Cloverfield appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film’s videotaped roots meant the picture didn’t excel, but I thought it looked quite good within those constraints.
Sharpness usually seemed solid. The shooting style meant lots and lots of out of focus elements, but those had nothing to do with the transfer itself. The DVD featured delineation that was perfectly appropriate for the various shots. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also remained absent; I saw some video artifacts in low-light scenes, but those were inevitable.
Given the videotape origins, colors tended to be bland. The movie usually made things look somewhat brown, which made sense within the format. Though the hues never seemed memorable, they were fine for what I expected. Along the same path, blacks tended to be somewhat wan, while shadows usually appeared a bit opaque and dense.
All those criticisms and I still gave the image a “B+”? Yeah, that might not sound consistent, but this was an instance in which the objective reality didn’t match the subjective impression. Due to its “on the fly” video format, I honestly thought Cloverfield would look terrible, but most of the time it offered very nice visuals. This was a much more pleasing presentation than I expected, so I felt a “B+” was appropriate.
I found it tough to rate the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Cloverfield for somewhat similar reasons, though the audio had a bit of a split personality. The mix was more active than I expected, which may actually have been a negative. Through the flick, the filmmakers slavishly adhered to the “fly on the wall” video photography; there’s not a single shot that didn’t look like it came from a camcorder. However, the multichannel audio violated that sense of realism.
The soundfield didn’t go completely nuts, as much of the material stayed within the stereo realm in the front channels. This was acceptable as a representation of what a consumer camcorder might replicate. Indeed, the mixers took pains to give speech the same messy blending to the sides that would come with a real camcorder. In terms of the front three speakers, I thought the track matched the “real-life photography” conceit pretty well.
So why did the filmmakers decide to break the realism with so much material from the surrounds? That choice was satisfying in terms of movie enjoyment but still seemed inappropriate since there was no way a consumer camcorder would offer stereo surround information. The track integrated the back speakers well, and I thought the mix left a very good impression of all the mayhem, but I was a bit disappointed the film dropped the ball when it came to attempted auditory realism.
The choice to violate the “you are there” camcorder vibe made even less sense when I considered the quality of the audio. For the most part, the material sounded like it would’ve come from the mic on a standard camcorder. Actually, I suspect that a consumer model wouldn’t provide so much clean and tight audio, but this didn’t cause significant leaps to accept. I felt the sound was natural within the film’s stylistic confines, and that extended to a distinct lack of low-end material. The LFE channel got no work at all during the flick, even when the action seemed to demand deep bass.
Again, within the camcorder sensibility, that was fine. However, the choice disappointed since the filmmakers already violated reality with the surround info. If they went that step, why not go all the way and make this a truly top-notch soundtrack? (Note that to continue with the camcorder feel, no score appeared during the film – not until the end credits, at least.) I did think it satisfied, but the inconsistencies left it with a “B” grade.
Cloverfield comes supplied with plenty of extras. We begin with an audio commentary from director Matt Reeves. He provides a running, screen-specific chat that examines the origins of the project and how he got involved, cinematography and working within the camcorder concept, casting, rehearsals and performances, the project’s script and its secrecy, locations and sets, music, sound and effects, influences, budgetary and time restrictions, and a few other filmmaking subjects.
From start to finish, Reeves gives us a terrific commentary. He digs into a wide mix of production topics and does so with gusto. Reeves gets into the whole experience well and helps make this a strong discussion that teaches us a lot about the flick.
Document 1.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield runs 28 minutes, 16 seconds as it combines movie clips, shots from the set and interviews. We hear from Reeves, producers JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk, camera operator Christopher Hayes, editor Kevin Stitt, executive producer Sherryl Clark, special effects coordinator David Waine, 1st assistant cameraman Wally Sweeterman, special effects supervisor Josh Hakian, animal trainer Tom Gunderson, animatronic effects supervisor Andrew Clement, visual effects supervisor Kevin Blank, assistant technical advisor Tom Minder, director of photography Michael Bonvillain, stunt coordinator Rob King, production designer Martin Whist, 2nd AD Katie Carroll, and actors Brian Klugman, Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Michael Stahl-Davis, Margot Farley, TJ Miller, Lizzy Caplan, and Odette Yustman. “Document” examines the flick’s genesis and themes, camerawork, what Reeves brought to the project and Abrams’ impact on it, various effects, sets and locations, attempts at realism, performance challenges, and stunts.
