One of the main problems with initial Blu-ray director's chat sessions was a lack of feeling any life or interactivity, but Warner gave it another shot this weekend by offering audio over BD-Live as a moderator bounced audience provided questions off of director McG while watching Terminator: Salvation. Despite a less than stellar reputation, BD-Live has continued to slowly creep along, adding features and enhancements, so we wanted to if this event bodes well for the future of internet enabled discs. Check after the break for our impressions, plus a few clips of the director talking about what he did and didn't like about the finished product, director's cuts in general, and the possibility of doing another Terminator movie.
As a part of the three disc "director's cut" Blu-ray set, the BD-Live components were all on the director's cut disc, thankfully free of long and unskippable trailers that plagued the theatrical version. Still, speed is a concern, after registering on Warner's BD-Live site it still took a couple of minutes for our BDP-S360 to download and display the internet features on the disc. While access to trailers could be nice, the initial spotlight screen's video promos slowed performance and made it tough to click through. Still, we were able to wade through the menu without much trouble and the chat hosted by McG appeared easily. As far as setup, we didn't need to make any adjustment, however just like other commentary tracks, this required users enable secondary audio, and, in the case of the PS3 at least, be sure to switch to a PCM audio output, otherwise it wouldn't be able to mix in the live commentary. This information was available on Warner's site but buried deep within a FAQ where it unfortunately missed at least a few who attempted to tune in, for a player and configuration that popular, it should have been made much more apparent.
Once the movie actually started it was very smooth, we got a good feed of the audio from the speakers over quieted movie sounds, however our feed appeared to be at least 20-25 seconds behind the movie, with the director frequently pointing out scenes after they had already come on, or even after the text log that displayed at the top right had already updated what they were saying. Not everyone experienced this so it's hard to tell if it's a specific player problem or what may have been the cause but it negatively affected one of the great opportunities for this technology. Additionally, about 90 minutes into the stream the audio disconnected entirely, and things were paused for five minutes or so while they figured things out before resuming. It was disappointing that the ability to pause the video wasn't used to greater advantage, even during a break in the movie, we understand needing a glass of water, but with synchronized players, why not give viewers the same chance?
Still, it was overall a positive experience because of the additional detail provided just by hearing the director's excitement while talking about his movie, and despite the arrogant three letter moniker, came off as much more grounded than we expected. Anyone interested the missed the event shouldn't be too disappointed, they did mention that it will be available as a commentary download soon. Terminator: Salvation was a decent enough popcorn action flick but this kind of environment would definitely benefit from a session with a movie and moviemaker that elicited more emotional reaction, so if the rough edges get scrubbed off we could definitely see listening in again if one of our longtime favorite movies offered the feature -- not just the blockbuster of the week.