Ambient Waterfalls (2000)

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Released 5-Dec-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category New Age Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-An Environmental Message From Ken Davis
Discography
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 41:35 (Case: 45)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Sided Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Ken Davis
Studio
Distributor
Ken Davis Music
Holborne Australasia
Starring None Given
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $24.95 Music Ken Davis


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 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

    Well if there is any clearer indication that DVD has arrived as a mainstream format (and I know that is a lousy pun), then here it is - a muzak DVD! Okay, that is a little unfair as to be honest this sort of new age/ambient music is actually quite relaxing and this is entirely the right sort of stuff to throw into the player after spending the day with the blood pressure rising at work. Throw this in the player, open up a cold beverage of your choice and push play - just feel the stress levels receding! In my case perhaps the stress levels receded just a tad too much as I found myself falling asleep - but since that is something I have difficulty doing often, I am not complaining! The simple fact is that as much as we all tend to complain about this sort of music at times, the likes of Ken Davis and Tony O'Connor turn out plenty of CDs of this sort of music and it sells pretty darn well. Therefore it is not surprising to see this sort of DVD finally released, especially as the asking price ($24.95) is pretty much the cost of your average CD.

   The presentation here is simply lots of video footage, filmed by Ken Davis, of waterfalls in the Cairns region and on the Atherton Tablelands. The video is accompanied by a choice of three soundtracks: piano music with nature sounds, nature sounds only or piano music only. The piano music comprises pieces from his album Innocence, which surprisingly enough is not amongst the multitude of similar CDs owned either by myself or my parents. The nature sounds are those recorded on location by Ken Davis.

   Since the general use for the CDs seems to be for background ambience, you can pretty much guess what the purpose of the DVD is. Whether we really need both background video and audio at home, at gatherings or whatever is open to debate I guess, but if you really do need something of this ilk then you probably should not go past this effort.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Ever wondered just what the difference is between NTSC and PAL formatting? Well, you have finally found the perfect aid to answer that question for this is a rather unusual DVD. One side has the video transfer presented in PAL format, whilst the other side has the video transfer presented in NTSC format. Now you can compare to your hearts content and see what all the fuss is about. And fuss is probably the right word for after sitting through both transfers I am buggered as to which is which apart from the labelling of the sides, and I really could see little appreciable difference between the two formats. If anything, the NTSC format is very slightly more prone to shimmer, but it really is hardly noticeable at all. Of course, if your display device does not handle the NTSC signal you will not be able to prove that I am as blind as a bat.

    The transfers are presented in a Full Frame format and are not 16x9 enhanced.

    The video was shot by Ken Davis on a small handheld digital camcorder if I recall the introduction correctly. Suffice it to say then that this really amounts to a rather glorified home video, and does display some of the problems of such material. Occasional lapses in focus, the odd arty framing of photos and the general tendency to focus on detail and forget the overall picture. However, having said that, this is actually a quite decently sharp transfer that is quite clear in its presentation and quite well detailed. There is nothing in the way of grain problems here and low level noise is not an issue. However, that is not to say the transfer is perfect and I constantly sat through the video with the niggling feeling that something was not quite right here, as the picture simply does not look really natural. Perhaps it is a factor of the digital image itself, but this really came across to me as a manipulated digital image. I really wish that I could put into words what it is that just did not seem right to me here, but I cannot. It is simply that at times the image does not look "right" or "natural".

    This is generally a slightly overbright image with plenty of vibrancy in the colours. Whilst the colours are generally quite natural looking, the slightly overbright image did at times detract from the imagery. There is no problem with oversaturation in the transfer and there is nothing approaching colour bleed here.

    There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. What little problem exists here with film-to-video artefacts is purely confined to some very minor aliasing. There are no problems with film artefacts here at all.

    Dumb question from father: "what waterfall is that?". Uninformed answer from me: "dunno"! Sadly, the producers of the DVD have not taken the rather logical option of including a subtitle track that brings up details of the name of the waterfall being shown. This rather diminishes the use to travellers who may well take this back home as a memento of their visit to FNQ. Whilst the back cover does list which waterfalls are featured, apart from the rather obvious Barron Gorge Falls (filmed during flood times judging by the dirty colour), I have no idea which name relates to which waterfall. No doubt Queensland locals would know, but they represent only a small percentage of the population of the world I am afraid. The only way you can identify the falls is through the scene selection menu which lists the individual waterfalls by picture and name, which is a bit fiddly if you are watching the entire programme.

