Mike Oldfield-Millennium Bell, The: Live in Berlin (2001)

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Released 23-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Menu Animation & Audio
Featurette-Art In Heaven (13:44)
Featurette-Making Of-(4:42)
Interviews-Cast-Mike Oldfield (5:13)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 56:07 (Case: 80)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,3,4,5,6 Directed By None Given
Studio
Distributor

Warner Vision
Starring Mike Oldfield
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music Mike Oldfield


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Judging by the trickle of e-mails that I have received over the past year or so, there are quite a few people who have been eagerly awaiting the release of this particular concert on DVD. For those that are unaware, this is a concert held in Berlin on the eve of the false millennium (otherwise known as 31st December, 1999) and was a fusion of sorts between the music of Mike Oldfield and a spectacular light and fireworks display. Now as you might gather, Berlin at midnight in the middle of winter is not usually a very warm place, and this concert was certainly performed in rather cold conditions, at least judging by the way most of the band are rugged up to the neck. Still, the seasoned troupers that they are, the show went on and a quite decent evening it was too! The show was put on near the famed Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate, and the crowd apparently numbered half a million.

    The music making up the show comprises a smattering of a few of Mike Oldfield's better-known tracks and then a fair chunk of the music especially written for the evening, and subsequently released on The Millennium Bell album. So for the record the tracks are:

    Aside from the usual collection of musicians Mike Oldfield enlists for live shows - since obviously he cannot play everything himself on stage - the cast includes The State Orchestra and The Glinka State Choir of St Petersburg. This is music that these august people are not normally involved with, and the chance to enjoy the evening seemed to have been taken by the horns by most of the participants. Aside from the fact that the concert is a couple of hours too short, there is enough here to keep most people happy. Whilst the almost inevitable Tubular Bells starts the show, the brief selection of songs thankfully takes a decent turn away from the purely music-orientated works towards the vocal works.

    This is a pretty decent concert overall, despite the relative paucity of length, but it is the sort of DVD that does raise concerns about value for money. This is a premium priced title and yet the total running time including all extras barely gets to 80 minutes. With the concert itself taking only 56 minutes, you might feel a little short-changed here, and despite the excellence of the performance itself, there are some qualms about the quality of the video transfer in particular.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in what is presumed to be a Full Frame format (1.33:1), and not 16x9 enhanced.

    It does not take much more than one minute of this transfer to indicate where the problems are going to lie, of which more anon. From the point of view of how the transfer looks, you could not ask for much better. This is a very sharp transfer, not unexpectedly given the staged event nature of the show, with few lapses along the way. Detail is very good in general, despite the best efforts of the intense stage lighting at times to drown everything in a bath of blinding light. Shadow detail is pretty good too considering the nature of the show. There is no indication of low level noise in the transfer. Curiously, there is a degree of grain present in the transfer, which does detract a little from the clarity of the overall transfer. However, I do not consider the grain as that disruptive to the transfer overall.

    This is a very nicely vibrant transfer, with plenty of nicely saturated colours on display. This is in a way very reminiscent of the excellent colour found in Tubular Bells II & III released a little while back. Apart from the obligatory mild washouts due to the intense stage lighting, there is nothing to really complain about here. There was some marginal concerns with oversaturation at 4:00, in the intense red stage lighting, and the blue stage lighting at 25:41 is pretty lousy-looking. There is no issue with colour bleed in the transfer.

    However, we then hit the problems. Whilst there does not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacting in the transfer, there are plenty of problems in the film-to-video artefacting department. Aliasing is pretty well rife throughout most shots in the transfer, and is especially noticeable in the keyboards (0:50, 2:34, 2:58 and 12:53 before I gave up taking notes), guitar strings (6:11), violin strings (30:21) and especially bad looking in the tubular bells (45:49). There is some issue with moiré artefacting in the transfer, most notably in the stage floor around 7:43. There is also an unusual banding artefact in Mike Oldfield's fingers around 48:12. There are thankfully no real issues at all with film artefacts.

    This is presumably a Dual Layer formatted DVD, in the absence of any noticeable layer change during the main programme. The packaging is in error in suggesting that this is a single sided, single layer DVD.

    Overall, this is a terrific transfer let down quite badly by the artefacting problems noted, which I found eventually to be quite distracting through their sheer consistency.

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

Audio

    There are two soundtracks on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and an English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack.

    The music comes up well in the transfer, and is generally easy to hear. There does not appear to be any significant problems with audio sync in the transfer.

    The music is of course all the work of Mike Oldfield and he continues to prove his mastery of the instrumental genre in popular music, as he has done since way back when with the release of Tubular Bells. I don't recall ever being disappointed with an album he has put out and I could listen to this sort of music till the sun goes nova (which of course will not happen since it isn't big enough to go nova, apparently).

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack starts out terrifically well, and I was all ready to start waxing lyrical about the quality when it went a tad awry. There are certainly no qualms about the first part of the concert, but when we get to The Millennium Bell tracks, the soundtrack starts to become a little bassy, which does detract from the overall presentation. That part of the concert did cause me some headaches (quite literally too) as I fiddled about to get a better balance in the overall sound - to no great avail I might add. However, the soundtrack otherwise is quite exceptional with some sterling use of the surround channels that really helps the music no end. It is not terrifically ambient out of the rear channels, but the overall soundscape is quite enveloping and thoroughly enjoyable otherwise. Whilst it could perhaps have been a tad more open sounding, there is no real concern about congestion here.

    The Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 soundtrack, however, is an absolute cracker, and I could listen to this with the volume cranked up for hours on end. Superbly open-sounding, it is crystal clear with nary a blemish to be even hinted at. This is the sort of clarity and definition that we would love to hear on a far more regular basis!

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

Extras

    A decent enough attempt I suppose, but I cannot help but feel that there could have been a lot more - a better making-of effort for instance, a detailed discography perhaps...

Menu

    Apart from the aliasing in the main menu, nicely animated and with decent audio, these are quite decent efforts indeed.

Featurette - Art In Heaven (13:44)

    This lost me a little, as I don't really know what they were trying to achieve. I am presuming it was an attempt to show some of the fireworks and light show, and how it was blended with the music. However, the editing of the stuff left me more bemused than entertained. It is presented in a Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. It has a few problems along the lines of the main programme.

Featurette - Making Of (4:42)

    Fairly ordinary in general, this really is just a bunch of footage - devoid of any commentary I might add - showing snippets of the construction of the stage for the concert. About as boring as watching men put up a stage for a concert really. It is presented in a Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing wrong with it technically.

Interview - Cast - Mike Oldfield (5:13)

    A mildly interesting interview which tries to put the purpose of the concert into some context as well as try to show some of the work that went into the planning of the spectacle. It is presented in a Full Frame format which is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing wrong with it technically, apart from some cross colouration issues in the boombox at 3:15.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as we have been able to ascertain, this has yet to be released in Region 1.

Summary

    Mike Oldfield - The Millennium Bell, Live In Berlin is a much anticipated release for Mike Oldfield fans and in that respect is much welcomed. However, the video transfer problems do detract somewhat from the pleasure and the slightly problematic audio transfer did not aid matters that much. The extras package does not really do anything to enhance the overall enjoyment of the show, and I have to say that I find this a marginally disappointing release.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, July 19, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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