|Category||Music||Main Menu Audio
Preview Trailers (12)
(not 65 minutes as stated on packaging)
|RPI||$24.95||Music||George Frideric Handel|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||Audio (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Audio (DTS 5.1)
Audio (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192 Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Once again, there is no disputing the musical quality on offer here. The "bible", otherwise known as the The Penguin Guide To Compact Discs, again assigns their highest rating of three stars to the compact disc recording of these works. It describes them as "bright and lively performances ... well paced and well scaled". Whilst my personal taste in this sort of repertoire is to original instrument recordings, these are certainly enjoyable performances on compact disc.
The visual accompaniment to the music is quite decent, although a tad obvious in the case of The Music For The Royal Fireworks! The Water Music is accompanied by a visual tour of a few of the magnificent castles and palaces of England: Blenheim Palace, Leeds Castle (in Kent) and Castle Howard (in Yorkshire), with a little bit of London thrown in for good measure. Having been dragged through a few of the buildings as a young child, I can certainly attest to the magnificence of them. The Music For The Royal Fireworks is predominantly accompanied by some marvellous night-time scenes of the City Of London, including St Paul's Cathedral (quaintly described as St Paul's Church in the travel notes), St Martin's-in-the-Field (very much not in a field today), the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, as well as Tower Bridge. Of course we have the fireworks and these are predominantly filmed at Leeds Castle.
Whilst the presentation method has still not convinced me, this should still be a pleasant enough way to spend just over an hour listening to some good music with some nice visuals to go along with it. However, I would perhaps be more enthused if the quality of the soundtracks were a little better than here.
In general, these are very nice video transfers: generally sharp with plenty of detail to be found, although the night-time shots in London are significantly better than the rest of the programming. However, unlike the earlier Mozart disc reviewed, the general quality of the video transfer is not as good. Things start out a little poorly as the first two minutes of the video is filmed from the air circling into a view of Blenheim Palace - all of which is a little marred by some rather noticeable low level noise. Thereafter, things improve a little, except that at times the video has somewhat of a problem dealing with the lighting inside the buildings. Whilst acknowledging that the interiors would be difficult to capture well with just the natural ambient light, it would seem that the augmented lighting has resulted in some slightly unnatural tones in the colours. Still, at least this lets the detail jump out a little more. Shadow detail is generally pretty good, also bearing in mind that some of the filming appeared to be done on relatively overcast days (what a surprise in England!). The transfers are generally quite clear and there is no real problem at all with respect to grain.
The colours are generally speaking very well handled, and present a very natural looking palette without being super vibrant. Some of the filming appears to have been done in Autumn and the result is a slightly muted look that is utterly reminiscent of how I remember England to be. The internal shots generally display a gorgeous rich tone that really is quite wonderful. There is no hint of oversaturation here at all. There is nothing approaching colour bleed in the transfer. The only problem at all with the colour, as indicated above, is that there is a slightly unnatural colouring on a couple of occasions in Blenheim Palace in particular, being a little greener in tone than is natural.
There generally are no any significant MPEG artefacts
in the transfers. There is, however, a consistent and ultimately distracting
problem with film-to-video artefacts: just about every time there is camera
movement, there is a rather noticeable shimmer in the picture. Had this
been just an intermittent problem, it would not be so bad, but the sheer
consistency of the problem really becomes an impediment to the enjoyment
of the show. This may, however, partially be the result of this being an
NTSC transfer, rather than purely a mastering problem. It should also be
said that it is far more of a problem in the video during the daytime scenes
during The Water Music than during the night-time scenes
in The Music For The Royal Fireworks. There is nothing much
in the way of film artefacts to worry about here at all.
There are three soundtracks are on offer on the DVD, being a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, a DTS 5.1 soundtrack, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. These are not flagged as language soundtracks, as they simply are music soundtracks. I listened to the DTS 5.1 soundtrack, whilst making samplings of the Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks.
I have to say that this is the first time I have recommended a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack over both a DTS 5.1 soundtrack and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack! Quite simply, the mastering on the latter two tracks is flawed and the result is a very unnatural sound to the music. Whilst you can certainly hear it well enough, you really cannot enjoy it at all - indeed the DTS 5.1 soundtrack just ended up giving me an horrendous headache.
Whilst the DTS soundtrack certainly provides a nice, all-encompassing sound, the mastering has resulted in the cellos and especially the basses being given far too much presence in the mix, making the overall sound far, far too bassy. Baroque music is generally lighter in style, with an emphasis on the higher strings and woodwinds, with just a very natural bass sound in the lower registers. Here the bass sound intrudes into the higher registers too, and this resulted in too much thumping bass for this style of music. The result was to give me a rotten headache. This is most definitely not the sort of sound you would expect from a concert experience of baroque music, unless it was being presented by Metallica or someone similar. This is by far the worst DTS soundtrack I have thus far heard. Not even playing around with my settings could I find a comfortable listening experience.
The sad thing is that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack
suffers the very same failings, just not so pronounced as the DTS soundtrack.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is thus a little easier to listen to,
but it is still not a natural sound at all, with the basses still too prominent
in the mix. Surround channel use in the Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is better
though, and judicious manipulating of the settings does enable one to at
least derive some listening pleasure. By default, the Dolby Digital 2.0
soundtrack is the preference here. Whilst it lacks the bass enhancement,
this is actually a good thing with this style of music and this is eminently
listenable stuff, especially if you turn the volume up just a little. Much
closer in style to a compact disc recording, it is also much closer in
style to the sort of recording this music requires. It is a quite bright
recording and certainly sounds very good in comparison to the overbearing
|Surround Channel Use|
© Ian Morris (have
a laugh, check out the bio)
13th October 2000
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515; S-video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega 80cm. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in|
|Amplification||Yamaha RXV-795. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|