Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Playback

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Details At A Glance

Category Music None
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1995
Running Time 73:33 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director John Goodhue
Jim Lenahan
Cameron Crowe
Phil Savenick
Doug Dowdle
Jeff Stein
David Leland
Julien Temple
Jesse Dylan
Keir McFarlane
MCA Music
Universal Home Video
Case Amaray Starring Tom Petty
RPI $36.95 Music Tom Petty
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    If nothing else, Tom Petty and his band, The Heartbreakers, have proven that music video has the potential to be more than just a promotional tool. They have shown that music videos have the potential to become works of art in and of themselves, with some of the strangest music videos ever captured on celluloid. Only a few other artists, such as David Bowie or various independent artists like Emperor have done similarly creative things with their promotional videos, making it seem all the more like an apologetic on MTV's part that they gave Tom Petty a Video Vanguard Award (whatever that means) in 1994.

    Tom Petty began making these videos before there even was an MTV, although the early ones show a lot less creativity than those which were created after the rise of that awful channel. The collection really hits its stride with You Got Lucky, the last of the videos to be directed by Jim Lenahan. My favourite video, of course, would be the Alice-In-Wonderland-on-PCP-style Don't Come Around Here No More. As a matter of fact, this exceptionally odd-ball video is the entire reason I stuck my hand up for this disc in the first place. The use of surreal and imaginative imagery really makes a big difference, and it is amazing how much more interesting a promotional video looks when some creativity has come into the equation.

    The tracklisting for this DVD is as follows:

    In other words, this is a collection of all the singles that were committed to film and set the standard for music video as an art form. The back cover blurb states that Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers had the intention of making their videos as creative as their albums and live shows. Some of these videos do all that and more, while others fall flat because they seem quite blasé by today's standards. All in all, however, Tom Petty fans and anyone with a passing interest in creative music videos will need little encouragement to take a look at this offering. Watch out for Kim Basinger's performance in Mary Jane's Last Dance as a dead body, demonstrating that not only did Tom Petty and the men he chose to direct his videos have great artistic sense, they were also good at casting.

Transfer Quality


    The video quality on offer here is generally very good, with only a few minor problems brought on by the age of the earlier offerings.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Given that the last of these videos was recorded in 1993, I doubt that Tom Petty or the directors had a widescreen ratio in mind when they shot these promotional clips.

    The transfer is very sharp at all times, with a gradual improvement in sharpness overall as the videos get more recent. There were no problems with low-level noise. Mildly distracting grain is an issue during parts of Into The Great Wide Open, during some of the video footage showing the story detailed in the lyrics, but thankfully there are no such problems anywhere else in the transfer.

    The colour saturation of this transfer is mostly impeccable, with every colour being as evenly balanced and well-represented as possible. There was some minor discolouration at the top of the frame towards the end of You Got Lucky, but this would more than likely be a source material issue rather than a fault of the transfer.

    MPEG artefacts weren't a problem at all in this transfer, with the bitrate almost always at the DVD maximum rate of ten megabits per second, and the surprisingly clean source material giving the compression very little to stress over. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some mild aliasing from time to time that wasn't particularly bothersome or even noticeable in most cases. A ghost-like outline surrounds the musicians during I Won't Back Down, but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that this was an intentional effect given that there is no noise in these outlines, and they disappear during certain segments of the video. Film artefacts consisted of numerous nicks and scratches on the negative, as well as the occasional black and white flecks, but these were mostly confined to the early videos. By the time Don't Come Around Here No More began, the picture became so clean that one could be forgiven for thinking these videos were shot yesterday.

    There are no subtitles on this disc, which was somewhat frustrating given that I wanted to sing along with Don't Come Around Here No More, but couldn't understand most of what Tom Petty was actually singing.


    There is only the one soundtrack included on this DVD: the original English lyrics, encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 with the higher bitrate of 384 kilobits. What makes this remarkable is that this bitrate is normally used with Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, and the usage of this bitrate with a simple stereo soundtrack has resulted in much greater fidelity and clarity than is normally encountered with Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks.

    The vocals are always quite prominent in the mix, making them easy to understand for the most part, but the aforementioned Don't Come Around Here No More and later songs such as I Won't Back Down find Tom Petty's voice sounding rather unintelligible at times. This is as much the fault of the vocal style he used with these songs as the original recording engineer's, so this can be overlooked, particularly given how clear and focussed the other instruments always sound. There were occasional issues with audio sync, such as Tom Petty's lip movements not quite matching the sound, or a guitarist's finger movements not quite matching the timing of their notes, but these are normal problems for music videos.

    The music by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakerscan be vaguely viewed as middle-of-the-road pop, but even the most radio-friendly songs here are more creative than what you'd find if you turned on the tuner today. Ironically, the most sinister-sounding song here, Don't Come Around Here No More, is the one that has gotten the most air play over the years.

    Being that this is a straight stereo soundtrack, there was no activity from the surround channels. This was quickly forgotten, however, as the higher bitrate allowed much greater channel separation than is the norm for Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtracks. The subwoofer had a whale of a time supporting the bass and drums, adding a floor to the soundtrack that was tight and punchy, and it did so without becoming conspicuous.



    The menu is static and very plain. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.


    As far as we have been able to ascertain, there are no censorship issues with this title.

R4 vs R1

    This DVD is identical the world over.


    Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers have made a most invaluable contribution to music videos, turning them from a promotional tool to an art form, at least where radio-compatible music is concerned. Playback contains seventeen of the most creative music videos ever to be played on commercial television.

    The video quality is good, surprisingly so considering the age of most of the material.

    The audio quality is excellent, building a great argument for the use of higher bitrate soundtracks.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
April 7, 2001

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer