Showdown: 2003 FIA World Rally Championship (2003)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 13-Apr-2004

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Sports Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Additional Footage-On Board (Unedited) (41:46)
Additional Footage-WRC (3:47)
Trailer-WRC 3 Playstation 2 Game (2:43)
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 109:54 (Case: 130)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring None Given
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Italian
German
Dutch
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Forget that sissy Formula One stuff. If you want to see real men with more balls than a Mitre soccer ball factory driving cars real fast, you need to head elsewhere. None of this wussy driving round and round the same circuit for 300 kilometres, with generally wide tracks and large grassy runoffs (with kitty litter or not) to help ease the mental pressure. You need a narrow, twisty road (well, more likely a track), trees, rocks, cliffs and god knows what else right beside your car whilst driving along on a Saturday afternoon at sedate speeds of over 200 km/h - with someone nagging you in the ear all the way. With spectators jumping out at you, with assorted wild animals (not spectators) deciding to occupy the same piece of road you want at the same time you want it and with the knowledge that your $1,000,000 (that's real dollars, not Aussie pesos) machine can be reduced to nothing in a blink of an eye - all whilst your entire team is watching on TV.

    Welcome to the World Rally Championship.

    In 2003 it was 14 rounds stretching almost the width of the globe - from Finland to New Zealand and Argentina to Turkey. It takes in some of the most exotic and beautiful country the world has to offer. It was a championship where competition still exists - going into the last round, four men had a mathematical chance of winning the drivers championship. Only one triumphed - driving my kinda car, the Subaru Impreza. Okay, mine is not quite so powerful and still has an interior built for reasonable comfort - but at least it is blue. Subaru World Rally Blue - the only colour worth worrying about.

    So, fourteen rounds, held in fourteen different nations and with each offering its own peculiar mix of road and weather conditions to ensure that complacency has no place, each run over three days of competition: that would roughly equate to 350 hours of competitive motor sport - with probably that much again of reconnaissance and shakedown. All of that action is boiled down to a feature that is split into two programmes, each running less than an hour (!?). One is devoted to the highlights of the actual rallies whilst the other is a "behind the scenes" programme that briefly delves into some topics in a little more detail (as well as a fair chunk of the live telecast of the last stage of the last rally of the season - Wales Rally GB). Add the forty odd minutes of the unedited on board footage in the extras and we are still less than three hours of material on the DVD.

    Welcome to the highlights of the 2003 World Rally Championship?

    I only work as a volunteer at Telstra Rally Australia over the course of the actual rally itself, unlike some who devote months of their time to the best rally in the World Rally Championship. As a volunteer, I don't exactly get to see much of the actual action - I might see plenty of the cars and drivers/co-drivers/team personnel/big bosses in Service Park, but none of the actual action. Add in the time spent volunteering for other rallies (Rally of Canberra and the Forest Rally), along with the time spent doing reviews for this esteemed web site (oh, and working more than full time), and I really don't get a lot of time to actually see much of the World Rally Championship when it is on television. Accordingly, I was really looking forward to this DVD for a comprehensive look at one of the best seasons for some time. Yet all the mighty ISC (holders of the television rights to the WRC and source of much of the footage included here) can manage in the highlights for an entire season is less than 2 hours? They have got to be joking. Every rally gets a highlights package of at least half an hour for broadcasting on local television - so what happened to the other five hours from those highlight shows?

    To say that this was a monumental disappointment is to severely understate the situation. 2003 was blessed with some d*** fine events and some of the most stirring drives you could ever wish to see. The championship went right down to the wire. Yet all we can get as the highlights is less than a single lousy hour in the main programme. You would probably be better advised to seek out someone's tapes of the highlight programmes made and broadcast during the season itself. One of the criticisms of recent changes in WRC rules has been that it is diluting the spectacle and essence for mainstream television consumption. If this slick but insubstantial package is anything to go by, the critics might just have a point.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    If you have ever had the chance to watch the technicians installing in-car cameras in a World Rally Car you well appreciate that there are very few places where they have not yet stuck a camera (and of the places that readily spring to mind, I doubt that you would want to see them). They are incredibly small, lightweight, compact units that you would swear are unable to produce any sort of usable footage. Yet they do, as this programme does testify to. However, we are not talking about high quality visual source material, so don't expect too many miracles in what we have here.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 enhanced. This did surprise me a little as I was under the impression that the television footage was shot in a widescreen format. Must be mistaken...

    Given the environment in which the footage was shot, the variety of cameras used and the different source material, there is naturally some inconsistency in the end result on DVD. Overall though this is not at all bad, being quite sharp and quite well detailed. Grain is not an issue, nor is low level noise. Some detail is washed out in the image owing to the cameras pointing straight into the sun at times, but this is entirely expected.

