So you've followed our 'How to set up your TV and get the best picture' guide and are ready to put your new squeaky-clean home cinema 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 Blu-rays – currently the 4K HDR Blade Runner: The Final Cut and Star Wars: Rogue One are getting a lot of exposure - so we've put together a list of a dozen of our most-used film scenes that are great for revealing just how worthy the display we're watching really is.
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.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011)
3D may be going out of fashion in the home, but we think this Spielberg animation is a great example of how immersive, rather than distracting, 3D video can be when it's done right.
An incredible 'one-shot' chase towards the middle of the film is impressive, but we love the charming scene at the beginning where our hero Tintin first comes across a fateful model ship - the Unicorn. It's a masterclass in animation – Tintin’s reflections in the multiple mirrors behind look startlingly real, while the slow pan around the Unicorn in its glass case will reveal judders if your screen isn't rock-solid with motion. The artificial sheen you get when cranking up a TV’s motion processing settings tends to be less noticeable with animation than with live-action films, so feel free to tweak away to reduce those motion blurs or judders.
The 3D effect is subtle but totally pulls you into the world of the movie, and provided your screen is set-up correctly you'll find yourself wanting to be strolling down the market street in the bright sunshine, haggling with crotchety old men about the price of a ship.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2017)
Unlike most people approaching middle age, Blade Runner can confidently say it's 35 years old and has never looked better. That's something it can thank the powers that be for, as studios haven't been shy in giving older films the 4K HDR treatment for their Ultra HD Blu-ray reissues. This is one of the latest Ultra HD Blu-ray releases to hit the shelves, one whose worth is given more than a brief mention in our full review. Aspects of the film's picture that appeared fuzzy on the standard Blu-ray are rendered with startling clarity on this new transfer (which was mastered from the 4K digital intermediate re-worked under the supervision of Ridley Scott.)
HDR has been added to the equation too – and to good effect. When Deckard chases Zhora through the strip-mall in chapter 17, the extra colour intensity and nuance, as well as the bolstered contrast between the naturally dark, dingy setting and the neon lights that blaze against it, give the scene a sense of revitalisation.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Denis Villeneuve’s belated sequel to Ridley Scott’s seminal Blade Runner is very much its own beast and while the original benefitted from Jordan Cronenworth’s neon-dipped visuals, 2049 brings its ‘A’ game with Roger Deakin’s Oscar-winning cinematography.
Use of HDR appears to be minimally applied; it’s the use of Wide Colour Gamut (WCG) that takes centre stage here. 2049 has a rich, textured look and striking use of lighting techniques throughout and none is that more apparent than in the impressive Las Vegas scene.
Covered with 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. Get it wrong and 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 of the battered surfaces and cracked statues that surround him.
Casino Royale (2006)
A Bond film is always a safe bet for testing your TV or projector’s picture, and for that reason the latest usually makes its way to our test rooms shortly after its Blu-ray release. Thanks to their iconic opening scenes, chapter-skipping isn't even required to get an eyeful of the action.
It’s eight enthralling minutes of fast, blink-and-you-miss-it action as Bond and his nemesis jump from crane to crane and platform to platform, demanding a smooth handling of motion from your display.
This is where motion processing – a system's ability to analyse the image and insert repeated frames or blank ones into the video sequence to prevent a jerky end result – can be helpful. Just be aware that high levels in less efficient TVs can cause blurry halos around the moving image.
Chapters 4 and 16
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 (chapter 4) 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 – impressive enough to awaken the fashion designer in you – and slow-mo sequences, in which the sparkle of shattered glass on the floor and the gleam of bullets should be obvious to the eye. A screen full of fire in chapter 16 should blaze vividly from above your TV's black bars (especially if it's an OLED) and should look bright but not overblown, with variation within the flames and dark detail surrounding it.
The Fall (2006)
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 - it's one of the most stunning Blu-ray transfers in our collection.
With the dazzling hues of the utopian landscapes as well as 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 pop amidst desert valleys, and the vast vistas also lay bare your TV or projector’s perception of depth.
Alfonso Cuaron’s thrilling sci-fi flick may have lost out to 12 Years a Slave as Best Picture in the 2014 Academy Awards, but it’s not surprising Gravity won Best Visual Effects – it can pretty much tell you everything you need to know about your TV or projector’s picture.
