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Mars in 3D: Images from the Viking Mission Blu-ray 3D Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4 (2D); MVC (3D)
  • Resolution: 1080i/60 (29.970Hz)
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit), Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: None
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray 3D)
  • Studio: AIX Records
  • Blu-ray Release Date: June 26, 2012
  • List Price: $19.99

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
2D HD: [Rating:3/5]
3D Effect: [Rating:2.5/5]*
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:3.5/5]


Over four years, the Viking 1 and 2 spacecraft conducted a scientific mission to Mars. Eventually these twin explorers entered the atmosphere of Mars, landed and conducted a series of experiments to analyze the planet’s surface.  Mars in 3-D is based on a series of stereoscopic images of the Martian landscape. These images were eventually incorporated into a 16 mm stereoscopic film. Thirty years later, a digital film restoration projected headed by Michael McNabb, upgraded the original images to 2D and 3D formats and a modern electronic musical surround soundtrack was added. This labor-intensive work was done at the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA).  The late Elliott Levinthal, a Stanford University faculty and a member of the original Viking imaging team, provides a running commentary on this 30-minute documentary. As it is highly unlikely that most of today’s viewers will go on a mission to Mars, these striking images will be as close as they will get to the red planet.

Video Quality

2D HD: [Rating:3/5]

3D Effect: [Rating:2.5/5]

Watching the 2D version only, the landscape images lack definition and appear consistently fuzzy. Remember that we are looking at 1970s transmissions sent over a distance exceeding 200 million kilometers. That viewable pictures were possible at all is a minor miracle. The film restoration crew did the best that they could with the raw material which is, in all fairness, raw material. The simulations in color give us a better idea of what the Viking landers looked like and how they functioned on Mars’ surface.

*(The 3D portion of this disc was reviewed by Brandon DuHamel using his reference system)

The 3D on this disc is the first title I have come across on Blu-ray that truly gave me major physical problems while viewing. Because of the format of the filming, meaning the spacing between the original cameras and timing between each scanned photographed, the resulting stereoscopic effect is an almost miniaturized view of vast spaces on Mars. It becomes rather difficult a times for the eyes to resolve both foreground and background imagery; when I say “difficult” I mean, a little painful. I often I had to remove my 3D glasses to relax my eyes, which, of course, meant I had to once again allow my eyes to adjust to the imagery. With that being said, once the eyes do settle in (and, for some people, as the narrator often points out, this is never achieved) it really is something to behold. Though the imagery is not perfect, it is still a somewhat eerie feeling to be observing a three-dimensional image of a an empty planet so far away from our own.

The narration sequences are all presented monoscopically, but there are also sequences of the Voyager lander test unit here on Earth that are in a more conventional form of 3D. These sequences yield the finest 3D imagery of the disc, at one point the arm of the lander stretches right out of the screen in front of your face and you are prompted to “move your head slowly from side-to-side” for an interesting effect.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

There are Dolby 5.1 TrueHD surround tracks, Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM 2.0.  The first choice is the way to go here with a truly immersive feel, appropriate to the extraterrestrial subject matter. While musique concrete may not appeal to all listeners, it will definitely create an otherworldly atmosphere.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

In this case, the supplements outlast the main feature by about 10 minutes. There are interviews with composers McNabb and Chowning discussing the concepts for the score, and restoration engineer Geva on the process of recovering the films that were not in great shape. Viewers will find the insights of the participants in the project to be both fascinating and illuminating.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]


It is a challenge to rate such films as they are certainly historical documents if not necessarily aesthetic triumphs.  Even in 2D, the landscapes look quite different from what earthlings are accustomed to, being not simply deserts or canyons, but works sculpted by the atmosphere and elements of the Martian climate.  *The 3D sights of Mars are fascinating as well, even if not up to the spectacular imagery we have become used to in 3D efforts from IMAX exhibition films and the like. Of course, some may find this particular 3D somewhat more discomforting than usual, so be forewarned. The musical score by Michael McNabb reminded me quite strongly of the Ligeti Atmospheres that formed a large part of the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odysssey. My recurring impression was that this film would be far more effective in a spacious theater (which was the original intent) than in a typical home theater set up unless one had a projection system with a screen size of at least 10-foot diagonal dimensions. Some buyers might legitimately gripe at its short run-time at a full price tag. Worth watching, certainly, for its historic value alone, viewers used to the fantasy creations of Hollywood’s CGI experts, may be disappointed in the images of reality captured so long ago.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Mars in 3D on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

[amazon-product]B007WB5CZS[/amazon-product]

Purchase Mars in 3D on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Film
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
2D HD: [Rating:3/5]
3D Effect: [Rating:2.5/5]*
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

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