Jurassic Park

Review by Guido Henkel

Jurassic Park  (1993)
Universal Home Video

Length:        127 mins.
Rated:          PG-13
Format:       Anamorphic Widescreen · 1.85:1
Languages:English, French
Subtitles:    English, Spanish
Extras:        Documentary
                     Pre-production Meetings
                     Storyboards
                     Foley Artists
                     Phil Tippett Animatics
                     Photo Gallery
                     Production Notes
                     Dinosaur Encyclopedia
                     Cast

Has it really been 7 years already? I remember it like yesterday. Hyped up by the buzz about the movie and everything I had read about its incredible special effects, I walked into my local movie theater to watch "Jurassic Park" for the very first time. I had no idea what I was in for and I have never before or since seen a movie that left me so entirely speechless and flabbergasted. From that day on I knew I would never be able to trust my eyes again, as Steven Spielberg and his crew brought to life a menagerie of dinosaurs, as naturally as if we were having a fieldtrip to the zoo. The realism of these creatures on the screen was unbelievable and a new era of filmmaking was dawning. The age of computer generated creatures.

For everyone who has been hiding in a hole for the past 8 years, "Jurassic Park" tells the story of a theme park gone amok. Instead of showing us the "Pirates of the Carribean" or animals from other parts of the world, "Jurassic Park" was designed to present its visitors with the most exotic animal imaginable - live dinosaurs. From Gallimimus to Velociraptors, and from Dilophosaurs to the most ferocious carnivore, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, this park had them all, bred from genetic material found in prehistoric amber. Then the inevitable happens and disaster strikes as a result of a sabotage act, and suddenly these creatures from a lost world are able to leave their compounds, prowling the stormy night on the search of prey. Human prey, if it happens to be around.

A landmark in Hollywood movie history for many reasons, "Jurassic Park" is an adventure that you’re unlikely to forget. Its achievements in the digital realm had been unprecedented and introduced us to an entirely new era of films and filmmaking. The gripping suspense of the movie and the captivating images made it one of the most successful films ever made and interestingly even upon repeat viewing, the movie loses none of its magic. "Jurassic Park" was also the movie that introduced the world to DTS sound and appropriately a separate DVD featuring a DTS audio track will also be available.

The movie is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio in a transfer that is enhanced for 16x9 television sets. The transfer is absolutely clean and free of any sorts of speckles or blemishes. Grain is minimal and limited to a select few daytime outdoor scenes. The transfer boasts a good amount of detail, making "Jurassic Park" a pleasure to watch on this DVD. With its high definition and the superb color balance, this transfer brings the film to life more beautifully than ever before, although it appears a bit soft at times. Deep and solid blacks give the image depth, and especially during the film’s nighttime scenes the level of shadow definition is perfectly maintained. Highlights are bold and strong, yet never over exposed, striking a perfect balance for this presentation. Colors are vividly rendered, and the lush greens of the island, as well as the colorful textures of the flora and fauna are vibrant and perfectly restored on this DVD. Fleshtones are absolutely natural and with the good contrast and the high level of detail found in this transfer, "Jurassic Park" is a feast for the eye. Universal also decided to stay away form edge-enhancement on this transfer, which results in a very film-like look of the movie that is extremely pleasing. The film is always sharp, but never appears harsh and much of the filigree production design is reproduced entirely without distracting artifacts. The compression of the film has been done very carefully, using a very high bitrate and compression artifacts are virtually non-existent.

A special movie deserves a special audio treatment, and this DVD also gets things right in that area. Highly dimensional and with brutal bass extension, "Jurassic Park" will rock your home theater. Not only does the movie make very aggressive use of the split surrounds of the 5.1 format, it also produces a very wide and dimensional soundfield that entirely engulfs the listener. There are scenes where you are quite literally showered with sounds and noise from all directions, making "Jurassic Park" one of the greatest multi-channel presentations. The enormous bass extension drives the size and scope of the film home nicely and the clear high end of the track gives the entire cacophony a beautiful clarity.

Dialogues are well integrated and are always kept at a level where they are intelligible and never drowned out by the heavy ambient sound effects or the music.

John Williams’ beautiful score of the film is presented in all its glory on this disc. Highly dynamic, the DVD registers even the most subtle changes in volume and orchestration, making it a very lively presentation. Timbres and textures are nicely presented and the spatial integration of the mix creates a very wide and engaging sound field for the music.

Over 60 minutes of bonus materials is what the packaging of the DVD promises us and indeed there are quite a number of extras to be found on this disc and fans of the Laserdisc box set will be glad to hear that everything made it over to DVD intact.
The supplements start with a 50-minute documentary called "The Making Of Jurassic Park." It is hosted by James Earl Jones and filled with countless interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Although a bit of a promotional piece, it is a highly informative documentary that goes quite in-depth. See how Stan Winston’s animatronic dinosaurs came to life and how the mix of traditional special effects and computer generated effects made the illusion perfect. The true highlight of the documentary comes in the form of the original test footage that was created by ILM to sell Steven Spielberg on the use of computer generated effects. All in all a very entertaining and interesting documentary that offers a lot of insight into the production of the film.

