Main Menu Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9, Dolby Digital 2.0 (2:35)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-(5:52)
|Year Of Production||1992|
|Running Time||92:34 (Case: 88)|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Ron Fricke|
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.20:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.20:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Okay, that is being a little unkind to the film, but this really does on occasion fall into the category of background film: images being played as a backdrop to other activities that you may be indulging in. But to call the film the equivalent of Muzak is definitely being unkind, as there is far more to this film than just providing some occasionally nice background images.
Balancing the nice images are some mildly disturbing images that are clearly intended to teach us that things are not altogether rosy on this planet of ours, and that the journey from one extreme to the other is not that far. What you make of this film will no doubt differ to what I made of it, as I would doubt that a more subjective film has yet been released in Region 4. At its best, it is a celebration of all that makes our little speck of rock in the outer reaches of an arm of the Milky Way galaxy so special. Some wonderfully impressive scenery is brought to life by some great filmed images. At its worst, it demonstrates with absolute clarity the inhumanity of man.
Obviously there is no plot here, other than the one you want to make up yourself. Still, the images that have been collected together in this film are consistently striking, and the way in which they have been blended together with the aid of some most unusual music scoring makes this at the very least an interesting experience. Quite how often you would want to watch this I would not like to suggest, but I have no doubt that having seen it once you may well be reaching for it again.
This is a dual formatted transfer, providing both a widescreen version presented in an aspect ratio of 2.12:1 (measured - the packaging refers to a ratio of 2.20:1) and a Pan and Scan version of the film. Personally, I do not see the point of the Pan and Scan version of the film, since the film was obviously intended for widescreen display and looks vastly more balanced when viewed that way.
Filmed over a period of thirteen months at locations across the globe, there are obviously some variances in the transfer. I would seriously doubt that this could have been avoided. At times this is a gorgeously sharp transfer. At other times, it is just a little on the softish side, and much the same could be said for the detail in the images. This is perhaps not quite as detailed and sharp as I would have expected, but it never descends into anything unwatchable by any stretch of the imagination. This is quite a clear transfer, although again not quite as clear as perhaps I was expecting. There did not appear to be any significant problems with grain in the transfer at all. Low level noise was also not a problem here, although it does have to be said that there is a fair degree of random movement in the image as a result of shimmering that almost borders on being low level noise.
Generally the colours have come up well here, although there is a degree of inconsistency due to the fact that there is such a wide variety of locations on display. Some of the cityscapes, such as New York and Tokyo (at least I think they are New York and Tokyo), are a little flatter-looking than say the rather gorgeous views of Victoria Falls. This is again only to be expected in my view. Obviously there is something of a divergence in the vibrancy on display as well, although nothing ever really descends into an indistinct colourscape. There was one brief point at around 18:50 where the image seemed to be a little oversaturated, but that was about the extent of the problems in that regard. There did not seem to be any colour bleed problems in the transfer as far as I could see.
There are no apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were however some rather noticeable problems with film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, predominantly a lot of aliasing (shimmer). None of it was ever really ugly, but the sheer consistency of the problem ensured that it became something of a distraction from the film. In this instance, I also subjected the DVD to sampling on a Phillips 68cm widescreen television set to 16x9 mode: the result makes me suggest that owners of widescreen televisions preview this DVD prior to any purchase. It would appear that the lack of 16x9 enhancement for such televisions will be missed. Film artefacts were not a significant problem in the transfer.
This is a Dual Layer formatted DVD with the the two versions of the film mastered on separate layers. Whilst one could argue about why a Pan and Scan version of the film is needed since the film was obviously filmed with widescreen firmly in mind, this is an eminently sensible solution to having two versions of the film on the one DVD.
Since there is no narration to the film, there are obviously no subtitles required here.
The soundtracks comprise purely original music that comes from Michael Stearns, as there is no narration or dialogue at all in the feature. The score is very much an example of that background, environmental-sounding Muzak, but does blend some rather interesting mixes of sounds. It would seem that many find the music accompanying the oil fires in Kuwait the high point here, and I have to confess that the blend of Japanese kodo drums, Tibetan water music and bagpipes is indeed highly unusual and very effective. However, the strength of the soundtrack is clearly in the fact that it does help sustain the ninety minutes of the film very well indeed.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack outshines the 2.0 soundtrack by virtue of the rather wonderful surround stage created and sustained by the 5.1 track. Whilst there were a couple of times where I felt the bass channel was given just a tad too much reign, resulting in a somewhat unnatural-sounding balance, the overall surround and bass channel use was very good. Despite tending to be just a little too prevalent out of the rear channels, one certainly has to respect the vividness and immediacy of such soundscapes as Victoria Falls. If you want background music, use the Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. If you want to experience the full effect of the Earth, then turn that Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack up just a little and hear it roar.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
Update: The Region 1 release has been replaced by a brand new 16x9 enhanced transfer that by all accounts is a vast improvement over the original release in the video department. The Pan and Scan version of the film has been lost but that is not great issue in my book. Accordingly, the Region 1 release is probably now the preferred choice simply due to the improved video transfer.
A decent video transfer with caveats.
A good audio transfer.
A reasonable extras package.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|