The scene with the space-walk is especially telling of contrast and dark detail, with the whites of the spacesuits and spaceship just pixels apart from the blackness of space. Do whites bleed into black or are they clear-cut? Earth's edges should look bright and well-defined, and when Doctor Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) detaches you should see a smattering of stars shining at different intensities.
If you’re a fan of 3D then there's even more to enjoy. It’s a convincing and immersive watch, and your TV will need stability and clarity for space debris to be distinct as it flies past your face – and as Bullock swings around the screen.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)
It makes sense Disney’s first Ultra HD Blu-ray is the sequel to one of Marvel’s most popular films – not only because of the franchise’s fandom but also its audio/visual splendor. The sequel proves just as delectable a test disc, and while our favourite scene has to be the adorable Baby Groot kicking ass during the elector escape, it’s the “space chase” chapter that’s most involved.
As is expected, the 4K transfer (upscaled from its 2K DI) gives extra crispness over the standard Blu-ray disc. It's also a gleaming advert for HDR, what with its onslaught of contrast and colour - and it's a corker for testing motion, too (have a look at our full review for a more comprehensive testimonial). We don't say this about all Ultra HD Blu-rays, but Guardians really is worth paying the extra tenner for.
Logan is an unflinchingly brutal, violent and bleak film. But it’s surprisingly colourful. Going against the grain of dark, cool-toned superhero films, Logan - at most times - is bathed in sunlight and warm tones.
The first major fight scene in chapter 11 is a perfect example of this: dust and blood against a backdrop of perfect blue sky and fluffy white clouds. From the textures of dirt and desert sand clinging to Logan’s black suit and his grizzly, scarred face to the various shades of brown in their surroundings, it’s a test of your screen’s ability to deliver crisp and subtle detail.
The bright, sunlit scenes will show off how well your TV – 4K or Full HD – handles contrast, especially when the action cuts to gloomier shots inside the car. There’s depth to the dusty blacks and the blood splattered across Laura’s jumper. And when Logan and Laura start stabbing their enemies, you’ll hope your screen has a firm grip on motion handling.
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
This latest version of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express from Kenneth Branagh is an OK-ish adaptation of the famous story. But it does differ from prior adaptations in one way – it’s use of 70mm cinematography.
Branagh decided to go widescreen (taking a few cues from a film he worked on: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk) and gives the story a lavish treatment and this native 4K HDR rendition really is a sight for sore eyes.
Taking place mainly on the Orient Express of the title, the scene where we’re first introduced to all the characters is a prime one for black performance, detail and colour.
The punchiness of the colours, use of impressionistic lighting and the added detail 70mm can scrub up will give a good test for how adept your TV is.
Raid: Redemption (2011)
Forget Karate Kid. An Indonesian action movie, in which a police squad raid a tower block to capture a notorious crime lord, Raid: Redemption is 100 minutes of intense high-adrenalin Pencack Silat action (that's Indonesian martial arts to you and I).
The three-man final fight is a humdinger. Not only are its hit-a-second sequences a great test for motion but, as it also takes place in a dimly lit run-down apartment, this scene really separates the TVs that are able to extract dark detail from those that hide it in the shadows.
Playing with contrast and brightness settings will pay off here because, trust us, you’ll want to see that fatal throat slice in all its gory... Well, we do.
You don’t always have to use the latest, flashiest, CGI-filled sci-fi films to test your kit’s picture quality. Thanks to its subdued, natural-looking colour palette, Park Chan-wook’s psychological thriller Stoker is a demanding workout for any screen.
The shadows clinging to the vast, empty house give the film its tension, and the TVs and projectors that can dig up the finest detail and deliver subtle, deep blacks will offer the best sense of depth and drama. The pale skin, the glossy wooden polish on the piano, the pastel green wallpaper and the natural lighting that seeps through the house – do they all look real and convincingly solid?
Take note whenever you see someone standing near the staircase: is there a convincing distance between them? Lesser screens will make the staircase look flat, and won’t quite draw you into the strange drama unfolding within this family. The white kitchen should be bright but soft, with the crisp, crackling eggshell looking stark against the hazy atmosphere of this dark thriller.
The DVD transfer is decent too, making it a good test of your TV or Blu-ray player’s scaling.