HD DVD: Worth a Look
3.5 Stars out of 5
Release Date: October 14th, 2006
Movie Release Year: 2006
Release Country: Germany
COLLAPSE INFO -

Elephants Dream (German Import)

Review Date May 2nd, 2007 by
  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the German release of 'Elephants Dream.' Note that this disc has not been released in the United States, however (if you're able to get a copy) this German import carries no region coding and will play in any HD DVD player worldwide.

OVERALL
Worth a Look
Leave A Comment
  • Editors Note

    This is a review of the German release of 'Elephants Dream.' Note that this disc has not been released in the United States, however (if you're able to get a copy) this German import carries no region coding and will play in any HD DVD player worldwide.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: HD DVD,HD-30 Dual Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/VC-1,1080p/MPEG-2 (Alternate Encode Version),1080p/480i/VC-1 (Supplements Only)
    Length:11
    Release Country:Germany
    Aspect Ratio(s):1.78:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
    Subtitles/Captions: English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,German Subtitles,Italian Subtitles,Japanese Subtitles
    Special Features: None
    Movie Studio: Imagion
    Release Date: October 14th, 2006

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

3 Stars out of 5

'Elephants Dream' is a most unusual HD DVD release. The first HD DVD to be released in Europe, it's taken on a somewhat cult status among HD DVD fanatics worldwide as a result of its format-specific supplements, which offer various split-screen effects demonstrating the differences between standard-def and HD DVD at various resolutions.

Also setting it apart from other HD DVD releases is the fact that it's only 11 minutes long -- and unlike other CG animated films, it was made entirely using "open source" software, meaning free stuff anyone can get via the internet.

The story certainly is slight. Emo and Proog are two rather strange fellows taking a journey deep into the cogs of the giant Machine. It's a dark, twisted and complex world, but a fascinating one made of giant wires and gears and other fanciful mechanics. But a conflict soon arises between the two men -- one that completely up-ends all of their assumptions. Is the Machine real? Or just a figment of Proog's imagination?

Much buzz swirled around 'Elephants Dream' and its open source origins when it first hit the web last year as a free download. But while the film's backstory does somewhat relegate it to the novelty category, 'Elephants Dream' certainly proves that with a little ingenuity and a lot of commitment, you can create some marvelous sights on the cheap.

It took the design team behind the movie a reported six months to complete the project, and it often looks quite snazzy. The backgrounds, object detail and textures are excellent, with some images good enough to frame on the wall as art. The character animation, however, is a bit weaker. Emo and Proog look a bit clunky, and the rather poor voice work doesn't help. The story never really engages, either. To be fair, it's pretty hard to generate much emotion in 11 minutes (9 minutes not counting credits), but the plot borders on the incomprehensible. Even the filmmakers' comments in the included supplements would seem to indicate that they're as much in the dark about its narrative significance as we are.

Is 'Elephants Dream' a satisfying story that stands up to repeated viewings? Of that I'm not so sure, but it does work wonderfully as CG eye candy, and as a testament to the indie spirit.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD,HD-30 Dual Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1,1080p/MPEG-2 (Alternate Encode Version),1080p/480i/VC-1 (Supplements Only)
    Length:11
    Release Country:Germany
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,German Subtitles,Italian Subtitles,Japanese Subtitles
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: Imagion
    Release Date: October 14th, 2006

Video Review

5 Stars out of 5

Designed as a showcase for the many wonders of HD DVD, 'Elephants Dream' is the only next-gen release I'm aware of that offers both VC-1 and MPEG-2 encodes of the same feature, and it's very cool to be able to stack the two codecs directly against each other for an apples-to-apples comparison.

The VC-1 version gets top billing, but quite frankly the MPEG-2 is just as good. Both present the film from the same master, in 1.78:1 widescreen, and the image is flawless. Depth and detail are top-notch, right from the opening scene of Emo and Proog navigating through the Machine's inner guts of silver wires and weird architecture. Texture is impeccable -- even the thinnest wire, way in the background is clearly defined and visible. Colors are also magnificent. Though the dominant hue is silver, there are fantastic splashes of deep primaries, including one moment early on, as a phone rings on a table over a bright red carpet, where the saturation and the purity of the colors is simply stunning. In terms of quality of the presentation -- 'Elephants Dream' on HD DVD really is phenomenal. As promised, this is easily five-star demo material.

Audio Review

4 Stars out of 5

'Elephants Dream' comes with only two audio options, 5.1 surround (640kbps) and 2.0 stereo (448kbps), both in English Dolby Digital. (For non-English speakers, a host of foreign subtitle choices are also offered.)

Overall, the film's sound design is pretty basic and simplistic, but still effective. Strangely, the score is forced into the background, making dialogue and the sparse sound effects almost unnerving in their prominence, but this adds nicely to the '1984' feel of the film's story. Effects are chilly but atmospheric -- eerie wind noises and other mechanical sounds have a nice realism and clarity, aided by ample dynamic range. Low bass is tight but not overpowering. Dialogue is very distinct and well recorded. The soundfield generally creates a pleasing 360-degree effect that's certainly minimalist but still continuous. There isn't enough of a sustained bombast here to really impress, but this soundtrack certainly suits the material.

Special Features

0 Stars out of 5

Although this movie hasn't been released on any format here in U.S., it was previously released on standard-def DVD in Europe with several of the supplements included on this HD DVD. However, since all of these extras seem to have been remastered for this HD DVD presentation, you'll find them listed (along with several brand-new-to-the-HD DVD extras) in the High-Def Exclusives section below.

Final Thoughts

'Elephants Dream' is a quirky, visually arresting short film. Granted, the story doesn't make much of an impact, but with a runtime of only 11 minutes, that's no surprise. The value of this HD DVD import release, then, really depends on how interested you are in great demo material and the attractiveness of the extras. It certainly looks fantastic, and having the opportunity to compare different encodes and different resolutions of the same material may prove too great an opportunity for early adopters to ignore. Given the high quality of this release, it's absolutely a solid deal for the money -- if you care to spend it.

Special thanks to Karl C. for loaning us this disc!

See what people are saying about this story or others
See Comments in Forum
  • Editors Note

    Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    HD DVD,HD-30 Dual Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/VC-1,1080p/MPEG-2 (Alternate Encode Version),1080p/480i/VC-1 (Supplements Only)
    Length:11
    Release Country:Germany
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    1.78:1
    Audio Formats:
    English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps),English Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English Subtitles,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,German Subtitles,Italian Subtitles,Japanese Subtitles
    Special Features:
    None
    Movie Studio: Imagion
    Release Date: October 14th, 2006