Led Zeppelin

The Song Remains The Same


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Details At A Glance

General
Extras
Category Music Video Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating pg.gif (1010 bytes) Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1976 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 132:03 Minutes Other Extras None
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (84:33)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Peter Clifton
Joe Massot
Studio
Distributor
WarnerBros.gif (2960 bytes)
Warner Home Video
Starring Robert Plant
Jimmy Page
John Paul Jones
John Bonham
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Led Zeppelin
 
 
Video
Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Dolby Digital 2.0 
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Miscellaneous
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes 
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, music after credits

Plot Synopsis

    As soon as you look at the packaging of Led Zeppelin-The Song Remains The Same, you will notice two bold claims regarding the contents of this disc that I disagree with: "The pioneers of hard rock take the stage - and blow your mind", as well as "No one goes down heavier than Zep!". I guess someone forgot to tell Warner Brothers that the genuine article, the ever-loveable Black Sabbath, have beaten Zeppelin to the punch as far as getting their work on DVD is concerned.

    Because this is partly a concert video, with live footage of the band playing in Madison Square Garden interspersed between pieces of a semi-plot, I will include a track listing for your benefit. The song titles that are formatted as such are reproduced here according to the format of the packaging:

    After seeing this film, I can see where a lot of the jokes in This Is Spinal Tap came from. If anyone ever tells you that This Is Spinal Tap was a sendup of Black Sabbath, then this DVD will refute them quickly and easily. If you have a family member who is a fan of Led Zeppelin in spite of all of this, then this will make an excellent gift for them.

Transfer Quality

Video

    I was looking forward to telling you that the quality of the transfer is inversely reflective of the quality of the band on offer here, and that we would get a reference quality image from start to finish. Then, at 1:49, the transfer proved me wrong.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 Enhanced. It appears that parts of the image have been lost from the bottom of the frame, with part of the opening credits being cut off.

    The transfer is reasonably sharp for the most part, until the aforementioned shot less than two minutes into the film, which is so diffuse that it would seem to be a source material issue rather than the fault of the transfer. The shadow detail is rather poor, with the darker parts in the transfer mostly being exactly that: large patches of black with little or no detail discernible in them. Thankfully, low level noise didn't appear to be a problem with the darker parts of the transfer, although film grain is a bit of an issue in some shots, with Robert Plant's ride through the forest at 50:14 being the worst example.

    The colour saturation is somewhat variable according to the subject of the shot, with bright greenery and the band themselves being warmly saturated while the images of Gothic architecture in some shots looked quite dull. The concert footage, on the other hand, appears to be something of a mess where colour saturation is concerned, with the band appearing as smears of colour under the stage lights. This is more a problem with the way in which the concert footage was staged and photographed than anything else. Overall, however, you can expect a lot of bright, warmly rendered colours to be seen in this film, and the transfer captures them within the limitations of the twenty-four year old film.

    MPEG artefacts were not found in this film, with a high bitrate and an abundance of easily compressed shadows resulting in what appears to be transparent compression. Film-to-video artefacts mainly consisted of shimmering in car grilles and other such fine lines, but thankfully, the musical instruments were pretty much free of this artefact, which is not exactly plentiful anyway. Film artefacts were plentiful, but they were mostly small and well-controlled by the standards of a twenty-five year-old film that was independently produced and hasn't seen a home video release in the better part of fifteen years, if at all. Parts of this film were used to comprise a commercial for the Remasters boxed set a while ago, and they were certainly the best parts of the film as far as clarity and artefacts were concerned.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 84:33, between Chapter 21 (No Comment) and Chapter 22 (Stairway To Heaven). Although this layer change is well-placed due to the fact that it is not disruptive to the film, it results in decidedly uneven compression, with over eighty minutes to one layer and around forty-six minutes to the other. The transition between Chapters 13 and 14 would have been a better place to put a layer change in this regard, even if the transition would have been more disruptive to the flow of the film.

Audio

    Given the relatively fresh and clear look of the video transfer, it is something of a disappointment that the audio content has not had any serious restoration or remix performed upon it. Indeed, we are only afforded a single soundtrack: the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding at the rather paltry bitrate of 192 kilobits a second.

    While this transfer is adequate for the purposes of the film, the fidelity and channel separation of the music would have benefited from at least a Dolby Digital 4.0 soundtrack or a higher bitrate, such as 384 kilobits a second. The dialogue, when there is dialogue, is clear and easy to understand most of the time, with the only difficulties in the soundtrack being caused by the manner in which the performers speak. The vocals in the music are also clear and easy to understand for the most part, although this is conditional on the pace of the music, with faster songs such as Rock & Roll losing something in the clarity of Robert Plant's voice. It is also worth noting that this particular song is the only one on the disc that actually sounds like it was actually recorded live. There did not appear to be any audio sync problems that were the fault of the transfer, although the effort made to keep the visuals in sync with the audio during the actual production of the film is occasionally questionable.

    The music in this film is all the work of Led Zeppelin, naturally. The music syncs up well with the visuals, although this is mainly because the visuals are designed to complement the music instead of the other way around. The sound of the music is left wanting by the format of the soundtrack, but I doubt that the source material was particularly rich and filled with clarity to begin with. Considering the recording techniques of the time, it really is a wonder that this film sounds as good as it does, but compressing the audio as tightly as this soundtrack was not the best of ideas in my humble opinion.

    The surround channels are hardly used, with some very quiet redirection of parts of the guitar and drum sounds making up the involvement that the rears had in this soundtrack. Don't expect a rousing surround field that immerses you in the film, because it just isn't available here. In basic terms, this is a stereo soundtrack with the bare minimum of surround channel usage necessary to be considered a Pro-Logic mix. The subwoofer, on the other hand, was called on frequently to support the drums and bass, although the manner in which it becomes silent during the dialogue sequences makes its sudden awakening in the music sequences a little conspicuous.

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static, but appears to be 16x9 enhanced. The scene selection menu is incomplete, offering access to only half of the total chapters to be found on this disc.

R4 vs R1

    This disc has apparently been available in Region 1 since December of last year, but I couldn't find any serious reviews, and am taking the word of Amazon as to the content of the disc.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     There's no contest here, folks, although it is somewhat annoying that we don't even get any subtitles. Stick with the local version of the disc.

Summary

    The Song Remains The Same is an encapsulation of why I have little respect for Led Zeppelin. The press claims they rocked harder than all, and my record collection refutes that in its sleep.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is good.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

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Extras  
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Overall sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sg.gif (100 bytes)sgh.gif (874 bytes)
© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
August 8, 2000. 
Review Equipment
   
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode, using S-video input
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Subwoofer