Hearst Castle: Building the Dream (1996) (NTSC)
Scene Selection Animation
|Year Of Production||1996|
|Running Time||38:46 (Case: 40)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Bruce Neibaur|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||480i (NTSC)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.44:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Needless to say, I was really looking forward to this DVD as a way of satisfying my curiosity regarding the castle. I was hoping to be taken on a virtual tour of the whole castle accompanied by commentary explaining the significance of each room and pointing out major items of interest.
Well, if you are like me, be prepared to be disappointed. For a documentary running less than 40 minutes, less than half of it (barely 15 minutes) is of the castle itself. And even then, they don't bother to show more than a relatively small part of the castle: just a few rooms, balconies and the outdoor Romanesque swimming pool.
The first half of the documentary is all about George Hearst and how he came to make his fortune (from silver mining, the proceeds of which he used to kick-start his publishing empire), young William as a boy doing a Grand Tour of Europe with his mother, a little bit about his career, and how he built the castle in the latter half of his life with the help of his architect Julia Morgan. All this is done in "pseudo-documentary" style with a half-hearted attempt at pretending it is being narrated by the pilot of the plane that brings daily supplies (including a full complement of all the newspapers) to the castle, explaining the history of the castle to his young co-pilot.
The narration and story-line seem to be just excuses to allow the film makers to do what they really wanted to do, which is to provide "eye-candy" to IMAX audiences through stunning fly-overs of picturesque scenery of the Sierra Mountains, the Californian coastline around San Simeon, plus various areas of Great Britain, Venice (I recognized St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace and the Bridge of Sighs) and a few other European locations. By comparison, I suppose, mere close-ups of the castle itself would not have been as impressive.
The second half of the documentary, showing us the castle itself, consists of several fly-bys over the castle together with shots of the swimming pool and a mini-reenactment of one of William's parties, accompanied by an over-"gushy" narration and voice-over from a "guest" of the party - a Hollywood starlet of some sort who eventually became Phoebe Apperson Hearst.
In summary, nice scenery, pity about the (lack of) content.
The only artefacts I can detect are a slight case of telecine wobble during the opening titles, some "posterised" trees at 27:47 and some of the scenes look just a little bit soft and defocused (notably the fly-by over a Scottish castle at the beginning of Chapter 4). Colour saturation is deep and richly satisfying, with acceptable shadow levels.
The English subtitles were fairly accurate and tend to follow the narrative closely.
Given the extremely short length of the documentary, all content more than comfortably fitted onto a single-sided single-layer disc (DVD-5).
Dialogue is clear at all times, and directed mainly towards the front centre speaker. The surround speakers are mostly used for reproducing the ambience of the accompanying music, and there are not many audio effects (although these are suitably directional).
There are no audio synchronization issues with this DVD. The subwoofer is very occasionally used to enhance the low frequency components of the soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
I found the trailers quite watchable, as they seem to consist of highlights from various IMAX films and they are reasonably well spliced together to almost create a "mini-IMAX" film (if only they would just get rid of the Slingshot logos in between trailers).
The video transfer is quite good (apart from rather bad aliasing/blockiness of the feature titles particularly for Grand Canyon and Whales). The audio transfer quality is rather poor and sounds "tinny" and slightly distorted at times.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-626D, using Component output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Front left/right: B&W DM603; centre: B&W CC6S2, rear left/right: B&W DM601|