Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

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Released 5-Aug-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Canyon
DVD Credits
Featurette-Welcome To Middle-earth: Houghton Mifflin In-Store Special
Featurette-Quest For The Ring: FOX TV Special
Featurette-A Passage To Middle-earth: SCI-FI Channel Special
Featurette-lordoftherings.net Featurettes (15)
Teaser Trailer-2
Theatrical Trailer
TV Spots-6
Music Video-May It Be-Enya
Trailer-Special Extended DVD Edition Preview
Featurette-Behind The Scenes Preview of "The Two Towers"
Featurette-"The Two Towers" Video Game Preview by EA
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 171:03
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (86:16)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Peter Jackson
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Elijah Wood
Ian McKellen
Liv Tyler
Viggo Mortensen
Sean Astin
Cate Blanchett
John Rhys Davies
Billy Boyd
Dominic Monaghan
Orlando Bloom
Christopher Lee
Hugo Weaving
Sean Bean
Case Amaray-Opaque-Dual
RPI $42.95 Music Howard Shore


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Greek
English Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    "One film to rule them all, and in the darkness shame them..." (One apt IMDB user)

    Every intelligent human being has one - the story that, if rendered as a film, a novel, or a piece of music, will exhibit a feverish pull upon them that they cannot shake off, regardless of how they try. After driving public and school librarians mad by refusing to listen to their suggestions that I read monotonous garbage designed for diminished human beings when I was a boy, I've been reading The Lord Of The Rings at an average of once a year, although I admit I have been reading it more in the last five years than during most of the rest of my life. Star Wars aside, this is the story whose characters I wish that I could be the most, and I can still picture myself as one of the Dwarves that appear in The Hobbit.

    You've probably already read me waxing lyrical about why this is one of the greatest films ever released, and how it craps on pretty much every other fantasy, adventure, or "aimed-at-children" film of the last few years, so I will keep this plot synopsis as brief as I can. After showing us how Sauron (Sala Baker) forged a series of magical rings for the free races of Middle Earth, and more importantly why, the story picks up in Hobbiton, a village owned by a race of beings that are human-like in most respects except they generally are barely four feet tall. Bilbo Baggins (Sir Ian Holm) is an elder among this village, and is celebrating his eleventy-first birthday when Gandalf (Sir Ian McKellen), a wizard who accompanied Bilbo on much of his previous adventures, comes by to visit and impress the locals with his fireworks.

    However, when Bilbo makes it clear that he intends to leave Hobbiton, as well as the surrounding Shire, and leave everything to his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood), talk soon turns to the mysterious ring he has kept in his possession since the adventures detailed in The Hobbit. After some digging around and testing, Frodo and Gandalf soon confirm the latter's worst fears - that the ring Bilbo took from Gollum (Andy Serkis) in his previous adventures and the One Ring that Sauron needs to cover Middle-earth in a second darkness happen to be the same thing. After Gandalf catches another Hobbit named Samwise Gamgee (Sean Astin) listening in on them, he sends Samwise and Frodo to make their way to Rivendell, the Elven sanctuary where the Elf-king Elrond (Hugo Weaving) resides. This is where I'll stop describing the plot, however, as it really needs to be seen or read from the novel in order to be fully appreciated.

    To say that I loved this film is an understatement - now, not only is The Lord Of The Rings the greatest novel ever written, it is now also amongst the greatest films ever filmed. It is clear from the outset that making this film was more than work for Peter Jackson and his crew - it was definitely a labour of love. In spite of condensing events and characters from the novel a little in order to make the film flow more smoothly, this adaptation would have made Tolkien proud indeed. Pale imitations like Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone will come and go with great regularity, but this is, to use a phrase coined by one music reviewer, the blueprint for a trillion inferior facsimiles.

