Welcome to Wonderland (2006)

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Released 5-Dec-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Menu Animation & Audio
CD-Soundtrack (78:32)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Composers (3)
Music Video-Dance Montages (8)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Special Effects (3)
Interviews-Cast-DJs (3)
Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 63:00 (Case: 65)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By James Short
Studio
Distributor
Short Documentaries Starring Garth
Stewie
SJ
Tristan
Krusty
Margaret
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual
RPI $26.95 Music Brett Aplin
Sugar
Benjamin Last


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    "The needle on the record is where heaven and earth meet".

    Welcome To Wonderland is an independently made documentary six years in the making. It explores and attempts to demystify the Australian outdoor dance culture through the bush parties of Victoria that draw crowds of thousands, all told from the point of view of DJs, dancers, event organisers, roadies and ordinary punters.

    The documentary explores the effort that goes into setting up the venue, finding a bush clearing, setting up the PA, lighting and other paraphernalia. The film makers interview local and foreign DJs such as DJ Spooky, all of whom have a genuine love for their music and are happy to talk about what makes the gatherings so special and specifically, how they differ from city clubs and noisy warehouse trance parties. Many of the interviewees have amusing anecdotes to share, and we also get a glimpse at the bush communities who, despite expecting legions of drugged-out hippies, actually find the brief invasion of their town is good for business.

    Welcome To Wonderland touches a little on what skills the DJ-ing art actually involves, as well as the obligatory sex and drugs, in fact some participants admit to using pills to enhance the experience. Some DJs even go as far as to describe how they actually that feel they can manipulate the crowd, describing dance floor as a living entity.

    As far as documentaries go, Welcome To Wonderland is generally well made, with some very nice, subtle touches of CG animation in a few scenes that give it a slightly surreal quality. My only criticism is that as a documentary it becomes quite repetitive viewing at times, hearing the same stories of the music being 'life changing', becoming 'one with nature', I'm 'being who I am' it's my 'alternative lifestyle'- it all quickly becomes a drone of one verbal cliché after another, certainly not enough to sustain an hour of viewing. On the other hand, the film does successfully reveal an aspect of Australian culture that I was until recently unaware of.

    If you're a fan of electronica, Australian dance music and/or culture, then Welcome To Wonderland is compulsory viewing. For further information, check out the official website; www.welcometowonderland.com.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It's difficult to critique the quality of what is obviously an independent production, made on a minimal budget with a great deal of blood, sweat and tears. It's realistic to assume that the video quality isn't going to be on a par with a Hollywood blockbuster DVD, however, with the quality of home video DV equipment improving in leaps and bounds, I'm sad to say that I was expecting better.

    The video transfer sways among a number of aspect ratios throughout, sitting roughly at 1.66:1 for the majority of the feature. I suspect, judging by the extra features, this has been cropped from a full frame video master. The image is not 16x9 enhanced.

    I initially viewed the feature via projection onto a 96 inch screen, and I soon realised the experience would be much more pleasurable on a smaller display. Big screen viewing only exaggerates the limitations of the cameras that have been used, highlighting digital grain and resolution issues, particularly in darker scenes. An example of extreme grain can be seen at 47:28. A shot of the forest canopy at 3:53 displays some nasty jagged edges. Black levels and shadow detail hold up well, considering the source equipment.

    Colours are slightly washed out, which is to be expected. MPEG compression issues aren't a big problem.

    There are no subtitle streams included.

    The disc is DVD9 formatted, however there is no layer break present during the feature. The main feature is split into ten chapters.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks to choose from. The default soundtrack is Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s). A stereo option is also available, encoded at 192Kb/s.

    The interview dialogue is comprised of location audio, and is generally audible, but can be a little distorted on occasion. Audio sync is spot-on.

    The front channels do the bulk of the work, with the surround channels carrying some mild spill of atmospherics and score. I noted some dedicated usage in the rear left channel at 45:55, emphasizing the crowd noise.

    The documentary's theme is credited to Brett Aplin, along with the majority of the other original pieces. Some grooves by the Bollywood Brass Band caught my attention in particular.

    The subwoofer accentuates the thudding beat of the dance music in the soundtrack very effectively.

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

Extras

    This is a great range of extra features, sure to please anyone with an interest in the film. All are presented with stereo audio.

Menus

    The menu pages include some nice animated page transitions, as well as lush bush noises that are often interrupted by bursts of dance beats.

Featurettes- Composers

    These featurettes cover three of the contributing artists and how they create their music, referenced by excerpts from the feature. A number of audio-only tracks are included for each composer.

Music Videos- Dance Montages (8)

    These are a series of clips with a vibe similar to the feature documentary. There is no play all function, which would've been handy here.

Behind The Scenes Featurettes- Special Effects (3)

    3D designers and animators discuss their contributions to some of the film's more surreal moments.

Interviews-Cast (3)

    Three of the featured foreign DJs are given the spotlight, discussing their motivations, inspirations and careers.

Trailer (1:53)

    A short promo piece for the documentary feature.

Soundtrack CD (78:32)

    Almost eighty minutes of music from the film, in eighteen tracks. That's value!

R4 vs R1

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

    This title is only available in specific retailers, as listed in the official website, www.welcometowonderland.com. The disc seems to only be available in PAL format, coded for Region 0 (all regions).

Summary

    Welcome To Wonderland is an admirable independent production, exploring Australia's outdoor dance culture with passion and honesty.

    The transfer is good, considering the nature of the production.

    The extras are worthwhile viewing and pertinent to the feature.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rob Giles (readen de bio, bork, bork, bork.)
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using HDMI 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 DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3806 (7.1 Channels)
SpeakersOrpheus Aurora III floor-standing Mains and Surrounds. Orpheus Centaurus .5 Front Center. Mirage 10 inch powered sub.

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