The Harry Potter series of books from J.K. Rowling are some of the most successful books over the past 30 years. Spawning a movie franchise that’s been just as successful as the books, Harry Potter fans have eagerly gobbled up the subsequent home video releases of these popular movies.
Over the years, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released the movies in the DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray formats, and now with the 4K Ultra HD disc format gaining momentum Warner Bros. has introduced the 4K Ultra HD disc versions of the franchise.
According to the website Reference Home Theater, all of the Harry Potter Ultra HD 4K discs come from movies shot on 35mm film with 2K digital intermediates, meaning the movies were transferred to a digital format for use as commercial DCI content and content archiving.
As part of the digital intermediate process, which includes color correction and color grading, Warner Bros. also mastered the movies to include high dynamic range (HDR). Through the inclusion of HDR Warner Bros Home Entertainment says the discs offer users “a wider color spectrum [to] offer consumers brighter, deeper, more lifelike colors for a home entertainment viewing experience like never before.”
In addition to the higher resolution video capabilities of the discs, Warner Bros. also included DTS:X soundtrack options. What this means is the home-video titles offer immersive audio in the home to deliver a more cinematic audio experience.
Using my home theater, which includes an Optoma UHZ65 4K laser projector and a 100-inch Stewart Filmscreen Phantom HALR screen, FIBBR fiber-optic cables, a LG 4K UHD disc player, Onkyo receiver, Triad speakers and Atlantic Technology speakers, I watched four Harry Potter Ultra HD 4K discs from an A/V perspective.
Harry Potter Ultra HD 4K: Sorcerer’s Stone
I have to admit I enjoyed watching this first movie in the franchise … and for that matter, I enjoyed all of them. It had been a while since I’ve watched these movies, The Sorcerer’s Stone in particular.
Watching the movie in 4K, I found the experience immediately provided a more cinematic experience than the DVD and Blu-ray versions.
Because of the overall improved audio and visual experience of the Harry Potter Ultra HD 4K discs provided, I felt it exposed the age of the film’s special effects, which is great if you’re an enthusiast because that’s what this type of format investment is supposed to do.
I also found the HDR helpful in illuminating greater detail in certain scenes I had previously found a bit dark. The combination of the 4K and HDR technologies really struck me, through their ability to deliver added detail with subtle things like showcasing the elaborate costumes Professor McGonagell and Albus Dumbledore wore.
A highlight of the disc for me was towards the end of the movie: the “key” scene in which Harry, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger were surrounded by winged keys that were buzzing around. This was a great demonstration of how immersive DTS:X can be in a home theater context by placing the sound around my seating area.
Harry Potter Ultra HD 4K: Chamber of Secrets
Following up on an earlier point, I could clearly see an improvement in the level of special effects in Chamber of Secrets when compared to Sorcerer’s Stone. I also found that I thought the overall audio and video quality of “Secrets” was better than the first movie.
“Secrets” is a much brighter movie than Sorcerer’s Stone, and the audio had more immersive scenes than the first one, even though they may not have matched the intensity of the “flying key” scene in Sorcerer’s Stone.
For example, the flying car sounded great and the sound engineers really utilized the height channels to create the illusion of “lift” as the car ascended into the night sky.
The “Mandrakes” also contributed with the screaming plants surrounding my seating area with their screams, and the quidditch seeker chapter also provided a nice level of immersion into the movie’s soundtrack.
Some of the video aspects that jumped out to me included the level of texture shown in Tom Riddle’s diary, as well as the level of rust and dirt—the gradation of color on the locked chamber of secret doors, and seeing the reflection of light in Tom Riddle’s eyes that I never noticed in prior home video releases.
Prisoner of Azkaban
Continuing the trend of the newer movie delivering improved audio and video quality over the previous movie, the Prisoner of Azkaban looked and sounded great.
I loved seeing the richness of the earthy color palette in this disc. Greens such as the grassy hills were vivid and the browns and grays of Hogwarts showed high levels of detail that added a nice realistic appearance to the school grounds.
Standout scenes in Prisoner of Azkaban included the Dementer visit. The Dementers’ scenes offered a nice combination of audio and video as they entered the scene and the air turning cold and seeing and hearing the train windows frosting over.
Showing the excellent job the production team did in the digital transfer of this movie, I thought the wealth of colors shown in the candy store on Diagon Alley scene were brilliant, and the scene in which Sirius Black leaves Harry Potter really communicated the level of video quality in the third Potter UHD disc.
Goblet of Fire
The best looking of the four discs I watched, the Goblet of Fire is pure eye and ear candy.
Right from the start, the quality of the disc was apparent. One of the first chapters in the movie was the quidditch match, which displayed lots of contrasting images. Also like the other UHD discs, the quality of the 4K home video release exposed the limitations of the special effects such as when Rubeus Hagrid was waving in the flying horse-drawn buggy onto the Hogwarts grounds.
In this scene, it is clearly visible that actor Robbie Coltrane, who plays Hagrid, was standing in front of a green screen.
Some of the fun aspects I found with the 4K disc include the unbelievable level of detail the technology provided with elements such as the visible scars on Moody’s face, seeing Rita Skeeter’s bloodshot eyes when she’s interviewing Potter, and the scene where Potter is talking to Neville Longbottom by the lake. I thought the Potter/Longbottom scene looked spectacular.
What I liked about this scene was how visible secondary visuals like the rippling water, the green of the forest, including the leaves and moss, and the shades of brown in the tree bark appeared.
One last chapter I’d like to point out that I thought looked exceptional was the ballroom dance scene.
Offering a full array of colors, the dance scene really took advantage of the Optoma’s laser light engine’s color capabilities to produce an array of colors that would make Crayola envious. The scene also offered a high level of dynamic contrast and resolution through fine definition of items, including Ron Weasley’s feathered hair and various facial features of the actors.
Towards the end of the movie, the maze scene and the race to find the goblet provided the most compelling surround sound with swirling winds engulfing listeners and the Potter characters during some the most climatic moments of the movie.
Final Thoughts on Harry Potter Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray Discs
Many times, when it comes to these popular movie franchises, fans buy the respective home video releases out of loyalty and love of the films.
While blind loyalty may be the reason why some Harry Potter fans purchase the 4K discs, there are better, more legitimate reasons to buy the 4K versions: they offer a clear step up in quality when compared to earlier format versions of the movies.
Considering it’s the holiday season, I think the new Harry Potter Ultra HD 4K discs are the perfect presents for fans of the movie, as well general movie fans that will simply appreciate the cinematic experience these 4K discs provide.