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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Empires-The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (Roadshow) (2003)

Empires-The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance (Roadshow) (2003)

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Released 3-Dec-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio
Trailer-The Empires Series
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 221:15 (Case: 220)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Justin Hardy
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Massimo Marinoni
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $49.95 Music Christian Vassi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/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 English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    This is another in the series of programmes grouped under the title Empires. It deals with one of the most famous of Italy's political families, the Medici. The Medici came to prominence in their native Florence in the early 15th century, where they ran a bank that became the official bank of the Vatican. The family would provide civic leaders, queens, dukes and even Popes through the following two centuries, and their history is deeply interwoven with that of the Renaissance. They were patrons of the arts and sciences, and such figures as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Vasari, Galileo and others benefited and suffered by their connections with the Medici. Other famous names such as Savonarola, Luther and Macchiavelli are also drawn into the story.

    These four episodes dealing with the family would serve as a good introduction to their general history, but of necessity a lot of the era is merely skimmed. This makes the lack of background information in the form of extras even more disappointing.

    The format of the series is to show re-enactments with actors mutely playing the roles of the protagonists, interspersed with writers and historians who appear to shed light on the events. Some of the episodes are quite bloody, in keeping with the violence of the times.

    One annoying feature of these programmes is the narration by professional voice actor Massimo Marinoni. His voice is throaty and his deliberate, overemphasised delivery draws attention to itself and gets to be grating after a while. I would rather have a more neutral voice so that I was not distracted from the content of the documentaries. That being said, this is an interesting series and made me want to know more about these godfathers.

Birth of a Dynasty (55:15)

    This episode tells how the Medici family came to power in Florence in the early 1400s. It mainly deals with Cosimo and the intrigues against him. The running thread throughout this programme is his efforts to complete the dome of the local cathedral, left unfinished before the Medici came on the scene. The cathedral, which still stands, is returned to its original state through the use of digital effects.

The Magnificent Medici (55:20)

    Cosimo's grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent came to power on his father's death. Surviving an assassination attempt by the Pazzi family which claimed the life of his brother, he consolidated his power and oversaw the flowering of the Renaissance, extending his patronage to artists like Botticelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. But reactionary forces appear in the form of Savonarola.

The Medici Popes (55:20)

    Michelangelo carves the statue of David from a 13-foot block of marble and paints the Sistine Chapel. The Medici cousins Giulio and Giovanni have sought their careers in the Church, and Giovanni becomes Pope Leo X. But his extravagance empties the papal coffers, and when he hits on the idea of selling indulgences, he incurs the wrath of German cleric Martin Luther. After Giulio succeeds his cousin as Pope, the Reformation brings German troops to sack Rome, and carnage ensues in Florence as well. Michelangelo continues to paint.

Power vs Truth (55:20)

    Seventeen-year-old Cosimo de Medici is elected the new Duke of Florence. After a shaky start he consolidates his position and continues to sponsor artists. He has Vasari write the history of the great artists, putting the Medici at the forefront of their stories. When the Inquisition puts an end to the flowering of secular art, Cosimo transfers his patronage to the sciences. After his death, this work culminates in the discoveries of Galileo, but he falls foul of the Inquisition as well.

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Transfer Quality


    The series is presented in the original television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is not bad but could have been better. Despite some occasional graininess, the video is reasonably sharp and clear. It looks like it is probably a transfer from NTSC to PAL, though there are no visible artefacts apart from being slightly less sharp than native PAL. Contrast levels are satisfactory, though shadow detail is no better than average. Colour is also satisfactory for the most part, with the various artworks coming across well, but an oversaturation of reds is evident in some of the clothing. Low level noise is evident, with blacks often more brown or dark blue in colour.

    Aliasing is visible throughout the running time of all four episodes. The shimmering effect is slight and is not excessively distracting. There is also some edge enhancement, which is quite visible in some shots, for example at 1:47 in episode 3. This episode also has a slight break-up of the video in the bottom right-hand corner at 46:50. Some dot crawl is evident on the opening titles. There is also a considerable amount of grain in the frequent scenes in darkened rooms and stairwells.

    There are no film artefacts, given the programme was shot on video.

    Optional subtitles are available. These are in a reasonable size in a yellow font, and while American spelling is used they are quite well done.

    Both discs are dual-layered. Disc one is RSDL-formatted with the layer changed bizarrely placed at 1:22 into episode two. As there are only two episodes on this disc, you would think that they could have simply placed each episode entirely on one layer. The layer change is only mildly distracting. Disc two has the layer change at 3:19 in episode two. This time the break is more disruptive.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0, in stereo but without surround encoding.

    There is nothing wrong with the audio itself. Dialogue is clear and distinct, and otherwise the audio sounds as least as good as it would have on television. The music sounds realistic and there is a surprising amount of bass present. Audio sync seems to be perfect.

    The music score, by Christian Vassi, is a little too forward for my liking. Sometimes it threatens to swamp the dialogue, and there is too much music in the film. The score itself is a mixture of styles, with some being pastiches of the era depicted on screen, and other sequences being more like generic documentary music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    It seems a little excessive to refer to this as an extras package, as none of it is relevant to the programmes contained on the disc. For example, subtitle selection is included on the extras menu, which is stretching things a lot. Also, the same extras are present on each disc.

Main Menu Audio

    The main menu is static with some music from the series in the background.

Trailer-The Empires Series

    This is a series of five screens, each with two images of DVDs in this series. If you select and click on the image, some text about the particular release is shown.

R4 vs R1

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

    The same content is available on DVD in Region 1. Unless you want this series in the original NTSC format, there is no reason to prefer one above the other.


    This material would be good as an introduction to the Medici, but for any depth you would have to look elsewhere.

    The video and audio are satisfactory for what is television material.

    There are no extras of any note.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, January 17, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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