First Man Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of First Man, a biopic/drama that looks at the life of astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

91

Details:

Studio and Year: Universal – 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 141 minutes
Genre: Drama/Biopic

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, Spanish/French Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Christopher Abbot, Ciaran Hinds
Directed by: Damien Chazelle
Music by: Justin Hurwitz
Written by: Josh Singer based on the book by James R. Hansen
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: January 22, 2019

“The Most Dangerous Mission in History”

Synopsis:

“First Man, the riveting story of NASA’s mission to land a man on the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the years 1961-1969. A visceral, first-person account, based on the book by James R. Hansen, the movie will explore the sacrifices and the cost—on Armstrong and on the nation—of one of the most dangerous missions in history.” – Universal Pictures Home entertainment

My Take:

Anyone that reads my review regularly knows my affection for dramatic films based on actual events/people. Having grown up during the Apollo era I have recollections of seeing the launches on TV although I have no specific memory of seeing the events surrounding Apollo 11’s momentous landing on the moon. Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen First Man takes a personal and inside look at the story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic flight.

Told from Neil and Janet’s perspective, the film explores the triumphs and the cost—on not only their family, but, his colleagues and, the nation itself as the events led up to one of the most dangerous missions in history. To be honest, I knew very little about Neil Armstrong’s personal life going into this film and found it to be enlightening. Having prior knowledge of what occurred has little to do with the impact this terrific human-interest story has. There were details of what transpired regarding some of the trials and tribulations associated with the Gemini missions, as well as the real-life people involved, that I was familiar with.

I appreciated the opportunity to see their early beginnings as depicted here, which provided connective tissue to their place in later historic events, some tragic and some successful. The film maintains a good balance in its quest to tell Armstrong’s personal story and pivotal role in human history. Those expecting a space adventure will leave disappointed as First Man isn’t that type of film although, there are elements of that. I felt that director Damien Chazelle expertly shaped his vision for the film both visually and emotionally. The cast is simply terrific from top to bottom. The Apollo 11 mission was simply one of the most incredible and engaging feats of our time. First Man tells the story of its commander from a personal perspective that I found truly gratifying and moving. Well done.

Replay Value: 4 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for some thematic content involving peril and brief strong language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 88
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
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  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

 

First Man comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

First Man was derived from film-based sources, rendered on a 2K DI and upconverted to 4K.

This video presentation utilizes two different aspect ratios, 2.39:1 and 1.90:1, to incorporate the sequences that were shot using IMAX cameras. Both have been integrated here, with the majority of the film using the wider aspect and the lunar sequences in the finale using the other. The result doesn’t infringe upon fidelity or interrupt the visual flow of the movie in any way.

This is an excellent Ultra HD presentation that looks great on my large screen. This is a drama/biopic, set in the past, that features elements that make use of rich, earth toned colors, boldly applied contrast, and a distinctive visual aesthetic. First Man utilizes differing film stock in order to capture the director’s intended look of specific sequences. Visually speaking, the differences in those scenes is easily discernible in terms of resolution.

The rendering of detail is excellent, as the finest minutia in the film’s variety of textures, as seen in the Armstrong home, in the landscapes, on instrument panels, or on the moon, are reproduced with stark realism. Generally speaking, there is a discernible increase in detail and emboldened highlights that allows the UHD image to appear noticeably detailed and vivid when compared to the 1080p version. The IMAX shots that take place on the moon are breathtaking.

The sequences taking place around NASA, the exterior shots of the Armstrong home in Houston or the wide-angle perspectives of the various testing grounds for flight equipment, show off the video’s superb combination of color and fidelity. The use of sepia is beautifully reproduced, while whites and grays appear gradational and vibrant. The wide color gamut and crisp, bright, imagery, enrich the sense of realism when looking at differing environs, whether lit by natural or artificial lighting.

The film incorporates a host of scenes that take place at night or, in dark environs. I found a few of them to suffer from slightly crushed shadow detail but, not to detrimental levels. I didn’t find that high dynamic range played an integral role in this presentation but, there were moments where it complimented the imagery in a defining way.