It is followed by footage taken during pre-production meetings, roundtable meetings with the people involved in the creation of the dinosaurs. You get to see Steven Spielberg use Stan Winston’s dinosaur maquette to show how he feels the Raptors should move and breathe. Shot sequences are laid out and camera angles determined. Taken together, this video footage just shows how elaborate the work on the film was even long before a single frame of film was actually shot.

"Location Scouting" is a short piece that takes you to some of the real-life locations where key scenes of the film were shot. Travel to Kauai and see through the lens of Steven Spielberg’s camcorder how he decided upon these locations and how he planned to use them for the shoot. This segment also contains a very funny casting call to play a dinosaur... just wait and see.

Next up is Phil Tippet’s kitchen scene animatic. Tippett was the key man behind the behavior and movement of the dinosaurs and this go-motion footage that was used to pre-visualize the sequence shows us how he planned out the kitchen scene. It is interesting to see that this sequence plays exactly as it appeared in the final movie, although it is for obvious reasons much cruder.

Five scenes of the movie, including the omitted baby Triceratops scene and the film’s originally concepted ending, are presented as a sequence of storyboards on this disc to show how certain things have been planned and changed until the final completion of the movie.

Another small featurette on the disc tells viewers a little more about the work of Foley artists. Taking the scene of the hatching raptor as an example, this brief featurette explains how the noises and sounds have been created by the talented artists to make them sound just right - using ice cream cones, and fruits in this example.

A still gallery of 70 images can also be found on this release, ranging from behind-the-scenes shots on the set to promotional stills and concept drawings. Then there is a Dinosaur Encyclopedia that feels like one of those children’s books on dinosaurs. You pick your favorite dinosaur and you get some easy to understand information about the species and their relevance in the movie. Production notes and brief cast and crew biographies for many of the cast and crew members round out the disc, together with theatrical trailers for "Jurassic Park," "Jurassic Park: The Lost World" and the currently-in-production "Jurassic Park III," although the latter is in fact an atmospheric teaser without any actual new footage.

The DVD also contains a number of DVD-ROM features but they are mostly limited to weblinks to various Jurassic Park related websites. A T-Rex screensaver and a custom Jurassic Park web browser are also part of these features. On top of these ROM-specific features, you also have access to the entire "regular" content of the DVD from here.

What can I say? We all have been waiting for this movie for the longest time and it is finally here. It is a great feeling and somehow I suppose a review of his DVD is almost superfluous. Everybody knows the movie and everybody knows that Universal is usually putting out absolutely high quality releases, which makes the decision very ease. All I can add is that it is a very satisfying moment to finally be able to behold "Jurassic Park" in all its glory in your own living room in a presentation quality that is unmatched! Get your popcorn ready and fasten your seatbelts, the thrill is on!



Direct comparison of the Dolby Digital version of Jurassic Park with the DTS version:

Since "Jurassic Park" is also released as a separate version featuring a DTS audio track, I decided to give that version also a good check up to see how it compares to the Dolby Digital version, and it yielded some unexpected surprises.

The DTS version of "Jurassic Park" does not contain the preproduction footage or the photo gallery with storyboard that is part of the Dolby Digital version, and Philt Tippett’s animatics are also missing from this release. Since the a DTS audio track uses up significantly more storage space than a Dolby Digital audio track, Universal had to find a way to make room for this in order to place a DTS track on the disc. There is not much else Universal could have done if they wanted to make sure the video quality remains unaffected.

Before running an audio test I decided to take a look at the video stream to see if there is any noticeable difference in the video quality between the versions, which is were I encountered the first surprise. The video streams of both versions are identical. When I say that, I mean, they are truly identical - to the bit. Universal seems to have used the same compressed video streams for both versions and simply replaced the underlying audio track. This stresses even more the need to make room for the DTS audio track, as the video quality is of exactly the same quality as on the Dolby Digital version. I checked the consistency of the video in the digital realm during a number of sequences and was very pleased to find that both versions feature exactly the same video presentation without any degradation!

With that feeling I went on to do an audio comparison of the two discs and found myself surprised once again. "Jurassic Park" is something of a landmark for DTS as it was the first movie featuring the sound format during its theatrical release and you would expect nothing but the best audio presentation. To my surprise I found the Dolby Digital and the DTS presentation virtually undistinguishable. There were moments where I believed to sense an added clarity or a hint of finer resolution, but every time I went back to the Dolby Digital version for comparison, I found these nuances reproduced there just as nicely. Since both versions come from the same audio master, this may explain some of the consistency between formats, but still it is evident that the Dolby Digital audio track is doing a phenomenal job on the DVD, just as the DTS track does.

What does that mean for you? Well obviously, the Dolby Digital version has all the qualities the DTS version has and offers additional extras on top of that. On the other hand, it is always a very reassuring feeling to know you’re listening to a capable DTS track. Which is more important to you? You be the judge of that.

This title is scheduled for release on 10/10/2000
For more information on this title, please click here.
    

September 22, 2000

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