Monday, February 12, 2007

Xbox 360 + HD-DVD + Kong = Pretty

Okay, I caved.

This weekend I picked up an Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive from Circuit City. It came with Kong.

Initial impressions of HD-DVD in general and the Drive:

0) The WOW starts now. This is pretty. on my 42" 1080p (native) Westinghouse... gawk factor approaches 100%. Looks better than even House via the Comcast cable.

1) It's been said before, but for those of us who must horizontally mount it... it would be nice if the eject button was rotatable.

2) Occasionally, the drive doesn't report that it has a disc in it on boot. so you get the Dashboard saying "Eject Disc" for both DVD and HD-DVD... even though there's an HD-DVD in the drive.

3) it would be nice to be able to resume playback after shutting down the player by warming up the box with the "Play" button. Or to power up straight to the Disc Main Menu by pressing "DVD Menu" on the remote... skipping the Dash entirely in both cases.

4) Where is slow-motion? (forward and reverse)?

5) Where is frame-advance, frame-reverse? I like gawking at the fine details on stills... it's really hard to get just the right, which is a pity since Kong has some awesome sets.

6) The menu sometimes flys out if i press right on the remote... and sometimes it doesn't. Really inconsistent. DVD Menu works most of the time too. Sometimes if U-Control is enabled, the menu doesn't show up until its disabled. I maintain that this could be the individual disc's fault.... which brings me to:

King Kong impressions:

0) Visually, double-wow. Looks beyond amazing. Sound's pretty good (low-end is a bit muddy at times, but it's still a friend of my portable earthquake generator, which is more than many movies can claim). It's no House of Flying Daggers in this regard, but it's still enjoyable.

1) U-Control in its current implementation *sucks* [censored] fat [censored] [censored]. Yes, i know it's a video game console, and yes, i know this is TOTALLY Universal's fault... but it's totally lame to have to watch through 3 hours of Kong again with U-Control enabled just to find the dozen or so vignettes within (totally maybe 15 minutes of actual content). Even worse, you have to play whack-a-mole with the content indicator. Even if you press it right a way you invariably miss a few seconds, which means you have to rewind, then press it (because the shuttle lag causes the u-control to still be active, even though the video hasn't started yet) to catch the entire thing. Biggest omissions to make this content actually worthwhile:

* jump-to-next... let me skip through the movie, watching only the Scenes that have U-Control content. manual and automatic modes for this would rock.
* autoplay... let me enable U-Control and enable auto-play of it to boot... so that it always pops up right-on-cue.
* an index... the U-Control should have a menu of all the extra content items, so i can access them directly.
* PIP resize... let me change the size of the PIP. Yeah, i can see it down there as a little SD window, but i have to practically squint at it when i'm 10' away... and my tv isn't small by any stretch. this is especially egregious for the art gallery stuff. it's so small as to be worthless most of the time.
* PIP swap... let me watch the movie in the PIP and the special content full-screen.

Suffice it to say, the only nifty U-Control feature is bookmarks... and i don't think they're actually U-Control, since they show up under extras. Rather like that it has these, however... since I couldn't find any other way to resume where I left off after shutting the box down.

2) The Screen Saver is nifty... but it has some bugs:
* First of all, when your movie is paused, and the screen saver kicks in, there's about a second of video and audio that plays before the SS loads.
* I should be able to disable it. I have a TFT. It doesn't need a screen saver.
* This feature should prove interesting, since clearly the SS is stored on the disc. Be fun to see what happens in the future if studios decide to get fancy with this. I'd love to see what kind of SS they can come up with for Spider-Man, X-Men, etc.
* Resuming play takes forever...

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