Newsfront (1978)

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Released 13-Jun-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Dolby Digital Trailer-Egypt
Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Phillip Noyce (Director) et al
Featurette-The Last Newsreel
DVD-ROM Extras-Study Guide, Reviews, Restoration, Original Assess
Notes-The Newsfront Story
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Photo
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-AFI Awards
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time 106:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Phillip Noyce
Studio
Distributor
Palm Beach Pictures
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Bill Hunter
Wendy Hughes
Gerard Kennedy
John Ewart
Chris Haywood
Angela Punch-McGregor
Don Crosby
Bryan Brown
John Dease
Drew Forsythe
Mark Holden
Bunney Brooke
John Clayton
Case C-Button-Version 2
RPI $34.95 Music William Motzing


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (320Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    Newsfront is a classic Australian film portraying the lives of newsreel camera men during the 1940s and 1950s, just before the introduction of television.

    The film is set over a period of ten years and is based around veteran Cinetone newsreel camera man Len Maguire (Bill Hunter). Over this time, the newsreel camera men covered events such as the post-war immigration program, bushfires, the devastating Maitland floods and finally the Melbourne Olympics. These weekly newsreels were the only visual news reporting of the time and were religiously attended by thousands of Australians. The introduction of television was able to bring near-instant reporting directly into people's homes and resulted in the demise of the newsreel.

    When Newsfront was shown at the Cannes film festival in 1978 it received widespread critical acclaim from reviewers around the world. Newsfront went on to win eighteen international awards and was the first film to be nominated in every category of the AFI awards where it eventually won eight. The movie has a spectacular cast and crew that all look back fondly on their experiences making this film. This was the second feature film directed by Australian Phillip Noyce who went on to direct 'Dead Calm' and then numerous US blockbusters such as 'Clear and Present Danger'. The producer David Elfick has also gone on to produce such recent successful films as 'Blackrock' and 'No Worries'. The cast of Newsfront includes many of Australia's most successful actors of the time including Bill Hunter, Wendy Hughes, Gerard Kennedy, Chris Haywood, John Ewart, Bryan Brown and Angela Punch-McGregor. Each of these cast members gives an excellent performance.

    This film is a classic Australian movie that has been well-restored and presented with an excellent collection of extras that provide a great deal of background to the film. If you are interested in Australian cinema or the production and restoration of film, then this disc is sure to appeal to you. Students and educators focusing on film will also find a wealth of valuable information provided on this disc.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    A great deal of effort has gone into the restoration of Newsfront as the original source material was either not available or had suffered significant damage. Materials from around the world were collected and what is presented on this disc is the compiled and restored footage.

    The feature is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Due to the age of the film and the integration of actual newsreel footage into the movie, the film is not as sharp as we expect from today's features. While the transfer is slightly soft, with some scenes appearing slightly out of focus, it works well with the film and is never distracting to the viewer. At no stage during the transfer was any low-level noise detected. Generally high levels of detail are visible during the footage shot for this movie, especially during the new black and white footage. Understandably, the original newsreel footage does not exhibit the same levels of shadow detail.

    The colour and look of the film does intentionally change as the feature progresses. The original processing notes were available and these have been faithfully reproduced. The age of the film should also be taken into consideration as the feature never displays the highly realistic colours that are available with today's stocks.

    At no stage were any MPEG artefacts detected during the transfer.

    There are very few instances of aliasing present during this transfer. Some very minimal instances may be seen at 42:32 and 54:18 but these are never distracting to the viewer.

    During the original newsreel footage, numerous film artefacts can be seen as you would expect. Some film artefacts do occur during the footage shot for this movie but considering the age of the film they appear rarely and are never distracting. During many scenes obvious film grain is visible and this does seem to vary with the lighting of the shot and the type of film stock used. The presence of grain is not distracting and is to be expected in a film of this age.

    At a few points throughout the movie, small stable marks can be seen on-screen resulting from a mark, dirt or other debris present during the transfer of the film. Examples of this problem may be seen at 2:28, 14:20 and 33:14 and appear to have been present in the original source material. A couple of small errors can be seen at 31:07 and 57:17 due to the splicing of the original material. These errors last only a single frame and are not distracting to the viewer.

    Another unusual artefact may be seen during the start of the transfer that results in sections of the frame shuddering slightly. Instances of this problem are visible at 5:37, 6:03, 6:25, 6:46 and 7:47. Due to their occurrence only at the beginning of the film and their short duration these artefacts are only slightly distracting.

    A single set of English subtitles for the heading impaired are provided on the disc. I extensively sampled these subtitles and they appear to be accurate throughout.

    The layer change is well-placed during a natural still shot at the beginning of Chapter 21 at 72:31. As it occurs on a still image the layer change is unlikely to be noticed by many viewers.

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

Audio

    Two audio tracks are present on this disc. The first is a remastered 448 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and the second is a 320 kbps Dolby Digital 2.0 commentary track. The film originally was produced with a mono soundtrack but when restoring this film, a three track source was found. This provided separate mono tracks for dialogue, effects and the score and became the basis for the remastered track. It would have been nice to include the original mono soundtrack so that it could be compared to the remastered version.

    The dialogue was always clear and easy to understand during the film.

    At no stage were any dropout or sync issues detected in the transfer.

    The score for the film was composed by William Motzing and is based around a single theme that is modified in accordance with the on-screen action. Combined with this score are numerous popular music pieces from the periods portrayed. The soundtrack for Newsfront was one of the first Australian film soundtracks ever commercially released.

    As the original soundtrack was mono, the main focus of the soundstage is still across the front three channels. The surrounds are used to fill out many scenes and provide some enveloping sound fields such as during the Maitland floods and the bushfires. The subwoofer channel is also used minimally throughout the movie to support both the effects and occasionally the score.

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

Extras

    An excellent collection of extras is included on this disc including one of the best uses of DVD-ROM content we have seen to date.

Menu

    All the menus are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Unfortunately, navigation of these menus can be a little slow and frustrating when compared to other titles.

Trailer (1:44)

   This trailer has been assembled from the restored footage and matches the editing of the original trailer. It is provided with the original soundtrack presented in Dolby Digital 2.0.

Commentary

   This highly informative and entertaining track is comprised of a number of separate interviews edited together to provide a feature length commentary. Usually, this type of commentary feels very disjointed and often repeats information but this is not the case on this disc. Information is provided by director Phillip Noyce, producer David Elfick, the original scriptwriter Bob Ellis and numerous cast members. Presumably to retain the disc's PG rating, a few instances of swearing are bleeped out during this track.

The Newsfront Story

   A series of static pages provide a large amount of information in relation to the production and release of the film. This segment is broken into the following eleven sections; the pitch, screenplay, beginning, production, music, novel, Cannes, launch, reviews, AFI awards and the new Newsfront. These pages are displayed in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced.

The Last Newsreel (10:37)

   This short feature was produced in 1990 by the National Film and Sound Archive to highlight 'Operation Newsreel', a project to collect and preserve Australia's film history. This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Unfortunately, this appears to have been cropped from the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

Cast and Crew Biographies

   A series of extensive biographies and filmographies are provided for Bill Hunter, Wendy Hughes, Gerard Kennedy, Chris Haywood, John Ewart, Angela Punch-McGregor, Bryan Brown, Phillip Noyce and David Elfick.

Photo Gallery

   A series of 25 behind-the-scenes photos are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are 16x9 enhanced. Unfortunately, they are presented with a large series of navigation buttons and are slow to navigate.

1978 AFI Awards footage (3:32)

   This footage from the 1978 AFI awards is narrated by Phillip Noyce and shows Newsfront receiving some of the eight awards it won at this event. Unfortunately, the original 1.33:1 footage is presented cropped to 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced. The footage also shows numerous composite artefacts and some audio problems, but this is understandable due to the age and source of the footage.

DVD-ROM Content

   The DVD-ROM section of the disc consists of a number of linked PDF files. A version of Adobe Acrobat Reader for the PC is supplied on the disc but Mac users will have to obtain a version for themselves. Despite the packaging claims that the DVD-ROM content is compatible only with PCs, Mac users should have not have any problems accessing these files. These files can be divided into four separate areas as follows:

   Study Guide
   This is a 23 page file that includes an overview of the film by director Phillip Noyce, two discussions of the themes and the images of Newsfront by Barbara Boyd, and a collection of assignments, suggested readings and discussion topics for the classroom. This guide is an excellent starting point for educators wishing to include Newsfront in their curriculum.

   Newsfront Reviews in Depth
   This is a collection of twenty seven reviews of the film from both the Australian and international press.

   The Restoration of Newsfront
   This extremely interesting fourteen page document is written by Frans Vandenburg who was responsible for overseeing and coordinating the restoration of Newsfront. This document concentrates on sourcing the original materials rather than the actual DVD authoring process, and gives an insight into the efforts required to restore older films.

   Original Assessments for the Production of Newsfront
   This is a collection of written responses by Australian Film Commission representatives when first presented with the proposal for Newsfront. The varied responses in these original documents are extremely interesting and help to provide some background to the development of the work. Unfortunately, each of these original documents have been scanned at a relatively low resolution making them slightly hard to read.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film is currently released only in Region 4 and our version is therefore the only choice. As this is an Australian production, it is unlikely to ever receive an improved release in any other Region.

Summary

    Newsfront is an excellent Australian film that covers the important role that newsreels played in this country.

    The video quality of this transfer is very good when the quality of the source material is considered.

    The remastered 5.1 soundtrack is of extremely high quality but the inclusion of the original mono soundtrack would have been appreciated.

    An informative collection of extras provide background information for this film and is only let down by the incorrect framing of two featurettes.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Kable (read my bio)
Wednesday, June 27, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using S-Video output
DisplaySony KP-E41SN11. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationFront left/right: ME75b; Center: DA50ES; rear left/right: DA50ES; subwoofer: NAD 2600 (Bridged)
SpeakersFront left/right: VAF DC-X; Center: VAF DC-6; rear left/right: VAF DC-7; subwoofer: Custom NHT-1259

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