    A quick note here: Ian will probably want to have my head for this, but after reading his gushing over Marilyn Monroe, then comparing my impressions with the characters of Arwen (Liv Tyler), or Eowyn (Miranda Otto), who appears in the preview of The Two Towers, I wonder what all the fuss is about. This story even contains women who can do more than just stand there and look pretty.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The Fellowship Of The Ring, like The Phantom Menace, was shot using a process called Arrivision, which yields the same 2.35:1 aspect ratio as the Panavision process, but limits the available depth of field quite considerably. Exactly why this process is used with big special-effects films is something I can't explain, unless it makes adding all those effects easier. Either way, considering how disappointed I was with the transfer afforded to The Phantom Menace last year, I was more than pleasantly surprised by this one. This is how the most keenly anticipated DVD of any given year should look.

    Naturally, the transfer is presented in its proper 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The foregrounds in this transfer are very sharp, with clear and vivid detail leaping out at the viewer in most every shot. The faces of the actors in particular are well-rendered. The backgrounds tend to be somewhat indistinct, but this is inherent in the Arrivision process, from what I can tell. The transfer retains all the sharpness and limited depths of field that the film exhibited theatrically. The shadow detail is excellent, with plenty of subtle details hidden in the darkness of such locations as Mordor and Isengard, and there is no low-level noise to ruin things at any time.

    The colours in the film vary according to the setting of a given scene - in Hobbiton or Rivendell, the colours are bright, vivid, and varied, while in such locations as Bree or Isengard, they tend to have a more cold, metallic, limited feel. The transfer retains these characteristics, with not such much as a flicker of bleeding or cross-colouration to complain about. While it is true that some elves have a very bright halo around them, this is an intentional effect consistent with the story.

    MPEG artefacts were never noticed in this transfer, although the bitrate does go somewhat low considering the amount of space that has been allocated. While some scenes fall as low as three and a half megabits per second, this really is an example of MPEG compression at its most transparent. Film-to-video artefacts were occasionally noticed, with about half a dozen serious instances throughout the entire picture. The most objectionable examples were on Balin's tomb at 108:29 and the two statues at 141:39, but these were just a step above being rather mild. Film artefacts were so non-existent as to be invisible - I don't remember seeing one throughout the whole transfer, in fact.

    There are English for the Hearing Impaired subtitles present on this disc. They contain very frequent subtle variations on the spoken dialogue that I found a little annoying after a while. The burned-in subtitles that translate things said in Elvish have been replaced by a subtitle stream, one that is much easier on the eyes than the one that was burned into the print I saw theatrically.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place during Chapter 23, at 86:16. This is right after Hugo Weaving says "One of you must do this", and while it is somewhat noticeable, it is well-handled enough to not matter.

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

Audio

    Now this is what an audio demonstration disc sounds like.

    There are two soundtracks included with the main feature, both of which are renderings of the original English/Elvish/Black Speech dialogue. The first, and default, soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 5.1, 448 kilobit per second version, and the second soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 2.0 effort with surround-encoding at a 224 kilobit per second rate. I listened to the Dolby Digital 5.1 effort.

    The dialogue is very clear and easy to understand, while the Elvish speech is very smooth and pleasant to listen to. The few pieces of Black Speech in the film are more guttural and difficult to understand, but this is an intentional effect. There are no discernable problems with audio sync.

    The score music in this film was composed by Howard Shore, with some participation from Enya, who contributes the song heard over the ending credits as well as some themes during such scenes as the meeting between Aragorn and Arwen just before the council meets. There are actually a number of artists who contribute vocal performances to the score music at key moments, but revealing them all would also entail revealing key elements of the plot. As for the quality of the score music, at times it becomes a living, breathing part of the film, especially during such sequences as the battle in Moria. The battle sequences of this film are, to put it very simply, examples of film scoring at its very finest, conveying the heroism of the main characters in a manner that makes the on-screen action seem literally larger than life. Now all we need is a reissue of the soundtrack with all the cues in it, not just the most commercial ones.

