What Hi-Fi (UK)
BEST MOVIE SCENES
A round-up of some of our favourite movie scenes that we use to test our home cinema kit
So, you’re ready to put your new TV through its paces. All you need now is the content to prove it was money well spent and a room full of people to show it all off to.
Every TV and projector that passes through our home cinema rooms is tested using some of the latest and greatest 4K Blu-rays. That means we’re in the perfect position to put together a list of some of our favourite film scenes that we use for revealing just how worthy the display we’re watching really is. So that’s just what we’ve done.
Some are helpful for examining colour and contrast, others are better tests of detail and motion handling; but all will let you see for yourself just how good your TV or projector is at its job. Disclaimer: please do try this at home.
John Wick: Chapter 2
(2017, chapter 4)
For most of the film, John Wick: Chapter 2 is more of a study of dark detail and black depth than anything else – useful in itself – but there’s a rare moment of grandeur that makes for an excellent way to test out picture quality.
Chapter 4 on the disc involves the eponymous hero’s arrival in Rome, and we get some splendid wide shots of the Eternal City at sunset taking in sights including a rooftop view of the Vittoriano, a fly-over of the Colosseum and St Peter’s Basilica lit up at dusk. They each make for a brilliant insight into sharpness and contrast control.
This particular collection of pictures demands pin-sharp control of car headlights, fountain illuminations and windows, while also giving a real sense of scale to the city. You should be able to feel the distance between the camera lens and the mountains, while still getting an exciting edge to the detail. It’s not an easy feat to pull off, and you’ll get an excellent sense of just how good your TV actually is.
(2017, chapter 1)
A white room with a black piano, one man dressed all in white, one dressed all in black; this is not a scene that’s going to test your TV’S ability to produce colours – or motion for that matter. The opener of this Alien film is all about contrast and detail.
A poor TV will render this as a fairly simple display of monochrome. But a good quality HDR set should have the lighting levels just right and so much to see in the light and dark areas that it becomes a rich palette unto itself.
Look out for textures – the actors’ clothing, the marble of the statue, the polished concrete floor, the lacquer of the piano and the bone-china tea set. On the best screens nothing should be lost. Then, for straight 4K clarity, there are the skin details in the close-ups and the glory of the lakeside window view. It’s a lovely, wide piece of cinema.
Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2
(2017, chapter 1)
Skies are great for testing out picture quality, and this MCU classic opens with a big ole Missouri one. It’s the only Earthbound sequence in the film, as we follow an afternoon with lovers Meredith Quill and Ego. Look for your TV’S ability to handle contrast in the rendering of the clouds. You’re after a portrait of subtle shading rather than dramatic patches of dark and light.
Then, looking to the ground, do the brown earth, the green grass and the yellow crops all suggest a convincing and natural colour balance? Can you see the dark details in Ego’s clothing once we’re zoomed in on the couple; and can the motion processing in your set handle the movement of their blue car without giving it too much judder or the home-video look? Within three minutes, this film will tell you everything about your TV that there is to know.
(2017, chapter 10)
The Staten Island Ferry scene is one of the most enjoyable sequences in the MCU. Action-packed and entertaining, it offers plenty of sharp dialogue and superhero crossover. It’s also an excellent sight to behold in 4K.
Right off the bat, this is a brilliant test of colour and texture, the future-fabric look and feel of Spidey’s suit supplying an excellent counterpoint to the yellow, riveted hull of the ferry and the bright blue New York City sky.
When we move into the action, it’s all about motion processing and whether your TV can hang on to all that fantastic 4K detail as Spider-man, the Vulture and, ultimately, Iron Man, take to the air.
Blade Runner 2049
(2017, chapter 11)
Denis Villeneuve’s belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s masterpiece is very much its own beast and while the original benefitted from Jordan Cronenworth’s neon-dipped visuals, 2049 moves things on, bringing its ‘A’ game with Roger Deakin’s Oscar-winning cinematography.
Use of HDR appears minimal; it’s the use of Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) that takes centre stage here. This film has a rich, textured look and striking use of lighting techniques throughout. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the impressive Las Vegas scene.
Caused by the fallout of a dirty bomb, the rusty orange haze of the Las Vegas setting should provide a good test of your TV’S control over tint and hue. A mediocre performance here means you won’t be able to appreciate the many layers within the image.
Detail and clarity will also get a workout as, despite the prevalence of orange, you should be able to make out the details on K’s (Ryan Gosling) face as well as the erosion visible on the battered surfaces and cracked statues that surround him.
(2006, chapter 2)
The motorbike chase in the opening to Skyfall is a strong contender, but it’s the elaborate parkour pursuit from Casino Royale we find most telling.
It’s eight enthralling minutes of fast, blink-and-you-miss-it action as Bond and the bad guy jump from crane to crane, demanding a smooth handling of motion from your display. This is where a tweak of your screen’s motion processing can be helpful. Just be aware that high levels in less efficient TVS can cause blurry halos.
(2016, chapter 4)
One of Marvel’s most beloved superheroes, Deadpool is all spectacle and sarcasm – the former of which makes this 4K Blu-ray such a strong test disc.
The 12-bullet countdown scene on the freeway not only entertainingly introduces the anti-hero’s character but also lays your display’s transparency bare. That’s largely down to the vibrancy and textures of his red spandex suit and slow-mo sequences in which the sparkle of shattered glass and the gleam of bullets should be obvious to the eye.
Such are the limited locations and the way this film is cut together that almost any chapter of this wartime epic is an excellent test of picture power. Texture, colour, contrast, motion control, light and dark detail – this film pushes it all and, shot in IMAX, much of it fills your whole screen too with no letterbox black bars at the top or bottom.
The best sequences to look out for are those in the Spitfires. Of course, it’s the shading of the clouds and the sea that are the most obvious things to look out for, but the texturing of the pilot’s outfits is a superb opportunity for your TV to shine, as are the dark details on Kenneth Branagh’s Navy overcoat.
(2006, chapter 6)
A film about a hospitalised stuntman in 1920s California who befriends an imaginative young girl and tells her an epic tale about five mythical heroes, The Fall delivers some serious eye-candy.
With the dazzling hues of the utopian landscapes and the flamboyant costumes, the tribal chant scene is a banquet of eye-popping colour that will test your kit’s ability with a rich palette. Lush green gardens should shine amid desert valleys, and the vast vistas lay bare your TV or projector’s perception of depth.
(2013, chapter 2)
It’s hardly surprising that this film won the 2014 Oscar for Best Visual Effects. The space-walk scene is especially telling of contrast and dark detail; the whites of the spacesuits and spaceship are just pixels apart from the blackness of space. Do whites bleed into black or are they clear-cut? And when Doctor Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) detaches, you should see stars shining at different intensities.
If you’re a fan of 3D then there’s even more to enjoy. Your TV will need stability and clarity for space debris to be distinct as it flies past your face.