Sarah McLachlan-VH1 Storytellers (2003) (NTSC)

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Released 26-Jul-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation-Music-Only Option
Alternative Version-Music-Only Option
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 55:27 (Case: 43)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,3,4,6 Directed By Michael E. Simon
Studio
Distributor
Warner Vision
Warner Vision
Starring Sarah McLachlan
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $34.95 Music Sarah McLachlan


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Japanese
Portuguese
Korean
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    For the most part my musical tastes at any given moment depend on my mood - this is something that would certainly ring true for many music fans out there. However, there are a handful of artists that for me have the ability to transcend any mood and Sarah McLachlan with her exquisite yet sometimes haunting voice is one of them.

    This program is part of a relatively new series to arrive here in Australia - VH1 Storytellers. The style of Storytellers is very much similar to the MTV Unplugged series which most people would by now be familiar with. Both share the same small audience, intimate atmosphere and plenty of set decoration. While I'm unsure which program actually came first, I think given the similarities it would be fair to say one may have strongly influenced the other. However, in addition to the similarities, Storytellers adds one extra feature to the mix, a feature which perhaps explains the 'Storytellers' moniker. Each song has an introduction. In this case, Sarah regales the audience with the origins and meaning of each song. Some of these introductions proved to be quite interesting for me as, particularly for the more famous songs like Possession, they reveal just what inspired the lyrics which have long since been etched into my mind.

    The highlight of this performance is without doubt the piano rendition of Possession - something which I have been dying to hear live since first hearing it in the Due South television series many years ago. In fact, it was the use of this song in Due South which first introduced me to Sarah McLachlan leading me to immediately purchase her album Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and becoming forever hooked. Another highlight is a duet performance of Elsewhere with Paula Cole.

    While the performance has everything going for it, I do have a couple of reservations about the editing. The first is that the program actually starts three quarters of the way through the song Good Enough - I haven't even the faintest idea why. The second is that the last two songs actually appear after the credits (and after the fade-to-black for that matter) - though in all fairness these appear to be bonus tracks despite there being no indication as such either in the menu or on the back cover except for the running time being labelled as 43 minutes (instead of 55 minutes). Apart from the unusual editing and rather short running time this is certainly a magnificent performance from Sarah McLachlan - one which I will be revisiting many a time again in the future.

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Track Listing

1. Good Enough
2. Building A Mystery
3. Ice Cream
4. Sweet Surrender
5. Hold On
6. Elsewhere
7. Possession
8. Adia
9. Witness
10. Angel

Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in 1.33:1 and is naturally not 16x9 enhanced. 1.33:1 appears to be the original aspect ratio. Most importantly it should be noted that this disc is in NTSC which, given the film source (most likely 24fps), makes sense given the additional 4% audio speed-up that would be required for a PAL transfer. Generally audio speed up is much more noticeable in music than in films which makes the decision here to go with NTSC the right one, despite the obvious pitfalls of NTSC versus PAL.

    Shot on film, the transfer exhibits a high amount of detail but in so doing it reveals some fine film grain. Shadow detail is good but is obviously something the filmmakers would have tried very hard to minimize in order to hide the cameras in the dark backgrounds. There is no low level noise.

    Colours are very warm with accurate skin tones.

    MPEG artefacts are absent from the entire feature. Aliasing is frequent although minor in nature - the many fine lines that make up the instruments on stage prove be an aliasing magnet. Film artefacts are infrequent but when present are slightly distracting, the most annoying of which looks like a vertical scratch in the top right quarter of the image which I first spotted at 5:10. It is isolated to that particular camera meaning it subsequently reappears every time the camera is cut to. However, rather strangely it doesn't move (like a scratch should), instead remaining still which probably indicates it's not a scratch at all but something completely different - but I have no idea what. Furthermore there is also the odd hair in the gate present.

    There are several sets of subtitles present, but only the English set has lyrics during the songs. They are very accurate, particularly for the songs.

    This is a dual-layered disc but the whole concert fits onto a single layer so there is no layer change. Why dual-layered then you ask? See the extras section.

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

Audio

    This DVD features a very well recorded and mixed soundtrack that can best be described as detailed and dynamic with little in the way of flaws.

    There are three audio tracks available - Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbs), DTS 5.1 (768Kbs) and Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kbs). I listened to the DTS 5.1 track in its entirety and sampled specific songs in Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0.

    Dialogue and vocals are very clear with no audio sync problems to speak of.

    While not completely constant in their presence, the surround channels when used are used effectively. Crowd applause as well as a hint of reverberation represent the majority of the surround channel use, which is everything I expected. Furthermore with EX or ES processing some of the crowd applause also gets redirected to the centre rear speaker adding greatly to the overall atmosphere.

    The subwoofer is incorporated extremely well in this soundtrack, striking a near perfect balance with the other channels. It is frequently called upon to support the bass guitar and drums, and while its use isn't as heavy as other concert DVDs I've listened to it is certainly used to great effect.

    Even the Dolby Digital 2.0 track is surprisingly good, with the notable exception of significantly less bottom end frequencies compared to the 5.1 tracks (thanks to their .1 channels). Most 2.0 tracks in my experience seem to be a lot flatter and mixed more like a CD when compared to 5.1 tracks, so it was certainly a surprise to find this track still retains a lot of the ambience and dynamic range of the 5.1 tracks.

    If there are any flaws to speak of it could only be that the centre channel audio in Possession and Angel is a little noisy but this is no doubt present in the original recording and not as a result of the transfer. Given these are reasonably quiet songs compared to the others this higher level of noise comes as no surprise but is perhaps a little louder than I would normally expect. Interestingly, the noise is nowhere near as pronounced during the intro to Possession (perhaps a different microphone was used for the intros - a lapel mike maybe?). My experience as a sound recordist myself has been that vocal microphones seldom sound good at low levels (i.e. when you're just talking into them) - they're designed for high sound pressure levels. Having said that, I just want to make clear that this is just my experience - I'm not trying to step on any toes out there.

    Interestingly it is the Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is significantly louder than the DTS track in this instance - a couple of decibels at least. Seems the days of the DTS track being louder have long since gone. Other than the volume difference there seems to be little to differentiate both tracks - not surprising given the high bitrate 448Kbs encoding of the Dolby Digital track. I found Sarah's vocals to be slightly richer with more depth in the DTS track compared to the Dolby Digital 5.1 track but that is about the extent of the differences.

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

Extras

Menu

    A simple menu with animation and audio but only when you initially load it up - the rest of the time it's a stock standard freeze frame with no audio. There is also transition audio when navigating from the main menu to sub-menus - this is a little annoying.

Music-Only Option

    The only extra present (if you can call it that) is a music-only setting which edits out the intros before each song. Normally you would expect seamless branching to be used for a feature like this but in this case an exploration of the disc's files reveals there to be two separate title-sets. However in spite of this the edit points still stick out like a sore thumb revealing this as a quick and nasty edit job - which was probably a last minute afterthought to pad out the DVD. Still, it may prove handy for repeat viewings when you just want to hear the music.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 version appears identical to ours.

Summary

    This is a short but great performance from one of the music world's most talented female artists.

    The video transfer is very good, let down only by niggling problems with the film source.

     The audio transfer is excellent - a joy to listen to.

    The extras are minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ben Hooft (My biography. Go on have a read...)
Saturday, August 14, 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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