True Blood-Complete Second Season (Blu-ray) (2008)
Menu Animation & Audio
Active Subtitle Track-Enhanced Viewing Mode
|Year Of Production||2008|
|Running Time||646:27 (Case: 660)|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Multi Disc Set (5)
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French dts 5.1
Spanish dts 2.0
English Audio Commentary dts 2.0
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
English Audio Commentary
English for the Hearing Impaired
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In the aforementioned months, I began reading up on the source materials the series is based upon: the Southern Vampire Mysteries series by Charlaine Harris. The basic premise of the two entities is identical. A group of Japanese scientists discover a means to synthesise blood, with the intention of making a substitute for blood donation. Shortly thereafter, Vampires appear on television proclaiming their desire to a) integrate themselves more with mainstream society and b) have their civil rights respected in the same way that most middle class white folk take for granted.
Where True Blood differs from Dead Before Dark and its sequels is in fine details. One of the best of which is in the character of Lafayette Renolds (Nelsan Ellis). In the novels, he is mentioned a number of times you could count on your fingers before being killed for opening his mouth around the wrong people. Other examples exist, of course, too numerous to effectively catalogue here and only of interest to people who have both read the novels and watched the series.
The story is told mostly from the perspective of a waitress named Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin in one of her best performances to date, which is saying quite a lot). Sookie used to think she was disabled because she could hear the thoughts of everyone around her, until a Vampire named Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) comes into the diner she works at. After saving Bill from a pair of thugs who wish to drain his blood to sell as a kind of recreational drug, Sookie is slowly but surely drawn further into the world of the Vampires, along with all the excitement and danger it entails.
Like the previous season, True Blood take two has an overarching plot consisting of threads that seem disparate at first but eventually converge into something spectacular.
The first thread I shall mention will give the ending of season one away, so please do not highlight the next couple of sentences if this is a problem for you. (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) After getting drunk at Merlotte's and having a good whinge, Detective Andy Bellefleur (Chris Bauer) tries to go to his car. With Sookie and Tara (Rutina Wesley) in tow trying to stop him, he opens his car door to find the feet of a dead body falling out.
Meanwhile, Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) has got Jesus in a big way after being hounded for the murders of several women who just happened to love Vampires in the area. After coming into a bit of cash by means that I will not describe here, he joins a training camp to become a soldier for one Vampire-hate cult.
As it so happens, the Vampire who made Eric Northman (Alexander Skarsgård) a Vampire is now missing. Normally, this would not be such a big deal, except to have made Eric a Vampire, said Vampire would need to be at least a thousand years of age now himself. Intelligence has it that said Vampire, Godric (Allan Hyde), is in the custody of the aforementioned cult, and did not go willingly. For a Vampire of this age and power to be taken by Humans by force, they would need to muster about the same kind of force that only the U.S. Army can presently deliver. Needless to say, this is a worrying sign to the Vampires.
Meanwhile, that kind lady from the end of the last season who came to help Tara Thornton? Turns out she is not so kind-hearted at all, really. With the powers of mass-hypnosis and a sort of weird shapeshifting, Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes) turns out to have quite the thing for Sam Merlotte (Sam Trammell). And she does not mind getting the entire rest of the town involved, if need be.
This is a statement I will never get tired of repeating, but if you have seen True Blood on any medium other than Blu-ray Disc before, you have not really seen it at all. About halfway through the series, one other Vampire remarks to Eric that everything seems urgent to we Humans. The wait for this set of Blu-ray Discs was among the three most urgent things of the year for me, and the plot has justified it a hundred fold.
According to the IMDB's technical specifications, True Blood is shot using the Super 35 process, which uses about three quarters the resolution of 35mm film (give or take). I say this because it makes me wish I could go back in time and tell some producers that shooting on such media as analogue video was not such a bright idea.
True Blood is presented in an approximate 1.78:1 aspect ratio within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window.
This transfer is sharp. Details leap out of the screen like no other medium can offer. The depth of field is somewhat limited at times, but this seems to have been an artistic choice. Shadow detail, as you might expect in a production where many characters can only come out at night, is excellent. No low-level noise is evident in the transfer, and grain is only a truly significant issue during the opening credits montage.
The colours in the show tend to have a muted, dull palette, with browns, reds, and greens to a lesser extent, dominating. The transfer captures the colour schemes intended without any bleeding or misregistration evident (except during the aforementioned opening credits montage, where these artefacts are in various abundance).
The transfer is compressed with the AVCHD video codec, with a typical bitrate being between the mid teens and mid twenties. No compression artefacts are visible. The only film to video artefacts, as one should expect of a progressive transfer, is the occasional wobble that in fact was more likely introduced at the photography stage. No film artefacts are evident save for during the opening credits montage.
Subtitles are offered in both English and English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched about half of the series with the latter turned on, and half without. These subtitles are very accurate to the spoken word, and well-timed. The only problem with them is that occasionally they will appear against a light-coloured background such as Godric's shirt, and be consequently unreadable.
The packaging states that each disc in this set is dual-layered. If there is a layer transition during the episodes, I have not noticed it.
All of the episodes on this five-disc set are presented with a choice of three soundtracks. The first is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, which happens to be the default. Dubs are also offered in French DTS Digital Surround 5.1 and Spanish DTS Digital Surround 2.0, the latter of which I briefly compared for curiosity's sake. Six episodes are offered with audio commentary by various production staff and actors in DTS Digital 2.0, which sounds like stereo. The last of these episodes, Beyond Here Lies Nothing, is offered with two such tracks.
Without the subtitles enabled, the dialogue is generally quite clear and easy to understand. Occasionally utterances are more difficult to make out, but not so much so that this detracts from the programme. Lines are occasionally spoken in French, Spanish, and Swedish. These are accompanied by a dedicated subtitle track that is turned on by default, and sound quite clear in spite of my not being able to understand them without said subtitles. No distortion or problems with audio sync are evident.
The music consists of a few preexisting numbers during the credits or as incidental music. Score music by Nathan Barr makes up the rest of the music, and it is incredibly well-matched to the visuals. Music this well-matched to the visuals is very rare outside of the Star Wars series. The lossless soundtrack makes it even better.
The surround channels are aggressively utilised, but not in an obnoxious fashion, to spread the music and directional effects around the listener. Environmental effects come through beautifully in any outdoor sequence, and there is even the occasional startling use of dialogue reflection in the surrounds for good measure. There is one particular sound effect when the villain uses one of her powers in episode ten at 28:31 that is intended to convey extreme distress on the victims' part and can be quite excruciating for people who have hearing peculiarities like Audio Processing Disorder (like, for example, me). Putting aside my disappointment that the makers did not upgrade the soundtrack to 7.1 channels for this season (and possibly for a reason, more on that anon), this is a classic example of why I made the switch to BD.
The subwoofer is moderately utilised to support gunfire, punches, and other bass-heavy effects. Although it is more noticeable due to having more slack time than the surrounds, it is still well-integrated with the rest of the soundtrack, and truly enhances the listening experience.
|Surround Channel Use|
When I reviewed the first season of True Blood, I had two real complaints. One was the cardboard packaging. The other was the annoying presentation of most of the extras. The former has been rectified quite well, if not quite ideally. The latter is still something of an issue, but to a far reduced extent.
The menu follows an identical theme to the previous season boxed set, although the faces and shots used to comprise the theme are different. Watching it on a 42" set, the menus are still near-unreadable. They are slightly more readable with my pixel-ised eyesight on a 50" screen, but the menu still could stand to be improved a bit.
As with the previous season, featurettes offering recaps of the previous episode (or season) or previews of the about-to-be-watched episode are offered with 1.78:1 high-def (but oddly, 60Hz rather than 24P) video transfers and (sadly) lossy DTS 2.0 audio. These come in handy if you are trying to share the joys of True Blood with friends or family and are not entirely sure which episode you are up to watching with them.
