Westworld Season One Ultra HD Review

Ralph Potts reviews this HBO drama series, based on the film written by Michael Crichton, where guests can live without limits in a world where every human appetite can be indulged.

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

Film:

Extras:

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

89

Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 2017
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 619 minutes
Genre: TV Drama

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): ] English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:English SDH,, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Czech
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Ben Barnes, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Luke Hemsworth, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Shannon Woodward, Jimmi Simpson, Simon Quarterman, Rodrigo Santoro
Directed by: Various
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Written by: Various
Region Code: A

Release Date: November 7, 2017

“What happens in a world free of rules, limits and consequences?”

My Take:

Westworld isn’t your typical amusement park. Intended for rich vacationers, the futuristic park — which is looked after by robotic “hosts” — allows its visitors to live out their fantasies through artificial consciousness. No matter how illicit the fantasy may be, there are no consequences for the park’s guests, allowing for any wish to be indulged.

Based on the 1973 film written/directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld is a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and evolution of sin. Set at the intersection of the near future and a reimagined past, the series explores a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be experienced. Filled with inner monologues, shaped by the roles that memories play, offset by subtext surrounding the hosts, as the past present and future collide, the 10 episodes of season one play out in layer peeling fashion.

The storyline features narratives that involve not only the hosts, and the guests, but those pulling the strings. The plot peeks behind the curtain to reveal that in as much as those running the park think that they are in control, the truth is, they aren’t, and there is more to what lies beneath the artificial hosts than meets the eye. I watched the entire season, finding it to be conceptually interesting, as it examines the psyche of human indulgence, juxtaposed to the ramifications of playing god, by tinkering with the implanted “souls” of the hosts. There are elements of mystery that play out over the course of the season that are complimentary to the plot, while adding a necessary element that conjoins events throughout, as they build toward the finale.

The cast is filled with talent, each adding an enriching element, whether they be a regular, or a guest star, that underscores the shows thematic impact. I look forward toward next season.

Westworld Season One: The Maze as reviewed here is available in a Limited Edition Tin, that comes with a 20 page premium collectible booklet, that serves as the “Corporate Guidebook for new employees at Westworld”. The Limited-Edition tin is attractive, featuring raised lettering and a sturdy snap when closing.

10 ONE-HOUR EPISODES
1. The Original
2. Chestnut
3. The Stray
4. Dissonance Theory
5. Contrapasso
6. The Adversary
7. Trompe L’Oeil
8. Trace Decay
9. The Well-Tempered Clavier
10. The Bicameral Mind

Replay Value: 3.5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The show contains mature thematic material, nudity, sexual content, and violence.

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): 88
(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): 88
(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: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. 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 online-shashki Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Westworld Season One comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 40 Mbps, and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 3.6Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD Westworld Season One was rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K.

Westworld is a sci-fi drama that adheres to relatively cooler chromatic schemes, with the exception of sequences that call for richer color to provide thematic emphasis, which doesn’t make for especially eye- catching levels of color, but this Ultra HD rendering makes the most of its elements. With a noticeable increase in detail the image appears sharper when compared to the 1080p version. The plethora of close up camera shots reveal plenty of subtle refinement and textures within the image. Primary colors like blue and red are pleasingly rich while whites appear bright and punchy.

The added dimension in the grays, blacks, and shadows gives the image excellent depth. The exterior sequences with their sun splashed, sepia aesthetic and razor sharpness looked terrific. The film has a variety of sequences that take advantage of high dynamic range. The contrast between the shadow details, bright lights and glistening metal objects gives the image lots of visual pop.

The 1080p rendering of Westworld Season One is excellent so the difference between the two isn’t night and day, but overall, I was very pleased with this presentation.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I recently added the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel to my review system. This was 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 online-shashki 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 Westworld Season One, I found the HDR rendering to essentially be the same. As I alluded to earlier, this show’s elements aren’t lent to overtly levels of vivid color or vibrant highlights, however the subtleties that are present lie in the warm accents and reproduction of earth tones. Switching back and forth between the DV and HDR-10 renderings yielded minute differences that are probably more subjective and not enough to warrant a rating difference. If pushed to make a decision on which presentation I preferred I would give the nod to DV.

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety, which was a pleasant surprise. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of atmospherics, panning fills and discrete sounds. This is done to good effect when implemented and creates an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Nearfield sound placement is noteworthy, providing an involving listening experience that emboldens the “being there” effect when applied.

During the various sequences that take place in the large venues, the track brims with environmental cues and discrete sound effects. The music is 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. 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.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

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

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

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

Westworld Season One comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 28 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 2.4 Mbps.

This is an excellent high definition rendering that sports plenty of fine detail and crisp definition that provides discerning dimensional perspective. Colors range from warm and vivid to cool, reserved and almost tonally neutral. This is obviously a creative decision that draws definitive visual boundaries and works quite well. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation. Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages. The various wide-angle shots of the shooting locations look terrific. Other than some innate softening, I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous compression related noise. Westworld Season One looks great on Blu-ray.

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound keeps pace with the video and is quite good. Dynamics are robust and highs are crisp without being strident or edgy. Dialogue is rendered with defining tonal expression and room penetrating depth through the center channel. The front soundstage is diffused with excellent separation and clearly articulated detail. The presentation makes ample use of the entire surround platform. At times it opens up quite nicely to create an involving surround mix containing a mix of directional and ambient sounds. Bass response doesn’t reach subterranean levels however it appropriately supports the source elements and provides an appreciably tight, and punchy low end.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1-3: Westworld Season One Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 4-6: Westworld Season One Blu-ray
    • Inside Look with Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy – Season One (New Featurette)
    • Imagining the Main Title (New Featurette)
    • The Key to The Chords (New Featurette)
    • Gag reel (New)
    • Welcome to Westworld
    • Crafting the Narrative
    • An Invitation to The Set
    • Welcome to Westworld: About the Series
    • Reality of A.I.: Westworld
    • “The Big Moment” Featurettes
  • Limited Edition Tin and Collectible Booklet

Final Thoughts:

Based on the 1973 film written/directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld Season One is an engaging TV drama that features well shaped characters, compelling drama, and a thought provoking spin. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertaining in this Limited Edition Ultra HD Combo Pack that features excellent overall video quality, involving lossless sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive mix (Ultra HD version only), and a fan friendly assortment of extras that a worth exploring. Westworld Season One proved to be quite good, and I look forward to seeing what lies ahead.

Ralph Potts
online-shashki 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
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc 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)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems