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Avoid Wal-Mart’s Transformers Big Screen Edition!

Wal-Mart's Exclusive Big Screen Transformers: Revenge of the FallenI would like to spend some time talking about a subject that really has me rubbed the wrong way as of late.  I’m talking of course about Wal-Mart’s Big Screen Blu-ray edition of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  If the film wasn’t a let down enough as it was, compared to its predecessor, then rest assured as this Blu-ray release definitely sinks the Titanic for the world of A/V enthusiasts like myself.  This is a hard article for me to write, as I have always been an avid supporter of the Wal-Mart experience wherever life takes me.  That may not be the case anymore.  This admission of guilt may come as a surprise for those that know me well.  Do you have some time?  Let me explain what all the fuss is about.

But, before I begin my quest for enlightenment here, I just wanted to build the framework and lay down the bricks of foundation for a quick disclaimer.  In no way, whatsoever, is my beef within this article in any way, shape or form directed towards the genius that is Michael Bay and the unrivaled production craftsmanship that is Lorenzo di Bonaventura.  These two men have my undying respect.  So what do you say?  Let’s get this party started!

Despite not being a huge fan of the 2nd Transformers film, for many reason I choose not to go into, I decided to give it a second chance in its afterlife on the Blu-ray format.  After all, I originally saw it in the theater and I knew if nothing else that it would be an impressive Blu-ray reference title to demonstrate the power of my home theater setup.  I also have a very bad habit of tending to like things better the second time around since I am usually over critical and highly judgmental while casting first impressions on music, movies and other forms of media.  This drives my wife nuts, but I attribute it to my years of study in broadcasting, production and editing, not to mention concentration in continuity.  Plus, what guy is going to turn down the chance to see Megan Fox in 1080P?  Hate her all you want, but there’s no denying that she knows how to work it and that she is an essential ingredient in Michael bay’s Transformers franchise.

Like most Blu-ray fans probably did, I pre-ordered Revenge of the Fallen as soon as it became available on Amazon.  Before long, rumors of a Wal-Mart exclusive IMAX version began to swell around the web.  Quite honestly, I would have loved to catch the film during its theatrical run in the IMAX theaters, something our city of Cleveland is sorely missing, among many other things.  In hindsight, I am glad that I did not waste the effort, money and time required to do so while I was out in San Diego this past summer.  But, more about that later. 

Once the Wal-Mart versions were confirmed true on Michael Bay’s website, I promptly canceled my Amazon pre-order.  I’m sure I am not the only one in this vote.  I usually become quite the trendsetter [insert smirk].  I want to take a survey.  Am I the only one who questions and frowns upon these unnecessary different retail exclusives?  I find this current practice to be very distasteful, especially when we are talking about something of this magnitude, the IMAX version that is.  But I guess I can’t be naïve either.  The retail exclusives draw people into the stores in hopes that they pick up other items while there and the studios profit by obsessive fans needing to have every different version they can of their favorite film.  Who loses here?  We the consumers do.

So October 20th eventually came, not that I was counting down the clock by any means in anticipation.  I leisurely strolled into my local Wal-Mart only to be pleasantly surprised by not only the super low price of the Blu-ray exclusive set ($19.96), but also by the large quantity they had available.  I’m a real anal person when it comes to making sure my Blu-ray cases and cover art are all pristine.  And to think, I worried the entire morning for nothing.  You’ll be happy to know that I was able to pick the perfect one!

The evening of Saturday, October 24th quickly ushers in as I frantically worked fast and furious to get all my chores done so that I could hopefully sit down and relax with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  Optimism was at an all-time high as I was eagerly awaiting a second viewing of the film to not only hope I liked it better the second time around, but also to be blown away by the sights and sounds that only Michael Bay can deliver on Blu-ray. 

It was shortly after 11 PM when I started the film and instead of my normal listening volume of 60, on my Onkyo receiver, I decided that 58 should be sufficient for what I forecasted to be a bombastic audio track, if memory served me correct from my theatrical experience.  The end result was absolute disappointment.  As the movie began I quickly grabbed my receiver’s remote hoping I mistaken a volume of 48 for 58.  No mistakes were made in my initial setup and I proceeded to raise the volume up to my normal level of 60.  Once again, sheer disappointment overwhelmed me, as I was astonished at how low the dialog levels were and at how lifeless the action tracks played out, lacking any of the dynamics that I have grown accustomed to from a Michael Bay production.

I am, however, happy to report that despite the many flaws (mostly plot) present within the film, I did warm up to the story a bit more than I did during my initial theatrical experience.  I ponder how good it could have been, my second viewing that is, with a booming Blu-ray audio soundtrack.  I was afraid I might never know until…I found out the truth.  Via sources at my disposal, I read that the Wal-Mart Big Screen exclusive version’s audio was recorded four decibels lower than any other retail version of the Blu-ray.  If that doesn’t sound like too much to get worked up over or complain about, then please understand the following.  It is a little known fact that only one decibel equals about the “just noticeable difference” (or JND) in sound intensity we can pick up under the most quiet circumstances.  So what does that say for a whole four decibels?  That says a lot!  I was appalled, to say the least, when I first read and learned of this news.  I always heard people speak badly of Wal-Mart’s business practices, but I never thought I would be an eventual victim. 