    The surround channels are aggressively utilised to enhance the on-screen action, giving everything the appropriate other-worldly feel that is demanded by the story. The sound of Men flying through the air during the first battle against Sauron at 3:23 is a particularly good effort, as are the fireworks at 15:50. The best examples, however, come at 21:28, 56:25, and 135:15, for Gandalf's, Sauron's, and Galadriel's voices respectively. This is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack as it should be.

    The subwoofer was also aggressively utilised to provide heavy support for the sounds of swords, axes, arrows, thunder, and footsteps, just to name the best examples. My favourite instance of subwoofer usage came at 3:06, when we first hear Sauron stepping into the fray against the alliance of Men and Elves determined to resist his rule.

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

Extras

    There are some interesting extras on this two-disc set, but by the proverbial I do hope that the ones they add to the upcoming four-disc set are more interesting than this.

Disc One

Menu

    The menu features some animation, is 16x9 Enhanced, and it is accompanied by Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Navigation is somewhat awkward because of the circular layout of the main menu options, but this is otherwise one of the more pleasant menus I have seen for a while.

DVD/Documentary Credits

    Highlighting and selecting the New Line logo at the bottom of the menu will take you to a listing of credits for all of the people who were involved in the making of the discs and the documentaries.

Disc Two

Menu

    The menu is static, 16x9 Enhanced, accompanied by Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and very straightforward to navigate.

Featurette - Welcome To Middle-Earth

    This sixteen minute and forty-seven second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with footage from the film in 1.78:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 2.0, and the video features a few cross-colouration artefacts.

Featurette - Quest For The Ring

    This twenty-one minute and twenty-eight second featurette is also presented with a mix of 1.33:1 and 1.78:1 footage, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. Again, the sound is in Dolby Digital 2.0, which is more than adequate.

Featurette - A Passage To Middle-Earth

    This forty-one minute and thirty-nine second featurette is presented in 1.33:1 and 1.78:1, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - Finding Hobbiton

    This two minute and thirteen second featurette is basically about the location scouting. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Hobbiton Comes Alive

    This two minute and thirty-five second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Believing The World Of Bree

    This two minute and fifty-four second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Ringwraiths: The Fallen Kings

    This four minute and thirty-six second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with occasional 1.66:1 footage and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It continues the rather worrying trend of revealing very little that is of value.

Featurette - Rivendell: The Elven Sanctuary

    This three minute and fifty-four second featurette repeats a lot of the other featurettes and what they have to say about the design for the set that stood in for Rivendell. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Languages Of Middle-Earth

    This is by far the most disappointing of the three-minute featurettes under the LordoftheRings.net submenu. There was an opportunity to describe how the speech of each distinct race in Middle Earth was patterned after a specific real-world people, but it was not taken. In the three minutes and eight seconds it runs for, it does describe how they managed to get the cast to speak the dialogue so convincingly, but that is really it. It is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a shot from the film in 2.35:1, and Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Two Wizards

    Another disappointing featurette that only touches upon the differences between the characters Gandalf and Saruman. It runs for one minute and fifty-seven seconds, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - The Music Of Middle-Earth

    This four minute and six second featurette is slightly better than the others. It features composer Howard Shore explaining some of the inspiration for the score, among other things. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.

Featurette - Elijah Wood

    This one minute and forty-three second featurette contains snippets of an interview with Elijah Wood, commenting on some aspects of his character. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with some footage in 2.35:1 and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Viggo Mortenson

    I thought it might be interesting to see a featurette about the man who plays the most intriguing character of the film. Boy, was I wrong. The one minute and forty-four second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with some footage in 1.66:1 and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Orlando Bloom

    This featurette focuses on the character who seems to draw the most interest from the female sector (judging by a lot of the conversations I have had) and the man who plays him. At two minutes and seventeen seconds, it is slightly longer, and slightly more interesting, than the other featurettes of this sub-menu. It is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio with some footage in 1.66:1, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Cate Blanchett

