the leaves on the trees, a golf ball, a cable, the water in a pond – these all have a life that is only suggested on the DVD.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/9
The image may have its problems, but not the audio. It is the uncompressed audio mix – at last, the default track – that is truly mind-boggling in comparison to the DVD. It's hard to believe these both started life from the same genome. Now we have an audio mix that fully complements Lost's vivid photography. Dialogue is crisper and has focus, size and shape that move the action forward as well. Ambient jungle noises, background surf, rain, the whispers of the Others it's all there now. The "Monster" has a presence that is as scary as its name. Now we can hear and feel why the survivors resist a casual exploration of the island, something I used to wonder about. Michael Giacchino's Emmy award-winning percussive score is perfectly threaded into the effects with the dramatic impact it has long deserved. The only thing we could have hoped for is that the crash scene that Jack comes on in the very beginning has more dynamic power. It's much better than it was, but perhaps too much reality at this point would have frightened the neighbors and prevented you from ever getting on a plane again.

 

 

 

Operations: 8
The menus may look much the same as the DVD and the Blu-rays for seasons 3 and 4, and they are, with one interesting addition. SeasonPlay is with us again, which allows bookmarking of where we exited the disc and return to the same place, but now SeasonPlay adds several viewer capability. It seems cumbersome at first if you're not a gamester or if you don't need to sign in, but hit Return when prompted. No pain. There is also Play All capability for groups of bonus features. Nice.

 

 

Extras: 7
The Blu-ray offers no new bonus features beyond what we already know from the 2005 DVD, nor are the features presented in HD. They do look noticeably better, however – I observed higher bit rates, around 7 Mbps instead of 2. "Backstage with Drive Shaft" is a particular beneficiary. The features have all been reviewed elsewhere, so just a few brief comments for now:

You'll want to begin at the beginning with "The Genesis of Lost" where ABC exec's discuss how the series took shape from a pre-pitch idea for a series about castaways. Then "Designing a Disaster" offers perspective to how much effort went into the production: much more interesting than your usual EPK treatment. And wait til you see how they sorted out the pieces of the crashed plane. "Before They Were Lost" looks at cast members before they were cast. The commentaries for the two-part pilot features J.J. Abrams, the initial creative force behind the series and the director of the pilot. Each commentary is a roundtable discussion, though there is the occasional contributor threaded in remotely. These are all worth your time.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
A compromised image, yes. But short of a restoration, this is probably the best we can expect from Season One. (In terms of image, Season Two is much better.) The audio is excellent, however. Highly recommended despite the lack of new or HD features. Lost may be the best of its kind out there, and rich enough in plot and character to enjoy repeated viewings.

Leonard Norwitz
June 6, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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