London (Travel Web) (2000)

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Released 1-Feb-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 57:33 (Case: 60)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor
Galileo
Wild Releasing
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $39.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles German
English
French
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement Yes, product placement ads follow closing titles
Action In or After Credits Yes, closing titles are in German

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

Plot Synopsis

Having just spent two weeks in London on a business trip, you would have thought that I would be reasonably qualified to review this disc. Well, actually no, as those who have been on international business trips will attest. My main recollections of London from my fortnight's stay are:

So, this disc was an excellent way for me to actually experience second hand some of the sights I would have seen and places I could have gone to if I actually had more time on my hands. The disc consists of an hour long travelogue featuring some of the most well-known places and attractions of London, together with a collection of London related web sites accessible via a menu if you have a Windows or Macintosh PC and a DVD-ROM drive. The travelogue itself wasn't too bad as travelogues go, but I had a lot of problems getting the DVD-ROM content to work properly (as I shall relate later).

Basically, the travelogue contains a very quick overview of some of the sights, places and buildings around London, including:

Being born to shop, I would have liked more coverage of shopping districts (it would have been nice to see Regent Street, Harvey Nicks and Oxford Street covered plus information on where to buy 'item XYZ'). Also, it would have been nice if they visually represented where each point of interest covered is on a map (the DVD-ROM section of the disc does provide this information, but it would have been helpful if the video content also provided the same indication). There is some attempt at grouping sights that are geographically co-located and marking areas of the map covered by the travelogue but the travelogue also jumps from one area to another without necessarily warning the viewer.

The accompanying audio track provides a commentary on each location, pitched at around the level that you might get in a guided tour. I found the commentary pleasant to listen to, and some of the anecdotes were interesting, but overall the commentary tended to focus on the architecture of London above other topics.

All in all, it seems to be a travelogue intended to jog the memory of someone who has recently visited London (like myself) rather than a tool to help someone plan a visit to the city. If this DVD is all that I have when planning a holiday, I don't think I would have a clue.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

This is a full frame transfer sourced from a interlaced video master. The interlaced origin of the source is evident from various aliasing and shimmering artefacts that become visible when the camera pans across any diagonal lines. Examples of these artefacts are present throughout the length of the documentary, but early examples are around 6:03-6:09 (outline of roof) and 7:15-7:18.

The transfer itself is pleasantly bright and colourful, although the outdoor shots tend to be dominated by a yellowish tone. Detail levels are about average, although every now and then certain scenes appear to be highly pixelated. I don't believe the pixelization is due to compression but is probably inherent in the source as they tend to occur in close-up shots and I suspect are due to over-use of digital zooming. Examples are plentiful - I jotted down 6:29-6:43, 7:53-8:02, 14:50-14:54, 22:45-22:53, 26:04-26:09, 30:44-30:48, 36:46-36:49, 40:01-40:03, 46:45-46:49, 51:39-52:01 but I'm sure there are more.

Black levels and shadow detail are probably about average for a video source, which is pretty clean apart from a few video glitches here and there due to tape dropout. Fortunately I did not find any evidence of low level video noise.

A number of subtitle tracks are available, and I turned on the English track. It is reasonably faithful to the dialogue apart from the occasional spelling mistake.

The disc itself is single sided and single layered, so there are no layer changes to disrupt the flow of the documentary.

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

Audio

There are a number of audio tracks present, all in Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s). These correspond to German, English, French, and Italian versions of the audio track.

I listened to the English audio track, which has been mastered at a relatively high level. The quality of the audio track is quite high and the commentary was very easy to listen to.

Background music accompanies most of the video footage and sounds quite pleasant. Occasionally ambient noises (mainly street sounds) are mixed into the audio track.

The footage of a man talking at the Speaker's Corner around 50:01-50:40 has severe dialogue mis-synchronization.

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

Extras

This disc only has one major extra which is the DVD-ROM content that links to external web sites (therefore you need a PC with an internet connection as well as a DVD-ROM drive).

Menu

The menus are pretty basic and full frame. I noticed that the audio and subtitle tracks default to German regardless of which menu language has been selected when the disc starts up.

DVD-ROM Extras

Well, I hope you will have an easier time accessing the DVD-ROM Extras then I did. I tried it on no less than three different machines, and had all sorts of problems.

Basically, if you insert this DVD-ROM drive into a Windows or Mac PC with a DVD-ROM drive, it will then install a copy of PC-Friendly, plus some additional disc-specific content.

Here's two hints if you want to avoid the sort of problems I had when I tried to make the disc work (I did not have access to a Mac to try the disc out on).

Firstly, make sure you have plenty of disc space (at least 100 Mb free in my opinion). The first two PCs I tried it out on did not and you get all sorts of weird errors and system slowdowns, plus you end up with something that doesn't really work and won't uninstall. The install routine really should check free disc space before proceeding I think.

Secondly, make sure you have an ISP that doesn't require fancy proxy settings in order for web browsing to work. My laptop has a complex proxy script that tries to detect whether I'm plugged in at home or at work, and PC-Friendly definitely wasn't very friendly towards it. The program claimed I did not have access to the Internet and refused to work.

So, after all that, was the DVD-ROM content worth it? In my opinion, no.