    This featurette is mostly repeated in several of the others, with very little new footage in its one minute and forty-nine second running time. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with some footage in an approximate 1.78:1 ratio, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Ian McKellen

    This one minute and forty-four second featurette focuses a little more on the character and his use of magic, an element that certain fantasy writers (especially those of the Harry Potter school) could learn from. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with film footage in 2.35:1, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Featurette - Weathertop: The Windy Hill

    This three minute and three second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Theatrical Trailers

    This submenu contains three trailers that were used to promote both this film and the entire trilogy. They are all presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. In order, they are Teaser One (1:37), Teaser Two (2:15), and Final Trailer (2:39).

TV Spots

    This submenu contains six TV Spots, many of which were made after the film was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards (it deserved to win the lot). The total running time (thankfully, there is a Play All option) is three minutes and eleven seconds. They are all presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio with a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack, but they are not 16x9 Enhanced.

Music Video - Enya: May It Be

    To be very honest, I felt that the contemporary artists who contributed to this soundtrack blew chunks, and that bands with a much more aggressive Tolkien theme such as Isengard or even Satyricon would have done a much better job. Be that as it may, this three minute and thirty-seven second music video is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - Special Extended DVD Edition Preview

    This three minute and five second featurette, presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, shows a little taste of what was left out of the theatrical version, and what will be reinserted. Interestingly enough, when I spoke to a friend in America about this very subject, she told me the number one complaint was that the film wasn't long enough. Hopefully, the half-hour of footage that will apparently be included in this version shall rectify that.

Featurette - Behind The Scenes Preview Of The Two Towers

    This ten minute and forty-three second featurette had me drooling with anticipation. For one thing, all of the actors and crew featured are adamant that the action in this new film will be more intense (an interesting counterpoint to the novel, which was quite languid). For another, we will get to see more of the all-CGI Gollum, voiced by Andy Serkis. The featurette is presented in the aspect ratios of 1.78:1 and 2.35:1, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and 16x9 Enhancement. There is some annoying camera wobble as the crew enter the studio where Andy Serkis is acting as a performance reference for the character of Gollum, but this is otherwise guaranteed to satisfy all but the most crazed fans.

Featurette - The Two Towers Video Game Preview By EA

    It seems that Electronic Arts have been granted the task of translating The Fellowship Of The Ring and The Two Towers into a video game. During this three minute extended commercial, people from EA explain exactly how they went about this. The featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

    The R4 version misses out on DVD-ROM content, but is otherwise the same as the R1 version. Given that the R1 retails for $29.95, and most of the extras on both the R4 and R1 versions are a bit ho-hum, I'd consider the R4 discs to be the better value for money at this point. Whether this will change when both four-disc versions appear is unknown.

Detailed R4 vs R1 Sound and Image Comparison

    On Thursday 22nd August, 2002, TonyR, HughF, DarrenW and I (MichaelD) gathered at TonyR's place to perform a critical assessment of the Region 4 and Region 1 versions of Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring. This was in response to numerous reports of significant differences between the two versions, particularly aurally. We wished to see if there was any substance to these, often extreme, reports. TonyR's home theatre has quite high-end equipment, which you can peruse for yourselves at the bottom of any of his reviews, such as that of Hombre. You will note that Tony's projector is driven by a scaler. This scaler was set to line triple both the PAL and the NTSC image. It also performs reverse 3:2 pulldown to correct NTSC judder and reverse 2:2 pulldown for PAL. Hence, we were watching progressive line tripled PAL and NTSC images.

    The first thing we did was watch the Region 4 transfer in its entirety in order to select a reasonable passage for direct comparison. The section of the movie that we chose for our comparison was within the mines of Moria, from the time of the Fellowship's entry into the ruins of the Dwarf-city of Dwarrowdelf (107:40 PAL) to the time of the (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) defeat of the cave troll (116:00 PAL). This was a section of the transfer with fairly low lighting conditions, but with some splashes of colour. In addition, there was a relatively steady musical level at the start of this sequence and lots of motion throughout. We felt that this sequence would be highly demanding and revealing of the respective transfers, both visually and aurally. We also less formally compared the end sequence from 157:40 (PAL) to 163:40 (PAL), a more vibrantly lit section of the transfers.

