Roy Orbison

Black & White Night

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Details At A Glance

Category Music Main Menu Animation
Biographies - Cast
Gallery - Photo
Notes - from Roy Orbison Jr
Notes - Credits
DVD-ROM Extras - Discography
Year Released 1987
Running Time 64:35 minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (52:23)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 2,4 Director Tony Mitchell
Warner Vision
Warner Vision Australia
Starring Roy Orbison
A lot of friends
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $39.95 Music The Big O

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 Kb/s)
English (DTS 5.1)
English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 256 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles Spanish
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during credits

Plot Synopsis

    A quick point before I start - the correct title of this programme is actually Roy Orbison and Friends: A Black & White Night Live. Just being pedantic.

    If you had not already guessed from my previous reviews, I am something of a fan of Roy Orbison and so after to some extent suffering the previous DVD releases from Massive - Roy Orbison - The Anthology and Roy Orbison - In Dreams - I immediately stuck my hand up for this particular DVD, were it to be released in Region 4. Well, after some months of waiting, the release is imminent and a-reviewing I must go!

    This was a special made for television, and brought together Roy Orbison and a collection of decent enough session musos, presenting a collection of some of his eternal standards. The actual track listing is:

1. Only The Lonely 10. Crying
2. Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream) 11. Candyman
3. Blue Bayou 12. Go, Go, Go (Down The Line)
4. The Comedians 13. Mean Woman Blues
5. Ooby Dooby 14. (All I Can Do Is) Dream You
6. Leah 15. Claudette
7. Running Scared 16. It's Over
8. Uptown 17. Oh, Pretty Woman
9. In Dreams    

    I guess there is nothing much to say about the actual music. Since these songs are all pretty much Roy Orbison standards, and have been treasured for decades and will continue to be treasured for decades more I suspect, they are all probably well-known to anyone with even just a passing interest in rock music. For those like myself with an almost reverent regard for the era of great rock and roll, through the 1950s and into the 1960s, these songs are so much more than just standards. These are the songs and a performer that in many ways helped define an entire genre of music. This is music the likes of which we will be unlikely to hear again and that is the greatest shame about the current state of rock and roll.

    Standards they may be, but these are somewhat different performances of them that in some ways define the return of Roy Orbison to the forefront of rock music in the 1980s, as well as demonstrate exactly why the man will be forever missed. The difference is pretty much due to that bunch of session musos to whom I referred. How about the backing vocalists? Bonnie Raitt, Jennifer Warnes and K.D. Lang - about as good a trio as you could possibly assemble. Twanging away on guitars are the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, James Burton, J D Souther and T Bone Burnett. Add into the mix Tom Waits, Steven Soles, Ron Tutt, Jackson Browne, Jerry Scheff and Glen Hardin, and you have assembled a damn fine collection of musicians. Roy Orbison doing these songs acoustically would have been special - but doing them with this superb collection of musical luminaries, some legends in their own right, is almost guaranteed to produce something not just special but immortal.

    They did.

    If you have even a passing interest in great rock and roll, this is an essential purchase for your collection, before anything else is even considered. The only thing making this an equivocal essential recommendation is the fact that the video transfer does have some problems. However, after watching the DVD three times in a row, I can live with the video problems!

Transfer Quality


    It is important to remember that, despite the copyright notices on the DVD slick, this was filmed for television back in 1987. Accordingly, a lot of its production values are aimed at that medium at that time. This simply would not be the way that this sort of gathering would be filmed today I would suspect, and it is important to understand this. The look of the transfer is simply a reflection of the times and the medium for which it was produced.

    Since the video was shot for television, it naturally is presented in a Full Frame aspect ratio and it is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The general look of the transfer is quite decent although it should be noted that the shots of the performers are generally quite sharp and clear, whilst those of the audience (which does contain some luminaries too) are generally much more diffuse and intentionally grainy. In other words, what it looks like is entirely intended even if it does get a little grating at times. There are the odd lapses in focus here and there but nothing too distracting. Detail is pretty good overall, especially of the stage area, and is as intended. Clarity gets a bit iffy at times with the intentional grain, but there is nothing really bad about the presentation. Shadow detail is deliberately restrained, highlighting the black and white nature of the programming and as a homage of sorts to a man famed for his black rimmed glasses and dark suits. There did not appear to be any significant low level noise issues with the transfer.

    Since we are talking about black and white here, obviously colours are not much of a concern per se. However, it has to be said that there is not an overwhelming depth to the black and white tones and the whole show really is presented in nicely detailed grey scales in the middle of the spectrum. Obviously this is the intended look of the transfer and there certainly is nothing at all wrong with it. Just don't expect deep, solid blacks and whites here.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. The main problem with the transfer, though, is a constant and difficult to ignore aliasing that plagues the sharp edges of the stage and instruments. Shimmer also occasionally affects the background a little. This is the real disappointment about the transfer as it really does detract from what is otherwise a great performance on a good DVD. Apart from this, there are no other real film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. There are some film artefacts in the transfer and they are quite noticeable: however, by the looks of them, they appear to be almost intended "pretend" damage to the image to create an artistic impression of this being presented from a night club of the late 1950s. I could well be wrong though.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 52:23, just after the end of Claudette. You cannot miss it as the song finishes - there is a distinct pause and then the audience start clapping and cheering. I know that music DVDs are always problematic as far as layer changes are concerned, since they invariably have a pause in the audio stream to highlight the change, but this one is a little more obvious than some.

