I was just as surprised as the rest of the Trek fanbase when we discovered that the commentary track for Star Trek Into Darkness was not included with the film’s Blu-ray release, and was instead available only as a digital download through the iTunes store. Even though the redemption code included with the Blu-ray packaging allowed us to access the iTunes features at no additional cost, it still seemed like a rather strange move to separate what is usually the most insightful piece of bonus material from the primary release of the film.

First off, let me reiterate that the enclosed redemption code will allow you to view the iTunes material at no additional cost. This has been proven in both the United States and in the United Kingdom (where the “Enhanced Commentary” only appeared on September 2, the film’s UK release date). While I cannot yet confirm it, I also believe that it should work just fine for Canadian residents as well – but for anyone else looking for the iTunes features, you may need to wait until the Blu-ray is released in your country to access them (if available).

commentary_thumbThe commentary track is split into several segments throughout the film.

The biggest question people have been asking is, “Why isn’t the commentary just on the Blu-ray itself? Why keep it separate?” While I don’t have answers to explain the split distribution methods, it does appear that this commentary feature is not something that would fit on a standard Blu-ray disc with the original cut of the film.

This is actually a screen recording of an internal Bad Robot presentation of the film, with various commentary participants pausing, rewinding, frame-by-framing, and even drawing on still movie footage; an entirely separate encoding of the movie which would seem to difficult to adapt to a “branching” commentary style.

br_recording_thumbApple’s QuickTime overlay appears in one brief segment of the commentary video.

There are often times when you can actually hear the participants clicking next-next-next on the control keyboard as they go frame-by-frame through the film. In addition, behind-the-scenes footage often appears in an overlay to enhance the audio segments of the commentary, as a participant describes a certain set-building process or post-production visual effects shot.

stid_pip_thumbThis picture-in-picture overlay shows the “fake” bridge constructed for insert shots.

Frequent use of a telestrator device also serves to highlight specific in-camera elements (or in some cases, poke fun at the actors’ facial expressions when paused in an unflattering moment).

stid_drawingEditors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey discuss a unique lighting challenge.

While the existing commentary sections do provide a great deal of insight into the film’s production – talking about scenes being rearranged during the editing process; filming certain shots on partially-built, ‘fake’ bridge sets to later insert into certain sequences through the use of creative compositing; staging particular close-ups inside a Bad Robot producer’s personal office – there are certain notable sequences that are not accompanied by an audio track.

While the entire film is included in the commentary file, around twenty-five minutes of film goes without voice-over, including:

  • Scotty and Keenser drinking in the San Francisco nightclub
  • McCoy and Carol Marcus’ attempt to disarm the torpedo on the barren planetoid
  • Scotty’s discovery of the Vengeance construction facility near Jupiter
  • The Enterprise-vs.-Vengeance warp-speed battle
  • Khan’s violence on the Vengeance bridge, including the murder of Admiral Marcus
  • Spock’s call to New Vulcan

Most surprisingly, Leonard Nimoy’s appearance is completely ignored in all of the audio segments. All in all, the frequent pauses and rewinds of film adds over twenty minutes to film’s running time.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part of this whole situation is that the commentary is performed over the 1.78:1 IMAX version of the film, which is largely unavailable to the majority of Into Darkness purchasers who may not be able to take on the 4.8Gb download, and to those who don’t wish to spend over two-and-a-half hours watching a movie on their computer screen.

iTunes IMAX 1.78:1 Footage vs. Blu-ray 2.40:1 Footage
(Commentary video available in 720p only)
imax1_thumb ws-vs-imax1_thumb
imax2_thumb ws-vs-imax2_thumb
imax3_thumb ws-vs-imax3_thumb
imax4_thumb ws-vs-imax4_thumb
imax5_thumb ws-vs-imax5_thumb

The IMAX version of Into Darkness is only set to be available in physical media as part of the German 3D/Blu-ray/DVD combo set – as far as we know – something which I hope is remedied in any future release this film may have.

Update: Despite advertising on the official press release an IMAX aspect ratio for the 3D Blu-ray “Super Set”, we’ve confirmed that the standard 2.40:1 presentation has been used on all German versions of the Blu-ray.

As reluctant as I am to ask for a “double-dip” release of Star Trek Into Darkness, it only seems fair that Paramount produce an all-in-one release down the road which includes not only the full-format IMAX version of the film, but all of the original and retailer-exclusive bonus features as well, including this commentary presentation. If that means a new three or four-disc release, so be it – but it’s not something I’m anticipating.

Paramount’s history of re-releases leaves much to be desired, as often bonus features are left out of reissued films, or they’re left completely unchanged – just pushed out again and again with new packaging, like the first ten Star Trek films, which are being re-released again this fall in the UK. If the studio has yet to show interest in restoring the fairly terrible transfers of the films led by William Shatner and Patrick Stewart – which would likely be big sellers if given a TNG-type remastering – then it’s unlikely that we’ll see any kind of “upgrade” to the current Into Darkness releases in the foreseeable future.

