Once you’ve built the perfect home entertainment system, you’ll want to have your friends over to take it for a test drive. Take one of these movies or albums for a spin, and you’ll be able to fully appreciate what you’ve put together.
Director David Lean’s 1962 epic is a gigantic movie, and at 227 minutes long you’ll have more than enough time to impress everyone with how spectacular it looks on your TV. While it may be over five decades old, Lawrence has stayed in good shape. The film’s 2012 revamp began in 2009 and came in the form of a meticulous 4k restoration personally overseen by Sony’s executive vice president for asset management and film restoration, Grover Crisp—so you know it’s a big deal. The new version of the film boasts over 8 million pixels to showcase Peter O’Toole’s piercing blue eyes and ghostly white robes in the film’s sweeping desert sequences. More than 320,000 frames were scanned and restored one by one over the course of three years, and it shows.
While not as classically epic as Lawrence of Arabia, director Christopher Nolan’s 2010 mind-bender Inception is epic nonetheless. For the film’s ridiculously awesome zero-gravity hallway sequences featuring actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which look gorgeous on Blu-ray, Nolan went analog. Instead of using elaborate computer generated effects, Nolan’s 500-member crew built an entire hotel corridor in a WWI-era plane hangar outside of London. One aspect of the set turned 360 degrees on a gimbal to portray the scene’s disorienting gravity, while another was built vertically in order to drop the actors who wore wired harnesses that were eventually erased in post-production. The single sequence took three full weeks to complete.
When you’ve got the visuals down, it’s time to show off your speakers, and what better way to do it than by throwing on Pink Floyd’s moody prog-rock classic Dark Side of the Moon! When listening you may think you’re going a little confused, especially because voices constantly pop in and out throughout each track. Don’t worry. Those voices are actually employees and random people who happened to be at Abbey Road Studios while the band was recording the album. Band members Roger Waters and David Gilmour would stop people and randomly pose questions like “When was the last time you were violent and were you in the right?” to people at the studio and record their responses. In fact, Paul McCartney himself was among the people informally interviewed, but his voice didn’t make it onto the album.
Avatar’s groundbreaking special effects look almost too good. Instead of waiting around for technology to catch up with his vision, director James Cameron invented new 3D technology so the effects and the world of his film would look as real as possible. His specially-made stereoscopic cameras are basically two cameras strapped together, but the basic rig is used to shoot 3D images that mimic the way the human eye sees those images, giving it a depth and a reality that was 15 years in the making for Cameron. All that tinkering literally paid off for the filmmaker—Avatar holds the title for the highest grossing movie of all time.
Let’s face it, everybody has tried to sing along to Queen’s indelible 1975 song “Bohemian Rhapsody” at some point in their life and spectacularly failed. It’s a complicated song, and one that will give your speakers the best workout possible. The song was recorded in six separate studios over a four month period in 1975, and the operatic layers of voices needed in the song featured an unheard-of 160 separate analog tracks of vocals dubbed together. You can’t say they didn’t try.
6. Planet Earth
Technically it’s a TV series, but the BBC’s groundbreaking nature documentary Planet Earth is a sight to behold on any TV screen let alone a movie screen. Filmed over a five year period and entirely in high-definition, the filmmakers went to great lengths to bring audiences astounding views of the planet we call home. In fact, one scene alone took a whole year to shoot. Crews took two separate eight-week-long trips to the Indian region of Ladakh in order to get footage of the extremely elusive snow leopard, which yielded only 10 seconds of usable footage of the camera-shy creature. The crew next attempted to capture the leopard on camera in Pakistan but were denied entry because of the ongoing war in the region. They finally received permission to visit nearly a year later and included the unprecedented footage in the final film.
If you’re all done showing off Earth, then why not show off the stars? Stanley Kubrick’s immensely influential 1968 film excites just as much as it confuses, and a lot of that excitement comes from the gorgeous effects-work of legendary special effects artist Douglas Trumbull, who worked as the effects supervisor on the film. To get all of the special effects shots required by Kubrick—a notoriously strict director—Trumbull’s team used six cameras shooting simultaneously on 24-hour shifts. For the film’s spectacular “Stargate” finale sequence, Trumbull took a large image scanner primarily used in scientific and industrial photography and shot in long exposure to produce seemingly endless images of lights and shapes. The other effects in the sequence were made using small chemical reactions filmed with microphotography.