Better Living Through Circuitry (1999)

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Released 23-Jan-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Audio Commentary-Jon Reiss (Director) & Brian Mcnelis (Producer)
Interviews-Cast
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 84:38
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By John Reiss
Studio
Distributor
Seventh Art Releasng
Madman Entertainment
Starring Moby
Roni Size
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI ? Music Various


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 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 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

    "A Digital Odyssey into the Electronic Dance Underground"

    This is the tagline on the cover of the disc, and it is fairly accurate in describing its contents, although it also explores the rave culture. With no real plot to speak of, the makers have gone and interviewed a stack of DJs and ravers across America to find out their thoughts on some of the issues in raves and clubs.

    Other topics that are covered are the evolution of techno as a music style, the equipment used, and also the digital age in music, where someone on a computer with software can create a better sound than having all the actual equipment. It shows that style has become more open and accessible to everyone - most of the artists operate out of their own studio normally located in a spare room or a basement.

    As a fan of the style of music presented, this was an enthralling look at what has become the "Youth Culture of the New Millennium". However, for people who aren't fans of the music, stay away.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    Since this documentary was captured on Digital Video (DV), I was expecting an essentially fault-free transfer, but that is not what we got.

    The transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    As mentioned in the commentary track, the documentary was completely filmed on DV and then transferred to Digital Beta, except for one scene which was filmed in Super 8. This results in a transfer that is rather well-defined, but still has that documentary look about it. DV doesn't show as much detail as 35mm film does, so the transfer is slightly soft at times. This also may be due to the focus, which does tend to wander off the mark at times, such as at 9:02. Shadow detail isn't that great either, though since the footage is so "raw" this is exactly how it was meant to be seen. At least we get a perfect black level with no low-level noise as a result of the use of  DV.

    The colours are very bright as a consequence of the laser and other visual effects presented. The glow sticks and the like also stand out quite vibrantly.

    As I learned from listening to the audio commentary, normally when using DV cameras the gain has to be set to around 1db, but the makers of Better Living Through Circuitry did not always know this, so some of the documentary has been filmed with the gain set to 18db. This results in what looks like grain, but really isn't grain, rather it is a digital artefact caused by the high gain level. Some examples of this can be found at 1:05, 10:02 and 21:32. As would be expected, no film artefacts were present. Some slight instances of aliasing were exhibited.
  

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

Audio

   A slightly problematic but otherwise great audio mix is present on the disc.

    There are two soundtracks present, both being Dolby Digital 2.0 mixes. One is the documentary's soundtrack and the other is an English Audio Commentary. I listened to both tracks.

    The dialogue is a bit variable, depending on who is being interviewed. Some of the interviews such as the one with Carl Cox are clear as day, while the one with Wolfgang Flur is a little harder to hear. Subtitles would have been useful in this situation.

    Audio sync was perfect at all times.

    The track itself excelled in the club and rave scenes. Bass was up to an excellent standard even though this is only a stereo mix.

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

Extras

    Some decent extras are present on this disc, with the commentary being the highlight.

Menu

    A static screen but one that is very colourful and psychedelic.

Audio Commentary - Jon Reiss (Director) & Brian McNelis (Producer)

    An insightful screen-specific commentary from the two main makers of the film. In an odd move the sound from the documentary has been completely muted. You can tell that this commentary has had some form of preparation before the recording since the participants have so much to talk about. What they talk about is all relevant to the film - for once a screen-specific commentary that doesn't just repeat what's going on during the film. During the later parts of the track, the participants mention that there may be no audio (actual audio in the film for the DVD) during some of the scenes containing Moby and another couple of DJs due to them not fully securing the rights to their music at the time of recording the commentary, which I found fairly amusing.

Interviews (5)

   Short interviews with:     These are personal thoughts on the rave scene from the DJs and artists. They have been freely left to talk without having to answer questions. Compulsory viewing for the casual or veteran raver.

Biographies - Cast & Crew (36)

    Biographies for some of the DJs (there are a huge number in the documentary) and a few of the makers. The bios are fairly short and lack any real information.

Trailer (2:22)

    This trailer looks to be transferred from film and not video as the opening logo shows some telecine wobble.

DVD Credits

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 misses out on:     The Region 4 misses out on:     On account of the R1's 5.1 soundtrack, which I hear is meant to be very good, the Region 1 version of this DVD is the preferred version.

Summary

    Better Living Through Circuitry is an excellent cross-section through the rave scene and what it means to the artists and participants alike.

    The video quality is decent for what looks to be quite a low budget production.

    The audio quality is deep but problematic.

    The extras are low in quantity but high in quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Andrew Siers (I never did my biography in primary school)
Thursday, March 01, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplayToshiba 34N9UXA. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player.
AmplificationYamaha CX-600 Pre-Amp, Yamaha MX-600 Stereo Power Amp for Mains, Yamaha DSP-E300 for Center, Teac AS-M50 for Surrounds.
SpeakersMain Left and Right Acoustic Research AR12s, Center Yamaha NS-C70, Surround Left and Right JBL Control 1s

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