Queen-The Making of 'A Night at the Opera' (2005)

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Released 10-Apr-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Additional Footage-How The Album Got Its Name
Additional Footage-'39 - Brian May
Additional Footage-Half A Sonic Volcano
Additional Footage-Sweet Lady - Hyde Parh 1976
Additional Footage-The Prophet's Song
Additional Footage-Love Of My Life - Brian And Freddie
Additional Footage-Bohemian Rhapsody
Additional Footage-God Save The Queen
Music Video-Entire album on disc two with optional band commentary
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 49:18 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Matthew Longfellow
Studio
Distributor
Eagle Eye Media
Rajon Vision
Starring Brian May
Roger Taylor
John Deacon
Freddie Mercury
Roy Thomas Baker
Case Slip Case
RPI $29.95 Music Queen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
English
Spanish
French
Italian
Dutch
Portuguese
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    In 1974 Queen were an established unit with three albums to their credit and had achieved some international chart success with their single Killer Queen. The problem was, despite their success the band were in dire financial trouble with fingers pointed squarely at their management. Freddie Mercury was most irate, citing tens of thousands in missing wages as well as claiming to have endured gross disrespect at the hands of their management. Elton John's manager was hired to sort out the mess and his first instruction to the band was to "get into the studio and make the best album you've ever made". The result was A Night At The Opera, their most intricately produced and eclectic collection of songs to date. Had it not been a success, it is likely the band would have folded under financial pressure, but the album was a massive success and endures to this day as the group's finest work and a truly seminal seventies rock album.

    As with past instalments in the Classic Albums documentary series, this is another superb look behind the making of a truly seminal rock album. Previous titles in this series have focused on other legendary albums such as Deep Purple's Machine Head, Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road by Elton John. Besides current Queen members Brian May and Roger Taylor, the interviewees in this documentary include Gary Lyons, Producer Roy Thomas Baker, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and a cross section of journalists and record company executives. There is no contribution from former Queen bass guitarist John Deacon, who has chosen to shun the industry for a number of years now.

    This Two Disc Premium Edition is comprised of the Classic Albums documentary on Disc One and the 30th Anniversary DVD Edition of A Night at The Opera on Disc Two. For the purpose of this review, I've treated the second disc as an extra, so it is covered in the Extras section below.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This video transfer is somewhat limited by the age of some of the source material, but the recently captured footage such as the interviews are simply pristine.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, complete with 16x9 enhancement. This is consistent with previous instalments in this series.

    The producers of this documentary have obviously done their best with the video material that was at hand, and the result is surprisingly good. Much of the old footage has been sourced from analogue videotape and this has been cropped to suit the wider 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Obviously, the level of detail suffers and analogue artefacts are slightly more prominent, but as a whole I was quite pleased with the transfer and didn't feel the slightest bit perturbed by the presence of the older video sources, given their important context.

    Most colours are well represented, however there is some smearing and cometing evident in the older analogue footage. Other than these brief issues, the transfer is richly coloured throughout.

    MPEG artefacting is nowhere to be seen. As I stated above, there are quite a few instances of artefacting due to analogue sources, but these are welcome inclusions in the documentary.

    English subtitles are included on the disc. I viewed most of the feature with subtitles enabled and found them easy to follow, while replicating the dialogue very closely.

    This disc is dual layered, however I didn't notice any obvious layer transition, nor can I locate one using my normal software method. It's likely the feature is contained on one side and the extras on the other.

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

Audio

    There's only an English Dolby Digital stereo stream included, encoded at 448 Kb/s. There are no real issues of concern here.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to discern at all times, even during the archival footage. Audio sync is perfect.

    I was surprised at the consistency in this soundtrack given the array of sources at play. In the space of a few minutes we can move from the studio mixing desk, to an old archival interview, to a brand new interview and then to a live performance without any overly annoying differences in audio volume, depth or quality. It is really testament to the quality of this production and the obvious hard work that has gone into making it.

    I didn't notice any pitch-related issues at all.

    There is obviously no subwoofer or surround activity on disc one; that shortcoming is more than compensated for on disc two.

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

Extras

Disc One: Classic Albums- The Making Of A Night At The Opera

Menu

    The menu pages are 16x9 enhanced, beautifully animated and themed around the album artwork, with some very fluid page transitions. Most pages are accompanied by an audio clip of some kind.

Bonus Footage (48:55)

    This is an extensive collection of bonus scenes, delving a little deeper into some of the studio anecdotes and technical trickery that made the album's production so unique. We are given some explanation regarding the title of the album, followed by an insight into the band's meeting with Groucho Marx. There are quite a few lengthy musical pieces, including a live performance of Sweet Lady taken from their performance in Hyde Park in 1976. Brian then performs '39 on acoustic guitar and Roger demonstrates some of his trademark drumming techniques. There is also a memorable performance of Love Of My Life; a blend of new footage of Brian on acoustic guitar, mixed with the band in concert at Wembley Arena. I was pleasantly surprised by a contribution from Kenny Everett, who was a radio DJ at the time of the making of this album and was apparently the first to play Bohemian Rhapsody over the air.

