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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Home Theater Intro Featuring CeRT V2
Home Theater Intro Featuring CeRT V2
Other // Unrated
List Price: $60.00 [Buy now and save at Customintros]
Review by Joshua Zyber | posted November 27, 2005 | E-mail the Author
C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Program:
Earlier this year I reviewed the Home Theater Introduction Featuring CeRT from Bitstream Animation and gave it a "Skip It" rating (read review here). My primary complaint was that the brief 102 seconds of content was not worth the premium asking price. Since that time, responding to feedback both from my review and other consumers, the company has revised the CeRT disc and added more content that will appeal to home theater fans. As a result, and despite the fact that they've raised the asking price even higher, I feel the disc is now worthy of a bump up to Recommended status.

The main program is essentially the same. The CeRT intro is a short demo trailer designed to wow guests when you fire up your big screen and surround sound. It stars a cutesy CGI animated robot with a three-eyed head that looks like a CRT video projector. The robot walks into a room and triggers a computer countdown that "initializes" your home theater equipment, sounding off a rotation of tones from each of the speakers in a 5.1 or 6.1 audio system. Then a customized message appears on screen welcoming the guests to your home theater. This portion of the disc lasts 102 seconds on the nose.

The program is cute and kind of fun, and the speaker walkaround (with audio mix by Skywalker Sound) is a pretty effective way to show off your equipment. The disc can be ordered from www.bitstreamanimation.com in one of four varieties: a Standard 5.1 edition with generic greeting ($50), the same generic greeting with 6.1 audio ($55), or a Customized edition with the name of your home theater personalized in the intro in either 5.1 or 6.1 versions ($65 or $70 respectively). The animation for the 6.1 versions has been slightly updated to add a center back channel to the walkaround sequence.

[Update 12/8/05: Bitstream has lowered their pricing structure to $40 for the Standard version or $60 for the Customized version, whether in 5.1 or 6.1 format.]

Fixing one of my earlier complaints, you may now select when ordering whether the disc should default to the Dolby Digital or DTS track upon playback, avoiding the need to pause or adjust your soundtrack options on the fly while it's playing. This is a very nice convenience. More importantly, three new pieces of content have been added, including a second CeRT animation titled "Snacks" that invites guests to visit your concession area for popcorn and drinks.

Even better are two vintage lobby ads, "Let's All Go to the Lobby" and "Yum Yum" (fans of the movie Grease will remember the "Yum Yum" trailer from the drive-in scene). Both ads can be played with either their original monaural audio or new Dolby Digital or DTS remixes in 5.1 or 6.1 format depending on which disc you order. These two ads are a lot of kitschy fun and really enhance a movie theater atmosphere, especially for viewers with front projection screens.

While Bitstream Animation is still listening to feedback and working to improve their product further, I would recommend for the next go-round allowing buyers to program the playback order of the content ahead of time. Right now the disc defaults immediately to playing the initial CeRT intro and then jumps to a menu where you choose what to play next. While there is a "Play All" option in the menu, I think a lot of buyers would prefer to program a personal playback order ahead of time if they don't like the order Bitstream has chosen (I'd personally like to play the vintage ads before the CeRT intro). Going with this should be the ability to choose the sound format of each animation separately, because frankly the vintage ads sound a lot better in mono.

Nonetheless, this is a minor quibble in a much improved DVD that finally offers a good selection of content that home theater fans will appreciate. The asking price is still a little high for the brevity of the program, but I think a lot more potential customers will find it worthwhile now that more animations have been added.

The DVD

Video:
The CeRT's CGI animation is pretty slick, with a sharp 16:9 widescreen, anamorphically-enhanced picture that has good metallic colors and no edge enhancement halos. The animation on the 6.1 edition has been tweaked over the old 5.1 version, both in the addition of new graphics for the extra sound channel and also in the textures of the image. The walls of the room are now a deeper shade of "steely" blue, and digital compression quality has been improved to fix the minor problems with color banding and compression artifacts seen previously.

The two vintage lobby ads look their age. They've been mostly cleaned of dirt and debris, but are a little faded and have noticeable scratches and damage. This is not entirely undesirable, however, as it does add to the old time drive-in theater ambience. Both are presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratios pillarboxed into the center of an anamorphic 16:9 video frame. This does admittedly waste available resolution with 4:3 content, but I have to assume that the majority of interested consumers will be watching this disc on 16:9 screens. The convenience of not having to manually adjust aspect ratios for each animation will outweigh a few lines of resolution on content where picture quality is not all that important anyway. Viewers watching the disc on 4:3 screens may be annoyed at having black bars on all four sides of the picture, though.

Sound:
The soundtrack by Skywalker Sound is pretty great. Sound effects are crisply recorded and reproduced with excellent fidelity. The tones that pop up from speaker to speaker are warm and enveloping, and the subwoofer channel gets a nice workout as well. To accommodate the new animation for the 6.1 edition, the audio has also been adjusted to add a rear center channel to the walkaround. Both sound options are excellent, but the DTS-ES Discrete 6.1 track is the more robust option and has better kick from the bass channel.

The vintage ads can be viewed in either their original monaural audio or new Dolby Digital and DTS remixes, which are essentially "5 Channel Stereo" tracks with the same audio coming from every speaker. The problem with the remixes is that they are mastered at way too loud a volume. A viewer's inclination is naturally going to be to turn the volume up to reference levels during the CeRT intro to show off their surround sound equipment, but if left there the vintage ads will then be deafeningly loud and abrasive. The mono tracks are set at a more reasonable volume in relation to both of the CeRT animations, and also just sound more natural coming from a single speaker (more of that drive-in theater ambience). Unfortunately, with the current disc implementation you will have to change audio options on the fly while the animation is playing in order to get to the mono tracks.

Extras:
The rest of the content on the disc is unchanged from the original edition. There's a brief bit of text information about the company, an original sketch drawing of the CeRT robot, a short test walk cycle for the animation, and a couple pages of storyboards.

The Home Theater PC crowd may be more excited to hear that the disc also contains a 1080i high-definition version of the program encoded as an MPG TS file. There are basically no instructions provided at all for how to install or run this, however. If you've already got the equipment and know what you're doing, I'm sure this is a nice treat. The rest of us probably won't care.

Final Thoughts:
Although I still think there's some room for improvement, the latest version of the Home Theater Introduction Featuring CeRT is a decidedly more appealing product and finally merits a recommendation. Not everyone will need or want this type of item, but for those who like to show off their home theater to friends and family, a customized introduction like this can be a real treat.

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