The Map Makers (2004)

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Released 3-Dec-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 149:59
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (73:57) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stuart Clarke
Ali McGrath
Studio
Distributor
SBS
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Stephen Rashbrook
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Dimitri Tchamouroff


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.75:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    This short 3-part series looks at the impact of maps and map-making, and the extraordinary lengths people would go to to gather information for making maps. Like most television documentary series of recent times, the episodes are a mixture of voice-over narration, talking-head experts and re-enactments by actors (who do not speak).

    This is a well-researched series and is quite well put together, but it seems to me to only scratch the surface of the topics. Paradoxically, I often had the impression that much of what I was seeing was padding to get the episodes to the required running time, which is almost exactly the same for each episode. I would have liked more detail and less of an attempt to make the stories seem thrilling - each should be interesting enough in their own right to sustain a fifty minute programme.

    The narration by Stephen Rashbrook is good, with no vocal mannerisms to distract the viewer from the content. The episodes are:

The Waldseemüller Map 1507 (49:59)

    This map was the first to include not just a representation of the New World as a continent, but also named it as America. The programme looks at the nature of map- making of the early 16th century and the use of maps for navigation. It is suggested that Amerigo Vespucci, for whom the new continent was made, may have commissioned the map. This episode also details the eighty-year effort by the US to buy the map from the German aristocratic family that owned it.

The Mercator Atlas (50:00)

    This episode looks at the map of England created by the famous Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator in the 16th century. This map was only rediscovered in a shop in Holland in 1967, and modern map historians consider that the map was made in preparation for an invasion of England by France which never came. The programme looks at the map-making of Henry VIII and the intrigues involving spies, including the Scotsman John Elder, on whose information the Mercator map seems to have been based. This episode seems to me to be the most stretched and padded out of the series, with some material included that is only peripheral (such as the tale of the American map thief), and could easily have been confined to a half-hour running time.

The D-Day Invasion Maps (50:00)

    In order to invade France, the Allies needed detailed maps of the coastline. Such maps did not exist, so they had to be created. This involved not only aerial reconnaissance but also dangerous work on the ground by Resistance workers. The level of detail required was extraordinary, so the preparation of these maps was one of the great intelligence feats of modern times.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The series is presented in what must be the original television aspect ratio of 1.75:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is very good. Visually it is sharp and clear. Contrast levels are very good, though occasionally there are minor issues with shadow detail. Colour is also very good, with flesh tones coming across nicely. Black levels are good, though occasional low light levels reveal graininess and a lack of solidity to black areas.

    Aliasing is kept to a minimum, with an occasional very slight shimmer. However, the encoding was unable to deal with the multiple straight lines of a shot of the British Library at 13:11 in episode one which shimmers badly. There is also some very slight edge enhancement, which probably won't be noticeable unless you are looking for it.

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

    There are no optional subtitles. The occasional sequences not in English are subtitled in large yellow font. The subtitles were in fact done by SBS, who were a co-producer of this series. As is typical of SBS, the subtitling is exemplary.

    This is an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change placed at 23:58 during episode two. I did not find this layer change especially distracting.

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

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, with no surround encoding.

    Dialogue is clear and distinct, and there is a good range of dynamics and frequencies in evidence. The music sounds realistic and there is a nice amount of bass sound present. Audio sync appears to be perfect throughout.

    The music score is by Dimitri Tchamouroff and is fairly generic stuff. It is used relatively sparingly and is well integrated into the material.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    The main menu has a moving graphic in the background of part of a map, and music from the series is played.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 seems to be unique, though I would imagine this material will be released elsewhere in due course.

Summary

    An interesting series of documentaries about maps - not something you see every day.

    The video quality is very good, as is the audio.

    It is a pity that there are no substantial extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, January 18, 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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