John Farnham-33 1/3 (2000)

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Released 27-Nov-2000

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Music Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-On The Inside (27:55)
Interviews-Cast & Crew-(9:53)
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 46:49 (Case: 85)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ross Fraser
Studio
Distributor

BMG
Starring John Farnham
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $34.95 Music John Farnham


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.20:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.20:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    John Farnham has done it again. He surprised people when he changed musical style and brought out the Whispering Jack album. Now he has changed again, this time in the direction of R&B. It is interesting to see this, because he is not the first Australian artist to change - Jimmy Barnes' two latest albums have been rather a departure from his previous work. That's not to say that you should be worried - if you like John Farnham's voice, and you enjoyed the music in the Blues Brothers, then you will definitely enjoy this. It is not difficult to listen to.

    This is the first music DVD I have seen that uses DVD as something more flexible than video tape or CD. Someone has been thinking, and I applaud the effort that has gone into this work. I am aware that there are other music DVDs that have gone further, but none are of the kind of music that I am interested in.

    What's special about it? It has eleven songs on it, and a documentary. You can watch it that way, if you want - I did, and enjoyed it. But it is much more interesting if you watch it in a different way. You can choose to watch the documentary with the songs edited in. If you do this you will see a documentary segment describing the work that went into a song, then the finished song, then a piece talking about the next song, and so forth. Nice stuff.

    By the way, this explains why the disc is not 16x9 enhanced. The documentary is black and white, and full screen (4x3). The songs are colour, and 2.20:1. If the songs were 16x9 enhanced, then we would be flipping from 4x3 for a piece of documentary, to 16x9 for a song, and back again - it would be quite annoying, so they chose to present the songs non-anamorphically - I think this was the right choice.

    The idea behind this album is that John Farnham was tired of doing an album the standard way, where the performers are recorded one at a time, captured on separate tracks of a huge multi-track recorder, and only brought together in the mixing phase - too sterile. He wanted to return to the old ways, where the musicians performed together, and recorded together - a more natural approach. This approach takes too long to be economic in a normal recording studio. So they fitted out a factory in Richmond (Melbourne) as a studio, and rehearsed and recorded there. Once the songs were recorded, they performed them in front of the cameras, video-clip style. This whole process was captured on camera for the documentary.

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Track Listing

1. Tryin' To Live My Life Without You
2. That Driving Beat
3. Man Of The Hour
4. That's What Love Will Make You Do
5. You Don't Know Like I Know
6. You're The Only One
7. Everything Is Gonna Be Alright
8. Can't Get Next To You
9. The Way
10. I Thank You
11. Soul Reason

Transfer Quality

Video

    They have been sneaky with the video on this disc. Rather than trying for a perfect image, and getting marked down for every scratch or dust speck, they have deliberately included film artefacts, thus camouflaging the real faults with fake ones. That's my theory, anyway. The fact is that this disc is about the music first, and the video second.

    The songs are presented in colour, in an aspect ratio of 2.20:1. This is not 16x9 enhanced, as explained above. The image is a little soft, which suits the material. Some of the lighting is a bit harsh, and a sharp image would have been inappropriate. I was pleased to see no trace of edge enhancement. When I watched the songs alone, rather than with the documentary, I tried zooming, blowing the image up to fill the screen. This was not a good idea - there is not enough detail in the picture to stand zooming. There were a few shots which were quite clear, and these made it obvious that the softness of the image was a deliberate choice, rather than a limitation of the original film used. The shadow detail was reasonable, particularly in context - we are supposed to be looking at the strongly-lit performers, rather than in the shadows. I didn't see any low-level noise.

    There was no oversaturation of colour, which was good, considering the lighting. Most of the colours were a little subdued, but this was due to the clothing choices, rather than any lack of colour in the film - the bright red shirt worn by one of the performers in a couple of songs made that clear.

    There were no MPEG artefacts to be seen, and no problems introduced in the film to video transfer.

