A relatively common practice of browsing the new release Blu-ray stand at my local JB Hi Fi recently unearthed a new and totally unexpected nugget - the 2010 Toyota AFL Grand Final 3D Blu-ray. I say unexpected because I just don't understand how the economics of producing the disc are even remotely viable.
Let's stay on this point for a bit. Generally there is going to be very little appeal for AFL outside of Australia. So out of Australia, there are only a fraction of households that currently have Blu-ray facilities, and fewer still with a 3D enabled television. And I'll assume that not everyone who has a 3DTV will actively be using it as a 3DTV, but instead have it as a perfunctory extra feature to their new TV; a 'bonus' if you will.
Now, narrowing it down further, how many are actually interested in AFL football? How many of those are actually interested in the two teams that played in the Grand Final (St. Kilda and Collingwood) and how many of those are interested enough to consider purchasing the disc as opposed to the relative indifference of it being presented on free to air television? - But obviously the disc is here, so producer VEG entertainment must have thought there would be enough interest in the title to justify production.
For those not in the know, the 2010 AFL Grand Final was a cracker of a game, with Collingwood in the lead for the vast majority of the game, but then for St. Kilda to come from behind to level the score, resulting in a drawn game whose only Grand Final precedent was a match nearly 50 years before. Rather than continuing play to result in a definitive win/lose result, AFL rules mandate that an additional 'replay' game will be played to in a weeks' time, leading to an extremely confused and frustrated audience, a complete let down after an emotional rollercoaster of a match.
This 3D Blu-ray features only the original drawn match and not the follow up, which was not only not filmed in 3D, it wasn't even filmed or broadcast in high definition (due to the cameras being used for the Sydney NRL Grand Final). The disc features the entire original match, but unfortunately not the half-time entertainment.
As a St. Kilda fan, it's particularly difficult to watch this again. We came so close. So close. The last 15 minutes consisted of literally sitting on the edge of my seat, yelling indiscriminately. Then the harsh let down result that pleased no one except AFL head Andrew Demetriou, realising that they'll be able to sell another 100,000 tickets to the next match. At the time of its broadcast in September 2010, I didn't have a 3DTV yet and besides, it wasn't even broadcasting where I live in regional Tasmania.
All I can suggest is that those with a passing interest in the title should definitely partake so we get more local releases such as these in the future.
2010 Toyota AFL Grand Final 3D is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, compressed with AVC MPEG-4 side-by-side 3D, with 50i. 3D TV's will not automatically switch to this setting, so you'll need to manually do this from your TV's 3D settings. As 50i is not an officially mandated standard, U.S. importers won't be watching this title on a standard 1080p TV, but those in the U.K will.
As I mentioned, I didn't see the broadcast in 3D last September, but the quality on offer here is far more loosely compressed and free of macroblocking from the MPEG-2 HD 2D broadcast version that I saw.
That said, I did notice a few compression related anomalies, but it's hard to know if this is part of the master or was incurred during disc compression. It's not a deal breaker, but it's worthy of mention.
The 3D effect is magnificent. There is no doubt in my mind that this is, or should be, the future of watching sports in home. It really adds to the involvement and, no pun intended; adds a whole new dimension. It really is better than I expected.
Overall, whilst there are a few minor compression quibbles and the inclusion of the channel 7 watermark is a bit of a concern, this is a fantastic presentation, and one which I never thought I'd be able to enjoy.
The main audio track is encoded in Dolby Digital Stereo, at 192 kb/s. There are also two additional commentary tracks provided on alternate Dolby Digital Stereo audio tracks also at 192 kb/s.
The audio track is fairly basic and essentially the same as what was originally broadcast on TV. The commentators are audible and the crowd roars are sometimes quite loud. Utilising Dolby Pro-Logic, or a variant thereof, gives the audio track much more presence, but really this is very rudimentary stuff.
Overall, audible and that's all it really needs to be.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.