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Apr 2nd, 2009
Will the new Blu-ray release do right by T2 and its fans?


Progress Marches on...

There are hundreds of movie titles that may feature prominently on your shelf. But chances are that there are only a handful that could have found their way into your movie collection dozens of times since the days of VHS. Terminator 2 is one such movie that when viewed across every home-video release over the past 20 years, really documents the progress of technology as it has emerged and re-emerged to take advantage of new technology (along with a few gratuitous editions dreamed up by the marketing teams to tempt your dollars with the ploy of new bonus material). Now with its second installment on Blu-ray Disc on the horizon, some of our new Home-Theater hobbyists might appreciate to know how Terminator 2 played a defining role in the DVD format's development and how eager the fan base is for a Blu-ray Disc edition done right.

Memory Lane...

Back in the late 1990s, a company called "Live Entertainment" (the former name of Artisan) announced that Terminator 2, which was at the time a favored demo-disc among laserdisc collectors, would be released on the newly emerged DVD format. Fans were thrilled, and home-theater aficionados who had bought into DVD so early in the game were hopeful about the prospect of retiring their beloved laserdisc edition with the promise of even better image quality on DVD. But when the specs were announced, a unanimous sigh of disappointment was heard from the fan base as the T2 DVD was slated to be nothing more than a recycled 4x3 non-anamorphic laserdisc master spread over two sides of a "flipper" DVD. It should be noted that at this time no production house had produced a commercial "continuous play" dual-layer or RSDL (reverse-spiral dual-layer ) DVD, though 16x9 anamorphic mastering was standard for the studios doing things the right way with new transfers (mostly Sony at the time).

After years of enjoying 4x3 letterboxed laserdisc movies "zoomed" to fill my 16x9 ProScan monitor (one of the only commercially available 16x9 TVs prior to 1997), I was personally ticked off that such a top-tier title would be coming to DVD without taking advantage of the format's potential for image quality improvement with anamorphic encoding. Though the install base of 16x9 sets was small, 16x9 was the future and the improvement in image quality with an anamorphic title would be appreciated the moment any 4x3 consumer would choose to upgrade his or her television. And so I started an email campaign using the DVD-List Serve to let the studio know that the fans, and the film, deserved a proper presentation on DVD. A few weeks later, the list-serve members were stunned when the studio rep wrote back to say that because of our input, they were delaying the DVD release to take advantage of a new 16x9 anamorphic transfer (yes, these things do happen, for those of you convinced that studios don't care what you may have to say). Several months later, the studio reps shared the news again at Studio Day at Dave's Video - The Laser Place, announced that they had worked with manufacturers to overcome key challenges in manufacturing RSDL discs, and (if memory serves me correctly) played scenes from a production T2 disc demonstrating for audience members that a continuous-play dual-layer DVD would play in standard DVD players; until this point, there had been no such RSDL discs to test to ensure compatibility which was a source of online debate. It's hard to convey this in retrospect to those of us enjoying 1080p on our HD projectors and 60" flatscreen monitors today, but at the time the energy and fervor surrounding the fruition of a production RSDL DVD title was like the dawn of a new era of home-theater possibilities.

The First Blu-ray Disc Release...

Since that first RSDL DVD edition, T2 found its way onto DVD several more times via new film-to-digital transfers (some in HD) or added bonus material and even found its way onto an HD-encoded red-laser DVD-ROM using Microsoft's advanced compression CODEC (a reminder that this was Toshiba's original concept for red-laser HD-DVD) and 1080i D-VHS tape (which showed a bit of edge-enhancement). Then, at long last, Terminator 2 finally found its way to the newly-birthed Blu-ray Disc format. With the potential for native 1080p24 encoding and lossless audio, hopes were high that this release would really offer the "holy grail" of Terminator 2 transparency. Such hopes were quickly dissipated when the Blu-ray release was crammed onto a single-layer 25GB disc mastered with the inefficient MPEG-2 compression CODEC (to be fair, dual-layer replication and advanced video codecs had not been fully established on Blu-ray Disc at the time, but the decision to push ahead with limited MPEG2-single layer authoring rather than waiting for AVC/VC-1 and 50GB discs caused the image quality to suffer regardless). To add insult to injury, the audio was presented with only lossy Dolby Digital compression with no provision for lossless transparency whatsoever. While the Blu-ray Disc edition could boast that it was the best consumer AV presentation to date, it certainly couldn't claim to faithfully capture the fidelity of the Audio and Video master, nor could it pretend to take advantage of the transparency possible with the Blu-ray Format. These deficiencies, combined with the fact that this Blu-ray release also only offered the theatrical cut of the film (unlike various DVD editions which offered extended versions) convinced many Blu-ray collecting fans of the film to hold out for something better.

And Now: The New T2 Skynet Edition...

On May 19, 2009 Lionsgate will release Terminator 2 Skynet Edition on Blu-ray (in both a standard edition release and a special collector's set that includes previous DVD editions as a means to deliver all previously available bonus material in a single purchase). We've received confirmation from the studio that the disc will provide lossless 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and independent sources familiar with the mastering have indicated that the 1080p image will be reauthored using optimized AVC MPEG-4 or VC-1 compression. Our current understanding is that the same director-approved high-definition master used for the current Blu-ray will be used for the new edition, but that the improved image compression and mastering will result in a noticeable improvement in picture quality (keep in mind that Cameron's choice to use Super35 restricts the sharpness and clarity by virtue of the film elements themselves, so T2 will never look razor-sharp or crystal-clear even on the best 4K studio master). Most impressive is that multiple 1080p versions of the film will be provided... we suspect in a form similar to the branching method that Sony used to provided multiple versions of Close Encounters on that noteworthy Blu-ray Disc release.

The standard Blu-ray Disc edition (MSRP $29.99) should include (taken directly from the press release):


  • Multiple THX-certified versions high-definition versions of the film
  • All-new English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Lossless
  • Picture-in-picture of behind the scenes video, text commentaries and multimedia galleries
  • Storyboard-script mode – view storyboards and read the script while watching the film
  • Interactive quizzes and games
  • BD-Live enabled, featuring games, extra content and more for internet-connected players
  • Audio commentary with 26 cast and crew members
  • Audio commentary with director James Cameron and co-writer William Wisher
  • Enhanced for D-Box Motion Control Systems
  • Includes THX Optimizer


Uber-Fan 6-Disc Set...

Die-hard fans can opt to purchase a limited-edition 6-disc collector's set (MSRP $174) which will additionally include two previous DVD releases of the film: Extreme Edition DVD and Ultimate Edition DVD – which, combined, include every T2 special feature ever released on DVD. As a bonus, the collector's set comes with a digital copy of the film for iTunes or Windows Media. Yes, you also get a 14 inch terminator skull.

Will it Deliver?

We'll be the first to let you know. As soon as we get our copy of the Blu-ray Disc screener, expect an in-depth review to uncover whether or not the forthcoming SKYNET edition deserves your dollar. Stay Tuned...


Comments (1)

bob May 11, 2010
thx opt does not work at all!
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