    The most obvious difference noted between the two transfers was the dramatic difference in audio level between them. Based on level balancing of the Moria sequence with a digital sound meter, the Region 4 soundtrack was a full 12 decibels softer than the Region 1 soundtrack. Subjectively, that makes the Region 1 version over twice as loud as the Region 4 version at the same volume settings. That in itself is likely to cause dramatic differences in the subjective assessment of each soundtrack in the absence of correction for this difference. DialNorm (detailed article here) is partly responsible - the R1 soundtrack has a DialNorm setting of -31 whereas the R4 soundtrack has a DialNorm setting of -27. Thus, the R4 soundtrack is attenuated by an additional 4dB by its DialNorm setting whereas the R1 is not, but there still remains a dramatic inherent difference in level between the two soundtracks.

    The second thing noted about the two transfers was that the Region 4 version had been pitch corrected, so that it sounded at the same pitch as the Region 1 version. See here for an article discussing this briefly if you require further information.

    Having noted these differences, we then set about comparing the test sections above, correcting for the difference in audio levels. The nett result was that the two transfers were very similar indeed, with by far the majority of differences being explained away by the dramatic difference in audio levels between the two. Nonetheless, some transfer differences remained, and in the interests of providing the most complete picture possible, herewith are all four testers' comments on the comparisons.

Tony Said:

    Michael called me, and asked if we could assemble a learned panel to sit in judgment on a weighty question. Not knowing anybody learned, and with Michael being in something of a hurry, we decided to make do with a handful of reviewers (!).

    And so it came to pass that a motley crew did sit and watch the R4 version of Fellowship of the Ring, then did compare selected portions with the R1. And lo, much discussion did ensue.

    I learned some interesting things during this session. For a start, I learned that Michael has perfect pitch - a rare thing. I already knew that I did not - I have sensitive hearing (more on that later), but I am utterly unable to say "That's an A (440Hz)" - I'm only barely able to say "that note is higher than that one"... I'm an excellent example of the great unwashed masses who have no problem at all with the fact that the music on a PAL DVD is usually one semitone (roughly) higher in pitch. Michael was able to hear slight flaws in the music on the R4 that were introduced because it has been pitch-corrected (they've dropped the frequency of everything by 4% so the notes are accurate - this involves non-trivial processing of the sound). I simply couldn't hear these flaws even though we played one of them 10 times or more.

    We did everything but side-by-side viewing of the R1 and R4 discs - we played sections of both of them repeatedly, adjusting the volumes to be exactly the same using an SPL meter (the R1 is 12dB louder - that's a lot!) - we equalized the volume because of the strange psychological phenomenon in which something louder sounds "better" (hmm, wonder why it was the American version that was louder?).

    My take? I honestly couldn't hear a difference, except for the volume - the unequalized R1 would give me a headache at my regular listening level (I'd have to turn it down, because sound that loud hurts my ears). But I could definitely see a difference. The R1 was noticeably sharper, with a little more in the way of fine detail. That's not what I'd expect. Bear in mind that the R4 is quite lovely - I have no complaints about the sharpness of the R4 - but the R1 is sharper still. That's not what I'd expect because the PAL transfer has higher resolution (576 lines versus 480 lines). Of course, the penalty for sharpness at that level is a little more in the way of edge artefacts, particularly aliasing. Again, let me stress that both transfers are quite good - we are talking about subtle differences here.

    Which one would I buy? Well, I've bought the R4 two disc set (to get the "short" version of the film), and I've ordered the R1 four disc set (for the director's cut). This experience has convinced me that that is a good idea.

