Queen-The DVD Collection: Greatest Video Hits 1 (2002)

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Released 25-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Booklet
Audio Commentary-Band members
Featurette-x4: "Rhapsody"
Gallery
Easter Egg-Alternate edit of Bohemian Rhapsody clip
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 82:09 (Case: 133)
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Various
Studio
Distributor

EMI Music
Starring Brian May
Roger Taylor
Freddie Mercury
John Deacon
Case Click-Double
RPI $34.95 Music Queen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (1536Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Perhaps I should start this review by admitting my bias to this release. As a Queen fan for close on twenty years now and with a collection covering the entire Queen and Queen-related discography, including every official and many unofficial recording made, this makes me somewhat positively pre-disposed to the much-awaited release of Queen material on DVD. However, with an intimate knowledge of all the material and all past releases of the material, this also puts me in a fairly good position to be able to judge this DVD. After all, it should make me a harsh critic after having had to wait so long for the release of Queen content on DVD, if the quality of the release now is not up to scratch.

    And so, the verdict? Quite simply, EMI, the band members and all involved with this project have done a superb job. They have delivered a very polished package indeed, in terms of video and audio quality, and also in providing a great selection of brand new extras. They have made the long wait for Queen on DVD worthwhile.

    Before going on to put Queen's Greatest Video Hits 1 in context, it is interesting to ask the question what is it that has made Queen's music so popular, so enduring and so covered over all these years? And why should the release of this DVD now be of much interest to today's rock music fans, given that over eleven years has elapsed since Freddie Mercury's sad passing triggered the effective demise of the band in November 1991? Furthermore, what is it that makes for a "rock supergroup", as Queen have often been labeled, as distinct from the countless other talented and successful, but yet in comparison transitory, rock groups out there that have been and gone? The following facts about Queen may give an idea:

    These are very impressive stats indeed and go perhaps some way to grasping the scale of Queen's success. Another way is simply to poll any one of a large number of successful rock artists of the 1970s, 80s or 90s, many of whom will openly cite either Freddie Mercury's vocal strength and pure showmanship, or Brian May's guitar riffs and guitar orchestrations as principal influences in their music. This is a indeed rock group that left a great legacy.

    Very sadly though, we now seem to have now left behind this era of the "rock supergroup", an era where bands stayed together for decades on end and experimented with different musical styles through the album format; a period where singles were primarily used as an inducement to sell albums, rather than the singles sales being the primary marketing objective - in short, a period where rock music by and large was the popular music. Now, sadly, we have moved on to a period where pop music is a completely separate and cynically marketed music segment; a music market where single sales are the main goal; a market dominated by teenage solo performers backed by unknown session musicians, or else pre-packaged formula groups, all sold in a way that appeals primarily to visual style than to our ears alone. In this respect, Queen's Greatest Video Hits 1 is piece of popular music history, reflecting the "rock supergroup" of a by-gone music era.

    By way of background, Queen's first "Greatest Hits" album, and accompanying videocassette compilation, "Greatest Flix (1)", was released back in 1981. There was also a subsequent re-issue of the videocassette several years later, containing 4 bonus music clips. This new Queen's Greatest Video Hits 1 DVD contains all of these previously released clips, plus also includes an additional gem, only recently rediscovered in the BBC archives, being a rare performance of the song Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy on UK TV's "Top Of The Pops".  The recently rediscovered clip has never been commercially released until now. A problem with the original "Greatest Flix" VHS release was that it contained some very savage cross-edits between the songs, with the result that most of the clips were butchered at the edges. In addition, "Greatest Flix" also contained a censored version of the film clip for Bicycle Race, with the original footage of a group of naked girls racing bicycles around Wembley Arena (footage long since thought lost) deemed at the time to be way too naughty for general exhibition (tsk, tsk). You will be pleased to hear that the new Greatest Video Hits 1 DVD addresses all of these previous issues; it includes all music clips in their entirety and reinstates both the recently-rediscovered original Bicycle Race footage and the never-before released Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy clip. So this is, without doubt, the definitive, uncut and previously unavailable version of "Queen's Greatest Flix 1", along with new extras now being seen for the first time on this DVD.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Track Listing

1. Bohemian Rhapsody
2. Another One Bites The Dust
3. Killer Queen
4. Fat Bottomed Girls
5. Bicycle Race
6. You're My Best Friend
7. Don't Stop Me Now
8. Save Me
9. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
10. Somebody To Love
11. Spread Your Wings
12. Play The Game
13. Flash
14. Tie Your Mother Down
15. We Will Rock You
16. We Are The Champions
17. Bonus tracks: Now I'm Here (Live)
18. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy
19. Keep Yourself Alive
20. Liar
21. Love Of My Life
22. We Will Rock You (Fast Live)