Upon hearing this disturbing news, I immediately consulted with my A/V peers and colleagues, of whom I unfortunately encouraged the purchase of this Big Screen version to.  To many of them it came as no surprise as we had been talking days before about how bad the audio track sounded.  It didn’t hit home or register with me fully until co-worker Larry Anderson educated me on how he took his Wal-Mart Blu-ray over to his brother’s house that was in possession of the Best Buy retail version and he said the difference in sound was night and day.  It was then I knew I had been chosen to be the champion and fight for the principle at stake here.  Like so many others, I wanted and paid for what I thought was the best representation of what I heard and saw in the theater. As I subsequently told the Customer Service manager at Wal-Mart, I feel cheated and betrayed by this whole situation.  And yes I know.  There are more important things to worry about in life.  But this is a media website right?

So this past Friday I decided to vent my frustrations over the phone with the good people of Wal-Mart.  The first person I spoke to, in the Electronics department, was very courteous and understanding.  I explained to her that it was not about the money, but instead the principle of the matter, and that I would be happy just to get store credit if I could return the movie.  She said I would need to speak with a Customer Service manager who would be able to make that decision.  Unfortunately, my lucky streak was prematurely ended as I initialized my conversation with the manager. 

The Customer Service manager kindly listened to my story, but quoted me more times than I care to remember about a copyright law with movies that prevents them from being able to refund a customer trying to return an opened movie.  I know it is typically frowned upon and against store policies to refund any movie, game or music purchases that have been opened, but I never heard of such a law.  In any regard, we all know it is usually up to the discretion of the store employees to make such determining decisions, and I am sure luck plays a wicked hand in the matter too.  I told the manager that I felt betrayed by this deceitful practice and that the movie was essentially worthless to me in its present condition.  She said that they could only exchange it for a sealed movie of the same Blu-ray title.  After I exhausted just about every angle and plead I could think of a light bulb clicked on in my head.  I made her repeat her last promise about exchanging my opened Blu-ray for a new and sealed copy.  My last words to her were “OK.  At least I can sell it as new then.”  She immediately hung up on me.  After all that, I did not even bother going to the store to make the exchange.  I did not want to stoop to their level.  To me, it was always all about the principle and notching the post as another lesson learned in life, the hard way.  All I ever wanted was the best representation of what I saw in the theater and had I gone anywhere else to purchase my Blu-ray copy of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, my wish would have been granted.

It’s going to be a really cold day in hell before I ever buy another Blu-ray release from Wal-Mart.  After all of this, I just don’t trust them.  I always questioned why they censored their music selection, but were able to sell R-Rated and Unrated movies.  I would have never thought I would ever hear anything as absurd and ludicrous as an audio track being different than every other retail version out there.  Luckily for our editor Gregg Senko, I got to him in time.  I caught him before he opened his and he was successfully able to return his Blu-ray Big Screen edition to Wal-Mart.  He then walked across the parking lot to Best Buy and for $14 more he got a collector’s edition resin bust of Optimus Prime, a 2-Disc Blu-ray set and a $50 gift card to Sideshow Collectibles.  That sure sounds like a better deal than the worthless coaster I have.  It just goes to show you, not everything in life is a good deal.  Again…lesson learned.  The “blu” way! 

 

 Avoid Wal-Mart's Transformers Big Screen Edition Like the Plague!

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ONE HECK OF A PROMOTER!!! Also a Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

18 Responses to “Avoid Wal-Mart’s Transformers Big Screen Edition!”


  1. Polprav

    Can I quote a post in your blog with the link to you?
    I agree with you on the 4 decibel difference and how crappy that is.

  2. Required

    Just crank the volume 4dB up. Try it.

  3. Required

    Seriously, both versions of the movie were ran through waterfall tests and the audio tracks are identical besides the -4db.

  4. Ura Tewl

    Wow! All this hub-bub over -4dB dialnorm? You should have turned your receiver up to 64, then you could have saved the massive amount of time you spent harassing hard-working employees over the phone for things way beyond their control and then drafting this nonsense “PSA” spewing your disinformation. The Big Screen Edition was applied the -4dB dialnorm by the studio whereas the standard editions weren’t. So, kick it up 4dB and it rocks just as hard. It is the best edition to own, and the Forest Battle alone proves it.

    Or maybe you’re just PO’d since WM dropped the price to $13 on 10/22/09. D’OH!!!

