The Blu-ray Patrol is a new FSR column focused on giving you the best insight into upcoming Blu-ray HD format releases. It’s no secret that BD releases are more expensive, so when you are thinking about making the jump in price, you might want to check with us first.

It’s time to get this Blu-ray Patrol party started. Welcome to the newest column here at FSR, one of the first written exclusively, at least for now, by yours truly. And I know how much you all love my opinions, so I’m sure we are setting a course for success. Today’s topic is the upcoming release of Transformers on Blu-ray (BD), which hits shelves on September 2nd. Like many of you, I was one of those early adopters who went out and picked up an HD-DVD player back before “the war” was over, and one of my most coveted titles is Michael Bay’s Transformers. It was the pinnacle of HD video and sound quality, a film that really pushed the limits of what my home theater system has to offer. And now that the format of the foreseeable future has been chosen, Paramount has made the switch, bringing along all of their new titles as well as their most successful: that aforementioned movie with giant robots. But the question is: if I bought Transformers on HD-DVD, do I really need to re-buy it on Blu-ray? That is what we will find out in today’s Blu-ray Patrol.

1080p is 1080p, No Matter How You Slice it…

Months ago I would have argued vehemently on behalf of the HD-DVD format, when it came to extra features, presentation and load time, it was leaps and bounds ahead of BD. But the one argument that I could never win was in the video and sound quality arena — because the fact is that 1080p is 1080p, no matter how you slice it. The Transformers BD release delivers 1080p the exact same way that the HD-DVD version does, so there is no advantage there. Where the BD version does excel is in the audio presentation. The Dolby Digital Plus mix has been upgraded to Dolby True HD for the Blu-ray release, a fact that does deliver a crisper soundtrack — one that probably should have one an Oscar for sound design. And since the sound was one of the things I loved most about Transformers, you can be sure that I was listening closely for differences — and they were there, though only subtly. If you aren’t an audiophile, you probably won’t notice the difference, but either way you should know that the BD stands tall in audio quality.

Special Features Can Make the Difference…

The one thing that I always look for when it comes to assessing a BD title is the amount of extra special features. Aside from the video quality, this is where the consumer can get the most bang for their buck. It irritates me to no end to see an HD release with the same special features as the standard DVD, or in this case the previous HD-DVD release. And with Transformers, we are seeing exactly the same thing. Even the new, highly touted BD-Live features are exactly the same as what we saw with Paramount’s HD Connect on the HD-DVD version. Suffice it to say that this was a disappointment. You mean to tell me that the studio couldn’t have dug up a few more minutes of special features, one extra featurette or ever one more piece of exclusive online content? Thankfully, while these special features are all a carbon copy of the previous release, they didn’t do anything stupid like remove any of them, so those of you who will be picking this up for the first time will still get to see great features such as “More Than Meets the Eye,” an HD featurette that takes an in-depth look at the making of the Skorponok Desert Attack sequence. If you were a fan of the movie, this is one of those things that will truly enhance your experience. The only other BD feature of note is the picture-in-picture commentary from Michael Bay. This is new, but not too terribly impressive, as Bay’s commentary tracks are generally enough to keep me engaged either way.

No More than Meets the Eye…

In the end, while I personally love everything Transformers and will happily shell out money for any and all releases (I am currently up to 4), I still have to give you a very sensible recommendation, do I not? So here we go — if you are one of those folks who waited for the format war to end and skipped over the HD-DVD craze, make sure you add Transformers to your Blu-ray collection. Compared to the standard DVD versions that are out there, it is more than worth it. But if you are like me, someone who already has an HD-DVD copy of Transformers in your collection, I wouldn’t spend the extra money. The BD version is essentially a carbon-copy of the previous release, just with a different format and some blue packaging. In this case, the Blu-ray turned out to be exactly what meets the eye.

For more, check out Transformers on Blu-ray at Amazon.com


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