    The colours too are a little inconsistent, as those small in-car cameras certainly do not have the same colour ability as the "normal" hand held television cameras. Still, the overall presentation is quite decent and certainly most of the times there is little to complain about. Tones could at times be a little more solid but that would probably require some major colour correction work that is probably not warranted for this sort of programme.

    There is a consistent lack of resolution in rapid movement of the camera, of which there is understandably a fair chunk in the programme, but this is all source material related and not MPEG artefacting. There is a consistent problem with aliasing in the transfer, and this is definitely not source related. For most of the highlights portion of DVD this is not really a big issue but it is in the behind the scenes portion, especially for the month of March. There are no problems with film artefacts.

    This is a Dual Layer formatted DVD, presumably with the two portions of the programme on a separate layer. Accordingly, there is no layer change to worry about here.

    There are eleven subtitle options on the DVD. At best the English efforts can best be described as iffy. I am still working out how (Francois) "Duval" (the name of a driver) ends up as "Australia" in the subtitles at 23:30 in the highlights portion. Another beauty is in the behind the scenes portion where "a bit more exciting" ends up as "about more excitement". I know Colin McRae is a Scot but his accent is not that broad that you cannot understand what he is saying. Taking into account the myriad of instances where words in the dialogue are simply ignored in the subtitles, or even worse are changed around, I have to say that these would rank amongst some of the worst subtitle efforts I can recall sampling.

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

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. You have to remember that the recordings were made under quite trying conditions, just like the video, and therefore we cannot expect pristine source material.

    The narration and dialogue generally comes up pretty well in the soundtrack, although there are obvious lapses here and there. There did not appear to be any audio sync issues in the soundtrack.

    The music added to the programme is fairly typical, non-descript stuff that anyone who has ever seen the WRC highlights packages on television will readily know. Nothing memorable at all.

    Most of what ails the audio transfer is simply inherent in the source material. There really is nothing remarkable about the audio and certainly nothing here that was unexpected. A pity that some surround encoding was not used but you cannot have everything.

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

Extras

    Since the Behind The Scenes programme is detailed as a separate item on the menu of the DVD, it has been treated as a second part of the main feature. What we are left with in the extras package is somewhat variable in value.

Menu

    Graphically and presentation-wise, almost identical to the slick style we see at www.wrc.com and elsewhere, with the addition of audio and animation enhancement.

Additional Footage - On Board (Unedited) (41:46)

    This is probably the best stuff on the DVD for the rally fans. Through the magic of those on-board cameras mentioned earlier, it takes you on a complete ride through three stages of the World Rally Championship as follows:

    Since it is in-car footage the quality at times is a little off, but for fans of rallying this is interesting stuff indeed. It is a pity that the audio is not a bit better in the Richard Burns video but overall there is little to complain about - other than this shows up the lack of substance in the main programme all too well. The presentation is in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 that is not 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. There are no subtitles for the three pieces.

Additional Footage - WRC (3:47)

    Another typical, slick WRC promo featuring images of fast cars and beautiful women. It is the sort of piece that gets tossed into television programmes as filler. It really is of limited value and certainly adds nothing to the overall package. The technical quality is fine. The presentation is again 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Trailer - WRC 3: The Official Game Of the WRC By PlayStation 2 (2:43)

    An advert for the game that mixes live footage with bites from the game visuals - rather well in fact. Overall, though, this is quite poor quality with the imagery being quite pixelated at times, as well as being rather grainy. Still, if you want an advert for a game to fill out your evening it will serve a purpose. The presentation is again 1.33:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Easter Egg

    Well, of sorts. During playback of the highlights portion of the feature, if you hit "enter" or "top menu" on your remote during the Finland section (when the instructions appear on screen), you are taken to some additional footage that details the battle between Richard Burns and Petter Solberg for the rally win. A bit more of this sort of stuff would have lifted the whole package to a higher level of recommendation. As good as this is, all it really does is highlight the lack of serious worth of the content of the DVD.

R4 vs R1

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

    Whilst nothing concrete has been found at this time, from all indications it would appear that this would be essentially the same package that is or will be available worldwide. If you need to acquire the package, do so wherever it is the cheapest.

Summary

    A typically slick, insubstantial presentation using the same graphics and presentation style as fans would be familiar with if they have checked out www.wrc.com, read RallyXS or have played the WRC PlayStation games. In all a tremendously disappointing DVD that really does gloss over in the lightest possible way a very good season of World Rally Championship action. As a fan I certainly would not be shelling out my bucks for this package, and I simply cannot see that there is anything here that would be enticing to non-fans. Easily left on the shelf.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE