Step Into Liquid (2003)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Let's Go Surfing
Featurette-Capturing The Wave
|Year Of Production||2003|
|Running Time||84:18 (Case: 83)|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (70:18)||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Dana Brown|
NV Entertainment Inc
Warner Home Video
Jesse Brad Billauer
Laird John Hamilton
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, out-takes|
"No special effects. No stuntmen. No stereotypes. No other feeling comes close." Is Step Into Liquid the best surf documentary ever made? It's definitely one of them, and it certainly is one of the all-time best surf DVDs.
Endless Summer (1966) is the much-loved landmark and influential film that made its surfing writer/director, Bruce Brown, a household name (at least in surfing households). I don't know anyone who surfs that hasn't seen this film, and many, like me, now also own the DVD. Almost 30 years later, Bruce Brown made its long-awaited sequel, Endless Summer II (1994). This film was co-produced, co-written, and edited by Bruce's surfing son, Dana Brown.
Almost ten years later, Dana Brown has stepped out on his own. The result is Step Into Liquid, a film he wrote, directed, and edited (with his dad as Executive Producer).
Surf DVDs tend to be very similar -- music video style, rapid editing of guys on waves, with the odd shot of either a beautiful location and/or beautiful girl thrown in. Hours and hours of young guys in boardies, hacking and getting tubed, while suburban white-boy angst music thrashes loudly in the background. And yes, I have a whole library of them! When I'm looking for something mindless and relaxing to watch, or something to get me fired up and frothing, there's nothing better than dropping one of these babies into the DVD player.
However, Step Into Liquid is different -- it rather questions what surfing really is. Its answer is varied, ranging from a mainstream, multi-billion dollar industry, to an alternative, 2000-year-old, tribal lifestyle. Step Into Liquid is a relatively fast-paced, surfing documentary made for a wider audience, the surfer and non-surfer alike. Step Into Liquid looks at what it is to be "stoked", and it lets its many participants explain what it means to them.
Avoiding the classic wax-head, surfer-dude stereotype, we are introduced to a wide cross-section of surfers -- the young and the older, male and female, beginner and experienced, even the able and disabled. Along the way we meet a number of interesting characters, all with a great story to tell. For example, there's a father and son surfing team, Jim and Alex Knost. A Vietnam Vet, Jim returns to Vietnam with his son to surf the beautiful beaches he saw there as a young soldier. This segment is very reminiscent of the West African segments from Endless Summer. We also meet the Malloy Bothers. Hailing from California, these three surfers now surf off the coast of Ireland. They unite a group of Protestant kids from Northern Ireland and Catholic kids from Ireland. The two groups soon mingle in the water, as the brothers teach the kids to surf. Friendships are made and perceptions challenged. There's also a short segment with Jesse Billauer, the promising amateur who broke his neck surfing and suffered paralysis. With the help of friend and pro-surfer Rob Machado, Billauer's back riding waves (albeit from a horizontal position).
"The first twenty years is just to see if you're interested".
Step Into Liquid recognises and incorporates a number of surfing's elder statesmen, people like Rabbit Kekai (surfing since 1927), surfing filmmaker Bruce Brown, Mr. Pipeline Garry Lopez, and Pete Townsend. Interestingly, Townsend is introduced as being a journalist for Surfing Magazine, whereas I would have thought the fact that he was the world's first professional surfing champion would have been what he is known and best remembered for (this fact, however, is strangely not mentioned).
The surfing locations are also varied, and we're treated to great footage in Pea'hi (Jaws), the Pipeline, Maui, Costa Rica, Mavericks, Rapa Nui, Vietnam, the Cortes Bank, Malibu, Yalingup, Tahiti, and Teahupo'o. There are also segments in Lake Michigan, Wisconsin (where surfable waves are created in this giant lake by certain weather conditions), Texas (where super-tankers create waves with their giant wake), and Ireland (which appears to have some very cold, but decent, surfable beaches).
"The best surfer in the world is the one having the most fun."
Brown also takes a look at women's surfing, and we meet some of the top female pros, such as Keala Kennelly, Rochelle Ballard, and five-times world champ Layne Beachley. Brown is surprised to find that seemingly, unlike the men, the pro women haven't forgotten that surfing is about having fun.
Indeed, apart from these three women, Step Into Liquid boasts a who's who of surfing, with the likes of the amazingly talented pro surfer Taj Burrow (and his surfing parents), the innovative and envelope-pushing Laird Hamilton (with his hydro-foil board), fearless big wave chargers Brad Gerlach and Mike Parsons, six-times world champ Kelly Slater, world-record-maker Dale Webster (who had surfed every day for 25 years at the time of the film's production - he has since reached 10,000 consecutive days of surfing and hung up his board), star of Endless Summer Robert August (now aged 56 and still riding those Malibus), star of Endless Summer II Robert Weaver, and surfing hedonists the Santa Cruz Boys and the Mavericks Crew. However, obviously not everyone was available and, sadly (for me), the notable omissions include Rush Randle, Shane Dorian, Pete Cabrinhaa, the current World Surfing Champ, Andy Irons who has dominated pro surfing in recent years, and the current aerial surfing master Josh Kerr.
DOP, John-Paul Beeghly should be very proud, as the cinematography is simply awesome. In incredibly difficult circumstances, Step Into Liquid contains some of the most beautiful surfing imagery that I have seen on-screen. Step Into Liquid also never seems to opt for the easy, obvious, or clichéd shots. Their angles and approach is like a breath of fresh sea-air.
"They came to play with giants".
Prepare yourself for some of the very best, big-wave, tow-in surfing that you've ever seen. The footage here is astonishing, and Laird and the boys never cease to amaze me with their courage and ability in 60 foot plus waves.
While at times Step Into Liquid seems to take itself a little too seriously, and appears to preach the Zen of surfing (ignoring the harsh realities of localism, lineups, and selfish fools snaking or dropping in on you), at its heart it has a positive and happy message of inner peace, through getting some of that free love from the ocean.
Expertly authored by Madman Interactive, this DVD is a joy to watch on both my widescreen television, and with the use of a projector.
A real joy is that the transfer is beautifully presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced. Widescreen surf DVDs are very rare, and it certainly adds to the film's cinematic quality and presentation.
The sharpness is usually good, but some of the interview scenes seem a little soft or blurry, such as at 17:44. The shadow detail is fine, but as most of the footage is shot with natural light, the contrast can be quite high at times. I should also note that various sources for the footage appear to have been used, both film and DV, and some of the source material is very grainy.
The colour is excellent, and the brightly coloured board shorts, bikinis, boards, and the exotic lush and tropical locations are all vibrantly and faithfully represented.
There is no problem with MPEG artefacts, but some of the excessively grainy scenes, such as at 45:29 can appear a little pixelated.
There are no problems with film-to-video artefacts.
Film artefacts appear infrequently throughout, but they are tiny and not distracting.
There are no subtitles which is a little disappointing.
This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 70:18. It is noticeable, but not disruptive.
There are two audio options on this DVD: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).
The film has plenty of narration and the dialogue quality and audio sync (for the interviews) is excellent.
The musical score is credited to Richard Gibbs, and it suits the film. There are also a number of songs (I didn't recognise any), performed by the likes of Surf Kings. As a pleasant change to most surf DVDs, the music tends to be very up-beat and happy.
As one would expect, the surround sound mix is quite front-heavy, but the rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide some ambience. The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively to support both the score, and the sound effects, such as the opening big-wave rumble at 00:20.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a few genuine extras.
Animated menus with audio.
Featurette-Let's Go Surfing
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, and running for about 13 minutes, this extra features Robert Weaver and Maureen Drummy providing some beginners tips at the beach.
Featurette-Capturing The Wave
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, and also running for about 13 minutes, this extra features interviews with Dana Brown and some of the camera operators discussing the photography.
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, non 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this trailer runs for about 2 minutes.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Step Into Liquid was released on DVD in Region 1 in April 2004 as a two-disc edition.
The Region 4 DVD misses out on:
The Region 1 DVD misses out on:
Sadly we R4 consumers have been shafted again, and the R1 two-disc edition is the way to go.
Step Into Liquid is the quintessential surf documentary for surfers and non-surfers alike. If you have a wife or girlfriend (or husband/boyfriend) that doesn't know what it is to take the drop, feel the rush, and get completely stoked -- this is the DVD for you!
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is also excellent, but understandably quite front-heavy.
The extras are genuine, but pale in comparison to the R1.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using S-Video output|
|Display||Grundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-545|
|Speakers||Sony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer|