An Irish Christmas (2002)

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Released 26-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Menu Animation & Audio
Interviews-Crew-Interview With Lord Henry Mount Charles (9:23)
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 91:01 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Lynda McQuad
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Phil Coulter
Frank McCourt
Moya Brennan
Maura O'Connell
Brian Kennedy
Jean Butler
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Various Artists


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, during

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

Plot Synopsis

     Irish music is in my blood - there's no other way to describe it. I personally have no Irish heritage, at least going back 100 years, but despite this I have passion for Irish music that can be described in no other way than "it's in the blood". One has to simply look at my CD collection to realise this fact - U2, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Enya and Clannad take up a large proportion of shelf space. Given my long-standing fondness of Irish music I approached this DVD was a high degree of anticipation and, while my expectations weren't quite met, An Irish Christmas proved to be a worthwhile way to spend 91 minutes.

     An Irish Christmas is quite an unusually structured production, the likes of which I can't say I've ever seen before in Australia. First of all, I had actually preconceived this as a stage production with a live audience - Slane Castle has after all been a concert venue for some of the biggest musical acts in history - not the least of which was U2. To my surprise An Irish Christmas turned out to be a made-for-TV production shot inside Slane Castle itself - much like U2 did back in the 80's with The Unforgettable Fire. The program begins normally enough with a piece-to-camera by the host Phil Coultier but then proceeds to a dinner table where he joins several other musicians and well known personalities of Ireland including Clannad's Moya Brennan, to discuss, among other things, the meaning of Christmas. Shortly after is the first of the musical acts, however rather unusually in my view, the dinner conversation continues and is intercut between the various musical performances. There is also a reading by Frank McCourt from his best-selling novel, now also movie, Angela's Ashes. The music itself is a collection of familiar and not-so-familiar Christmas songs which are performed with an unmistakable Irish influence. While it doesn't have quite the diverse range of traditional Irish music as say Riverdance, An Irish Christmas did prove to be a far more entertaining 'Christmas Special' than I have become accustomed to here in Australia.

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Track Listing

1. The Holly She Bears A Berry
2. An Irish Blessing
3. The Parting Glass
4. Away In A Manger
5. The Dromcolliher Set
6. Flower Of Maherally
7. Oh Holy Night
8. Come All Ye Faithful
9. Silent Night
10. My Irish Molly O
11. Sleep O' Child
12. Felim's Little Boat
13. Be Thou My Vision
14. Remember Me
15. "The Pig's Head" Angela's Ashes
16. Danny Boy
17. The Man From God Knows Where
18. Steal Away

Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Clearly shot with digital TV in mind the transfer here is absolutely stunning, with seemingly little to differentiate it from the original master tapes.

     Detail is excellent throughout the entire feature - the digital source of the production really makes itself known in this department. Sharp as a tack would be an understatement. Shadow detail is good but at nowhere near the level of film sourced material with shadows disappearing into black significantly faster. However, with the inherent lower contrast ratio of digital tape as apposed to film this is completely normal, so no points deducted for this. There is a small amount of low level noise present, just visible in the background darkness of some shots, but it never becomes an issue. Clearly the producers didn't want to overdo it with lights preferring to go low 'moody' lighting, the inevitable result being some low level noise. It would seem the 2Ks stayed in the truck - those who work in TV or film will know what I mean.

     Colours are vibrant and exquisitely presented, again reflecting the digital source.

     There are no artefacts of any kind to be found. The bit-rate alone is truly something to behold - a near constant 9.5Mbs - not surprising given the mere 91 minutes running time and two layers to play with. If anyone from Columbia Tristar happens to be reading - this is what should constitute Superbit. Aliasing is all but completely absent.

     There are no subtitles present.

     This is an RSDL disc with the layer change occurring at 52:37 just before Chapter 11. It is very well placed at the end of a fade-to-black.

     The main file size is whopping 7273Mb. There is only one title-set on this disc so this figure includes the interview - so that's 7273Mb for 100 minutes of video. And while this may not be the ideal place, I feel compelled to illustrate my above criticism of Superbit so here's a comparison to the Hollow Man Superbit DVD. With a running time of 108:02 Hollow Man has nearly 8 minutes more video than An Irish Christmas yet has a main file size of only 6412Mb.

