Michael Jackson

HIStory On Film Volume II

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Video Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1997 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 106:31 minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper FLIPPER (59:08)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Where do I begin? 
Epic Music Video
Sony Music
Starring Michael Jackson 
RRP $34.95 Music Michael Jackson et al

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Linear PCM 48/16 2.0, 1536 Kb/s)
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Michael Jackson is a performer in a league of his own. There has been no one who has matched his sheer energy, imagination or attention to detail when it comes to dancing and performing, be it either on the stage or in his landmark music videos. I well remember watching Thriller when it was first aired in Australia. Probably, I remember mostly Molly Meldrum being beside himself and almost on the verge of tears urging us to "do yourself a favour" and watch the music video as he presented it in his inimitable way. This music video just blew everyone away in a time when music videos were a novel idea, and cemented MJ as the "King Of Pop" to his adoring fans. Whilst I am not that much of a fan, I have much respect for his early work and his early performances, for they were trend-setting in every way.

    The song list is as follows:

Side One (59:08) Side Two (47:23)
1. Programme Start 1. Scream
2. Teaser 2. Childhood
3. Billie Jean (Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Forever) 3. You Are Not Alone
4. Beat It 4. Earth Song
5. Liberian Girl 5. They Don't Care About Us
6. Smooth Criminal 6. Stranger In Moscow
7. 1995 MTV Video Music Awards Performance 7. Blood On The Dance Floor
8. Thriller 8. Brace Yourself
    Side One is definitely my pick, with some classics that took me back to my early teens. Watching "Billie Jean" sent shivers down my spine. This man can dance like there is no tomorrow, and just watching him do his thing is entertainment enough for me. The 1995 MTV performance is even better, but not as groundbreaking; however, he does do a part of the same routine in there for old times sake, even though he physically looks almost like a different person.

    If you want a trip down memory lane, and also don't mind his newer work (which does little for me, to be honest), I heartily recommend this DVD. Good thing is, we also get to see the lovely Janet Jackson wear some tight black pants in Scream.

Transfer Quality


    The disc is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced. This is an NTSC formatted disc - your equipment needs to be compatible with the NTSC format to view it.

    I have little love for NTSC, though it really doesn't bother me too much if the source is music video - as far as I am concerned, the music is first in these cases. Having said that, there are times on this disc where I really would have liked this to be PAL since the video is such an important component in Michael Jackson's music videos. As you can glean from the song list, Side One is older material - and some would say, including me, the best material; Side Two is made up of relatively recent videos. It's a bit like when an old band tours for a new album - you get all the old great stuff, and you just know that you will have to suffer through the new, usually much worse, album that is being promoted. Being better and obeying DVD's great unwritten law*, Side One therefore looks like it has been taken through the ringer for the most part, whereas Side Two looks the bees knees. Rather than list each song, it is far simpler to say that by and large, Side One looks aged, with film artefacts and a distinct loss of detail in the image, not to mention a total lack of shadow detail and plenty of low-level noise. Side Two is sharp, detailed, clean and only suffers from being NTSC. Had this been PAL, Side Two would have rivalled Madonna's 93-99 Video Collection  for sheer perfection of image. The complaints of Side One, however, are not the fault of the DVD producers - just simply the fault of time itself.

    The colours on Side One are washed out and a little dull, but they are there. Liberian Girl is a standout, having excellent colour saturation. Side Two has brilliant, vivid colours and is joyous to watch. Chroma noise was not a problem overall, apart from They Don't Care About Us, which is composite sourced and as a result suffers from every artefact known to man - dot crawl, chroma-noise and jaggies.

    Mercifully, there were no single instances of MPEG artefacting at all, even during the old material. As I mentioned, Side One suffers from all manner of film artefacts, especially Thriller, which looks like it was found lying naked on the floor in someone's basement. There were no film-to-video artefacts apart from maybe a touch of telecine wobble in the odd old clip, but techniques then were not what they are now where telecine wobble is down to a fine art and not just random like it used to be.


    There are two soundtrack choices on this disc, one being 2 channel 16 bit, 48KHz Linear PCM running at 1.536 Megabits per second, and the other being Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448 Kilobits per second. As to which one sounds better, this is a tough call. I firstly listened to a few songs in Dolby Digital, then in PCM, and then alternating whilst the songs were playing. I will say that the Dolby Digital track does a jolly good job, and is almost indistinguishable from the PCM track - however, the latter has a slight edge. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track can be harsh at times, especially with higher frequencies, and can tend to be fatiguing over a long time at high volume. The PCM track takes the edge away and is more natural sounding. I will say again that this is still a very close call.

    Side One did sound dated, especially those songs from the album Thriller, which was in honesty a poorly engineered album anyway. The rest of the songs, and especially those on Side Two, were of much higher quality.

    Surprisingly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 track made little to no use of the rear channels. I found myself physically putting my ear against them to see if anything was coming out at all. This leads me to wonder why include the 5.1 mix if it is not going to be used properly. I mean, the only reason you should use it is for a surround version of the songs I would have thought, especially when there is a very decent 1.5 megabits per second stereo PCM stream available anyway! Obviously there are far greater minds than mine at work here, because I don't understand it at all. Silly me.

    The subwoofer was nicely used by the more recent songs, and enjoyed dancing to the music.



    The menu is static though well themed.

Song Selections


R4 vs R1

    This is the one version used everywhere, even down to NTSC formatting.


    I would consider this disc a must-have even for those who are only passive fans of Michael Jackson . He 'da man, and this disc proves it.

    The video transfer is perfectly acceptable for the older material, and downright gorgeous for the recent stuff. Pity about it being NTSC though.

    The LPCM audio is very nice, and gets better throughout the progression of the disc. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is unremarkable.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Paul Cordingley ( read my bio)
12th May, 2000.
Review Equipment
DVD Panasonic A360 (S-Video output)
Display Rear-Projection Pioneer SD-T43W1 125cm Widescreen 16x9
Audio Decoder d t s 5.1 & Dolby Digital 5.1 (DVD Player internal decoder)
Amplification Sony STRDE-525 5x100 watts Dolby Pro-Logic / 5.1 Ready Receiver; 4 x Optimus 10-band Graphic EQ
Speakers Centre: Sony SS-CN35 100 watt; Main & Surrounds: Pioneer CS-R390-K 150-watt floorstanders; Subwoofer: Optimus 100-watt passive

* A maxim of DVD production, now lore, which states simply: "The technical quality and quantity of a DVD's content is inversely proportional to its artistic merit." Dean M.