    My conclusions:

Darren said:
    I usually take a less technical point of view when comparing discs from different regions. Firstly, my ears are not attuned to the differences in pitch in the soundtrack (it really does all sound the same to me), and the dreaded NTSC 3:2 pulldown artefacts are usually not obvious enough to worry about (occasionally I find them annoying - but certainly not in every R1 I own). I tend to get more worked up about missing extras and crappy artwork before worrying about PAL speed-up problems and the like. I must admit though, that the first time I watched the R4 FOTR disc the day after it was released, I was marginally disappointed with the quality of the soundtrack. I remember seeing this in the cinema and thinking "this is going to translate to DVD very nicely indeed". There were countless scenes where the bass would be thumping and crashing, and lots of varied surround use to boot. What I found on the R4 disc was less bass than I'd remembered, and more importantly dialogue in certain scenes that was very difficult to hear. So when we recently watched the R4 version of FOTR again and then popped the R1 in the player for a direct comparison, my initial thought was 'Region 4's been ripped off again!'.

    The most obvious and immediate difference was the much higher volume that the R1 had been mastered at. It boomed at us from the main menu and basically never let up from the opening monologue sequence. I believe it to be in the vicinity of 10dB louder which makes a rather dramatic difference. Watching a couple of select scenes for direct comparison seemed to confirm that it was indeed louder and subsequently had clearer dialogue and more far-reaching bass - though with the latter I was not overly impressed as it had a certain overdone feeling to it. But after we went back and corrected the volume level of the R4 disc to be on a par with the R1, my earlier thoughts about the R4 were proven incorrect. The dialogue was much better, and although the action scenes were probably a little louder than I would normally listen to them, the bass didn't have that 'overcooked' feeling to it.

    In regards to the dropouts caused by pitch correction - after many repeat viewings of a particular offending scene, Michael managed to just convince me that there was a drop-out in the score. I think I heard it (or didn't hear it - the note is missing after all) - but it is for the absolute briefest nanosecond, and I know I would not be able to pick another offending spot without some help. Both the R1 and the R4 soundtracks have their faults, but unless the dropouts caused by pitch correction irritate you (not me - I only heard one!), then there is really no reason to favour one disc over the other.

Hugh said:

    In comparing FOTR R1 and R4, I am left with a tough but ultimately very personal preference as to which version I enjoyed more. My preference lies with the Region 1 version for a couple of reasons;

    In summary, I think that all my views on the comparison come down to personal taste more than anything else. However, two of my major DVD 'likes' as per my bio outline my love of a clearly defined picture and a strong audio signal.

    What more can I say? Region 1 for me!!

Michael D Said:

    Let me state up front that the Region 4 version of this DVD has a reference quality video transfer. That said, there are definite differences between the two video transfers. The Region 1 transfer appears both sharper and harsher than the Region 4 transfer, which is softer and more film-like. Both have outstanding levels of detail resolution, shadow detail and colour rendition. Despite the increased sharpness apparent in the Region 1 transfer, I did not feel that this led to the resolution of any finer detail in the resultant image. Rather, it seemed to increase the noise and non-picture information in the image. One thing that annoyed me about the Region 1 transfer was that it appeared significantly more jerky than the Region 4 transfer with motion. This was despite the reverse 3:2 pull-down applied by the line scaler used, and perhaps may have reflected the different frame rates at which the PAL and NTSC images were displayed (25 frames per second for PAL versus 24 frames per second for NTSC). The colour rendition of the Region 4 transfer was marginally richer than that of the Region 1 transfer. All-in-all, despite the seemingly increased detail in the Region 1 transfer on careful inspection, I found the Region 4 transfer to be much more pleasant and less fatiguing to view.

    Video ratings: Region 4 DVD: 5 stars. Region 1 DVD: 5 stars.