Basically, you get a version of PC Friendly that allows you to select between German, English and French as the menu language. However, regardless of the language selection I made, many of the menu items by default are linked to web sites that are in German. This means a lot of the content that I would otherwise been quite happy to browse was in a language I was not familiar with. Needless to say, this greatly diminished the value of the links for someone like me.

In mitigation, there is a row of icons on the top of the screen when viewing a web page (representing the flags of different countries in the world) that supposedly will allow me to click on a different language if the web content is in a language I wasn't familiar with. This seems like lazy programming to me - they could have simply remembered the language selection made when starting the program. However, as I found out, many of these icons do not work and will lead to "Page Not Found" errors.

Also, the selection of web sites are, dare I say, somewhat eclectic. There must be a wealth of web sites covering the subject areas included in the disc, but out of those they selected a very strange set indeed. To make matters worse, some of the web sites you get are actually different depending on your language selection, rather than the same sites rendered in a different language.

The menu structure is roughly arranged as follows:

Menu Item Description
Film This is broken down into sub-menus which provide chapter access into the documentary. Each chapter is named after the principal location/building featured in the chapter eg. "Buckingham Palace."
Travel

This is broken into several submenus: Train, Plane, Bus, Car, Rent a Car, Ferry.

The "Train" menu item gives you a choice of web sites of several European train companies. I found this perplexing, since none of these companies service London, and there is no mention of the ubiquitous London Underground, nor the myriad of British rail companies that will actually take you out of London into other parts of the country. Also no mention of Eurostar - the rail company that does provide travel between London's Waterloo Station and various parts of France through the Channel Tunnel. Incidentally there is a "bug" in this menu screen as the usual navigation buttons that are located at the bottom of the screen are missing so the only way to leave this screen is to exit the program!

"Plane" gives you the booking page for several European airlines (at least including British Airways). Similarly "Bus" gives you several bus companies, including London Bus. "Car" seems to direct you to a route planning web site (by default a German one, but when I clicked the English icon on top of the screen I got Shell Gemstar instead!)

Both "Rent a Car" and "Ferry" lead you to a common web page where you are forced to choose whether you want to select rental cars or ferries again (but just to make it challenging - the hyperlink text is in German). Since these hyperlink to completely different web sites why don't they just link directly to those sites? Incidentally the hyperlink to "Rent a Car" leads you to Holiday Autos and the "Ferry" provides a schedule and tariff for channel crossings by hovercraft.

Hotels

This leads to a submenu offering "Hotels" and "Bed & Breakfast."

Selecting Hotels gave me the German version of worldres.com. However, if I click on the "English" icon, I get the web page for Comfort Inn instead. As there is a perfectly usable English version of the worldres.com site, why don't they just give me that?

Selecting "Bread & Breakfast" gave the German version of www.bblondon.com. However, clicking on the "English" icon did not work - it still gave me the German version. Fortunately I saw a tiny little Union Jack waving in the bottom corner - clicking on that does provide an English version of the site.

Sights This also provides chapter access to the travelogue, but visually by depicting each chapter as a dot on a map of London. I wish this information was also provided in the travelogue itself.
Culture This is broken into several submenus: Art, Opera, Music, Cinema, Theatre, Museums. Clicking on any these typically leads to the relevant section of a cityguide web site - in German. The "English" icon on most of these screens is useless and lead to "404 - Page Not Found" errors, except for the one in "Theatre" which leads to a different web site.
Going Out This is broken into several submenus: Restaurants, Music Clubs, Night Clubs. Again, the menu selections points to a web site in German, and pressing the "English" icon will yield an error or a web site different from the German version.
Shopping

This leads to a submenu offering "Swinging London", "City Guide ", plus down at the bottom (in red): "Recommendation." Clicking on "Swinging London" gave me a Page Not Found error, and "City Guide" gave me www.max.de (a German city guide site). Clicking on "Recommendation" gave me the web page for Harrods the department store. Hmmm ....

This could have been a great section covering the major shopping districts in London (of which I have personally been to quite a few) so it was extremely disappointing to me - I can get better information than this from brochures at the airport.

Extras

This is broken into several submenus: Tourist Info, Ticket Hotline, Addresses, Weather. Again, the menu selections points to a web site in German, and pressing the "English" icon will yield an error or a web site different from the German version.

"Tourist Info" seems to consist of a number of bullet points providing travel tips like opening hours and cost of travel tickets. These seem to be so amateurist and incomplete that they look like they were lifted from someone's personal home page describing tips from their recent vacation in London. And, or course, the content is in German.

R4 vs R1

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

This disc appears to be the same across all regions as it is not region coded, but I don't believe this title is currently available in Region 1.

Summary

London - The Internet TravelGuide is a combination of a 60 minute travelogue providing an overview of the major points of interest in the city, together with DVD-ROM content providing a set of web pages ostensibly to help you plan a vacation trip to the city. The travelogue was okay but stay away from the DVD-ROM content! It is not easy to install, plus the content is pretty flaky, inconsistent, and mostly in German. Trust me, you will get a better experience surfing the web yourself using Yahoo or Google.

The audio and video transfer is above average.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Saturday, April 06, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront and rears: B&W CDM7NT; centre: B&W CDMCNT; subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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