“Document” works more like a production diary than a traditional “making of” feature. It rushes through the various topics and emphasis elements from the shoot. Since Reeves already covers so many of these topics in depth during his commentary, I don’t mind their more superficial treatment here, and the behind the scenes glimpses more than compensate. This becomes a good program.
Two more featurettes ensue. Cloverfield Visual Effects goes for 22 minutes, 29 seconds and includes Reeves, Abrams, Blank, Burk, Bonvillain, Stitt, Whist, Clark, visual effects producer Chantal Feghali, Double Negative visual effects supervisor Michael Ellis, Double Negative computer graphics supervisor David Vickery, Double Negative Maya technical director Diego Trazzi, Double Negative lead technical director Dalia Al-Husseini, Double Negative effects technical director Pawel Grochola, Double Negative senior technical director Phil Johnson, Third Floor pre-visualization supervisor Nicholas Markel, Tippett Studio visual effects producer Annie Pomeranz, Tippett Studio digital matte painter Ben Von Zastrow, Tippett Studio layout and matchmove supervisor Devin Breese, Tippett Studio animation supervisor Tom Gibbons, Double Negative matchmove supervisor Sam Schwier, Tippett Studio lead FX animator Joseph Hamdorf, Double Negative effects artist Adrian Thompson, Tippett Studio compositing supervisor Chris Morley, Tippett Studio Clover 3D texture painter August Dizon, and Tippett Studio character setup and rigging artist Eric Jeffrey.
Through this program, we examine all of the flick’s effects challenges and see how the filmmakers melded computer artistry with the physical elements. The show avoids becoming too dry via its quick pace. It offers many more good behind the scenes images and gives us a great deal of solid information.
I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge! lasts five minutes, 50 seconds and presents Abrams, Burk, Reeves, lead creature designer Neville Page, and Tippett Studio visual effects supervisor Eric Leven. “Huge” looks at the design of the movie’s creature and related elements. The program seems a little brief, and I’d have liked to see some alternate/abandoned concepts. Nonetheless, it goes through things reasonably well.
An outtake reel called Clover Fun fills three minutes, 57 seconds. It shows goofing around on the set, mostly from the party or Beth/Rob “prologue”. Those bits aren’t too interesting, but I like the closing images of a streetlight that falls really, really slowly.
Next we find four Deleted Scenes and two Alternate Endings. These include “Congrats Rob” (0:24), “When You’re In Japan” (1:25), “I Call That a Date” (0:45), “It’s Going to Hurt” (0:58), “Alternate Ending 1” (2:08) and “Alternate Ending 2” (2:25). The first two deleted scenes offer more testimonials from the party; they’re amusing but insubstantial. “Date” offers a comedic glimpse of Hud’s crush on Marlena, while “Hurt” reminds us of Lily’s pain as the flick’s action progresses. I’d have liked to see the few additional seconds of “Date” included – most of its 45 seconds include material in the final film – but the others seem extraneous.
As for the “Alternate Endings”, neither changes what happens to the surviving characters during the monster attack; those elements remain essentially the same for these as they do in the final film. For the first, we get a different coda from the pre-attack footage of Rob and Beth. The second uses the same coda but adds a very brief glimpse of someone who finds the camera after the assault. Neither betters the conclusion to the released movie.
We can view all of these with or without commentary from Reeves. He tells us a little about the scenes as well as why he cut them. Reeves continues to be informative and enjoyable.
A few ads launch the DVD. We get promos for Star Trek and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. These also appear in the disc’s Previews area. No trailer for Cloverfield shows up here.
My only complaint about Cloverfield relates to the mild motion sickness with which it left me. Otherwise I really liked this clever and exciting action flick. It could’ve been little more than a gimmicky piece of nonsense, but instead it soars. The DVD provides perfectly acceptable picture and audio along with a very nice collection of extras. I really dig this movie, so I strongly recommend it.