    Both audio transfers were also significantly different, with both having their strengths and weaknesses. Audio sync was a problem for both transfers, with the Region 1 soundtrack having the audio ahead of the video whereas the Region 4 soundtrack had the audio behind the video. Both of these anomalies were relatively subtle, but noticeable. I personally found the ahead audio sync of the Region 1 version much more annoying than the delayed sync of the Region 4 version. The pitch correction applied to the Region 4 version resulted in periodic subtle dropouts in the sound, such as at 116:02 and 116:04 (listen to the sustained French Horn notes). I noted these drop-outs at around 10 minute intervals throughout the PAL transfer. Note that I had considerable difficulty in convincing my fellow comparators of these dropouts, despite repeating the relevant passages numerous times, during which the dropouts were clearly audible to myself. These dropouts were not present in the Region 1 soundtrack. The Region 1 soundtrack appeared to be more coherently immersive than the Region 4 in its use of the surround channels, with the Region 4 soundtrack sounding slightly more frontal than the Region 1 soundtrack. On the other hand, the LFE channel was mixed at a ridiculously high level in the Region 1 soundtrack, with grossly over-the-top LFE effects. Despite this, the LFE channel seemed tighter and better integrated with the other channels in the Region 1 mix than it was in the Region 4 mix, which sounded relatively muddy in comparison.

    Personally, I feel that the pitch correction applied to the Region 4 soundtrack was a gross misjudgement on the part of this DVD's producers, as it has resulted in significant sound degradation and clearly audible artefacts in the resultant soundtrack. Note that your results may well vary, as it clearly did with the other listeners in this session who did not hear any of the problems that I did. Despite the forward audio sync and the grossly over-the-top LFE channel of the Region 1 version, the Region 1 soundtrack is the preferred listening experience. One thing is clear, however. Neither the Region 1 nor the Region 4 Dolby Digital soundtrack is the definitive soundtrack for this movie. I hope that the forthcoming Extended Edition will address these issues, particularly with the DTS soundtrack. This movie clearly deserves the best possible soundtrack, and it has not received this with either version at this point in time.

    Audio ratings: Region 4 DVD: 4.5 stars. Region 1 DVD: 5 stars.

    Lest all the preceding fill you with doom and gloom, let me reiterate: both versions of this DVD are of reference quality, but both have subtle differences when combined side-by-side. My personal overall impression for the best visual and aural experience leans towards the Region 4 disc. Your opinion may well vary.

See and Hear It For Yourself

    Make up your own mind as to whether you hear a problem or not. I've created a brief MP3 file of the audio passage mentioned above (115:56 to 116:06). There are two glitches in the sustained French Horn notes which I can clearly hear (a little more so in the original WAV file but still most definitely in the compressed MP3 file). I cannot hear these glitches in the Region 1 soundtrack at the same spot. You, on the other hand, may hear absolutely nothing wrong. Looking at the audio waveform at this point reveals a visual blip. Look just to the right of the dotted yellow cursor in the lower waveform. I've highlighted the offending blip with a white line.

    I believe this blip, and all the other similar blips I heard throughout the R4 soundtrack are the result of the pitch correction applied to this soundtrack. It has been my listening experience that all such processed soundtracks suffer from such anomalies, and is the reason why I consider calls for such speed-up processing to be applied to all PAL DVDs to be misguided.

Summary

    If you have children, and would prefer they grow up to be great leaders rather than the dim cannon fodder that most so-called children's literature seems intent on creating, then there is no argument about this - The Lord Of The Rings should be in your collection. Not only is it one of the greatest books ever written, this first volume of the film adaptations is one of the greatest films ever captured on celluloid. In this day and age of mass consumerism, industrialisation, and violence over the most trivial (and sometimes not so trivial) things, The Fellowship Of The Ring is even more relevant today than it was when first published in the middle of the last century. Films rarely get any better than this, so run, don't walk, to the nearest retailer, and buy a copy right away.

    The video transfer is excellent, and very nearly reference quality. This is what the last Star Wars transfer should have been.

    The audio transfer is very, very much of reference quality. Men being slung away like golf balls has never sounded so good.