  5. Blu-ray Brian

    Yeah, but anyone who has ever setup and calibrated a home theater system knows that 4 decibels is a significant difference between the two audio tracks!

  6. Blu-ray Brian

    OK…so my main question I guess is why was the DN applied to the Big Screen edition and not the other retail versions?

  7. CryBaby

    Wha Wha Wha, thats what you get for being cheap cheap cheap. I just don’t get it, appreciate what you have and stop trying to have the best of everything. Spoiled comes to mind.

  8. blu jay

    moral: never go to wal-mart for anything!!

  9. Toknowshita

    I understand you are upset thinking that there is an inherent defect in the exclusive BS Walmart edition.

    The simple fact is that you just have to turn up your amplifier volume up 4dB and then you have the exact same track as the regular edition.

    All dialog normalization does is set the overall reference volume point. It does not change the dynamic range of the track.

    Your receiver does not have to work any harder when you turn up the BS edition by 4dB since the reference point was lower to begin with.

  10. Toknowshita

    Brian,

    Re: your question why was it applied on the BS version and not the standard retail version?

    No one knows. A DN setting of -27dBfs is typical of Dolby encoders. -31dBfs is the full range. Hence the the DN level is +4dB. Many purists and dts fanboys have railed against Dolby for this DN variable, but the fact is that dts toolsets have the DN parameter also, but dts toolsets have typically defaulted it to 0. Resulting in people hearing a volume difference and it is fact that most people will pick the louder track as being better. Fact is when the overall volume difference is accounted for, it is much harder to pick the ‘better’ track.

    It could be that the BS edition was encoded with a new dts toolset that has a default +4dB DN setting. More recent dts releases have had +4dB DN setting. Or it could be that some engineers have become accustomed to seeing DN set at +4dB and they are setting this parameter as opposed to leaving it at its default value.

  11. Gregg

    Dear CryBaby,
    In regard to your post above, it has nothing to do with being spoiled. If you want the best and can afford it, then go for it. If you get a crappy meal in a restaurant, do you sit there and eat it? Anybody who does is a coward. Fight the good fight! Get the best for your money! Honestly, for me, I may not have noticed the difference in sound but I didn’t want to take that chance. I paid for a damn good Sony surround sound system so I don’t want a disc that isn’t going to utilize it to the capacity that another retailer’s version of the film will.

  12. Gregg

    Blu Jay,
    I agree with you. Though what I’m about to say has nothing to do with Blu-ray, Walmart is not good for the economy. All this pro-American BS that surrounds Walmart is just that…BS. Most of their stock is from China. Yes it provides jobs but they are a minimum wage, China-feeding machine. If someone wants to contribute to the U.S. economy, pay a few bucks more at the mom & pop shop down the road.

  13. blu jay

    ya got it right!! wal-mart=un-american

  14. Blu-ray Brian

    Well Toknowshita…I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to explain DN to all our readers and for being so kind in doing so. I really appreciate it! To my knowledge…this is the only Wal-Mart Blu-ray that I know of to have been touched this way.

  15. CryBaby

    Gregg,

    I see no comparison to sound level on a Sony surround sound system with a blu ray disc and a good meal. A good meal last 1 hour, and a blu ray disc lasts for many years. Let the free market enterprise work the way it should work. Buyer beware!

    Additionally, I am sick and tired of individuals wanting the best for themselves at others expense. If you want the perfect sounding Blu Ray, than do your research before you make your purchase. People should take your advice and Get the best for their money. That means you have to pay the extra few dollars for the best than do it. This has nothing to do with Wal Mart, although Wal Mart should have disclosed on their product offering the short coming. It has everything to do with the free market enterprise in which we all operate in. If you want the best be prepared to pay top dollar, and one better have the means on their own to accomodate such taste, if not be prepared to settle for the chevy and not the cadillac.

    As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for!

  16. Toknowshita

    CryBaby,

    I am no fan of Walmart and I really despies the ‘retailer exclusives’ in an effort to stem free market price corrections.

    The fact remains though that there is nothing inherently wrong with the Walmart exclusive. It is a simple parameter difference that is easily compensated for (ie. turn your amp up). Don’t get hung up on watching films at a certain -dB level on your receiver. There still is a lot of inconsistency in the mixing of overall loudness level.

    As far as the DN parameter, it does have a purpose in the Dolby system in that the parameter must be set correctly for the optional Dolby Dynamic Range Compression (sometimes called Night or Midnight Mode) to work as designed. As far as I know dts does not have a commercially available decoder that has a user selectable DRC parameter like Dolby.

  17. Gregg

    I wish I could chat a little more here lads, but I’m currently debating with a co-worker who is claiming 720i resolution looks the same as 1080p on televisions under 55 inches. Can you believe it?! I’m going to go jump into a block of cement.

  18. Blu-ray Brian

    C’mon…anyone that knows anything about HD knows that for screens 40″ and above 1080P becomes noticeable.