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

Audio

     There are three audio tracks presented here - Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbs), Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbs) and DTS 5.1 (754Kbs). In respect to the 5.1 tracks - they may technically have 5.1 channels but their actual channel usage is a completely different story.

     Dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The dinner table dialogue was in fact the first indication that the 5.1 mixes were a little different. Instead of being mixed into the centre channel as you would expect, dialogue is mixed into the left and right channels as 2.0 mono. This is very unusual for a 5.1 mix but was only a taste of what was to come. Remarkably, distortion is all but absent although it threatened to rear its ugly head during Chapter 6 which clearly pushed the microphones and mixing equipment to the upper limits of their capability. There were no audio sync problems.

     As far as channel usage goes, both 5.1 mixes presented here are the most variable I have ever listened to. They vary from being 2.0 mono to 5.1 - each chapter in fact has a different mix. It would seem the 5.1 mixes for DVD were an afterthought as it would appear that little consideration had been given at the time of production to the prospect of 5.1.

     To illustrate, here's the actual channel usage of the 5.1 mixes chapter by chapter (for the purpose of this illustration I'll ignore the .1 LFE channel) -

  1. 4.0 (no centre, mono rears)
  2. 2.0
  3. 4.0 (no centre, mono rears)
  4. 5.0 (mono rears)
  5. 2.0
  6. 2.0
  7. 5.0 (stereo rears)
  8. 5.0 (mono rears)
  9. 4.0 (no centre, mono rears)
  10. 5.0 (mono rears)
  11. 5.0 (mono rears)
  12. 2.0
  13. 2.0
  14. 4.0 (no centre, stereo rears)
  15. 2.0 (dialogue only)
  16. 2.0
  17. 2.0 (dialogue only)
  18. 4.0 (no centre, stereo rears)

     Many will no doubt notice that the rear channel audio, when present, is mostly mono. This fact was made exceedingly obvious by my EX and ES processors which redirected this audio to my centre rear speaker. When the rear channels are used, it is to little effect - some instrument placement and ambience is about the extent of it. However, despite the lack of any major rear channel use in all but a few chapters this is a rather open sounding recording which has benefited from the surroundings in which the recording was made. As you might expect, the many rooms and halls of Slane Castle in which this program was made have an inherent echo - it is a castle after all. The result is some added ambience, which although limited in its effectiveness, helps compensate for the absence of rear channel ambience usually associated with music DVDs. The Dolby Digital 2.0 track as one might expect is a little more confined than the 5.1 tracks but not hugely so - again the inherent echo of the castle tends to create a sense of ambience. Furthermore, eight out of the eighteen chapters proved to be 2.0 anyway despite the 5.1 encoding - so stereo listeners really aren't missing out on much.

     The subwoofer is used only sparingly to support the odd instrument here and there.

     There is little difference between the Dolby Digital and DTS audio tracks - even the levels are almost the same.

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

Extras

Menu

     Appropriately themed menu complete with audio and animation.

Interview (9:23)

     This is an interview with the no doubt extremely wealthy owner of Slane Castle, Lord Henry Mount Charles - it is presented in 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced with Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kbs) audio. In what is quite an interesting interview, Lord Henry regales us with the history of Slane Castle including The Unforgettable Fire - both U2's and the real fire which nearly destroyed the castle in 1991.

R4 vs R1

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

     An Irish Christmas is available in Region 1 except over there it's called An Irish Holiday. Both versions appear to be identical.

Summary

     An Irish Christmas is an unusual yet interesting production that differed immensely from what I had preconceived it to be. For those of you who are just interested in traditional Irish music, Riverdance may prove to be the wiser purchase.

     The video is exemplary.

     The audio is more than satisfactory despite the 5.1 tracks being all over the show channel usage wise.

     The one extra we are presented with is more than I was expecting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ben Hooft (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Saturday, July 03, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-655A, SACD & DVD-A, using S-Video output
DisplayLoewe CT-1170 (66cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX-D1011, THX Select, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS 96/24 & DD 5.1 EX. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D1011, THX Select, DTS-ES 6.1 Discrete, DTS 96/24 & DD 5.1 EX
SpeakersFront & Centre: Monitor Audio Bronze 2, Surrounds: Sony SS-SRX7S, Surround Back: Paramount Pictures Bookshelf Speakers

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