Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions.
The sixth Potter movie came with a surprisingly ugly transfer.
Sharpness was iffy at best. Some of the movie demonstrated decent clarity and definition, but too many problems emerged. I noticed moderate edge haloes, and the image tended to be rather rough. Jagged edges abounded, and the movie often took on a ropy appearance. Shimmering was also a concern, and various forms of digital artifacts were a nearly constant concern. I saw tons of mosquito noise and found this to be a murky presentation.
Prince lacked many prominent hues, as its colors always stayed pretty subdued. Within the production design, though, the hues looked decent, and the occasional instance of a more vivid tone was reasonably rich. Blacks were dark and dense, but shadows looked awfully heavy. Low-light shots could be rather opaque; they made details tough to discern. This wasn’t a thoroughly awful presentation, but it definitely disappointed.
In the case of the film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, it seemed very good but not quite up to “A”-level standards. I thought the soundfield didn’t quite present the consistently enveloping experience I’d require to earn that higher grade. Not that it didn’t offer some strong bits. The variety of action sequences created a lively sense of environment in which different elements zipped around the room. These opened up matters well and allowed the action to become vivacious.
I just didn’t think we got enough of these to make it to “A”-level. However, the track remained engaging, even during quieter scenes. Music showed good stereo imaging, and environmental elements formed together in a smooth, natural fashion. All of these made the soundfield quite good, if not killer.
Audio quality always satisfied. Speech was natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music sounded bright and vibrant, while effects came across as tight and powerful. Bass response appeared deep and firm. Across the board, this was a very good soundtrack.
Virtually all of the set’s extras appear on Disc Two. We get a taste of the next flick via First Footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In this one-minute and 50-second clip, we hear from producer David Heyman and director David Yates; they offer very vague notes about the franchise, and we then see a brief teaser. None of these elements make the segment too exciting.
We see the performers go behind the scenes during the 28-minute, 33-second Close-Up with the Cast of Harry Potter. Introduced by actors Matthew Lewis and Alfie Enoch, we then split into a bunch of chapters. In the first, Daniel Radcliffe learns about the work done by editor Mark Day, and then we follow Lewis and actors Oliver Phelps and Tom Felton with practical effects creator Matthew Harlow. Next comes a segment with Felton and special effects supervisor John Richardson. Actor Jessie Cave learns how they get the birds to do their work with owl trainer Guillaume Grange, and actor Rupert Grint chats with stunt performer Nick Daines about that side of the process.
But that’s not all! Actor Evanna Lynch visits costume designer Jany Temime to learn about clothes, and then actor Bonnie Wright tours the art department and yaks with graphic designer Eduardo Lima. Actor James Phelps also did some work an assistant director, so we see that side of his day. Finally, actor Emma Watson gets the scoop from makeup designer Amanda Knight. All of these fly by very quickly, so don’t expect great depth. However, they boast a lot of energy and provide some basics for fans to learn these behind the scenes details.
Next comes a documentary called JK Rowling: A Year in the Life. The program looks at the novelist and runs 49 minutes, 43 seconds. At its start, it warns us that it’ll contain plot/character info about Deathly Hallows; apparently it look at Rowling during the creation of that final book. While I’m no super-fan of the Potter series, I do want to go into the final two movies spoiler-free, so I didn’t watch this program. Sorry! It looks interesting, though.
While One-Minute Drills sounds like the title of a porn film, it’s actually a six-minute, 45-second featurette. It challenges various actors to give us short recaps of their characters’ arcs across the first six films. It includes James and Oliver Phelps, Wright, Radcliffe, Grint, Felton, and Watson. Poor Radcliffe gets the toughest task since Potter is the main character, so his summary is the most superficial. It’s still fun, and the others actually cover their roles pretty well. If you want a primer before you watch the next movie, this is a good place to go.
Felton returns for What’s On Your Mind?. It goes for six minutes, 43 seconds, as Felton asks many of the other actors to answer simple personal questions in a rapid fashion. It’s a cute piece.
We learn about a new theme park via ”The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” Sneak Peek. In this 11-minute, 40-second reel, we hear from Radcliffe, Watson, Grint, Heyman, Felton, Oliver and James Phelps, Lewis, Universal Parks and Resorts Creative VP Thierry Coup, Universal Creative president Mark Woodbury, Wizarding World of Harry Potter show producer Paul Daurio, film production designer Stuart Craig, supervising art director Alan Gilmore, producer David Barron, Universal Parks and Resorts executive chef Steve Jayson, and actors Robbie Coltrane and Michael Gambon. They tell us a lot about the new addition to Universal Orlando.
Does the “Sneak Peek” act as anything more than a long ad for the park? Nope, not really. We don’t get a real tour of the place; we just hear people talk about how much fun it’ll be. And it might be a blast, but the program itself is pretty dull.
Eight Additional Scenes run a total of six minutes, 48 seconds. We find “Harry and Hermione Walk Through the Walls of Hogwarts” (0:29), “Harry and Hermione Discuss Marauder’s Map” (1:02), “Harry, Ron and Hermione Discuss the Vanishing Cabinet” (1:06), “Harry and Dumbledore Arrive at Cave Entrance” (0:41), “Harry and Dumbledore Leave Cave” (0:21), “Clouds Gather Over Hogwarts as Flitwick Conducts Choir” (1:42), “Harry Joins Ron, Hermione and Ginny in the Common Room” (0:43), and “Harry and Hermione Discuss Ron at Astronomy Tower” (0:43).
Given their brevity, you shouldn’t expect much important content from these scenes. Many offer some light exposition, and most of those look at Harry’s attempts to trace Draco’s antics. “Choir” seems too reminiscent from a scene in an earlier movie for my liking. The others are mildly interesting but pretty inconsequential; nothing here really needed to make the final film.
We also get a Digital Copy of Prince. This enables you to transfer the film to a computer or portable viewing device. Donuts!
Disc One opens with some ads. We get promos for the Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Harry Potter: Spells, and Half-Blood Prince videogames, the Universal Orlando Potter theme park, and the Potter Ultimate Editions, and Free Willy: Escape from Pirate’s Cove. Disc Two also launches with promos. It includes clips for Sherlock Holmes and the Harry Potter: Wizarding World interactive DVD.
Though I initially found Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to be a weak entry in the series, a second viewing better revealed its charms. While the movie suffers from some issues that stem from its place in the chronology, it still manages to create fairly good drama. The DVD offers effective audio and a decent smattering of supplements, but picture quality looks surprisingly awful much of the time. This is an enjoyable Potter adventure, but the DVD’s visuals sorely disappoint.