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

Audio

    There are three soundtracks on the DVD, all being Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks: they go by the useful designation of Audio 1, Audio 2 and Audio 3. What they really are are: music and nature sounds soundtrack (Audio 1), nature sounds soundtrack (Audio 2) and music only soundtrack (Audio 3). Given the nature of the beast, I had to listen to all three soundtracks, on both sides of the DVD. Suffice it to say I was not going to listen to them in their entirety so sampled about fifteen minutes of each soundtrack apart from the music and nature sounds effort (Audio 1), which got a complete listen. It should be noted that whilst the nature sounds and the water sounds were recorded on location, the water sounds are quite obviously not in relation to the actual video image. All the water sounds seem to be of a constant nature, whereas there is obviously a lot of difference between the noise water makes going over a little fall as opposed to going over a dirty great fall.

    The music and nature sounds are very clear throughout the three transfers, although perhaps the Audio 3 soundtrack is not quite so clear as the other two.

    The music is your very typical new age/ambience type of stuff and is not especially memorable, but nonetheless does its job pretty well indeed. Nice and relaxing.

    A few things stick out like sore thumbs with the soundtracks. Firstly, there may be plenty of surround channel action here, but the mastering has seen a bias given to the rear channels which makes for an unusual situation. You are watching the waterfalls but hearing the sounds and music behind you. Not sure that this is an ideal scenario. Secondly, there may be lots of surround channel action, but there is nothing at all out of the centre channel. I got some weird looks from the family as I crouched with my right ear glued to my centre speaker trying to discern any action out of it. Apart from some hiss, nothing at all - on all six soundtracks. This confirmed the impression I got from normal listening - the surround channels, and especially the rears, are boosted and hide to some extent the lack of an active centre channel. Whilst I did not kneel down to stick my ear against my subwoofer, I can assure you that the bass channel is also pretty much silent throughout. Mind you, realistic bass would have seen the music drowned out in some instances (another poor pun). My guess is that the channels are present, but are in actual fact silent, giving these 5.1 soundtracks all the effect of 4.0 soundtracks. However, apart from the rather unnatural balance with the water sounds in the rear channels not matching the visuals, there is little else to complain about regarding the soundtracks. They are all quite open sounding, with loads of clarity other than the slightly less open feel of the music only soundtrack (Audio 3).

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

Extras

    A reasonable promotional extras package is on offer here, but if you want substance you really are barking up the wrong tree. Which incidentally is something that you will do by buying the DVD - part of the proceeds go towards reafforestation projects around the world as well as towards acquiring rainforest for conservation. The trees need you - so buy the DVD (shameless environmental plug I know, but trees are rather important to our continued existence).

Menu

    Nicely themed throughout, with the main effort being blessed with some nice audio and video enhancement.

Featurette - Introduction by Ken Davis (1:21)

    An introductory message that provides a small insight into the shooting of the film and the purpose of the work. Presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with the same notional Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. Hardly essential stuff.

Discography

    Shameless self promotion, detailing the current catalogue of works by Ken Davis, including catalogue numbers and the format they are available in. You can of course buy them from the website prominently mentioned on the DVD. And if you need to test out the works, apart from the brief description, you also get a decent audio extract from the works. Presented in a Full Frame format, not 16x9 enhanced and with the same notional Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

R4 vs R1

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

    Since this is coded for use throughout the world and provides the two main video formats of the world, it is reasonable to assume that everyone will have the same version.

Summary

    Ambient Waterfalls is something a bit different to the usual fare through my player, and it actually is a pretty decent DVD. However, I would guess that unless you are a fan of the style of music, this is not an especially good way to watch a video of waterfalls, no matter how beautiful, as the nature sounds only option is dead boring. At the price however, and given the environmental benefit from the purchase, this Australian product deserves supporting if you are in need of an ambient style DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Thursday, December 14, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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