Transfer Quality

Video

     The video transfer quality is, of course, variable, but on the whole quite stunning. I say "of course" because it has to be appreciated that we are dealing here with 20+ different source materials for the feature alone - and some of these source elements being 29 years old. The source materials were recorded using different media (film, video and animation), with different standards of equipment and each preserved over the years with varying degrees of success. Therefore, the video quality of this DVD will of course be limited by the quality of the source materials and should be reviewed in this light. However on the whole, the quality of the DVD video transfer compared to all previous reincarnations of these music clips is nothing short of stunning. Full credit should be given to those responsible for the video remastering effort, David Mallet and producer Dione Orram, as the quality control exercised in the restoration and transfer processes has certainly paid dividends. As a package, this is certainly the best we are ever going to get to see these music clips, and it is great to see them now preserved for posterity.

    Disc 1 of the DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This immediately raised my eyebrows, knowing that the original source elements were all shot for TV in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. It turns out that a bit of cheating has been employed by the DVD producers here to give us the new widescreen transfer, as the original 1.33:1 full frame source images have in fact been cropped top and bottom and re-framed in order to produce a "zoomed-in", pseudo 1.78:1 ratio, which has then been 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions. Now normally the cutting back of any original source material for DVD is a huge no-no, as it results in the loss of some of the original visual data. However I went back and did a careful song-by-song comparison of each music clip to that on the "Greatest Flix" VHS tape to see what effect this  horizontal cropping and re-framing had had and must admit that, by and large, the cropping has not resulted in material loss of information. Yes, there are definitely some scenes where the effect of the cropping is readily apparent and the best examples are: the prism-shot during the operatic section of Bohemian Rhapsody, where Brian and Freddie have been clearly edited out of frame top and bottom, the intro shots to Play The Game, where the "Flash" logo on Freddie's T-shirt is missing off bottom of frame, and some scenes in  You're My Best Friend and Crazy Little Thing, where headshots appear too tightly framed. But apart from these few isolated examples, unless you allow yourself to be critically looking out for it, then the cropping is probably excusable as very little material visual information has been sacrificed in the re-framing. The decision to take this action must have been a difficult one for the DVD producers (and Queen) to sanction, however they have ultimately prioritised the desire for a widescreen image over the desire to preserve the source aspect ratio, in order to meet modern market expectations for DVD/home theatre. The decision to edit and widescreen-enhance the video is also wholly-consistent with the decision to re-mix the audio from its original stereo to 5.1 surround sound for DVD/home theatre. On balance, I can forgive the slight horizontal cropping effect and I am glad that we have been delivered a widescreen video transfer, as I think it would have been rather jarring to leave the original 1.33:1 image and marry it with a newly enhanced surround soundstage.

    Sharpness and shadow detail in this transfer is variable, as expected with the variations in the source elements. Many of these music clips were shot on video and display the constraints of resolution and noise associated with this medium, whereas some other clips shot on film display notably better definition. Bear in mind that some of the bonus clips were shot as long ago as 1973 and even the mostly recently shot clip is dated 1980. Overall though, the video restoration process has been highly successful and I was pleasantly surprised by the crispness of both foreground images and the background resolution of these restored clips. Some of the best clean-up jobs, where sharpness and detail is immeasurably improved, are Bo Rhap (a quite amazing restoration effort here when you compare to previous releases), the BBC clips Killer Queen and Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy (breathtaking clarity for their age), Crazy Little Thing, Spread Your Wings and We Will Rock You.  On the downside, there are still a few clips where poor background resolution, noise and grain are readily apparent, owing to the quality of the source material. Another One Bites The Dust is still a very noisy and poor quality image, but this too has been improved (a little) from its previous reincarnations. The absolute worst offending clips for quality are We Are The Champions, Fat Bottomed Girls and Flash (which scores zero out of five for background resolution!). These clips were all shot on video, not great quality shoots to start with and evidently not well preserved over the years, so it is not surprising that the restoration team struggled with these clips.

    Colour also has to be stated to be variable with the source, but again, pleasingly, the vast majority of the colour saturation in the DVD transfer is excellent. Colour ranges from the downright spectacular (as in the Bohemian Rhapsody cleanup) to the quite satisfactory (Fat Bottomed Girls and Play The Game) to the lows of some washed-out flesh tones (as in Tie Your Mother Down). By and large, colours have very well rendered in this transfer and display a dramatic improvement over all previous releases of these music clips.

