Secret Life of Us, The-Volume 1-Episodes 1-3 (2001)

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Released 27-Nov-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Interviews-Cast-Talking with Claudia Karvan
Gallery-Photo
Synopsis
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 142:21 (Case: 149)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Lynn-Maree Danzey
Studio
Distributor
Southern Star
Shock Entertainment
Starring Claudia Karvan
Deborah Mailman
Samuel Johnson
Abi Tucker
Joel Edgerton
Spencer McLaren
Sibylla Budd
Damian De Montemas
David Tredinnick
Jessica Gower
Tasma Walton
Tempany Deckert
Andrew McKaige
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $9.95 Music Martin Armiger


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 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

    The Secret Life Of Us is a well regarded TV series that started in 2001. It is entering its fourth season in 2004, but this disc contains Season 1 Volume 1, or the first three episodes. The TV series won Logie Awards for "Most Outstanding Drama Series" in both 2001 and 2002, and developed a cult following in its first two seasons.

    I've never watched a single episode on TV, but it's because I seldom watch TV (too many DVDs to review!). Therefore, it was a pleasure to be able to watch all the episodes in sequence without being interrupted by ads. The series is about a group of twentysomething friends and flatmates in an apartment block in St. Kilda, and comes across as Friends meets Sex In The City meets Beverly Hills 90210.

Episodes #1 (46:40) & #2 (49:46) (Telemovie)

    The first two episodes are essentially a "telemovie" that introduces us to the main characters, who are all searching for the "Trifecta" - career success, a nice place to live (which is presumably not where they are currently living), and a boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Evan (Samuel Johnson) is a writer who is writing his first big novel - called The Secret Life Of Us. His flatmate Alex (Claudia Karvan) is a doctor who is a bit insecure about her looks, her job, and her love life. They have recently accepted Kelly (Deborah Mailman) as a flatmate, who is a bit disorganized and has just quit her job, as well as her "affair" with her boss - a married man, naturally.

    There's another set of flatmates - Miranda (Abi Tucker), Richie (Spencer McLaren) and Will (Joel Edgerton). Miranda and Richie are a couple, and both of them are looking for jobs as actors. Will has yet to get over his girlfriend Leah (Tasma Walton) leaving him for Paris, so when she returns his heart is all a-flutter again.

    The final set of flatmates are a yuppie couple - Jason (Damian De Montemas) is a lawyer, and Gabrielle (Sibylla Budd) is in politics.

    The friends/flatmates tend to hang around at the local bar run by Simon (David Tredinnick).

    Gabrielle and Alex are best friends, so when Jason and Alex have a fling both of them feel rather guilty. How will they ensure Gabrielle never finds out?

    In the meantime, Richie lands a part in a new production, but Miranda misses out on her audition. Richie is afraid to break the good news to Miranda because of her low self-esteem.

    Leah wants to borrow $12,000 from Will in order to start a new café. Will Will lend it to her?

    Evan's latest girlfriend, the very pretty but rather empty-headed Andrena (Tempany Deckert), seems to be "stuck on him" and won't let go. He starts feeling rather uncomfortable ...

    Finally, Kelly has to devise a way to get $500 back pay from her ex-boss Sean (Andrew McKaige), who still yearns for her ...

Episode #3 (45:55) (The Unbelievable Truth)

    Evan continues his quest to do almost anything to avoid "work" (i.e. writing), including fixing his chair and trying to bed every available female in St. Kilda.

    Alex is nervous about her application into the surgery programme at the hospital.

    Kelly tries to find a new job. She is also nervous about her new boyfriend. Her ex-boss' wife, Nerida (Tessa Humphries), pays her a visit.

    Gabrielle and Jason are trying to deal with Jason's infidelity.

    Will is still upset over Leah, and rejects the friendship of Alex's friend Sam (Jessica Gower).

    Richie is nervous over his new job.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is in widescreen 1.75:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, with very small black bars on either side of the frame. I assume this is the intended aspect ratio, since the series was produced after the commencement of widescreen Digital TV broadcasts in Australia on 1 January 2001, but I'm surprised it wasn't presented in an exact 1.78:1

    Given that we have three episodes spread across a dual layered disc, I would have expected the video transfer to be perfect, but it's not.

    I noticed various compression artefacts, including posterization and Gibbs effect, plus a tendency towards aliasing/combing for fast moving objects, which suggests that the video source may be inherently interlaced.

    I suspect the transfer may have been less than optimally encoded, and intended for digital TV broadcast (single pass encoding, constant bitrate) without the care normally taken for a DVD transfer. The transfer also appears to have been sourced from a composite video master, since I noticed some composite video artefacts, including dot crawl and a bit of colour smearing.

    The overall look of the transfer is probably a bit on the soft side and slightly over-exposed with saturated highlights on some scenes. Colour saturation was acceptable but the transfer seemed to be missing the rich subtle colours of film.

    Darker scenes in the episodes feature a fair amount of video noise or "digital grain."

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitle tracks.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer change occurs in between episodes. Curiously, Episodes #1 and #3 are on Layer 0, and Episode #2 is on Layer 1. The extras are on Layer 1.

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track on the disc: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    The soundtrack has obviously been "blanded down" for TV broadcast, since it sounds quite heavily dynamically compressed, with all the life taken out of out and extreme low and high frequencies rolled off.

    I'm not sure whether the soundtrack is surround encoded, but I did not hear any noticeable instances of the surround channels being utilized.

    At least the dialogue is clear and relatively easy to understand, except a few instances where the characters are mumbling or speaking too fast.

    The background music features a selection of music from Mushroom Records. It's kind of funky and hip, and no doubt will go well for the target audience of the TV series.

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

Extras

    Extras are minimal, but at least we get some extras.

Menu

    The menus are 16x9 enhanced. The main menu is animated and includes background audio.

Interviews-Cast- Talking with Claudia Karvan (5:51)

    This features the following interview snippets, all presented in 1.78:1 (16x9 enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s):

Gallery-Photo

    This contains 15 stills featuring various publicity photos of the cast.

Synopsis

    This presents a one paragraph synopsis for the first 12 episodes of Season 1, accompanied by stills from the episode.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title has yet to be released in Region 1. It has been released in Region 2 UK, but as a three DVD set covering the first 11 episodes of Season 1. I don't think the UK version has any extras, which makes Region 4 the clear winner.

Summary

    The Secret Life Of Us Series 1, Volume 1 features the first three episodes from Season 1 of the cult TV series about a group of twentysomethings living in an apartment block in St. Kilda, Melbourne.

    The video transfer is okay, but has a number of compression artefacts.

    The audio transfer is okay, but the soundtrack sounds rather lifeless.

    Extras include an interview with Claudia Karvan, a photo gallery and plot synopses.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Thursday, March 04, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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