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


    Like every other music video, the really important thing is the quality of the audio. You will like this!

    There are three soundtracks on offer on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an English DTS 5.1 soundtrack and an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Not wishing to be seen to be biased, I listened to all three soundtracks. Well, not really because I did not want to be biased but rather because I wanted to watch the DVD several times and it killed two birds with one stone by watching them with all the different soundtracks.

    There is nothing seriously amiss with the vocals in the soundtrack, other than as noted below, and there did not seem to be any audio sync problems.

    Apart from sounding positively wimpish in comparison with the 5.1 soundtracks, there is not much wrong with the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack at all. Perhaps just lacking the ultimate in sparkle that perhaps a Linear PCM soundtrack would have provided, the overall balance is quite good and the sound quite reminiscent of a CD. The only real complaint I guess would be that it just seemed to lack just a bit of clarity in the mix, but nothing that really detracts from the overall presentation of the songs.

    The gem of the soundtrack on the DVD though is the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Whilst not as bright and glossy as the DTS effort, it is much better engineered and the overall balance is quite excellent. The surround channels get a good workout as does the bass channel, but without overpowering the vocals at all. Certainly this effort can be cranked up quite loud and the balance still remains great, meaning that you can rock big time but also hear everything that magnificent falsetto voice has to offer. There really is nothing much wrong with this soundtrack as far as I can hear.

    One thing that stands out immediately with the DTS soundtrack is the utterly superb definition of the sound. There is no leakage at all between the channels and backing vocals come purely (and I do mean purely) out of the rear channels, like you were standing on stage next to the vocalists. You very rarely get to hear sound with this sort of definition and it would have been a treat of a soundtrack except for the second thing. The bass channel has been mixed far too prominently in the mix, resulting in an unnatural balance that at times threatens to drown out the vocals. If only the bass channel had been slightly more restrained in the mix like the Dolby Digital soundtrack... I would have rated it amongst the best soundtracks I have ever heard. The problem for me is that I cannot ignore the prominent bass, for the simple reason that it does not really suit the music too well. It really is a great shame for otherwise this is a superb soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Since we generally expect very little on music DVDs, this is a slightly better than expected package - although not anywhere near sufficient enough for a man of this stature.


    Featuring some animation, it is functional but not really that exciting. Getting your way around the menu for the biographies is a bit fiddly.

Biographies - Cast

    All the main cast members rate a page, with a far more extensive effort for the man himself. Whilst appreciating that the rest of the cast are just the support, it is a pity they did not rate a bit more of a outing. That for the man himself is very good indeed and amongst the best that I have seen.

Gallery - Photos

    Featuring 34 photos, they are behind-the-scenes efforts with some stills from the performance itself and of some memorabilia from the night. Some are actually annotated! Woohoo!!

Notes - from Roy Orbison, Jr

    Two pages of writings from the young man trying to put some perspective on the show. Interesting enough for one read, but that would be about it.

Notes - Credits

    Several pages of credits that in some way duplicates the credits on the video itself.

DVD-ROM extras

    Throw the DVD into your DVD-ROM drive and you get to play around with a reasonably detailed discography of the man's work from the 1950s through to the 1990s. The discography is split by decades and the more recent ones include the greatest detail, including catalogue numbers for the releases. Very good, but quite why it could not have been included on the DVD as ordinary content is a very good question. Note that the packaging makes no reference to the content - it is only mentioned in Roy Orbison's bio. A direct clickable link to the official website is also provided.

R4 vs R1

    Okay, we have an interesting problem here - this title has been released in Region 1, but nowhere have I been able to track down a review or other source of information to confirm what extras are on the DVD. The usually reliable sites either have not reviewed the title or else are silent on the extras content. Since DVD File is very Netscape unfriendly, and usually my place of last resort as a result, it took me a while to track down what information they had, which was no reviews but at least details of supplemental materials. But since they refer to the same supplemental material as the Region 4 release except in two respects, namely an audio commentary is suggested and no DVD-ROM content is suggested, further investigation was required. In the end I resorted to a very unusual source for information on the DVD - DVD Empire. A review on that site, by Jeff McNeal from The Big Picture, suggests that the content is identical to the Region 4 release.

    That review also suggests that the audio transfer is very similar but the video transfer may be a little better on the Region 1 release. All things considered, I would suggest that there is no real preference either way.


    After awaiting this DVD for so long, I was just little disappointed by the aliasing problem in the transfer. But from an audio point of view, even bearing in mind the slightly bass-heavy DTS effort, this is more than just good. As a result, whilst it is not perfect, Roy Orbison - Black & White Night is a must for fans of the man and for anyone with an interest in great rock and roll. This will bear repeated listenings with ease. Not quite an essential buy for all collections, but not far short of it.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (have a laugh, check out the bio)
23rd January 2001

Review Equipment
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