    There are no notable MPEG artefacts introduced and film-to-video artefacts are also virtually non-existent, barring the odd and trivial instance of aliasing, like on the motorbike in Crazy Little Thing or on John Deacon's guitar strap during Spread Your Wings. Again, top marks for the film-to-video effort here - just superb.

    Film/source artefacts? You bet, and not surprisingly so given the range and age of the source materials. Absolutely the worst music clip for source artefacts is the videotaped shoot of We Are The Champions, which displays prominent and persistent colour bleed on Freddie's harlequin outfit in particular. However it must be said that apart from this most distracting instance, most of the other instances of source artefacts are all relatively minor, consisting of small film flecks and the odd, brief, negative film artefact. The worst offender for persistent little film flecks is Don't Stop Me Now, and if I had one little gripe with the restoration team on this project, it would be with this clip, as I'm sure at least some of these persistent little film flecks and scratches could have been cleaned up digitally, with a bit more time invested.

    There are no subtitles at all on this DVD, which is a lost opportunity to include a lyric sheet for those who may need it, and so broaden the DVD's potential market.

    Both the discs in this DVD package are single layered, so there is no layer transition time to note.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Now for the great news: the effort put into the audio re-mixing and transfer is even better than the video. This is nothing short of a reference quality dts audio transfer.

    There are three audio tracks on the DVD: a default LPCM 2.0 mix (at 1536 kb/s), a dts 96/24 5.1 mix (at full bit rate 1536 kb/s) and a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio commentary (discussed separately under Extras below). Interestingly, you will note that there is no Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in addition to the dts, so note that if your equipment is not dts compatible you will not be able to enjoy the new surround re-mix. I reviewed the dts track in full and sampled parts of the LPCM track.

    Note that the dts track on offer here is a higher resolution format 96/24 track, offering 24-bit audio (as opposed to normal 16-bit sample depth) and, for appropriately equipped decoders, 96 kHz sample rate as well (as opposed to the normal 48 kHz sample rate). This is in fact the very first offering of a dts 96/24 audio track on a DVD-Video release (these higher resolution dts tracks are normally only to be found on DVD-Audio releases). Note that if your equipment is not capable of decoding the 96/24 format however, then no problem, as the track will simply be downsampled to the more usual 48 kHz resolution automatically.

    The quality of the new surround channel mix is just sublime. I have heard all of these Queen songs countless times over the years, in various different versions and guises, including several re-mastering efforts direct from the original analogue source tapes, but I must say these songs have never sounded as complete as they do now with this new 5.1 dts mix. The songs really came alive, in a way that I wasn't quite prepared for. This is in no small part due to the care and attention to detail invested by the Pro Tools engineer Kris Fredriksson and 5.1 mix producer Justin Shirley-Smith. The procedure involved a painstaking process of transferring the original 24-track analogue source tapes to Pro Tools hard drive, digitally cleaning up and remastering each and every track, and then carefully re-compiling the original 2-shannel stereo mixes, before even attempting to start dissecting and re-assembling the songs into a new 5.1 channel surround mix. The Bo Rhap and You're My Best Friend surround mixes were produced by Brian May and Roy Thomas Baker themselves, for the recent DVD-Audio release of the A Night At The Opera album. (Roy Thomas Baker was the original co-producer of this album, with Queen.) The surround mixes for all other songs was produced by Justin Shirley-Smith, a long-time producer with Queen since the late 80s, having first worked with Roger Taylor producing a solo band project album.

    These mixes really can't be faulted at any level. The mixing volume of the vocals and all instruments is perfect throughout each mix and the dts really does give each and every instrument extra room to breathe, from the excellent growly lows of the bass guitar in Fat Bottomed Girls or kick drums in Tie Your Mother Down, to the biting guitar notes of Bohemian Rhapsody or Tie Your Mother Down, to the clarity of the vocal overdubs in Somebody To Love, to the precise percussion of Killer Queen and Save Me. The new audio mix passed its real test though with an effortless handling of the trademark Queen "wall of sound"; tracks such as Fat Bottomed Girls, the bridge section of Play The Game and the choruses of Tie Your Mother Down all invoke this dynamic assault and are all handled extremely well by the dts track, with perfect clarity across the range and absolutely no bleeding of any instruments.

