When I heard that there was a new “WOW” disc available at CEDIA EXPO this past September, I immediately thought, “Awesome! Finally another killer THX demo disc!”
Disney’s WOW disc is clearly positioned for the average consumer, with the goal: “Take Home Theater from Good to Great” by providing easy to use adjustments helping users to get the most out of their systems.
The original “Wow!” Laserdisc, released by THX in 1990, is now a bit of an industry legend. The highlight was a lengthy demo clip of classic Lucasfilm scenes set to a rousing John Williams score; possibly one of my all-time favorite, “Here; sit down and watch this!” presentations to give clients. But then I discovered that the new WOW was actually Disney’s World of Wonder disc. And while the disc certainly isn’t light on demo material, it is intended to help people “Discover, Optimize and Experience HD Home Theater.”
There are no shortage of calibration discs in this industry with Digital Video Essentials, Avia, and Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark being among the most widely used. But while these discs are loaded with calibration patterns and torture tests, they are often difficult to navigate and not at all consumer friendly. These discs were built from the ground up for professional installers or hardcore tweakers, and it shows. Conversely, with Goofy on the cover proclaiming that this, “Makes calibration doggone easy & fun!” Disney’s WOW disc is clearly being positioned for the average consumer. The disc’s goal is simple enough: “Take Home Theater from Good to Great” by providing easy to use adjustments helping users to get the most out of their systems. So for a $39.99 MSRP for the Blu-ray version (DVD version is $34.99) is this something that you or your customers can use?
The disc menu is divided into three sections. The Discover section, with beginner and advanced sections, should be required viewing for anyone prior to shopping for a home theater system. While an eight-minute segment called “Home Theater Basics with Goofy” occasionally feels like an infomercial for the technical superiority of Blu-ray technology, it is packed with easy-to-understand technical information about high-definition audio and video presented in an entertaining manner. Here’s an example on the topic of resolution: “Resolution is defined by the number of distinct pixels that can be displayed in the same dimension. Understand? Of course you don’t. One would need a Master’s degree in physics to understand that. A higher resolution means that more viewing information is displayed in a smaller space on your screen. Which accounts for a clearer, sharper picture. Better? Explanations are also provided for video compression, interlace vs. progressive and 24-frame playback.
The Optimize section is divided into beginner, advanced, and expert sections. The first two are guided with descriptions and instructions for using the test pattern while the expert section allows experienced users to jump directly to test patterns. One of the most impressive things of the Disney WOW disc in my opinion is the included 53-page step-by-step optimization guide. This guide clearly details and explains every test, telling the user what is being adjusted, how to perform the adjustment, and how to evaluate the performance. This is a terrific tool for end users and beginning calibrators alike. With the booklet and disc, anyone on your staff could dial-in the image on a client’s display in short order. Included are a variety of brightness, contrast, chroma and hue, and sharpness patterns, along with some additional patterns for gamma, overscan, and zone plate patterns. Additionally, there are audio tests for identifying speaker channels, polarity, setting channel levels, and a handy buzz and rattle test.
While an eight-minute segment called “Home Theater Basics with Goofy” occasionally feels like an infomercial for the technical superiority of Blu-ray technology, Disney’s WOW disc is packed with easy-to-understand technical information about high-definition audio and video presented in an entertaining manner.
Two unique features are the Pixel Flipper and Viewing Angle Test. The Pixel Flipper attempts to eliminate any burn-in or “stuck” pixels by turning each pixel on and off between 24 and 29 times per second. The Viewing Angle Test can be a great in-store demo to compare the effect of off-angle viewing on different sets.
The two-disc set features a second Blu-ray titled, VISIONS: Inspired By Nature. The VISIONS disc is filled with the kind of beautiful, high-res HD eye-candy that is reminiscent of the old Texas Wild demo loop that introduced so many of us to HD. The scenes from clips like “Flower Fields,” “Desert Vistas,” “Ocean Sunset,” and “Forest Waterfalls” are striking and beautiful and would definitely make for an impressive in-store demo or the perfect capper to a system install with, “See how great your new TV looks!”
What’s missing? Well, the disc doesn’t feature the IRE windows required for calibrating grayscale, so ISF and THX calibrators won’t be totally impressed. Also, I was disappointed about the lack of scaling or video processing tests. This is an area that really separates the great video displays from the merely good, and these tests can be invaluable for judging a display’s scaling capabilities. However for beginning calibrators or end-users looking to improve their systems, the great documentation and demo material included with Disney’s WOW disc makes it worthy of a recommendation.
Offers terrific explanations for relatively complicated technologies with easily accessible and well explained test patterns plus a good mix of HD demo material
Lacks the test patterns (grayscale) needed for a full calibration, no scaling tests and no mention of 3D
■ 2-disc set available in Blu-ray or DVD
■ Disc 1 features 35 calibration and evaluation tools for properly setting Audio and Video
■ Includes a blue filter and 53-page booklet that thoroughly explains the tests and adjustments
■ Numerous HD demo clips of recent Disney films
■ Disc 2 VISIONS: Inspired by Nature features 60 minutes of high-definition landscapes with 7.1 DTS-HD Master audio soundtrack