Audio Commentaries are offered in DTS 2.0 for the following episodes:
Here is a test for readers out there: guess which of these commentaries is my favourite. If you guess correctly, you are able to spot the obvious. ;)
All twelve episodes feature a picture-in-picture track in which comments, featurettes, and other extras that would work better separately have been wedged. I am sure nobody would be surprised to know that I feel the Enhanced in the name of this extra is a major misnomer. About the only inclusion in this track that makes it worthwhile is the textual commentaries, delivered in character, from the Vampire Rights League and Fellowship Of The Sun.
On the back cover, some of the featurettes placed in this track are described with "Receive news updates and information from both organisations throughout the episode and decide which camp you support." Well, DUH!
This is why disc five has but one episode contained on it: the total running length of these character perspective featurettes is two hours, two minutes, and thirteen seconds. Ordinarily, this would come across as a complete waste of time, but this is True Blood we are talking about. This is presented in a sort of interview style with the questions cut out. The actors answer said questions in character, with the characters being Hoyt (one of Jason's workmates), Pam (Eric's second-in-charge), Karl (Maryann's butler-dogsbody), and Steve Newlin (the villain whose head would doubtless grace the hood of my car in another life).
A Play All option is also included for good measure. Seeing Pam answer questions regarding other characters as only Pam would is worth the price of admission on its own. The only problem being that the answers are short enough and the video transitions so annoying that it makes length viewing sessions a bit of a chore. Only a bit, though.
Sharp viewers will note that these featurettes essentially are repetitions of what the characters say during the picture in picture tracks on the episodes. Since my current player greets me with dead silence from that track if I have it configured to output 7.1 channel audio, I suspect that complaints about this from the first season discs is the reason these mock-interviews have been duplicated as a separate featurette this time. Not the most ideal solution, but better than expecting the viewer to switch their players back and forth between audio output modes.
Twelve minutes and fourteen seconds of crap that, had I not known the characters participating were fictional, would be putting the actors in severe danger. The featurette is divided into four segments that are presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, high definition, with DTS 2.0 stereo audio.
Oh, and by the way, Steve, stuffed owls rot with time, too. If HBO really wanted us to watch these featurettes and "decide which camp 'we' support", this featurette has irrevocably cocked that process up. The saddest part is that you could go onto YouTube anytime you wish and find repulsive people who wish to destroy others for not being enough like them that these "PSAs" (for want of a better term) are eerily reminiscent of. (A note here for the dense: This does not necessarily reflect the entertainment value of the featurette. Only that it was very successful in convincing me that I was watching material made by the Fellowship Of The Sun as opposed to a bunch of actors.)
Also presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with DTS 2.0 stereo audio, this twenty-three minute, fifty second featurette is all about what the Vampires have to say about current events relating to them. Ever wondered how a Vampire soap opera would look? Or how a Vampire would perform in a sporting competition? I could watch this featurette all day.
There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region A version of this set has a projected release date of May 25 this year. Information about the discs' specifications is scarce at present, but previous experience with HBO titles would suggest the two releases will be more or less identical. Previous experience with television shows on optical disc more strongly suggests that importing this title from Region A will be incredibly expensive.
One concern regarding the content aside, which is awaiting confirmation, there is no real reason to favour one disc over the other.
I waited months and drove the poor staffers at the local JB Hi-Fi bonkers with queries during my months-long wait for True Blood's second season. The wait to see it in its best possible form was well worth it from both a quality and entertainment point of view. There are people who regard the show as being among the best on television. Considering that they are letting what I call Oh No, It's Saturday back on the air, I do not believe the competition is all that fierce, but the standard set by True Blood is akin to that set by V (the real V, I mean) or Doctor Who (the real Doctor Who, I mean). It is too high to describe in words.
The video transfer is immaculate.
The audio transfer is excellent.
The extras are comprehensive, if slightly limited in number. For the fifty-five dollars I spent in total for this title, I feel I got more than my money's worth. I cannot recommend this set highly enough - I consider it a contender for the Hall Of Fame.
|DVD||Sony BDP-S350, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer|