The Official Films Of The Olympic Games

Melbourne 1956

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Details At A Glance

Category Olympics Main Menu Animation & Audio 
Featurette-Souvenir Programme Selected Pages
Notes-The Olympic Code
Notes-The Venues
Featurette-Film Restoration (4:13)
Notes-Film Restoration
Year Released 2000
Running Time 104:44
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director  

Warner Vision
Starring Sandy Roberts (narrator)
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music  

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes, extremely briefly
Subtitles English For The Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The Official Films Of The Olympic Games-Melbourne 1956. This is essentially a restored documentary covering the 1956 Olympic Games from start to finish, with lots of fascinating insights into the way things were. As the copious notes explain, this restoration is the culmination of some considerable effort by the International Olympic Committee, who began making an effort in 1994 to preserve Olympic footage for future generations.

    The 1956 Melbourne Olympics was the first to be extensively covered by film, along with some limited television coverage, and the entire film record has been restored and preserved on behalf of the IOC. Originally, only an unrestored 54 minute collection of highlights from the Olympics had been available, but this has now been restored, expanded and presented on DVD for our enjoyment.

    From my personal perspective, the historical insight into both the Olympics and Melbourne afforded by this material is absolutely priceless. Seeing the picket fence of the MCG for the first time was quite a revelation, let me tell you! Also incredibly revealing are the events that are no longer a part of the Olympic games, such as the tandem bicycle racing and the 100 meter running deer shoot. Historical shots of 1956 Melbourne bring back many pleasant memories of my childhood. Even though I was not born at the time of the 1956 Olympics, the snapshot of a still very British and staid Melbourne rings true with many memories of my childhood. Highlights like these are numerous, and the way the documentary has been edited together, combining old, historical audio with newly-recorded voice-over provided by Sandy Roberts has been extremely well done.

Transfer Quality

Technical Note

    I discussed the visual quality of this DVD at some length with Brian Rollason from Digital Video Mastering, the company
contracted by Warner Vision Australia to create this DVD. This material was extremely difficult to encode, made even more so by the responsible body of the IOC disallowing any form of post-processing to be applied to the original source material as supplied to Warner Vision. Enormous effort was expended in making this DVD look as good as it possibly could, and fundamentally this DVD is an accurate reflection of the source material as supplied to Warner Vision.


    The quality of this transfer accurately reflects the source material. Translating that a little, I would not recommend watching this DVD on any display device over 68cm in size.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. It is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is enormously variable in its sharpness, from remarkably sharp during footage of the marathon to extremely fuzzy and indistinct with some of the indoor footage, such as the boxing. Different film stocks were used in different cameras, and the result is evident in the variable final image. Grain is a variable problem during the presentation, reflecting the source film stock. Colour indoor footage of the swimming and gymnastic events, for instance, is extremely grainy, yet some outdoor footage is remarkably grain-free. Most of this footage appears to have been sourced from 16mm film, so this grain is only to be expected in footage of this nature. Shadow detail is limited at the best of times and non-existent at the worst of times. Low level noise does not appear to be an issue with this transfer, but this is more than made up for by the copious grain in the source material.

    The colours varied considerably throughout this presentation, from strongly-coloured and vibrant during the opening ceremony footage to all but completely washed out from one long-shot camera at the swimming. The colour generally had a 1950s look about it, reminiscent of my parents' photo album from this era.

    There is some minor MPEG artefacting introduced into some backgrounds, but this is the least of the issues with this transfer. As discussed previously, there were numerous issues with the source material which were not able to be corrected during the production of this DVD, and these are reflected in the final product. The most distracting artefact was that of the image jumping about frequently and distractingly. The image also had a habit of moving around in subsections of the picture, and you would often see a small portion of the image move independently of the rest of the image, with the rest of the image subsequently following. This becomes very hard on the eyes very quickly, and was bad enough to make me feel seasick at times. This problem is compounded when the camera itself is in motion, such as during footage of the torch relay, which is very hard to watch at times because of the immense movement inherent in the image.

    Motion blur is also a significant problem with this material, particularly during the track events, where the grassy background would blur into a mass of indistinctness until the motion stopped.

    Another problem was during cross-fades, which would dissolve into a mess of low-resolution grain. I was informed that this was inherent in the source material as a result of the video editor used to edit this material.

    Aliasing was occasionally present, such as when the MCG picket fence was streaming by, but it was generally not a problem.

    Finally, film artefacts were present in copious quantities, but they were certainly nowhere near as bad as I expected them to be.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only the one audio track on this DVD, English Dolby Digital 2.0. Whilst not flagged as surround-encoded, it most definitely is.

    The audio is generally quite easy to hear and understand, even for some of the poorer-quality historical audio. Audio sync is not a problem for this transfer, mainly because there is very little audio that directly corresponds with on-screen dialogue.

    Of particular note is the way that contemporary voice-over and sound effects are seamlessly combined with historical audio, to create a beautifully coherent whole. There was only one occasion where I consciously noted that the sound effects were artificial - during the men's high jump, where they were slightly overdone - but at all other times the integration of old and new was superbly handled.

    The newly-created music for this programme is suitable sombre choral music and suitably dramatic instrumental music, and helps to set the dramatic scene very nicely indeed.

    The surround channels were very nicely used for the music and for recreated ambient crowd noise during the indoor events such as the swimming. It gave an excellent sense of actually sitting in the crowd and observing the events first-hand.

    The subwoofer did very little.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are only a limited number of extras on this DVD, but what is there is appropriate and well-presented.


    The main menu features a superb entry animation which really sets the overall tone for the DVD nicely. Once the main menu is established, an old jazzy number underscores the proceedings.

    When the main feature is started, you are prompted for whether or not English Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired are required. This perhaps would have been better placed elsewhere.

Souvenir Programme

    This extra comprises a short featurette which shows an animated view of a number of the pages from the programme and more detailed text notes. The featurette suffers from a fair amount of aliasing, but is a very worthwhile inclusion of this otherwise impossible-to-see material, even if it is oddly silent.

Film Restoration

    This is comprised of copious text notes along with a short before-and-after style clip demonstrating the restoration effort. Some of the footage in this clip looks better than that in the main feature!


    This is a series of text screens presenting a summary of the events at the 1956 Olympics. They are comprehensive and easy to read.

R4 vs R1

    This DVD is not available in Region 1.


    The Official Films Of The Olympic Games - Melbourne 1956 is a DVD that is presented as well as it possibly could have been. The footage is priceless, and you really owe it to yourself to check this material out. It is really a superb piece of programming, and definitely worth watching. One caveat - don't watch this DVD on a big screen, or the image quality will start to get in the way of the programming.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna (read my bio)
22nd September 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Philips 711/SAST AEP-803,  using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 4:3 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Hsu Research TN-1220HO subwoofer