    All of the extra scenes are presented with the same quality as the main feature, and are 16x9 enhanced.

Disc Two: 30th Anniversary DVD Edition Of A Night At The Opera

Menu

    The album automatically begins playback (LPCM Stereo) upon insertion of the disc, which is very handy. For the album's introduction, a temporary menu page offers a choice of audio tracks, then disappears once the main piano riff of Death On Two Legs begins. Soundtracks can also be switched on the fly, so there is no need for your display to be operating if all you require is the audio.

    The main menu page features a piano-only clip of the album's intro, which I have never heard before. The main menu offers the following options:

    The pages are themed around the album artwork and include some beautiful, yet subtle pieces of animation. All of disc two's contents are presented in 1.33:1 full frame.

A Night At The Opera (43:11)

    For the album's thirtieth anniversary, full length video accompaniment has been constructed using material from the Queen archives. Watching this visual presentation of the album, you'll find video footage of the band on stage, still photos and stock film that has been tastefully selected to suit the feel of the songs. The album's two singles are presented with their respective promotional videos. The entire video is presented in 1.33:1 full frame and appears to be an NTSC conversion. The video has also been encoded with a relatively low bitrate (4.5Mb/s) but this disc is really about the audio - the visuals are only intended as an accompaniment I believe.

    This disc is DVD9 formatted (dual layered). There is no layer break during the album playback.

    As I stated above, the default audio stream for this disc is Stereo Linear PCM (48 kHz, 2304 Kb/s). A superb six channel dts 96 kHz / 24 bit (1536 Kb/s) soundtrack is the alternate option. This is essentially the same surround mix that was presented on the album's DVD-Audio release of 2002. If you're not familiar with this surround mix of the album you're in for a real treat, as the surround experience really offers a unique perspective of the recording's many layers and the depth of production that was involved.

  1. Death On Two Legs (Dedicated To...) - Freddie's tribute to the band's former management is augmented by a mixture of various pieces of live performance footage, most notably the infamous Hyde Park gig in 1976.
  2. Lazing On A Sunday Afternoon - The video accompanying this track is essentially a montage of still photos, taken around the time of the making of the album. This makes for a very nice diversion.
  3. I'm In Love With My Car - Roger Taylor's contribution to the album is accompanied by assorted live video in a similar fashion to the first song. Some cool automotive stock footage gives it a unique feel.
  4. You're My Best Friend - This is the original promo video for the song, written by bassist John Deacon as found on the Video Hits Volume 1 DVD, reviewed by my old buddy SeanA here. The benefit with this video transfer is that it isn't cropped to make a widescreen image.
  5. '39 - I had always thought Bowie's Space Oddity and Donovan's Intergalactic Laxative were the only space-folk songs in existence, until I heard this composition by Brian May. The video is comprised mainly of new footage of Brian on stage with his 12-string acoustic guitar. There are also clips of the band in full swing and archival NASA footage of astronauts in action. This is one of my favourites.
  6. Sweet Lady - While it's not my favourite song on the album, the video contains some footage of the band performing, most of which I haven't seen before.
  7. Seaside Rendezvous - This song is accompanied by black and white depression-era stock footage of swimmers in their full-bodied swimming costumes, and other assorted beachfront shenanigans that suit the mood of the song.
  8. The Prophet's Song - For Brian's epic piece there is another montage of still photos, however the vocal climax in the middle of the song is very psychedelic and eerie. The second half is comprised of more live footage.
  9. Love Of My Life - One of Freddie's signature tunes, this is accompanied by a myriad of clips depicting Freddie singing the song in concert and in the studio.
  10. Good Company - Like Seaside Rendezvous, this piece is comprised of black and white clips that suit the vaudeville mood of the song. Keep an eye out for a very young John Pertwee (the third Doctor Who).
  11. Bohemian Rhapsody - The classic promotional video for the song, presented in its proper 1.33:1, full frame aspect.
  12. God Save The Queen - Beginning with Brian's appearance atop Buckingham Palace, the video morphs through several shots of adoring crowds and finally ends with an image of Freddie in very regal attire.

Band Commentary- Brian May, Roger Taylor, John Deacon & Freddie Mercury

    This is a cleverly constructed audio commentary, with newly recorded thoughts from Brian and Roger accompanied by archival audio interviews with John and Freddie. This commentary duplicates some of the anecdotes that can be found on disc one, but is worth a listen.

R4 vs R1

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

    Aside from the usual PAL / NTSC differences, this title appears to be identical across all regions.

Summary

    A Night At The Opera is without a doubt one of the most influential rock albums of the seventies. This 30th Anniversary package is a must-own for Queen fans.

    The video transfer is great.

    The audio transfer is fantastic.

    The extras are enlightening.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using DVI output
DisplaySanyo PLV-Z2 WXGA projector, Screen Technics Cinemasnap 96" (16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-2802 Dolby EX/DTS ES Discrete
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora lll Mains (bi-wired), Rears, Centre Rear. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Centre. Mirage 10 inch sub.

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