    Apart from the great separation and clarity, what blew me away was the effectiveness of the new surround mixes. To be honest, I was more than a little apprehensive about listening to the new 5.1 mixes, as I had feared the producers might have succumbed to the temptation to employ an unnecessarily aggressive/unnatural use of all the channels. I was in fact just as prepared to pan this DVD as like it for this reason, if the remixes detracted from the spirit of the original stereo mixes. But thankfully, I can say that this is not the case at all. Whilst the new mixes are indeed an aggressive and non-stop use of the 5.1 channel medium, it certainly does not detract from the original recordings. If anything, it really brings home how well-suited Queen's multi-track recordings all those years ago were to the new home theatre environment (pity you were 20 years too early, guys!). Every song benefits from an intelligent use of the surrounds, both for precise directional effects where warranted (like in Bicycle Race) but most impressively just for the fantastic front-to back weighting of the soundstage. For example, the rear speakers are used most effectively to carry the backing vocals in many songs, in order to balance the main vocals from the front centre and mains, or else they are used to carry subtle guitar overdubs or other backing tracks. The surround mix for each and every song is approached differently, as befitting the style of the original stereo mix. The effect is that each new mix suits the songs and the end result is to immerse the listener right in the centre of the song.

    Audio sync is just a little problematic on occasion, but then again it always has been on previous releases of these video clips, too. In fact, the editing and dubbing is notably improved for some clips compared to the "Greatest Flix" video release. Still, even with good editing, Queen were never the best mimers in the world - in fact, they hated it!  Note also that the audio sync is out on Tie Your Mother Down as this footage was taken from a live performance at Hyde Park, London, but with the live audio track subsequently removed and the studio version dubbed over the top.

    Subwoofer use is high. My sub came out to play with this disc and had a right royal time with practically every song. (OK, I admit I was reviewing the disc at reference volume.)  The sub is constantly called upon to help fill out the low end for the front mains, giving extra bite to the drums and bass guitar. Great tracks for sub use are Don't Stop Me Now, Another One Bites The Dust, Tie Your Mother Down, Fat Bottomed Girls and, well, really all of them!

    One final comment to make is that this dts mix is a great showcase example of why your system needs a power amp, as there are plenty of very high attack sounds to be sampled in this soundtrack when played at volume. Some excellent examples are Roger's punchy vocals and percussion during the operatic section of Bo Rhap, and better still the pounding drums in the intro to Another One Bites The Dust.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras on this disc are well chosen and specially made for this release. They really complement the feature and concentrate on putting the song and the video clip for Bohemian Rhapsody in context.

Booklet

    A 20 page booklet gives background information to each of the included film clips and the DVD production credits.

Menus

    All menus are presented in 1.78:1, are 16x9 enhanced and are well designed. There is some audio accompaniment as the main menu screen is materialising (an excerpt from Brian's adaptation of God Save The Queen), but then the menu screens are all without audio underscore. A small complaint is that whilst the menu layout looks great, navigation between the headings is slow and cumbersome.

    Each of the featured music clips can be selected directly from the main menu if desired, as well as the 'Play All' option.

    All extras discussed below are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced and with 2 channel audio, unless otherwise stated.

Disc 1: Audio Commentary - Brian May and Roger Taylor

    Brian and Roger talk through each music clip in turn. The commentary for each clip is also self contained, so that you can select the audio commentary for any single clip if you want to select it from the main menu, rather than going through them all.

    The two narrators were recorded together and they bounce off each other very well, recalling some interesting anecdotes and facts about when and where each clip was shot, where Queen were at that point in their career and, frankly, what they think of the finished product! The commentary is also interspersed with snippets of past interviews with Freddie and John, edited in well so that each band member gets to have their "say" about their own songs. The resultant commentary provides a good insight into the clips (much of this information has not come up before in previous Queen interviews).

Disc 2:  Bonus Video Clips (24:11)

    Now I'm Here (Live), presented in 1.33:1, is taken from the Live At The Rainbow London concert in 1974 and has very well restored video image. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy is the never-before seen Top Of The Pops performance as discussed above, of excellent quality. Keep Yourself Alive and Liar are both tracks from Queen's eponymous first album and presented in 1.33:1. These clips were originally filmed as a means of promoting Queen as a live band to record companies and within the industry in 1973. Even at this early stage, Queen appeared to be testing ways to present themselves visually to a wider audience. Love Of My Life, also in 1.33:1, is footage taken from a live performance during the "Crazy Tour" of Europe in 1978. Finally, We Will Rock You (Live Fast Version) is a great live concert-opener, but unfortunately this clip does not capture it with the best quality audio recording or video.

