Alice in Chains-MTV Unplugged (1996) (NTSC)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Discography
Notes-Band Time Line
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 73:17
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Joe Perota
Studio
Distributor

Sony Music
Starring Lane Staley
Jerry Cantrell
Sean Kinney
Mike Inez
Scotty Wilson
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $32.95 Music Alice In Chains


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
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

Alice In Chains were recorded live for MTV Unplugged three years after they left the music scene in 1993. The concert's directorial style here matches all previous Unplugged gigs, so if you're familiar with the template you'll know what to expect. Having said that, the format works pretty well. There are generous close-ups of the guitarists playing and mercifully few shots of the audience, who again sound like a bunch of college football jocks drunk on Bud.

Track 14 was apparently a new song thrown together before the performance. If the name sounds unfamiliar to AIC completists then this DVD may hold the only digital recording of it, apart from the Unplugged CD of course! General opinion appears to favour the DVD sound over the CD not surprising given the improved fidelity afforded by Dolby Digital's higher sampling rate.

- Track Listing -

1 Walking on, picking up instruments
2 Nutshell
3 Brother
4 No Excuses
5 Sludge Factory
6 Down In A Hole
7 Angry Chair
8 Rooster
9 Got Me Wrong
10 Heaven Beside You
11 Would?
12 Frogs
13 Over Now
14 The Killer Is Me

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Transfer Quality

Video

Although Alice in Chains-Unplugged is framed at 1.33:1, it is clearly composed for a widescreen ratio of 1.85:1 or 1.78:1, aka 16:9. The crisp and lively videography (circa 1996) has transferred well to this DVD. Note that this is an NTSC disc.

I zoomed the full frame image to its intended widescreen ratio on my 16:9 TV. Sharpness before and after was satisfactory. You can pick out many details on the musician's faces and instruments as the camera perches itself in front of each band member. The metal mesh on the stage floor will test your TV's capabilities when the twisting camera pulls back to reveal finer and finer gridlines. Guitar frets also posed the same challenge, however in both cases the cross-colour artefact demon raised its head more often than not. Shadow detail was good and blacks were pleasing, with only the merest hint of low level noise after the image was zoomed.

The limited colour palette of blues, reds, and various skin tones looked natural. Oversaturation, low-level noise, and colour bleed were no problem. The tightly controlled MTV lighting conditions and stage decoration all lent a nice, drowsy atmosphere to the proceedings. It's a pity that the blood red lava lamps had not been warmed up 30 minutes prior to going live. For most of the 73 minutes they looked like birth defects floating in formaldehyde.

The only noticeable artefact was the occasional cross colour rainbow across gridlines on the floor or on closely spaced, foreshortened guitar frets and strings, for instance at 45:48. Generally this is a pleasing NTSC transfer, although it probably originated from the same analogue master used for the US VHS release.

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

Audio

Presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 compressed to 448 Kb/s and Linear PCM stereo (the default track), this intimate little affair sounds quite good in both cases, although the surround track is the one to go for.

The centred vocals are clear, as is the crack of the snare drum. Imaging for the remaining instruments is precise, with the bass and rhythm guitars on our left and the lead guitar on the right. The drummer's tom toms, high hats, ride cymbal, and crashes are roughly oriented to his kit set up. The bass drum is soft; you will not get much kick from the subwoofer on this concert. This seems to have been intentional, because close examination shows that the bass drum mike is about a metre from the front skin, behind a perspex shield. The bass guitar sound has enough volume to play its part adequately.

The surround channels do well to draw this orthodox stereo mix into three dimensions. The result is a convincing sound field that envelops the viewer as the vocals, instruments, and ambient crowd noises fill the room. The only unsettling aspect is that the instrument's locations in audio space do not always match their positions on screen as the ever-mobile camera swoops and arches.

Sound fidelity and synchronization posed no problems. This is a subdued, yet enjoyable live recording that sticks to the MTV Unplugged formula. The Linear PCM track features the same audio characteristics, but in stereo. It also got the toes tapping when turned up, with slightly more focus in the bottom end.

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

Extras

Band Time Line

This is a perfunctory overview of the history of Alice In Chains, with a sometimes tongue-in-cheek tone. There is tons more information on the Internet, so it's likely that a fan of the band buying this DVD will already know these facts.

Menus

Silent, static, non-anamorphic.

Discography

Pretty exhaustive by the looks of it. It also includes details of live recordings.

R4 vs R1

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

I know the region 1 and region 4 DVDs are identical, because this is the region 1 DVD, and the region 2 DVD, and the region 3 DVD, and ... An FBI copyright warning follows the feature.

Summary

MTV Unplugged delivers another solid 'acoustic' performance, this time by the late Alice In Chains. The band's music lacks bite for my taste, sluicing over the palette like a mild curry. The Unplugged DVDs I am eager to grab are those by Nirvana, Live, and maybe Pearl Jam. Each performance is mesmerizing in its own way (especially Live's), but this Alice In Chains DVD should satisfy fans of the series and the boyz themselves. The video quality is excellent and the two audio tracks are fine, although a DTS version would be divine.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Rod Williams (Suss out my biography if you dare)
Monday, November 20, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDMarantz DV-7000 (European model), using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Ergo (81cm). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderDenon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital decoder.
AmplificationArcam AV50 5 x 50W amplifier
SpeakersFront: ALR/Jordan Entry 5M, Centre: ALR/Jordan 4M, Rear: ALR/Jordan Entry 2M, Subwoofer: B&W ASW-1000 (active)

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