This Ultra HD presentation is marvelous, adding a lustrous visual element to the experience of watching First Man.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for First Man, I found the HDR to be close, but felt that the DV rendering edged out the HDR-10. Much of this came when comparing the same scenes, and finding that the rendering of color was not only slightly deeper, but seemingly more delineated. This film uses a varied chromatic palette and I felt that it shone brighter via Dolby Vision. I also felt that the rendering of gradations in shadow detail was smoother in Dolby Vision. While these elements were noticeable neither proved defining. In general both the HDR-10 and DV renderings looked terrific.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderate variety that focused on thematic atmosphere. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of ambience, panning fills and occasional discrete effects. This is done well when implemented and creates an appreciable level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events. The music score is subtly mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements without drawing attention away from the thematic details of what is transpiring onscreen. I must to admit to wishing for deeper use of the overhead channels especially during the scenes that take place within the confines of the command modules. Chapter 7 and 8 seem picture perfect for providing a sense of all-encompassing immersion. Be that as it may, I didn’t find myself taken out of that sequence in any way.

While this mix doesn’t make constant use of attention-grabbing audio object placement, I found myself completely involved when it mattered and found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

 

Audio: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

 

First Man comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/True HD 7.1 channel sound.

This film looks great on Blu-ray and features excellent video quality that exhibits high level detail, stable sharpness and revealing definition. Close ups are noticeably refined and revealing of the subtlest details within facial features and objects within the frame. Mid-level camera pans are equally enriching and offer excellent depth and dimension. When called for, colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among the spectrum of secondary hues. Contrast is boldly applied without overstatement as it enlivens colors and drives brightly lit scenes without whitewashing detail. Blacks are gradational and deep which emboldens sequences containing a mix of light and dark elements. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveal visible shapes and structure that enhances depth perception. This is a solid presentation that looked terrific on my big screen.

The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD (Atmos core) surround mix does a great job presenting the track’s recorded elements. This soundtrack runs the gamut between passages of spoken dialog and music to engaging sequences that deliver enriching surround sound. Dialog rendering is terrific as it holds sway over the front soundstage. Dynamic range is excellent as the active elements within the surround mix resound with superior clarity and palpable bass. Clarity is first rate which brings out the finely articulated nuance of background elements within the mix. Surround use achieves a high level of envelopment that is appreciably involving as effects are seamlessly blended to create a stable and detail rich sound field.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: First Man Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: First Man Blu-ray
    • Deleted Scenes
    • Shooting for the Moon – Take an intimate look at the production of FIRST MAN and the collaborative relationship between Director Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling.
    • Preparing to Launch – It’s difficult to believe that FIRST MAN is the first major feature film to tell the journey to Apollo 11. Hear from Director Damien Chazelle and his cast why now is the time to tell the story of this historic event.
    • Giant Leap in One Small Step – A heroic character study, FIRST MAN sheds light on all the hard working individuals that got us to the moon and back.
    • Mission Gone Wrong – Watch as Ryan Gosling reenacts a test piloting sequence gone terribly wrong. Go behind the scenes to see how he trained to nail the landing, performing the majority of his own stunts.
    • Putting You In the Seat – Through the use of innovative technology, most of FIRST MAN was shot in-camera. Take an in-depth look behind the lens of this epic film.
    • Recreating the Moon Landing – Filmed in IMAX to show the vastness of the moon, find out all that it took to recreate the most famous moment in NASA history.
    • Shooting at NASA – Hear from Ryan Gosling and Director Damien Chazelle on how shooting at NASA brought unparalleled authenticity to FIRST MAN.
    • Astronaut Training – Go behind the scenes of the three day boot camp each of the actors underwent prior to filming FIRST MAN.
    • Feature Commentary with Director Damien Chazelle, Screenwriter Josh Singer and Editor Tom Cross
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

Based on the book First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen First Man takes a personal and inside look at the story behind the first manned mission to the moon, focusing on Neil Armstrong and the decade leading to the historic flight. I found it to be an enlightening and engaging biopic/drama that rose to the level of its poignant subject matter. It comes to Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in this Ultra HD Combo Pack featuring an excellent Ultra HD video rendering (which includes Dolby Vision HDR) that makes the most of the source material, solid high definition video, engaging lossless surround sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and a worthwhile supplemental package. First Man is a keeper and comes highly recommended for fans.

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems 

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