I can only hope that Paramount decides to treat long-time fans a bit less poorly when Star Trek XIII comes around in 2016 – but I’m not holding my breath.


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  • corysims

    You can get the enhanced commentary in 1080p on ITunes. You just have to set your preferences correctly in the iTunes program.

    • Yes, you’re correct. We’ve updated the article to reflect that – thanks!

  • archer9234

    All bull. Even though the movie is made longer with the enhanced commentary. It still would work. You encode the commentary on the BR disc as totally new video track. Compression wouldn’t be a real issue. Since the com version would have no extra audio tracks. You’d have two versions of the film on the disc. They could even figure out a branching setup. Just like TOS Remastered. A similar thing was done with Finding Nemo’s video Commentary on DVD. This would of not allowed any bonus features on disc 1. And all of them would need two BR discs. This is probably why they dropped it. Since they wanted to be dicks with the bonus features.

    • tenia

      “You’d have two versions of the film on the disc.”

      The movie is 2h12 long. The enhanced commentary is about 2h42 long. That’s already 5hr of HD material to include on a single BD-50. Add the 40 min of extra features (also in HD), you are at 5h40 min of HD material. The average video bitrate of the 2D version is 26 Mbps. Its size is about 35 Gb.

      You simply don’t have the space to include the equivalent of a 2nd rather long movie without either encoding the enhanced commentary at a low bitrate (the use of DD 2.0 192 kbps will only save about 2-3 Gb), or in SD, or decreasing at least by 30% the video bitrate of the main movie.

      No, the only way is indeed to simply replicate the policy of the 2009 movie and include a 2nd BD with the Enhanced commentary and the remaining extras. This way, you have both the extras and a good PQ.

      “They could even figure out a branching setup. Just like TOS Remastered.”
      The aspect ratio is different so normally you can’t implement a seamless branching here, at least not with the use of an internal presentation. But that’s actually pretty weird, so I guess they never thought of including it with the movie on a physical format. Otherwise, they would have used a regular presentation and simply turned the thing as a Maximum Movie Mode, which is a technology now 4 years old, I think.

      • archer9234

        What does the aspect ratio need to do with it? Everything is encoded at 16:9. The black bars are added directly to the movie. There is no real change. And I’ve see movies be perfectly fine at 13-15Mbps. Without noticeable problems. Unless you’re on a 50+ inch screen and looking for it. Branching is not weird. It would work easily. It worked perfectly fine on Finding Nemo and BTTF. Except with a pause when the disc had to switch files back and forth. But still. The better option is to just give us two discs with all bonus. End of issue.

        • The film was presented IN THEATERS in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio for all non-IMAX scenes, because that’s how it was filmed – those shots were framed specifically for the CinemaScope aspect ratio.

          • archer9234

            Yeah and? Like I said, all BR’s are encoded at 16:9. The black bars are added to the video. They never setup blu-rays to have proper aspect ratio resolutions. So the commentary would be fine still. From switching back and forth.

  • Chris915

    I really don’t like the IMAX version of those shots anyway…

    • You don’t like the full image as it was intended to be seen, but would rather have the film cropped to lose picture information?

      • archer9234

        I rather the movie be fully shot in IMAX. Then all the picking and choosing parts of it.

      • Chris915

        I think, archer9234 said basically my view… It’s not that it’s full 16:9, but rather if it’s only a few shots… if all the shots were full 16:9, then yea, that’d be great… but if it’s just hit and miss, then the lack of consistency would really distract me.

      • Chris915

        Plus, I really like the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, even if it’s cropped to do so… for example, in my 3D renders, I render my shots in full 16:9 @ 1280 x 720… but I set the action safe areas in the software program for either a 4:3 crop or a 2.35:1 crop, depending on if I’m going for a cinema like shot or not, so I frame my shots perfectly inside that action safe area, so none of the “important” information is out of the final cropped frame… but I still have some extra leeway on placing render elements and such.

      • Stockslivevan

        I would prefer a consistent 2:39 ratio mainly because that IS the version intended to be seen in regular theaters, and that 1:78 isn’t the true IMAX ratio, meaning the iTunes copy is still cropped. The 2:39 cropping doesn’t compromise the intent of the images, because (I assume) the cinematography was composed to be seen in two different ratios, primarily 2:39 because that was the format most people were gonna see anyway. This is kind of similar to how a lot of films films were shot in full frame 1:33 but
        theatrically presented in 1:85 (notably Kubrick’s films). I also feel the same about THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY having the proper 2:39 theatrical ratio, rather than Meyer’s home video preference.

    • James

      Why is that? Forget the VAM, not having the full picture is what is annoying me the most about the blu-ray release. They should have allowed us to watch two versions of the film – one which branched to the shifting aspect ratio and one cropped to widescreen.

      • Chris915

        It’s not that it’s full 16:9, but rather if it’s only a few shots… if all the shots were full 16:9, then yea, that’d be great… but if it’s just hit and miss, then the lack of consistency would really distract me.

        • hazel

          That’s why James was saying that we should be give a choice. If there’s only some shots like Transformers 2, it’s not too difficult to do a branching.

          • Chris915

            True, but they’d still do what’s practical… at least, one can only hope.

  • archangelg

    For the enclosed redemption code on the Blu-ray release, is the iTunes movie and/or the commentary the SD or HD version? Thanks in advance!

    • They’re both in HD on iTunes.

      • archangelg

        Thank you so much!

  • Jamie

    And what about those people who haven’t decided to kneel before Apple they are simply left out to dry?

    Fortunately I wasn’t a fan of this film and therefore won’t be mired by it’s horrendous release issues, I just feel sorry for the Star Trek fans who are being cheated by greedy Studio execs.
    Say what you will about the earlier Trek DVD releases they didn’t stick the middle finger to the fans like this, 3 different exclusives from Best Buy and whoever else.

    This is terrible marketing and Hollywood wonders why people decide to pirate films (not that I am condoning such action)

    • Chris915

      Well, since all I really care about is the movie, the VAM related issues don’t really bother me.

    • James

      Rose tinted glasses mate.

      Paramount released the older Trek movies on DVD containing only the movie (not even the trailers on the disc) and charging more than a comparable movie with bonus features. Later, they then released “Director’s Editions” and “Special Collector’s Editions” later on to milk more money out of the fans.

      • The Bandsaw Vigilante

        Although, to be sure, at that point in time, DVD was still a very new and unproven technology in the marketplace, and it wasn’t even clear yet that it would survive past a couple of years.

        So, we shouldn’t get too upset over Paramount’s release-strategy back in the mid-’90s, with only bare-bones discs with no special features — pretty much every OTHER studio was doing the exact same thing (movie-only releases), and when DVD finally emerged as the clear winner in the format-war, we finally saw some elaborate special editions hitting the market.

  • Connor

    Can anyone confirm whether this can be streamed through the Apple TV?

  • OphidianJaguar

    I am sick and tired….actually I am angry at the choices with the movie release. The split up bonus features, and the cut of the imax. You end up loosing so much. I could not imagine loosing the lmax shots in the The Dark Knight, they look so amazing on my 50″ screen, no black bars, it fills the screen with crisp clear HD glory. Two pathetic, petty movies which just go to show that Star Trek is broken, beyond the creative aspects which mentioned.

  • So I emailed Paramount Germany last week asking about more information about the aspect ratio and the addition features not on the US release. I got this reply today:

    “Hello Mr. Volkov,

    This is not the right information.

    DVD and BluRay are identical in USA and Germany.


    Customer Service Paramount Home Entertainment”

    • Christopher Roberts

      Identical to Target or Best Buy though? 😉

      Surely can’t be long now, before German fans begin to receive their Blu rays… and we’ll know.

  • Jason

    I haven’t seen the commentary yet, but a lot of this sounds like stuff that would be better suited for behind the scenes featurettes. I think i’d prefer a normal commentary that would have fit on the disc. The commentary wasn’t something that needed reinvented.

    • The Bandsaw Vigilante

      These types of video commentaries are actually quite amazing, and are capable of imparting give even greater insight into a film than a typical “audio” commentary track will allow — just look at J.J. Abrams’ video commentary for the LOST pilot on that show’s Season 1 Blu-Ray set.

      It’s very similar to what’s here, and contains very similar mechanics (pausing/rewinding/fast-forwarding the film without regard to seamless branching), and allows for a much more immersive experience.

  • Christopher Roberts

    Any news from Germany yet? Confirmation or denial about a Variable Aspect Ratio version among their 3-D/Blu ray/DVD set contents?

  • Review of German Blu-ray – same VAM as regular US release and 2.40:1 AR on the 3D disc.

  • NuclearWessels

    Does anyone know if the German Blu Ray release is Region Free?

  • Luca

    A heads up: the code is valid only for one of the ultraviolet and digital copy. Of course it says nowhere on the outside packaging (in fact, the slip-cover from Target has a sticker that says “includes UV and a digital copy). It is listed in fine print at top of the paper that has the code (large print) right in the middle
    Like a dumbass I went on and redeemed the UV first, even though I never use that crap. Right now I am fuming

  • VGarrus

    I got the Target version and redeemed the digital copy code but can’t find the iTunes Extras. Could someone please tell me how to access this? Thanks!

  • sabrinayuzon

    Valuable comments . I am thankful for the points – Does someone know if my company might be able to find a fillable ZA BI-84 Form 11 example to use ?