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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Outback (Film Australia's) (2002)

Outback (Film Australia's) (2002)

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Released 4-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-Preview
Featurette-Stories: Interviews With The Filmmakers (8)
Web Links
Featurette-The Making Of Where Dead Men Lie
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 144:48 (Case: 190)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (5:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Dean Semler
David Batty
Lee Robinson
Ian Dunlop
Film Australia
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Various
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Various

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

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

Plot Synopsis

    The film camera, or at least the version that captures motion, has seen some interesting uses since its invention late in the nineteenth century, and those who used it at that time could have hardly imagined how sophisticated an art it would become early in the twenty-first century. Nowhere is the contrast between the early film camera and the modern film camera felt more than in remote areas such as outback Australia. A total of fourteen short films are contained on this DVD, ranging in age from one year to seventy-four years, some of them being quite rare and insightful pieces. In order, the films contained on this DVD are:

    There's a lot of rough to go through in this collection, but gems such as Where Dean Men Lie and Bush Mechanics make it very worthwhile. As the cover slick states, this is the Australian outback, both real and imagined, so anyone with an interest in documentary filmmaking should take to it.

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Transfer Quality


    As mentioned in the plot synopsis, this collection contains material ranging from seventy-four years in age to about a year in age. Given the age of the most archival material, it could have turned out very bad, and while it isn't perfect, it does look better than we have any right to expect. Naturally, the quality of the transfer improves as the age of the material lessens, so most of these comments cover the general quality of the overall package.

    All of the featurettes are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 without 16x9 Enhancement. In most cases, that is the original aspect ratio, but I remember the episodes of Bush Mechanics that I saw on television being slightly wider than this. Nonetheless, these pieces are all quite well represented in terms of framing.

    All of these transfers are sharp to one degree or another, although Saturday is one piece that could do with a little cleaning up in this department, as age is starting to make it look slightly washed out. The shadow detail, when called for, is pretty poor - most of these featurettes were lit with whatever happened to be handy at the time, including bits of wood from a fire in the case of Bush Mechanics, and it shows. Thankfully, low-level noise is not an issue in any of these featurettes. Film grain is another story, however.

    The featurettes from Where Dead Men Lie onwards are presented in colour, and the colours are generally well-represented, although only the last two can be said to be in any kind of natural state as far as colour goes. While the colours in such featurettes as Saturday are almost totally washed out, there are no composite artefacts to make the situation worse.

    MPEG artefacts are occasionally visible in the earliest featurettes - I don't think it is possible to encode source material with this many scratches and marks without introducing mild blocking in the backgrounds. Having said that, the rest of the featurettes look more or less transparent where the compression is concerned, so this is about as good as it will get. Film-to-video artefacts are present throughout the early featurettes in the form of aliasing and wobble. Journey Of A Nation has quite a surprising amount of aliasing in it, given the age of the source material. Bush Mechanics has a conspicuous moiré effect in a car grille at 7:30. Film artefacts are rife throughout all of the featurettes - they were all shot under extreme conditions, and some of them are ancient by film standards, so this is no big surprise. The Heart Of Australia in particular has numerous black marks throughout its running time.

    No subtitle streams are available on this DVD, which is truly a pity. Burned-in subtitles are present during Bush Mechanics to translate what the Aborigines are saying, but those are the only subtitles present on the disc.

    This disc is RSDL formatted, with the layer change taking place at 5:25 during Where Dead Men Lie. It is quite a noticeable layer change, and I would have preferred to have the layer change between featurettes.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one soundtrack on this DVD: the original English dialogue or narration, with some Aboriginal mixed in during such featurettes as Bush Mechanics, in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo at 224 kilobits per second.

    The dialogue was generally quite clear and easy to understand, although the thick accents of the titular characters in Bush Mechanics occasionally posed a problem. There were no discernable problems with audio sync.

    The music in these featurettes is credited to a lot of people, and most of it merely does the job of providing an accompaniment without being too distracting.

    The surround channels were not used by this soundtrack.

    The subwoofer was also uninvolved with this soundtrack.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu features extensive between-choices animation, but it is silent. It is also not 16x9 Enhanced. I found the menus annoying to navigate because of all the options that could only be accessed from certain screens - I want access to all of the special features from a dedicated menu.

Featurette - Preview

    This five minute and eleven second featurette is presented in an approximate 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Featurette - Stories: Interviews With The Filmmakers

    Interviews with Lee Robinson (4:33), Ian Dunlop (5:04), Gil Brealey and Dean Semler (4:50), David Haythornthwaite and Dean Semler (5:08), Dean Semler (5:52), David Roberts (4:20), Jeannie Baker (3:44), and David Batty (6:00) are presented in a separate menu or within the menu for their respective featurettes. All of them are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with occasional 1.66:1 letterboxing and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. By far the most interesting pieces are those with Dean Semler or David Batty, because they delve more into certain technical aspects of the filmmaking process.

Featurette - The Making Of Where Dead Men Lie

    This featurette can only be accessed from the Where Dead Men Lie menu. Running for just under nine minutes, it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It makes an interesting adjunct to the interview with Gil Brealey and Dean Semler.

Web Links

    No comment.

DVD Credits

    A listing of everyone who researched or compiled the content of this DVD, and those who put it together.

R4 vs R1

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

    Like most Australian esoterica, it is hard, if not impossible, to find mention of the programme at all on overseas web sites, leave alone anything about a DVD release.


    Film Australia's Outback is like any compilation, in that it is a mixed bag of the great and the truly ordinary, although curiosity value often saves the bad parts of this collection from being a total write-off. The disc itself is especially recommended to anyone with the slightest interest in filmmaking or history.

    The video transfer varies, but it is generally a good representation of poor source materials.

    The audio transfer is flat stereo.

    The extras are extensive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Saturday, November 09, 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

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