Disc 2: Featurettes - "Rhapsody"

    This is the definitive story behind the song, told in 4 separate sections:

"The Bo Rhap Story" (8:47) and "Making The Video" (6:00):  Featuring new interviews with Brian and Roger, recorded specially for this DVD. These featurettes explain such issues as the band members' reactions when Freddie first brought the song to the rest of the group (already structured and with the operatic section "in his head"),  the difficulty of convincing the record company to release it as a single in its uncut form, why the music video was conceived (they were simply too busy touring to appear on Top Of The Pops and in any event preferred to control the promotion of the song in their own style), why this was unique and became the first promotional music video of its time in the UK, and how this song  became the turning point in Queen's career.

    The quality of these two featurettes is great, but marred only by a bit of annoying audio hiss/distortion at the very end of both.

"Creating The Rhapsody" (27:14):  This extra features an interview with Brian in the studio, showing the original and now very fragile 2" multi-track analogue tape master for A Night At The Opera, dating back to 1975. In a style very similar to the SBS "Classic Albums" TV series, Brian takes us through the individual multi-track recordings for the song, first the raw backing track, then some of the guitar overdubs and then a fascinating  dissection of some of the numerous and intricate vocal harmonies. Because of the rarity of the material covered, this makes for fascinating viewing and has to be the absolute holy grail of extras for a Queen fan.

"The Greatest Song?" (2:32): A slightly misleading title, perhaps this featurette would have been better titled "The Greatest Single?", but at least the addition of the question mark shows Queen aren't taking it seriously. This extra shows the press conference for The Guinness Book of World Records announcing the results of the "Top 10 Greatest British Hit Singles Of All Time", presumably as measured by singles sales. Bohemian Rhapsody emerged as #1 in this Top 10 list. (As an interesting fact, Bo Rhap actually attained #1 status on the UK singles charts on two separate occasions, the first time in 1975 and then again in 1991.)  If anyone is interested, The Beatles scored 4 songs in this Guinness Book's Top 10, in addition to which John Lennon's Imagine made #2. Stairway To Heaven was not there at all, by the way, as this song was never released as a single.

Disc 2:  Gallery (2:23):

    Actually a slide show (even better than a gallery), this is of excellent quality, with all images clean and free of grain or noise. The gallery is appropriately enough set to the song Seven Seas of Rhye, as this is the only remaining song on the "Greatest Hits" CD for which there is no commercially available accompanying video clip. (There was a taped performance of this song on "Top Of The Pops" back in 1974, however the BBC accidentally wiped the tape and the original footage was lost! - oops!) 

Additional comment added 12/2/2003:
Disc 2: Easter Egg: Bohemian Rhapsody clip - Alternate Edit (5:57)    
    I have just been advised by a reader that there is also an Easter egg on this DVD. It is an alternate edit of the Bo Rhap clip. Nothing too exciting, as it is very similar indeed to the original clip, but is just edited with slightly different emphasis to give a (slightly) different feel to the clip, using the occasional different camera angle or visual cross-fade in a couple of places. I don't know what the exact origin of this clip is, but judging by the fact that this version is so similar to the original, I can only surmise that the director must offered up two slightly different edits of the clip for the band to choose between, and they decided on the version that is on disc 1.
    This bonus clip is presented in 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced video (again, cut down from 1.33:1) and has PCM 2 channel audio. It's decent quality, but with the video not quite as carefully restored as the main clip. To access this Easter egg, select the "Rhapsody" heading from the main menu, then highlight, but do not select, the "Back to Main" heading. From here, press cursor up, then cursor right twice and then cursor left and the clip will play automatically. (Beats me why these d*** Easter eggs are so hard to access.)

   

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This music title has been multi-zoned and spec'd the same for worldwide release. Opt for Region 4 for price and the superior PAL resolution.

Summary

    The wait for re-mastered Queen content on DVD has been well and truly worth while. EMI and all involved have done a superb job with this release. The DVD contains the definitive version of Greatest Flix 1, with faithfully restored video, reference quality dts audio and a new set of extras specially produced for this release. We finally get to sample these songs in a home theatre environment, in the clarity they deserve. And judging by the quality control invested in this project, we can now also expect good things of the upcoming release: Queen's Greatest Video Hits 2.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Abberton (read my bio)
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 117cm widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RXV-1000. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationElektra Home Theatre surround power amp
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III mains, Orpheus Centaurus 1.0 centre, Velodyne CT150 sub and B&W DM303 rears

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Comments (Add)
Yeah baby!!! - Dave
the second greatest band in the world? - Dr Hackenbush REPLY POSTED
Another great review - Andrew Hutchison REPLY POSTED
DVD-A upcoming - Dr Hackenbush REPLY POSTED
Menu problem with Queen GH DVD ? - Sheeds REPLY POSTED
Re: Menu Problem - Dr Hackenbush REPLY POSTED
Re: Menu Problems - Dr Hackenbush