    The songs are presented in fairly normal music video fashion, with plenty of split-screen shots, and lots of cutting from one performer to another. At least they were simple cuts - there were no fancy zig-zag transitions. Some of the snippets were treated to look bad, with vertical scratching, plenty of grain, and what I'm sure were artificial film artefacts. I guess the director considered this style appropriate to the theme of the album. It was interesting to see a comparatively clean shot on one side of a split screen, with a badly scratched shot on the other side. It's not easy to spot real film artefacts in material like this!

    The documentary is clean and simple 1.33:1 black and white. This is quite effective in differentiating the documentary footage from the songs. It is quite sharp and clear, and devoid of edge enhancement. Shadow detail is adequate, but fails in a few shots that were clearly taken in quite low light.

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

Audio

    Mm mmm. Tasty stuff. This disc is really about the music, and they have done a good job. The sound is presented in two formats, both Dolby Digital, one 5.1 and one 2.0. I sampled the 2.0, and it is a nice piece of work, but I had to return to the 5.1 track.

    John Farnham's vocals were usually presented front and centre, and always clear. The backing vocals merged well with the music. The dialogue in the documentary and bonus interviews is mostly clear and distinct, but there were a few things said in the rehearsals that were a bit difficult to understand. There were no audio sync problems. The voice-over for the documentary was provided by the saxophone player, and he does an excellent job.

    The sound is well spread across the front, and it curls around the sides to the surrounds. I mostly noticed percussion in the surrounds, but I suspect that is because percussion draws attention to itself. The soundtrack is well-integrated with the subwoofer - it never drew attention to itself, but it was definitely supporting the bass. If it weren't for a few tiny flaws, I'd be giving this full marks.

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

Extras

    There aren't a lot of extras, especially if you count the documentary as part of the main programme. There's a short interview sequence. That's it. But, this disc doesn't need a lot of extras, so I think we should be lenient.

Menu

    The main menu is short and sweet. The first item is "On the Inside" - this is the documentary - selecting it produces a second screen where you can choose to watch it with or without the songs. Then there's "Live In the Studio", which is the songs (this is the default). Then "Bonus Interviews", "Songs" (scene selection), and "Audio" (choice of 5.1 or 2.0).

    There's some footage playing behind the menu, and some music over it. The music chosen is pleasant enough (it is the intro to Soul Reason), but it is quite a short clip, and it plays over and over. It starts to grate about the tenth time through. I recommend not spending too much time looking at the menu.

    There is a pleasant feature to this menu, though. It defaults to the entry which plays all of the songs straight through. This means that you can drop this disc into your DVD player, press the Play button, then lean back and listen to the music, all without turning on your TV. I suspect I will be doing this on occasion, because I like the music.

Documentary - On the Inside

    This is not exactly an extra, even though it is listed like one (see my description above). It is a 28 minute documentary of the making of this album, and you can watch it that way, or you can watch a piece of documentary talking about a song, then watch that song - very nice.

Bonus Interviews - Band Members and Crew

    This is a sequence of interview snippets with various members of the band, and some of the production crew. They were fairly unanimous about enjoying making the album this way, although their reasons differed substantially. It is presented like the documentary, in black and white, and full-screen.

    I know this kind of extra is fairly common on DVD, but I normally don't like them much - they tend to be fluffy and promotional. This one is better than most, in that the members of the band say something meaningful, rather than mouthing the normal platitudes. Definitely worth watching.

R4 vs R1

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

   This disc is not specific to Region 4 - it is an all-region release. All our R1 friends need is a player and display capable of handling PAL. There is no R1-specific release, nor an NTSC version, as far as I can discover. I guess that makes this the best version.

Summary

    If you enjoy John Farnham's music, then I thoroughly recommend that you consider this DVD. It is a big shift in musical style for him, but his voice is as good as ever, and the music is easy on the ears. The extras add interest, and don't get in the way if you just want to enjoy the music. All music DVDs should be this good. I recommend watching the documentary and songs intermixed on the first time through.

    The video is fine, but it is not the main focus of the disc, anyway.

    The audio is very good, with good surround use, and excellent use of the subwoofer.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Saturday, March 03, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-737, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics matte white screen with a gain of 1.0 (280cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left and Right: Krix Euphonix, Centre: Krix KDX-C Rears: Krix KDX-M, Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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