    The extras are numerous, but many of them are just there to fill space.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

Other Reviews
The DVD Bits - Damien M
Web Wombat - James A
The DVD Bits - Craig D
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Wayne F
MovieHole - Clint M
DVDAnswers - Pete R

Comments (Add)
Featurettes Galore........ - Andrew (Read my Bio.)
Know your Arrivision - Anthony H (read my bio)
A Top 10 entry Dean?? - Darren W (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
R1 reviews up the wazoo - Craig P
Whats Harry got to do with it? - William
Dean, 1 small review suggestion. - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)
An Amazingly Controlled Review! - Christian (You may read my bio.)
Dean is right! Anyone who disagrees can f*** ***! - CS
Second Opinion - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
a visual masterpeice - DarkEye (This bio says: Death to DNR!)
Re: Rod W's comments - Anonymous
Special Features 4x3 - Brett
Anyone else notice the R4 has been pitch corrected - JustB (read my bio)
price - Anonymous
JustB is correct. - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
I agree with William - Big Guns (read my bio)
FotR is not a great *film* - Nick J (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Arrivision - stuart willis
Insulting! - Anonymous
If it gets people to the read the books, it's a success - Ryan
Movie: Great - DVD: Disappointing - Luminous_01
No Commentary... - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)
Dear God, - G-Man
4 *'s for extras??? - Anonymous
Trimming Violence + Two releases - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Well, you were warned... - vermont
Request to Rod Williams. - Anonymous
Disc 2 censored - extreme opposite to paid product placement - John Maher
Dolby Digital EX ? - Alex H (My biography...in 500 words or less!)
RE: What's Harry got to do with it? - Sulien
Enya doesn't blow chunks!@! - Anonymous
Enya - Sulien
Censored Movie List - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
An open message to Dean - seraphic06
Arrivison a correction - Phil Connolly
Please help with viewing aspect ratios - Visitor from TOR.net
In Dean's Defense... - Dark Lord (Bio? We don't need no stinkin' bio!)
Complaint to MichaelD. - Anonymous
Tell me what you really think Dean. - seraphic06
Re: In Dean's Defense - Anonymous
In response to Please help with viewing aspect ratios - Michael C (to bio, or not to bio?)
Please try to remain on-topic - Discussing "Fellowship of the Ring" - Enough is enough!
Dean's reply - MayJay LamboTown
Nick JArdine and Rotten Tomatoes - Anonymous
Critics - Khai L (My biodegradable bio)
Dean... - G-Man
Audio on R4 vs R1? - Zippo
RE: Audio on R4 vs R1? - Hugh F (what the hell is going on in bio??)
A Statement From DeanM - Dean M (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Extras are not 4 star - MichaelCPE REPLY POSTED
The Fellowship of the Rental - Rod W (Suss out my biography if you dare)
It's just a review, folks! - Sean Brady
RE: Audio R4 v R1 - Vieira4 (deleted bio)
LOTR Audio - Anonymous
Burned in subtitles - Anonymous
Re: Burned in subtitle - Anonymous
Decent transfer, decent film, but that's about it. - Anonymous
Audio on R4 - Jeremy
The irony astounds me - Anonymous
THE DVD is great, THE MOVIE is great, THE REVIEW is great - Tsargrad (My Bio)
Pitch correction - Anthony H (read my bio)
Louder audio = better quality audio - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Sound dropout - Anonymous
Sound level - Craig S (read my bio)
audio pitch correction problems - Anonymous
extended edition & collectors edition pricing - Shane A
Re: Burned in subtitles - Whiggles
Audio artefacts - Dixie Normous REPLY POSTED
oh yeah - Stimpy (da, what's a bio Ren?)
Audio artifacts also in extended edition - also DTS - Anonymous
"Arrivision?" - Dave Gregory
Have a look at this everybody.... - Miklos (my stinkin' bio)
Christians and the trilogy? - James